Hermits Rock

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Neighborhood Meeting

The city called a neighborhood planning meeting last night; we dutifully went. No sooner were we searching for a table than a couple of young women began following us around the room. “Do you mind if we sit with you? We really want to sit with people our own age.” Saying “Sure” was the first mistake.

One of the women in particular was like a 50-year-old man complaining about the neighbors down the block who don’t mow the grass but every eight days instead of five. No sooner had the meeting started than did she lay into her problems: “There are no playgrounds!” she said. “No one should live less than six blocks from a playground.”

She complained about the violence and ascribed it to “THOSE PEOPLE from Chicago who come to Iowa City because there is a waiting list on HUD money in Chicago, but they can get on the rolls here.” (See a version of the argument here.) She explained that her mom watched the same thing happen in Elkhart, Indiana, and it just broke her heart. “Some people think we can change them, but they just bring their violence here.” She said she didn’t feel safe walking down Wayne Avenue at night—even though Wayne is one of the main feeder-streets into her cul-de-sac neighborhood.

Later, she laid into Hy-Vee. “I boycotted Hy-Vee for four months because their prices were too high. They should be lower.” Her solutions were two-fold. First, she agreed with her friend that we needed more big-box stores in the area. Second, she thought a nice mom-and-pop grocery store would be ideal, presumably because the prices there would be cheaper.

And she complained about traffic lights. And she complained about parks. And she complained about fence ordinances. And she complained about the local elementary school. And she complained about the fact that she had to drive past “low-income housing“—that is, condos and apartment buildings and townhomes and duplexes—to get to “higher income housing.” And it soon became clear that what she really wanted was to live in a different neighborhood.

I was happy—very happy—when the meeting was over.