116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Jason Glass, Megan Alter and Bruce Teague are seeking two at-large seats on the Iowa City Council. ► Get to know the other candidates
Candidate: Jason Glass
Office sought: Iowa City Council at-large
Age: 45 (born July 14, 1976)
Occupation: Lecturer at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, Human Resources Consultant, Staff Sergeant in the Iowa National Guard 34th Army Band
Campaign website: jasonglassforiowacity.com
Have you held office before? No, this is my first campaign for elected office.
Personal bio: I met my wife in the Hawkeye Marching Band. We now live on the east side and have two daughters.
- I’m currently vice chair of the Iowa City Human Rights Commission and past member of the Iowa Human Rights Board
- I'm a musician and local theatre participant
- I spent 20 years in Human Resources for several local companies, the last several at the executive level, making workplaces safer, more welcoming and more equitable. I investigated and resolved dozens of harassment and discrimination issues. I helped managers be better people leaders, managed budgets and balanced all the needs of business
- I now teach HR and Leadership courses at the University of Iowa
- I led a nonprofit called Professional & Technical Diversity Network that held events to welcome a diverse workforce. I’ve worked with many nonprofits as a volunteer
- I’m a 27-year member of the Iowa National Guard’s 34th Army Band, where I am a saxophone player, the Drum Major and Equal Opportunity Leader
Why are you running for city council?
People ask me why I would possibly want to run for city council in a such divisive and contentious political environment. I believe those dynamics make it all the more important that capable people step up and lead.
I believe in service to community, and I love Iowa City. I believe it is a great place with so many wonderful people. That too often gets lost in the discussion of where we fall short and need to improve. I will leverage my diverse experiences and nonpartisan approach to problem solving to help make this an even better place.
Iowa City is facing a critical time given the debates about public safety and race, health and financial impacts of the pandemic, economic development, and housing and food insecurity.
I will leverage my experiences, a rational and nonpartisan approach to problem solving and record of success to find solutions to the challenges our city faces. I’ve had a wide variety of experiences in many sectors of the community; human rights at the city and state level, nonprofits, business, music and theatre, National Guard. I’ve had a successful career where I’ve tackled tough issues and tough conversations. I’m not afraid to take on the tough issues and tough conversations that need to happen to move Iowa City forward. I’ve done so by building positive relationships with a wide spectrum of people. I promise to bring that issue-by-issue approach to city council.
How do you rate the city’s current performance? What areas are going well, and what could be improved?
We have a lot to be proud of in Iowa City. Our budget is on solid footing and we have a top credit rating. Many of our basic services are performing well. The risk is that we take them for granted. Much work and planning is needed to ensure these continue and we cannot become complacent. My answers in the following questions will highlight more of what I believe to be going well and improvements I would support.
What are the three largest issues facing the community and what will you do to address them?
- Public safety: We are seeing increasing gun violence in Iowa City, which the current council is not addressing. We are also debating the proper role of law enforcement in general. I believe we can both make our community safer and be innovative in making law enforcement more equitable and community focused.
- American Rescue Plan funds: We have big decisions to make about how to use $18M in federal money. I believe the focus should be on directly supporting those most impacted by the pandemic and not included in previous support. We should also look at projects that are sustainable and the whole community can benefit from, such as accelerating climate actions and addressing housing insecurity.
- Back to basics: Assuring our basic city services, which we often take for granted, continue to be a priority. Fire Department staffing hasn’t increased in 10 years while our population has increased 10% and development is growing, both out and up. The Downtown District reports a decline in waste disposal and other services from their members. The South District is focused on growth and economic development, which means the city needs to provide infrastructure and an environment that enables investment.
Not an issue, but another focus of mine will be a non-partisan approach: I will not donate to, register with, or endorse any candidate or party. My focus will be Iowa City, not a party platform or concerns about loyalty/disloyalty.
How should the city facilitate more affordable housing options for buyers and renters?
We are a growing city that people want to live in, and demand for housing has outpaced supply. We have denied good projects that would increase that supply. That is to our detriment. Still, there are many projects that will be adding additional housing units in Iowa City and I’m hopeful that this will put downward pressure on rents. As more student focused units are added to the downtown area, I also see an opportunity for development of the older homes in neighborhoods close to downtown to be converted into affordable options.
The city needs to continue the millions in spending that take advantage of Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), which is then multiplied by other sources. I have publicly supported using American Rescue Plan funds for direct payments to Excluded Workers that will help them with rent. I hope Johnson County continues to bolster their rent assistance program as well.
From my experience with the Affordable Housing Network in Cedar Rapids, I’ve also learned that housing insecurity is often about more than just affordability. We also need a holistic approach, surrounding people with mental health and substance abuse treatment, child care and family support, and removing barriers to employment. I have done this work. I will bring this experience to council.
