Guest Columnist

Freerks: Years of promoting vibrant neighborhoods

My public involvement started with a phone call nearly two decades ago. A realtor wanted to know if I was interested in selling my house since my neighborhood would be changing soon. Poorly designed, high-density warehouse-style housing was on its way. I didn’t have to think about it long. No, I wasn’t leaving this special place. This was a place where elderly, long-term renters, students, families and owner-occupied all enjoyed each other. I was going to fight it. And so, the neighborhood and the community came together to make positive change and these lovely areas remain.

After that I got drafted to be the president of the Longfellow PTA. I worked with neighbors and fellow parents to make sure our school and neighborhood were providing the best they could for our families and kids.

I worked with neighbors, property owners, and other stakeholders to create a Conservation District for our neighborhood and others in the community. These were the first in the state and are now adopted in many other areas.

Through that work, I began to really see how the success of one neighbor could be shared with other neighborhoods. I was appointed to Planning and Zoning, where for 17 years, I worked hard to listen and bring different stakeholders together to find common ground.

I have lived, studied, and worked In Iowa City for 33 years. I come from a family where community service is the norm. This is the place I have chosen to raise a family and connect. This is why I want to share the expertise I have gained through years of public service by being part of the Iowa City City Council.

I have a deep commitment to strengthen our neighborhoods and community. I am interested in working with others to find connection and commonalities, so together we fashion the best, healthiest community the we can imagine. That’s why served on the Iowa City Historic Preservation Commission, was President of the Longfellow Neighborhood Association and President of the Longfellow PTA. I currently serve on the Advisory Board for Any Given Child, working with the school district to supplement and design an equitable arts experience for all kids in our K-8 classrooms.

I have come to understand how everything is interconnected. We need healthy, balanced, sustainable neighborhoods for all. Our streets and bike trails need to be connected. Our bus system and parks need to meet our changing needs. We need to preserve the character of our downtown but not be afraid of growth in the right areas and with the appropriate character and scale. This growth should not be at the expense of something else in the community, but an addition to it.

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There are 17 years of Planning and Zoning minutes available online, outlining my decisions and thought process. No other candidate has this public record. If you take a look, you will find that I am an independent thinker who assesses all angles of a topic trying to determine how it will impact the future of all Iowa City over time, not just that moment.

I believe in open, honest community discussion that leads to understanding and less fear. I am not afraid to ask the difficult questions and explore uncharted options to come up with the best solutions. My record brings a knowledge base and level of expertise to the current council. We are all temporary stewards of this community and it is my desire that we leave it better for all of those who come to Iowa City and connect in the future.

• Ann Freerks is a candidate in the Iowa City Council September 4 primary.

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