Kurt Friese has a demonstrated passion for the johnson county community, and his entire career has been built around promoting local, sustainable food and small-scale food production. A key to succeeding at that is to protect farmland from concrete, and to encourage urban food production.
Growth is good, and necessary for life, but uncontrolled growth solves the wrong problems, and becomes a destructive malignancy. New solutions include the sustainable use of land that is already zoned for development before rezoning more farmland; offering property tax breaks to farmers who convert commodity farm land to local food production; and creating ways for SNAP benefits to be worth double at Farmers’ Markets.
To do this, we must shrink or eliminate the NCDA - The North Corridor Development Area - in the new Land Use Plan. It already includes 800 lots ready to develop. Added to the 800 other lots ready to develop in the rest of the county, the 1,600 lots are enough stock for 20 years of growth. Sustainable growth means growing from our cities and towns outwards, not creating new villages without the infrastructure to support them.
The recent Starry Night Lane fire is an example of just one of the problems with this "Lily-pad" form of development. We are all very thankful the family was unhurt, but as was stated in the Press-Citizen:
"Because the home is in a rural area and not connected to any city water system, fire crews had to call in tankers hauling water to fight the blaze. Wolfe acknowledged that caused some difficulties since it took the trucks some time to get to the house."
No hydrants. Miles from services.
We must also develop a scenic roads plan, and expand the “Sensitive Areas” ordinance to give it teeth.
Offering property tax rebates on farmland that is moved from commodity production to local food production will encourage more local food consumption, thus improving health, lowering carbon emissions, and helping to keep Johnson County money in Johnson County. We must also create an ordinance that allows farms of under 40 acres, and draw it tightly enough that it cannot allow for a back-door route to residential development on farmland. Much of our work on the so-called “Poor Farm” ought to be geared toward small farm and food business incubation, with a focus on the health and vitality of Johnson County.
Our farmers markets are a treasure, and have brought us a true sense of community. But a majority of the growers come from outside the county. The changes discussed here will improve that, and doubling SNAP benefits when used in farmers markets will provide those new growers with more customers while helping get healthful food to needy families.
On the contentious subject of the minimum wage, until the state or federal government acts the county has a duty to help its citizens earn a livable wage. Even in the least expensive areas, one cannot keep up with the cost of living on $7.25 an hour. That’s barely $15,000 a year. The lower quartile of rent in Johnson County is $594, which means that even if you do find such low rent, you spend half your pre-tax income on rent. Add other occupants, like children, and the problem is magnified. No one who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
Some of What Kurt Friese Has Achieved
- Kurt has owned and operated Devotay, a community leader in local, sustainable cuisine, in downtown Iowa City for over 20 years.
- Devotay's "Sunday Benefit" program has raised over $55,000 for local charities (Like RVAP, DVIP, Shelter House, The Emma Goldman Clinic, The Bur Oak Land Trust, and more) since its inception 6 years ago.
- Life-long progressive Democrat and member of the Johnson County Democrats Central Committee. Delegate to 2016 Johnson County, 2nd District, and State Democratic Conventions
- He served on the Boards of Directors of Slow Food USA, The Iowa Food Policy Council, the Iowa Restaurant Association and NewBo City Market. He also serves on the Advisory Council of the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust.
- In his capacity as Director of Healthy Food & Advocacy, Friese recruited the anchor merchants that launched NewBo City Market.
- Friese publishes Edible Iowa, the preeminent publication on local food & farms in the state, which he launched in 2006.
- He created a micro-apprenticeship program for The Shelter House, teaching clients there the basic fundamentals needed to gain entry-level employment in the food service industry.
- For 21 straight years Friese's restaurant has supported the March of Dimes. Devotay's efforts there have raised over $100,000 for healthy babies.
- Friese was a founder of Field to Family, and creator of it's popular annual Culinary Walk.
- He graduated from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, where he met and married his wife of nearly 30 years, Iowa City native Kim McWane Friese. They reared and educated 2 kids, both of whom have remained in Iowa.
- And Friese has completed 10 consecutive RAGBRAIs and will ride his 11th in 2017.