If you were forced to cut the city’s budget, how would you approach these reductions? What areas would you look to for savings and why?
I’ve been involved in many budget cutting circumstances and business downturns in my 20 years in human resources roles. None of them involved easy choices and they all included difficult conversations about priorities and people. If Iowa City were faced with such challenges, the first priority would be to assure that basic city services are maintained. Public safety, utilities, waste disposal, etc. are the core of what any city does, including Iowa City, and must be maintained.
After that it’s important to know the reasons for the reduction. Is it a one-time shortcoming in funds or a fundamental long term recalculation? If it’s short term, we can look at postponing some investments that may be less critical. If it’s longer term, we may have to look at programs or initiatives to reduce or eliminate.
All programs and services the city provides have been deemed important by past council and residents. That must be respected. I would go about those choices by listening to residents, getting input from city staff and weighing the relative criticality and community support for the options. I will be clear about my decisions and willing to accept the inevitable criticism that will follow. Any decision will be unpopular. I will not shy away from those tough choices and discussions.
What do you see as the most important pieces of the city’s “Preliminary Plan to Restructure the Police”?
My first observation is that Iowa City has done a number of things already that put us ahead of many (if not most) communities. We have de-emphasized non-safety related traffic stops and minor marijuana possession. We have added mental health resources to ICPD staff. The Guidelink Center has created more opportunities for treatment and diversion programs. We have work to do, but we’ve also accomplished a lot and have not stood still.
We ask police to do too much and be the catchall for many challenges that should be addressed in other ways. We expect them to enforce nuisance and other laws that should not be their priority. We should change that at the local level in areas that we can control and advocate at the state level for areas we do not control.
I also would like to see a return to the principles of community policing. The downtown area has had a liaison from the police department that is currently not assigned. I think we need to revisit that given the recent shootings in the Ped Mall and near campus.
Underlying the debates about equipment, is a distrust by many residents of the police. That is very real and not an easy thing to change or even talk about. Community policing is essential to build trust between officers and their neighbors. I want to work with our neighborhoods and residents to find ways accomplish this.
What should the city's state legislative priorities be and how would you help advocate for them?
I don’t have any specific legislative policy priorities, but I am very focused on building positive relationships with other government entities. It’s no secret that the political makeup of Iowa City and the current State Government are very different. This has created a toxic relationship that has been to the detriment of Iowa City. We’ve seen legislation that has impacted several of our priorities and eroded local control.
In my roles in business, issue advocacy and state service (National Guard, State Human Rights Board, etc.) I’ve been able to develop positive relationships with legislators in both major parties and folks in career positions at state agencies. That was only possible because I was respectful and kept conversations issue focused. I pledge to bring this approach to the Iowa City Council.
I’m not naive. Iowa City will continue to have disagreements with state government. This will not magically go away, nor will we magically get all the policies we want. But to the extent that we can collaborate in some way, I will do everything I can to influence it positively. Even a person that I disagree with 95% of the time, leaves a 5% opportunity to get something done that might benefit Iowa City. I would forfeit that 5% opportunity if I hurl vulgar insults and name-calling on social media or elsewhere based on the other 95%. That is a disservice to Iowa City, and I will not do so as City Councilor.
Are there quality of life improvements that could be made in the city? What are they and how would you fund them?
We are blessed in Iowa City to have a very progressive, forward-thinking community. We have both the political will and resources to do some big things. Most communities are lacking one or both of those factors. We have invested in social justice and equity programs. We have a robust climate change plan. We employ people focused on recycling, housing and walkable/bikeable neighborhoods. We have these things because our residents expect it of their city government. There is so much to do and so many things to participate in.
I think the biggest improvement is to keep working to ensure that all parts of the community and all residents have access to all the things that make Iowa City great. We can do more to reach out to neighborhoods and immigrant communities across the city. We can work to bring more economic development and recreational opportunities to neighborhoods.
What steps should the city/city council take to address gun violence?
For starters, we need to actually acknowledge and talk about the increase in shootings at the City Council level. While I know there are discussions with city staff and the ICPD, this needs to be a topic we are addressing at strategic level within the council so that it receives the attention it should. People are getting shot and dying in Iowa City at an increasing rate and we need to talk about solutions.
As a member of city council, I would first make this a priority agenda item and raise public awareness and debate. Next, I would bring those together that have expertise and a stake in working toward solutions. We have vibrant and active neighborhood associations. We should include them. We have housing, substance abuse and mental health experts, we should involve them to talk about underlying causes and longer-term solutions. We hire and use considerable tax dollars to employ public safety experts. We should ask them. Solutions don’t come from a proclamation or Facebook post one person writes. They come from bringing people together to problem solve. That’s what I believe leaders do. They bring the right people together to discuss an issue, facilitate discussion, make a plan and assure the plan is executed.
That is what I would do as a city councilor.