When the Iowa City Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) announced their proposed budget, I received several inquiries about what I thought about their including a $500 per meeting stipend for individual commissioners, past and present retroactively. I want to be a candidate and city councilor that is thoughtful and thorough in making decisions. I also want to lean into challenging topics and nuanced issues and discussions.
As such, I committed to listening to the various positions, including the TRC presentation at the council meeting before making a final decision and stating anything publicly. I have heard from many community members from various parts of town and diverse backgrounds. I have listed to TRC members, other commission volunteers and Iowa City residents. I attended the council meeting last night and observed the debate there as well.
Having done so, I do not support a stipend for TRC Commissioners as part of their proposed budget and would not as a member of the Iowa City Council.
I agree that the work that TRC members have volunteered to do is not easy. It’s time consuming and stressful. When they begin hearing from community members that have had traumatic experiences, it will undoubtedly be difficult work. Anyone who has volunteered for non-profits, state boards or local commissions knows these challenges to some degree or another. However, our system of self-governance and civil government relies on community members willing to provide their expertise, experience, and time for the good of their neighbors. I do not believe breaking that precedent is the correct decision here.
I also agree that the mandate of the TRC has been vague, and that their scope is not well understood. They are breaking new ground and figuring things out as they go. The solution to this is not $12,000 in annual compensation. The solution is to work together to help better define their scope and set a reasonable goal of what can be accomplished with a volunteer commission and in the timeframe allotted thus far. I agree with the council decision to defer approval of the budget to get better supports in place for the TRC. I look forward to continued discussions on this work.