116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CORALVILLE — Candidates seeking seats on the Coralville City Council discussed priorities this week for using federal pandemic relief funds and the city’s handling of tax increment financing and recycling.
Four candidates are running for three council seats on the Nov. 2 ballot — incumbents Laurie Goodrich and Hai Huynh, University of Iowa professor Mike Knudson and small business owner Cindy Riley.
Meghann Foster, a council member, is running unopposed for a two-year term as mayor. Mayor John Lundell is not running for re-election.
All five candidates participated in a forum Monday night hosted by the League of Women Voters of Johnson County.
Pandemic relief funds
Coralville has been allocated $3.3 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. Candidates were asked how they would use those pandemic funds.
Knudson said the funds should be used on “activities that bring the community together” and to help individuals who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. He also suggested using the funds to improve the city’s water infrastructure.
Riley, who ran for a seat on council in 2017, said her top priorities are business development, affordable housing and child care.
“Those are key to getting people out of this pandemic,” Riley said. “ … Let’s make sure that we can focus on bringing a good wage and good-paying jobs so people can raise their families successfully here.”
Goodrich suggested using a portion of the funds to expand the Coralville Community Food Pantry.
Huynh said she’d like to use the funds to strengthen social services agencies in the community. “If we can expand their services to help our residents that will be super helpful,” she said.
Huynh said she also would like the funds to provide mortgage and rental assistance for community members who “fall through the cracks” and can’t make their payments; help small businesses; and provide relief to individuals who did not receive federal stimulus checks.
Foster said she has three priorities for the funds: restoring revenue lost due to a reduction in hotel/motel tax revenue; creating a social services and affordable housing fund; and allocating money for an excluded workers fund.
Tax increment financing
Tax increment financing — or TIF — is a financing tool cities and counties use as an incentive for developers to build in underutilized areas.
Coralville has been aggressive in its use of TIF incentives the past 20 years to develop the area east of Interstates 380 and 80, now the site of Coral Ridge Mall and several shopping centers.
Riley said TIFs are a complex issue with pros and cons.
“It has allowed us to do a lot of great development in Coralville. … However, it has put us in a debt situation,” Riley said, adding that the city needs to be careful on offering future incentives.
Riley encouraged an open dialogue between the city and businesses. She said a TIF should be used to help businesses grow, but that these businesses also should give back to Coralville.
Goodrich said TIFs are the “least expensive way for cities to develop and the best way.” By using TIFs, she said, Coralville has been able to grow and support the community.
Huynh said a TIF has the potential to draw in new businesses but at times it might seem like the developer is benefiting most. She wants to work with businesses so a TIF benefits both community members and developers.
TIF is an “economical way to improve the city,” Knudson said, adding he would want to discuss pros and cons with City Administrator Kelly Hayworth.
A lot of the growth the city is seeing is because of TIFs, such as the Iowa River Landing, Foster said.
“That area used to be an environmental and public health hazard,” Foster said. “That area would not have been cleaned up that way it has been without TIF.”
But Foster said the city shouldn’t be adding land to TIF districts and should focus on investing in the current areas.
Candidates were asked if they would support moving to single-stream recycling — where all recyclable materials are placed in a single bin or cart. Currently, residents have to sort their recyclables for curbside pickup.
Foster, Huynh and Riley all said they support single-stream recycling, acknowledging it would be a long process but one that would benefit residents and the environment.
Huynh said she has heard from community members that Coralville should have a program that makes recycling easier for both residents and staff.
It’s important to do “the most we can for our environment,” Riley said.
"We do know it is going to take a lot to get something like this off the ground,“ Foster said. ”It might take several years, but I believe that it is important to make sure that we are making it easier for our residents to recycle.“
Goodrich said she is willing to look into the topic more and continue the conversation.
Knudson said he is open to a conversation but that there are complications with single-stream recycling.
He would want to get the perspective of the city’s Solid Waste Department because while single-stream recycling is easier for residents, it is harder to manage for city staff.
He brought up how the city needs to have an updated recycling center and potentially add glass recycling.
The forum is available for viewing on the League of Women Voters of Johnson County’s Facebook page.
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