Bowles Focuses on City Issues in Senate Race Print
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Tuesday, 21 May 2002 18:00
Niky Bowles talks as if she’s running for the Davenport City Council. When asked about the issue of economic development in Iowa , she says that when Hy-Vee wanted to build a new store on Davenport’s west side where an Eagle building now sits vacant, “the way they were treated at city hall was almost appalling to me. The system is so negative to employers. You can’t blame them for walking away.”

But Bowles is actually running for the Iowa State Senate against incumbent Senator Maggie Tinsman in the June 4 Republican primary. Bowles has shown an intense interest in municipal issues ever since the Davenport City Council denied her a zoning change on property she owns, and she speaks regularly at city-council meetings.

She acknowledges that she doesn’t know much about many state issues and declines to offer positions on most topics. She said she’s running for state rather than local office because of the potential impact she can have. “I thoroughly enjoy the prospect of making policy that affects many, many people statewide.”

She bears no malice toward Tinsman, who has served in the Senate for 14 years. “I don’t know precisely her complete record,” Bowles said, “so I will not go into issues about which I am not well-researched.” Instead of citing examples of where she thinks Tinsman has been deficient, Bowles states, “We need to be proactive on issues.”

But what does that mean? Bowles has outlined the issues important to her – education, economic development, repealing pension taxes, agriculture, lobbying for federal funds, and accountability among them – but she cannot articulate how she would be proactive or what she would do in those areas.

On the issue of economic development, she contrasts the Hy-Vee situation with incentives given for a business to locate in the city’s industrial park. “I hope that economic development [at the state level] is more friendly,” she said.

When asked about the state budget – which is approximately $220 million in the red in the current fiscal year and another $220 million next fiscal year – Bowles claimed she didn’t have enough information. “I have to have access to information,” she said. “We have a very difficult time accessing information.”

Bowles then added that she would look to make government more efficient to make the budgetary ends meet. “Government is very wasteful,” she said. Would trimming waste balance the state budget? “I don’t know,” she said.

Education is something all candidates claim to support, and Bowles is no different. As a way to cite educational deficiencies in the state, she said that the Davenport Community School District owns what she thinks is too much land, at the same time that it’s closing a pair of neighborhood schools. “Why must they own so much land?” she asked. “Things like that are very bothersome to me.”

But what would the state’s role be in changing that situation? Bowles said that the state should work with the school district to solve its budgetary problems, but she also said that “I don’t run for office to dictate.” Instead, she said, the state should enforce current regulations. She also said she would use a collaborative approach. “Let’s work together to see how we can solve our issues,” she said.

Bowles is also vague on the issue of agriculture. She said that she will be “very supportive” of farmers but could not say how that might manifest itself. “What those issues might be are something that I must study,” she said.

She strikes a similar note on the issue of health care, particularly prescription drugs. “Some people have to make choices between food and prescription drugs,” she said. So what solution would she endorse? “How we’re going to find that needs to be viewed very carefully,” she said.

Bowles also said she would defend the First and Second amendments if elected. She said that citizens are “deprived” of their First Amendment right to free speech every day, citing the behavior of Davenport Mayor Charlie Brooke during city-council meetings. “It’s disgusting,” she said. But she did not say what she would do to solve that issue, except that she would “be quiet and listen.”

On nearly all issues, Tinsman clearly articulates her knowledge of state issues that’s been developed over multiple terms in office. Bowles has little of that knowledge.

“I feel I have done an excellent job of bringing issues to the forefront,” Bowles said. Few would deny that she’s been a tireless watchdog of city government, but where she’s lacking is experience on state issues, and solutions to the problems she’s pointing out. The learning curve would be steep.
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