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Johnson County's unemployment rate remains unchanged in April

Johnson County's unemployment rate remained stagnant at 2.8 percent in April, unchanged from 2.8 percent in March despite the fact that Johnson County Supervisors promised voters that a government-forced wage hike would create more jobs. 

The unemployment rate in Johnson County was just 2.2 percent when the Supervisors' first round of a forced wage hike to $8.20 an hour took effect back on November 1, 2015. 

A second round to artificially inflate wages to $9.15 an hour took effect on May 1, 2016.  A third and final round of a county government mandated wage hike to $10.10 per hour takes effect on January 1, 2017.

Unemployment statistics source:  https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/labor-market-information-division


4 Iowa City Transit bus routes to resume normal service effective Monday, May 23rd

Due to the reopening of Melrose Avenue at Sunset Street, the Melrose Express, Westwinds, Night & Weekend Westwinds and the Westside Hospital bus routes will resume normal service effective on Monday, May 23, 2016. For more information please contact the Transportation and Resource Managment Department at 356-5151. Thank you.


Memorial Day schedule announced for City of Iowa City

City Hall and other City of Iowa City offices will be closed Monday, May 30 for Memorial Day. Other holiday closures or schedule adjustments are as follows:

Airport: The administrative office will be closed, but Jet Air will be open normal hours, from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Animal Care and Adoption Center: Closed.

Cemetery: The office at Oakland Cemetery will be closed on Memorial Day. For information on the schedule for placing and picking up grave decorations for Memorial Day, see www.icgov.org/news/oakland-cemetery-issues-grave-decoration-guidelines-memorial-day.

Memorial Day services scheduled in Iowa City on Monday, May 30 are as follows:

  • 8:30 a.m.: Ceremony at Park Road Bridge, in memory of soldiers and sailors lost at sea. 
  • 9:30 a.m.: Service at Oakland Cemetery, 1000 Brown Street, at the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) lot, located at the flag pole near the Brown Street entrance.
  • 11 a.m.: Service at Memory Gardens Cemetery, 2600 Muscatine Avenue. 

Landfill: Closed.

Library: Closed.

Parking: Public parking ramps will be open, but cashier attendants will not be on duty. Fees will not be charged at ramps or street meters on Memorial Day.

Parks & Recreation: Offices will be closed on Memorial Day, but both recreation centers will be open. Hours for the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center and Mercer/Scanlon will be 1 to 8 p.m., with indoor pools at both facilities opening at 1 p.m. City Park Pool, which kicks off its 2016 season on Saturday, May 28, will follow its normal summer schedule, opening at 11:30 a.m. on Memorial Day for adult lap swim and at 1 p.m. for public swim.

Police: Patrol will operate and the Front Desk will be open, but the administrative and records offices will be closed.

Senior Center: Closed. Senior meals will not be served or delivered.

Solid Waste: Garbage, recycling, and yard waste will not be collected on Memorial Day. Residents on the Monday route should have materials at the curb by 7 a.m. on Tuesday, May 31, although the City cannot determine exactly when items will be collected. Residents whose pick-up days are Tuesday through Friday should follow their normal schedule.

Transit: Closed. City buses will not operate on Memorial Day.

Water: Closed. In case of a water emergency, call the 24-hour emergency line at 319-356-5166.

Normal City operations will resume on Tuesday, May 31.

For more information, contact Shannon McMahon, Communications Coordinator, at 319-356-5058.


Iowa City police eye more video surveillance | The Gazette

IOWA CITY — A day after showing the evidence that led them to disprove a University of Iowa student’s account of an alleged hate crime, Iowa City police are voicing support for more street cameras in and around the downtown district.

Iowa City’s pedestrian mall and adjacent areas have some street- and sidewalk-view cameras thanks to private businesses and the Iowa City Downtown District organization.

via www.thegazette.com


Happy Hollow Park public meeting scheduled

The City of Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department wants your input!

A public meeting is planned for Wednesday, May 25 from 4:45-5:45 p.m. to discuss proposed improvements to the Happy Hollow Park shelter and restroom facilities. The meeting will be held at the Happy Hollow Park shelter, located at 800 Brown Street. 

Restroom facility improvements will be modeled after restrooms recently installed in Court Hill and Fairmeadows Parks. To view the renderings from the Court Hill project visit the Morning Star Studio website at http://www.morning-starstudio.com/court-hill-restroom.html. Options for shelter improvements will be presented at the meeting, and posted to the Iowa City Parks and Recreation website at www.icgov.org/pr, once available.

