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IOWA CITY — Former Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton wants to give people a better sense of what elected officials do — so he wrote a book detailing his experience on the Iowa City Council and the journey toward a more “just city.”
Throgmorton’s book, “Co-crafting the Just City: Tales from the Field by a Planning Scholar Turned Mayor,” was published March 24 by Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.
The 225-page book is narrated from Throgmorton’s perspective as a council member and mayor, focusing on his time on the council from 2012 to 2019.
Throgmorton first served on the Iowa City Council from 1993 to 1995. His second stint on council was from 2012 to 2019, during which he was mayor from 2016 to 2019. Throgmorton announced in 2019 he wasn’t seeking re-election, citing ongoing health concerns, wanting to spend more time with family and “desire to make space on the council for younger people.”
Throgmorton, 77, kept thorough notes of council meetings but wasn’t thinking about writing a book at the time. He’d written scholarly papers about his time as mayor and presented them at conferences. In 2019, once he decided not to see re-election, Throgmorton started to entertain the idea of writing a book about his time on the council. During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Throgmorton found that he had more time on his hands and began writing.
He submitted a book proposal to Routledge Press in May 2020. After working with an editor and refining the book, Throgmorton submitted the final version last October.
Throgmorton has four goals for the book.
He wants to give readers a better sense of what elected officials do, including what the mayor’s role is, constraints of the position and the mayor’s relationship with the other council members and city manager.
“It’s a hard job, and I want people to know that,” he said. “I want people to understand and value what local elected officials do — and if they don’t do it well, they need to be voted out.”
He also goes into the council’s efforts to push Iowa City “toward becoming a more inclusive, just and sustainable place.”
Throgmorton also wants to help readers understand what it was like to be an urban planning scholar serving on the council and share lessons with other scholars. Throgmorton is a retired professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Iowa, where he taught for 24 years.
And, lastly, he wants to offer practical, action-oriented ideas about how cities’ futures can be shaped.
Throgmorton also discusses various efforts in affordable housing, economic development and racial justice, among other initiatives. He brings up his re-election and the election of the “Core Four,” which included Throgmorton, Rockne Cole, Pauline Taylor and John Thomas to the council
“Nobody expected that to happen,” Throgmorton said.
Throgmorton shares his thoughts on the structure of city government and what he thinks should change. He believes the current structure weakens Iowa City government.
Throgmorton said the city charter should be amended to increase the powers of the mayor, have the mayor be elected directly by voters and not the council and require the mayor to give a formal presentation to the public in a location other than City Hall.
Bringing readers along for the journey
Throgmorton said he sees diverse readership for the book. He hopes Iowa City residents, urban planning faculty and students, local elected officials and those considering a run for local office would be interested in reading.
“A key thing I try to do in this book is to provide readers with what I call a ‘ringside seat,’ so that they could get a sense of almost being with a council member as he is going through this experience,” he said.
Throgmorton said one of the best experiences of writing the book was being forced to ask himself what topics addressed over the years were most important and should be included.
“I had to basically become clear about my own values and see how they fit in to this … story that I realized I was writing,“ Throgmorton said.
“Co-crafting the Just City: Tales from the Field by a Planning Scholar Turned Mayor” is available for purchase online through Routledge’s website. The book is available in paperback, hardback and eBook.
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