Perspectives and Respect

Having served on the city council since 2017, I have worked through my fair share of contentious topics and dealt with misinformation and frustrations. There have been debates on whether individuals should be allowed to have certain breeds of dogs, what elements need to be required when rebuilding our infrastructure, whether fireworks should be allowed, etc. However, it seems that divisive language and misleading rhetoric are becoming more commonplace than rare occurrences. It is certainly my hope that with the latest election behind us, we can get back to working together despite different perspectives and perhaps more importantly, disagree respectfully.

We have a lot of great things happening in our community, but there continue to be pain points we need to work through. Downtown Sioux City boasts several great examples of buildings that have been rehabilitated and are getting a second chance. Perhaps the most extensive is the Warrior Hotel, but others would be the Badgerow building, the Riviera Theater, and soon, the Benson, Aalfs, and Francis Canteen buildings. However, many other projects experience delays, difficulty working through inspections/regulations, and struggles with the supply chain.  No matter the reason for these delays, I have heard loud and clear the frustration of entrepreneurs and developers with the process and lack of flexibility with our code. On the contrary, as a city, we have a vested interest in working with our inspectors and ordinances to make sure that we are producing quality projects that will last. While this perspective is imperative, we must also be certain that our ordinances and applications are not so rigid that limited funds are not spent on a requirement when a much more affordable option would suffice.

Large projects undoubtedly come with more complicated processes, more organizations involved, and more at stake. Projects such as the wastewater treatment plant include the Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, residents of Sioux City, multiple sister cities, and industries ranging in size and usage. Projects like the Gordon Drive viaduct include the Iowa Department of Transportation, the Army Corps of Engineers, and many other entities mentioned above. These projects cost hundreds of millions of dollars and affect everyone. If you ask any involved parties about a particular project, you will get a different perspective. Again, while there may be multiple perspectives and ideas about how to approach these projects, it is imperative that we respect each other and keep in mind the overall goal: the betterment of our community. In some of these cases, our hands are tied, but in most, we need to work with each other to ensure the safety and future of our community.

It is this breakdown in communication and lack of collaboration that I have been so disappointed in recently. The level of anger and the amount of name-calling I have witnessed in multiple meetings over the last few months is staggering. What’s unfortunate about this line of communication is that it breaks down constructive dialogue and causes people to dig their heels in further. It is my hope that as we go through this holiday season and into the new year, we think of what is at stake, what we love about our community, and how we can work together for a better future. 

By Alex Watters

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