I.P.A. helping Postville plan its future

by Bryan Salvage
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POSTVILLE, IOWA – Postville, Iowa will be getting help from the University of Iowa's Institute of Public Affairs to help the city plan its future. The city has been reeling since last May, when federal officials raided the Agriprocessors meat processing plant and arrested or deported hundreds of people in the community for various immigration and identity-related offenses.

Since the raid, unemployment has soared, plant production has been sharply reduced, the company that owns the plant has declared bankruptcy and the community is faced with a myriad of social problems.

"The city has been in emergency mode since last May and now they're to a point where they can start to look forward," said Jeff Schott, director of the I.P.A. in the University of Iowa’s College of Law. Members of the office of Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and other state agencies, along with Mr. Schott, have been working with city and community leaders in response to the many issues that have arisen in the wake of federal immigration raids.

The process of moving forward will start later this spring, Mr. Schott said, when he plans to meet with local leaders to determine the most pressing mid- and long-range concerns the plan needs to address, "and the sky's the limit with issues," he added. Housing, poverty, cultural and language issues, the future of the meat packing plant, municipal financial problems and unemployment are just the start of the issues to be addressed.

The national recession is compounding the situation, he added, and will restrain what actions the city can take.

After issues have been developed, he said the I.P.A. will help the city determine what direction it wants to go. Starting in April, the institute will meet with city and community leaders from Postville and neighboring towns as Decorah and Elkader because the raids and Agriprocessors' bankruptcy are causing economic ripple effects throughout northeast Iowa, Mr. Schott said.

A series of community meetings will be held to gather data and input over the course of a few weeks, he said. Once complete, the I.P.A. will work with community leaders to put together a plan that includes a series of goals and objectives and then the steps that can be taken to achieve them.

Mr. Schott said the institute will work with Postville free of charge because of its difficult economic circumstances -- even though the I.P.A. normally charges clients for its services.

The I.P.A. is an outreach organization of the University of Iowa for local governments in Iowa. It sponsors numerous workshops and seminars to help elected and appointed leaders provide more responsive and efficient governments, and it provides consulting services to cities and counties.

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