Can’t make it to the meeting? Leave your comments on the Facebook event page: http://bit.ly/1VScEzL


Public input sought on City Council search for City Manager

Mayor Jim Throgmorton released the following information regarding the City Manager search. The City Council appointed Assistant City Manager Geoff Fruin as Interim City Manager effective March 19, 2016.  The City Council hopes to have a meeting by the end of June to make a decision on whether to appoint Geoff Fruin as City Manager or do a national search seeking applications from all qualified persons, including Interim City Manager Fruin should he choose to apply.

 The Council welcomes any comments from the public on this issue.  Comments may be emailed to  CityManagerSearch@iowa-city.org. Written correspondence may be directed to:

 City Manager Search
 c/o City Clerk
 City of Iowa City
 410 East Washington Street
 Iowa City, IA  52240

All written and electronic correspondence is a public record and will be distributed to the City Council and permanently archived as a public record. Deadline for comments is Friday, June 10, at 4:30 p.m.

Per Council policy anonymous correspondence will not be accepted; your name is required. Comments received without a name will not be forwarded to the City Council.

You may also contact individual Council Members directly to provide your input. 


Iowa City and UI selected for program to improve health in low-income neighborhoods

A partnership of the City of Iowa City, the University of Iowa, and local community development officials has been selected to take part in Invest Health, a new national program aimed at transforming how leaders from mid-size American cities work together to help low-income communities improve health by addressing the conditions that drive health, including access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs. Iowa City was selected as one of 50 mid-sized cities, from more than 180 teams from 170 communities across the nation that applied to the initiative.

The Iowa City team, comprised of representatives from the University of Iowa Colleges of Medicine and Public Health, the Housing Fellowship, the City of Iowa City, and Iowa City’s City Council, was selected for the program by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The team will receive a grant of $60,000 to reduce disparities in asthma, depression and behavioral health concerns in children and adults living in low income households. 

“This project brings together local partners who are critical to improving health among some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” says Sue Curry, dean of the UI College of Public Health.  “This is an extraordinary opportunity not only to make a positive impact in Iowa City, but to learn from other national leaders who are developing innovative strategies to improve community health so successful approaches can be applied elsewhere in Iowa and across the nation.”

Iowa City’s projects will explore a broad range of ideas including reviewing financial incentives to support new affordable housing projects, developing peer support programs, and expanding existing community efforts such as the Frequent User Service Enhancement (FUSE) project, which aims to reduce public costs by stabilizing chronically homeless individuals. Project teams from across the United States will travel to Philadelphia for a kick-off meeting on June 7 and will meet regularly to share what they’ve learned throughout the 18-month project. The information will also be made available on the project’s website at www.investhealth.org. Project teams will also engage a broader group of local stakeholders to share knowledge and expertise.

“Public officials, community developers, and many others have been working in low-income neighborhoods for years, but they haven’t always worked together,” said Donald Schwarz, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Vice President, Program. “Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development.”

For more information, contact Tracy Hightshoe, City of Iowa City Neighborhood Services Coordinator, at tracy-hightshoe@iowa-city.org or 319-356-5244.


Police: Iowa Student Lied About Being Victim of Hate Crime - ABC News

A black University of Iowa student lied about being the victim of a hate crime and was actually an aggressor during several drunken fights that began inside a bar, police said Tuesday.

Marcus Owens, 19, told police that he was attacked in an alley April 30 by three white men who hurled racial slurs and beat him, damaging his eye socket, knocking out his front teeth and cutting his lips. The claim stoked safety concerns and exposed minority students' distrust of university leaders.

But a two-week investigation by Iowa City Police found that a heavily intoxicated Owens was an instigator during several altercations that began inside the Eden Lounge early May 1 and continued in downtown streets.

via abcnews.go.com


Details Released on Marcus Owens Investigation

On Monday, May 2, 2016, at 11:21 p.m., Marcus Owens came to the Iowa City Police Department (ICPD) to report that he had been assaulted. Owens reported that on Saturday, April 30, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., he was in the alleyway of the 200 block of Iowa Avenue when he was approached by an individual and subsequently struck multiple times.   Owens further reported that he was struck several more times by multiple subjects while being called racial slurs. The suspects were initially described as being three white males, average height, and approximately nineteen to twenty-two years of age. Owens later sought medical treatment and was treated and released for non-life threatening injuries at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Upon receiving the report, the ICPD immediately began its investigation into the matter.  Further, based on the magnitude of the allegations and threat of public safety to the community, the ICPD treated the investigation as a major case with the dedication of all available resources. 

