The world changed on May 25, 2020, when George Floyd was murdered on the streets of Minneapolis by police officers. George Floyd and his family deserve justice. More importantly, George Floyd and his family, along with the entire Black community across this globe deserve tangible change from their government. The ensuing protests and demonstrations have already had a profound global, national and local impact. The Black Lives Matter movement is finally getting the attention that is long overdue.
I have been in the city management profession for 16 years. My job as City Manager is quite simply to lead, motivate and support a staff team with an unwavering commitment to public service. On a daily basis, I have worked earnestly to advise elected leaders and community stakeholders on how to reach their goals and express their values through our city operations. As I have had a chance to step back and try to absorb what is happening here in Iowa City, I realize that I have not adequately acknowledged the depth of the racial injustice now being expressed in our community. I have not done enough to seek out the voices that have been suppressed. I have not pushed hard enough for our local government to proactively address racial inequities. It should not take murder or protest to demand change. As City Manager, these responsibilities fall on my shoulders and I accept accountability.
This last week much of the nation’s and our community’s focus has been on policing. Reform of the police industry is needed, but the challenge facing us is far greater in magnitude. Housing, education, healthcare, economic opportunity and so much more, are the roots of the issue.
I have come to know our individual police officers over my tenure with the City. I meet with each one on the day they are hired, I have scheduled impromptu meetings with officers, I sit in on complaint interviews of officers and I observe the impact of their work in our community every day. The men and women of our Police Department are phenomenal, caring people and contribute positively to the community in so many ways, both on-duty and off-duty.
I have full confidence in their ability to carry out the Department’s mission “To work in partnership with the community, enhance trust, protect with courage and compassion, and empower victims of crime through excellence in service.” In recent years, they have been instrumental in pushing forward change to improve homeless services, advancing services for victims of domestic violence, improving response and services available to those with mental health challenges, rooting out human trafficking in our community, building relationships with the LGBTQ+ community, and more. They have unquestionably demonstrated that they can be part of accelerating our community toward solutions for some of our most complex problems and will be open to doing so with the aid and support of all members of the community.
Our police officers are not mistake free, nor am I or any other city employee. Our officers deserve to be held accountable when they make mistakes. I deserve to be held accountable when I make mistakes. The values of the Police Department come from the City Manager and the Police Chief, who I appoint and the City Council confirms. The training budgets and programs are set by city management, and the operational resources are provided through my approvals. I am committed to deep introspections with the community on what we want our Iowa City Police Department to look like going forward. I have full confidence that our police staff are not only up for the challenge, but that they will necessarily be a critical ingredient to the solution as the community looks to heal and moves forward together as one.
The work ahead is both immediate and long-term, and is certainly much more expansive than policing. The road is unpaved and without signage. Our elected leadership will shape this process and I know they will do their very best to create inclusive, community-wide forums for all voices. My commitment to the Iowa City community, the City Council, and our staff team is that you will have my unwavering support as we work collectively toward this goal. I will continue to work hard, with eyes open wider, with a willingness to engage in tough discussions. I will support our staff and our community as we push forward. I don’t just work for Iowa City, I love this community with all my heart and am 100% committed. I know our city staff team is equally committed as well.
City Manger for the City of Iowa City