Mayor Bruce Teague outlines challenges of 2020 in State of City address

Bruce Teague speaks during a news conference highlighting the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's 2019 Municipal Equality
Bruce Teague speaks during a news conference highlighting the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2019 Municipal Equality Index Scorecard Launch at Emma Harvat Hall in City Hall in Iowa City, Iowa, on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (Gazette File Photo)

IOWA CITY — The City of Iowa City was faced with many challenges and opportunities in 2020, which were outlined by Mayor Bruce Teague Monday night in his State of the City address.

In his address, Teague noted the various ways in which the city responded to a historic pandemic, demands to address systemic racism, a derecho and other issues.

“We have a lot to be proud of in our city — the greatest in the world — Iowa City,” Teague said, concluding his address.

Teague noted when he became mayor a little more than a year ago, he had no idea the challenges he would face. Among the first was the COVID-19 pandemic. Teague responded to the pandemic by issuing a mask mandate in the city. The city also helped offer nearly $2 million in rent, utility and security deposit assistance; aid for small businesses; and support for homeless prevention, mental health care, food security and child care services.

In response to Black Lives Matter protests, the city council committed $1 million to social justice and racial equity initiatives, established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and established Juneteenth as a city holiday, Teague said. The council is working through a preliminary plan to restructure the police department toward community policing.

“To our residents who have been so committed to this fight — we hear you and we are not done listening,” Teague said.

City workers were the front-line in the response to the Agu. 10 derecho, which littered city streets with debris and left many without power, Teague noted.

“Our staff gave their all,” he said. “With over 5,000 hours of staff time, our streets team helped collect enough debris to fill Kinnick Stadium 31 feet deep.”

Other highlights included:

— Earning a perfect score for the seventh year in a row for LGBTQ+ inclusion on the national Municipal Equality Index

— Increasing affordable housing units downtown

— Making progress on climate action goals, including adding 60 new acres of prairie and launching a tree planting voucher program

— Finishing the effort to make every city parking ramp equipped with electric vehicle charging stations

— Supporting arts, culture and recreation initiatives

“I am optimistic we will find more of these pockets of light in the coming year,” Teague said.

Citing the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Teague said the city will continue to walk — or crawl, if necessary — toward an “equitable recovery” from the challenges of 2020.

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