As The Gazette noted May 30, Iowa City’s Climate Action Plan is fragile. The opportunity to partner with MidAmerican’s solar project would have been a flagship example of public/corporate progress toward a greener future, and a tangible example of Iowa City-led efforts that go beyond important UI biomass & MidAmerican wind commitments to cleaner local energy. The project had an opportunity to be replicated across the state. A unanimous vote to not proceed stemmed from community-voiced concerns about disturbing existing prairie. Now, prairie restoration within the city has been reduced in scope. In both cases, lack of communication resulted in challenges toward Iowa City realizing its climate goals. City leadership owns these setbacks.
One way for Iowa City to improve communication is to work with its citizens via citizen groups (city planners & volunteer neighbors) who would be charged with communicating benefits and understanding/mitigating sacrifices associated with implementing its Climate Action Plan. We all want the strategic objectives to be met, but the “devil is in the tactical details,” where implementation hits roadblocks. There are undoubtedly thousands of IC residents who would self-identify to contribute time and expertise as members of these citizen groups. Several citizen groups might be empowered for projects like prairie restoration, solar generation, and electricity storage.
Come on Iowa City, use your citizens and demonstrate that an Iowa municipality can do more than talk about affecting climate change. Success will show the power that local control has in affecting statewide (and regional) change.