ICPD Investigators were able to collect and view video of the incident.  Investigators were also able to identify and interview witnesses who had observed Owens involved in several physical confrontations on the night of the incident.  The ICPD was able to determine the following timeline of events:

 

  • On May 2, Owens came to the Iowa City Police Department to report that he was assaulted on April 30.
  • Owens reports that on April 30 at approximately 9 p.m. he arrived at Eden Lounge, 217 Iowa Avenue.
  • Owens further reports that on April 30 between the hours of 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. he was assaulted by multiple white males in the alley way of the 200 block of Iowa Avenue while attempting to use his cell phone.   
  • On May 2, the ICPD immediately began its investigation into the matter and was able to locate multiple witnesses as well as video surveillance footage for the times, dates, and locations of the initial incident as it was reported by Owens.
  • Video surveillance footage shows Owens first entering Eden Lounge at 11:43 p.m. on April 30.
  • Video surveillance footage shows Owens as a participant in an altercation at Eden Lounge at 1:32 a.m. on May 1.
  • Video surveillance footage shows Owens exiting Eden Lounge at 1:34 a.m. on May 1 and then being involved with pushing and punching another person.
  • Video surveillance footage shows Owens being removed from the area of Eden Lounge by the bar staff at 1:35 a.m. on May 1.
  • Video surveillance footage shows Owens attempting to re-enter the outside entry area of Eden Lounge before being stopped by bar staff at 1:36 a.m. on May 1.
  • Video surveillance footage shows Owens being involved in another altercation at the intersection of Iowa Avenue and Linn Street at 1:41 a.m. on May 1. 
  • On May 1 at 1:45 a.m., according to witnesses, Owens was involved in a third altercation whereupon he grabbed onto another subject and attempted to strike the individual. 
  • Immediately after that altercation, a University of Iowa Police Officer arrived on-scene and, according to witnesses, Owens walked home with another person.

According to multiple witness accounts, Owens was reported to have made statements being concerned about his injuries sustained during the altercations and how he was going to inform his family.

As the investigation into this matter continued, multiple reports were confirmed that the original altercations stemmed from a disagreement between two students who are members of fraternities, the Pi Kappa Alpha and Kappa Sigma’s; however, this incident was described as an isolated incident between two subjects which began inside of Eden Lounge and continued outside.  Owens was reported to have been a pledge member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.  Both fraternities have cooperated extensively with this investigation. 

According to witnesses, the “n” word was used by one individual at the time of the second altercation.  This investigation was referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) for review to assist in making the determination if this matter was defined as a hate crime.  The FBI determined that the facts of this investigation did not meet the criteria necessary to be labeled as a hate crime.  The investigation was also submitted to the Johnson County Attorney’s Office for review.

At no point in this investigation was any information located that was determined to present a public safety issue to the Iowa City community as well as the University of Iowa community.  All evidence gathered supports that this was an isolated incident that stemmed from an ongoing disagreement.

The Iowa City Police Department was assisted in the investigation by the University of Iowa Police Department, the Johnson County Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. 

On May 16, 2016, Marcus Owens and his family issued an apology letter to the Iowa City Police Department, the Iowa City Community, and the University of Iowa.  The text of the letter provided by Owens can be found below.

This investigation is nearing completion; however, no charges are anticipated at this time.

A media conference will be held on Tuesday May 17, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. in the Emma J. Harvat Hall located at 410 East Washington Street, Iowa City.  Representatives from the Iowa City Police Department and the Johnson County Attorney’s Office will be available for media questions.

No further information will be released regarding this case until the scheduled media conference.

Letter received from Marcus Owens and family.

“To Marcus Owens’s friends, the Iowa City Community, the University of Iowa, and the Iowa City Police Department:

Marcus Owens and the entire Owens family would like to issue their deepest apologies to Marcus’s friends, the Iowa City community, the University of Iowa, and the Iowa City Police Department for the misunderstandings and anxiety stemming from Marcus’s involvement in a violent incident in downtown Iowa City on May 1. Upon learning more details of the case, and while racial slurs served to fuel the violence, Marcus now knows that his  account of events was inconsistent with police findings,  in part due to alcohol being involved, his embarrassment at his behavior, as well as the injuries he sustained. In light of this, it was concluded that this incident was not a hate crime as originally believed, but rather a case of excessive underage drinking and extremely poor judgment on the part of many people, Marcus included. Again, we would like to apologize and thank the University (especially President Bruce Harreld and his staff) and the Iowa City Police Department for their attention, sensitivity, diligence in investigating this matter, and in thoroughly addressing our many concerns.  Just as we have learned many life-changing lessons, we hope too that the community will continue to examine the many issues raised by this unfortunate incident.

-Marcus Owens and The Owens Family”