The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 30, 2013

Jennifer Graf

The Clinton Herald

---- — Jennifer Graf

List your education, experience and background:

I was educated in Clinton schools and completed many workshops and certification in medical billing and office management. I was a former 12-year member of the Clinton Community School Board and am now fulfilling a four-year term as City Council at-large.

1. What has been your experience working with others to grow an institution, business or group?

As a member of the Clinton Community School Board we worked together to enhance the physical plant of Bluff Elementary and Whittier all the while working at a rigorous curriculum to meet the needs of all students. And all three actions were successful. These efforts were only attainable by the entire school board, administration, staff and public working together. As a chair of the YWCA, our board, staff and public also worked together to successfully provide stabilization of our local domestic violence/sexual assault centers due to the mandate of regionalization of funding. Defining a need and working towards a positive end result is only attainable through cooperation with all affected and interested individuals. I have done this in my past and private endeavors and continue to do so now on the City Council. None of us has the luxury of picking and choosing who we work with, so getting along towards a shared vision is critical. My biggest frustration has been the lack of a shared purpose on our council. On the school board we all had the focus of doing what was best for students. On the City I don’t hear or feel that common vision yet. But I also know there is strength in diversity which only makes the process stronger. We will get there.

2. Discuss how your experience has helped shape your communication abilities.

I am a natural “question asker” and have found that to be quite pleasing to the public I represent. Many times I will receive a call from someone who will state they were thinking of a question and I would ask it. I have experienced great joy and immeasurable heartache in my life; all of which has taught me to be a good listener for the public I serve. I have a strong faith which sustains me and helps me to empathize with others.

3. What challenges do you anticipate you will face as a Clinton City Council member?

The city needs to continue to work at communications to bring the public into our decision making process and for us to receive their message so we are all on the same page. Oftentimes we are on the same page, we just aren’t listening. Right now we operate in a system of committees of three council people who then bring their voted outcome to Committee of the Whole every other Tuesday evening. If a decision is needed, it then passes on to the next council meeting. This process isn’t conducive to bringing the public into the fold at all levels of decision making and even limits who could serve on the council to retired or wealthy individuals since those meetings are during daytime business hours. We need to design a better option to work in partnership with the public. Funding for essential services is also an extremely important issue. Everyone wants and needs new roads, but it is a question of how to pay for those wants and needs. I hear how some say they want no new taxes yet insist we should continue a roads program that is directly related to taxes.

4. What solutions do you see for those challenges?

I would like to see us eliminate the committee system and add two Tuesday night council meetings so the public has an opportunity to participate, interact and/or watch the broadcast of our discussions. This would be empowering for them and cultivate a climate of teamwork for our community – which is what we should be doing. For the second challenge of roads improvement, I would see the solution as voting yes on the ballot on Nov. 5 are not a priority now, then the beauty of our democracy is you can vote your position. Which is exactly why we put both items on the ballot. It is you the people who will decide at what level we focus on road improvements.

5. How do you combat rising rates while also completing infrastructure projects in the city of Clinton?

Unfortunately, when the many projects we have going on in the city now were developed, the council at the time didn’t take into consideration how to pay for those projects. We must now find those funding sources. There are options all of which require a tax to be gathered. Either by a franchise fee that could begin realizing funding from sources who pay no taxes at this point (schools, non-profit agencies, churches) who utilize roads and first responder services from the city to begin paying a portion via a franchise fee; to voting yes to both options offered on the ballot November 5th is considered, it should be put on as a ballot decision from you the people – not a decision by the Council.

6. How would you proceed in making Clinton more attractive to new residents and businesses while maintaining services?

Council members need to believe in this city and its opportunities. Too often we get caught up in negativity and personalities without looking at the good things we have going on. If we don’t believe in the potential for our city, how can we expect new (and existing) residents and businesses to believe in our potential? We have had recent expansions at Data Dimensions and our newest resident of the Rail Park, NRM is now advertising for job openings. This is wonderful news. But we don’t put much emphasis on the positives. I think we need to continue working on our family attractions and quality of life options such as the bike path, marina, and our parks to be an attractive destination we can all be proud to call home.