Coralville City Council Candidates Debate ARPA Funds, Recycling, and Taxes
Recycling, funding tax increases, and how to spend American Rescue Plan Act money were topics debated Monday by Coralville city council candidates.
City council holders Laurie Goodrich and Hai Huynh are running for re-election this year, while Coralville residents Mike Knudson and Cindy Riley are contesting the two incumbents and against each other for three general seats. Meghann Foster, the only candidate who ran for mayor of Coralville, also answered questions during the virtual forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
In addition to the main topics posed by moderator Dhuha Tawil, the candidates introduced themselves to the virtual audience and explained why they are running for election.
Vote for municipal and school board elections across Johnson County starts October 13 and election day is November 2. The deadline to register to vote before polling day is October 18.
Candidates pitch ideas on how to use $ 3.5 million in ARPA funds in Coralville
Knudson, a professor of pathology at the University of Iowa, was the first candidate asked about how the city should use the $ 3.5 million allocated by the American Rescue Plan Act.
He quickly admitted that he was unaware that the city had received so much money from the federal government and said there were plenty of opportunities to use it. He said upgrading services, water infrastructure and paying for expenses related to COVID-19 would be options.
âSome families and populations have been affected by COVID, so there could be opportunities to target money in these directions,â he said.
Riley, a small business owner in Coralville, said one of her priorities as a candidate is to use the money to promote business development and improve the family life of residents.
She said affordable housing and affordable child care are key to pulling the city out of the pandemic.
âLet’s make sure we’ve addressed the affordable housing issue; make sure we have child care; and make sure we focus on creating good pay and good paying jobs so people can successfully raise families, âsaid Riley.
Foster, who is currently a Coralville city councilor, said she has three priorities for ARPA funds. The first is to restore lost tax revenue to the hospitality industry, which she says has hurt the city’s social services and programs. Second, put money aside for social services and affordable housing.
Foster’s third idea was to make direct payments to workers, such as undocumented immigrants and former incarcerated people, who were excluded from federal stimulus payments distributed during the pandemic. These people are also called excluded workers.
Goodrich said she was concerned the amount allocated to Coralville was too small to do much. She said she was delighted to see Johnson County using its ARPA funds to help those in need of social assistance and services.
âI would love to see our pantry in Coralville expanded,â she said.
Huynh said she would like ARPA funds to be spent on strengthening the only social service agency that exists in Coralville.
âIf we could expand their services to help the people of Coralville that would be very helpful,â she said.
Huynh said she also wanted to use the money to help residents get mortgage and rental assistance, give it to excluded workers, and also reserve it for small businesses and BIPOC-owned businesses.
Applicants see the pros and cons of using TIF for development in Coralville
Riley, who also ran for city council in 2017, said funding tax increases is a complex issue that has given Coralville the opportunity to add new developments, but she said that has also indebted the city. She said she believes the city should offer incentives for businesses to help them grow, but in turn, businesses should also find ways to contribute to the city.
âWe have to be careful about how we spend the money in the future by the city,â she said.
Foster agreed that the TIF, a tool that allows cities to issue bonds or borrow money to pay for infrastructure improvements in urban renewal areas using future tax revenues, is a complicated subject.
âMuch of the growth we are seeing in our region is due to the investments we have made,â she said.
Foster said she believed TIF had a positive impact on Coralville, such as Iowa River Landing, which she said was a dangerous area before the city borrowed money to help build what s ‘found there today. She said she didn’t think Coralville should add more TIF districts but should focus on the ones she currently has.
Goodrich said she sees TIF as the best and cheapest way to develop cities. She said the long-term TIF zones in Coralville are putting millions of dollars back into the economy of the state, county and Coralville itself.
“This is how we have been able to grow and how we will be able to develop our strong community,” she said.
Huynh said she wanted to make sure TIF benefits both developers and residents in the future, such as in Iowa River Landing. She believes that using the program only benefited developers of earlier projects.
“It also had a better incentive to promote economic development. It supports strong public schools, good roads, streets and good fire and police protection,” she said.
Knudson said he would like to sit down with city staff to discuss future use of the TIF, but believes the IRL would never have happened without him.
“Overall the TIF has been very, very positive. It’s a cost-effective way to improve the city that we’ve used very well, in my opinion,” he said.
Should Coralville turn to single-flow recycling? Most say yes
Tawil also asked candidates whether the city should switch to “single-stream recycling,” an issue it itself has taken to city council for discussion in the past.
Single-stream recycling is when all recyclable materials – cardboard, plastic, aluminum, junk mail – are placed in a single container and then sorted at the recycling plant. Currently, recyclable materials must be sorted before being picked up in Coralville.
Foster said she supports the city’s switch to this system and believes it should be easier for residents to recycle.
âIt’s going to take a long time to get something like this off the ground. It could take several years,â she said.
Foster was joined by Huynh and Riley, who also said they would support the move to single-stream recycling. Huynh said she wanted to make recycling less burdensome on residents and more environmentally friendly.
âI think we each have to, on an individual level, take personal responsibility for this environmental issue,â Riley said, adding that she was trying to eliminate plastic from her life, which is a challenge.
“It’s not easy, even for an individual, to say that they want to do more for the environment. But as a community, we need to clearly communicate that we are doing the most we can for our environment,” he said. she declared.
Goodrich said she had read up on this issue recently and would be willing to look into it further. She did not say whether she would support it.
Knudson said that while single-stream recycling would make life easier for residents, it creates complications for city staff. He said he would like to see a modernized recycling center in Coralville and that the city is allowing glass recycling as well.
âWhen you have a single sourceâ¦ it makes it easier on our side, but it makes it harder for the workers,â he said.