The importance of public service has been among my top talking points as a candidate for Iowa City Council. Some have suggested it is too generic. They want issues, not process. I believe the two — process and issues — are inextricably intertwined.
I focus on public service because it’s what I did for 26 years. As a U.S. diplomat, I swore an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. I served in a strictly non-partisan manner, under five presidents and many more Secretaries of State, at eight posts abroad and in Washington DC. And while I’m currently running for city government, the commitment to doing the right thing for all our citizens remains the same.
The answer as to why non-partisan public service matters is currently on display on the national stage. Ambassador Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch, who recently testified to Congress for nine hours is not only a Foreign Service colleague — she was a college classmate. She is who we are. And this is what we do. It is what I did as Embassy human rights officer in Turkey in the mid-90s, at the height of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) insurgency. I built relationships with activists who were not exactly in favor with the Turkish government, as well as with parliamentarians, journalists and academicians. And during my first tour, in East Berlin, I got to know dissidents in the environmental movement, so as the East Bloc began to crumble, we had a ready base of pro-democracy contacts. I worked hard to give Washington the 360-degree picture of what was going on, wherever I was posted.
It is not about being loyal to a particular person or a specific ideology. It is about doing the best job possible for our citizens, regardless of the level of government; in this case, local government.
So, yes, I absolutely believe we need to find new ways to create more affordable housing. We need to improve our public transit and work with the private and public sectors alike to expand quality, affordable day care. We need to fix our streets and work on creating smaller business hubs that complement the downtown. I believe we need to take climate change very, very seriously. And my approach to all these issues will be that of a public servant, committed to doing the best job I possibly can for all the residents of Iowa City.
Janice Weiner is a candidate for Iowa City Council.