Feb. 10, 2009
Law school center to help Postville look to the future
The University of Iowa's Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) will help the city of Postville plan its future.
"The city has been in emergency mode since last May and now they're to a point where they can start to look forward," said Jeff Schott, director of the IPA in the UI College of Law.
Members of the office of Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, and other state agencies, along with Schott, have been working with city and community leaders in response to the many issues that have arisen in the wake of federal immigration raids.
The city has been reeling since last May, when federal officials raided the Agriprocessors meat processing plant, arresting or deporting hundreds of people in the community for various offenses. Unemployment has soared, plant production has been sharply reduced, the company that owns the plant has declared bankruptcy, and the community is faced with a huge number of social problems.
Schott said the process of moving forward will start later this spring, when he will meet with local leaders to determine the most pressing mid- and long-range concerns the plan needs to address, "and the sky's the limit with issues," he said. Housing, poverty, cultural and language issues, the future of the meat packing plant, municipal financial problems, and unemployment are just the start.
Compounding all of this, he said, is a national recession that's causing economic difficulties everywhere and will restrain what actions the city can take.
After issues have been developed, he said the IPA will help the city look forward and determine what direction it wants to go. Starting in April, the institute will meet with city and community leaders from not only Postville, but such neighboring towns as Decorah and Elkader as well, because Schott said the raids and Agriprocessors' bankruptcy are causing economic ripple effects throughout northeast Iowa.
He said a series of community meetings will be held to gather data and input over the course of a few weeks. Once complete, the IPA will work with community leaders to put together a plan that includes a series of goals and objectives, and steps that can be taken to achieve them.
Although the IPA normally charges clients for its services, Schott said the institute will work with Postville free of charge because of its difficult economic circumstances.
The Institute of Public Affairs is an outreach organization of the University of Iowa for local governments across Iowa. The IPA sponsors numerous workshops and seminars to help elected and appointed leaders provide more responsive and efficient governments, and provides consulting services to cities and counties.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500