Another pillar threatened

CBJ Editorial

We have commented recently that several of the region’s major economic players have been impacted negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the University of Iowa and Raytheon Technologies, which includes Collins Aerospace.

Now ACT, the Iowa City-based testing company and one of Iowa City’s largest employers, is experiencing challenges from both the pandemic and a move by some colleges and universities away from standardized testing.

On May 28, ACT made the announcement that Marten Roorda is being replaced as CEO by Janet Godwin, its COO and well-respected business leader. Along with it, ACT announced a series of cost-cutting measures that include voluntary options for team members to reduce work hours, take leaves of absence, or voluntarily resign and receive severance pay. There will be no raises next year and some fringe benefits will be reduced. Further cost reductions are expected.

It seems that no industry is being spared from this economic crisis. We remain hopeful that ACT will be able to weather this challenge under Ms. Godwin’s experienced leadership and remain a vital force in the region, especially as it is partnering to help development an innovative edtech industry cluster that has great potential to expand the economy.

Consolidation incentives needed

The Iowa Legislature is back in session after a break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislature wants to be as efficient as possible, but there is one initiative that we would like to see examined, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic is still upon us: tangible incentives for regional cooperation that make government more efficient.

Tax dollars will inevitably become tighter for municipalities and counties due to a decrease in sales and other taxes. What if the legislature were to provide some incentives for municipalities, counties and regions to share or consolidate services?

Transit, law enforcement and school districts are just a few of the many areas where consolidation might yield benefits. It is difficult to keep track of all the governmental entities within one county, let alone the Corridor’s seven-county region.

Many of these entities have evolved reasonably over the years and now have become large. Just think of the North Liberty Police Department, which now totals 21 officers, according to its website, and will soon move into a new $5.75 million, 16,000-square-foot headquarters.

We are not saying these services are not needed, but can they be operated more effectively through a regional approach?

To be sure, trying to share and cooperate more formally across political boundaries is daunting. Where do you begin without sacrificing public services?

The legislature has at times mandated changes with no incentives. That won’t work in this case. Municipalities and county governments need a financial incentive to change.

There are successful cooperative service models in other parts of the country with larger population centers, so it can be done. Let’s be creative. Let’s give these local governments an incentive to try. CBJ