Green-Douglass to appear on primary ballot in June
JOHNSON COUNTY– Lisa Green-Douglass became a political junkie at the age of 21, the first time she attended her first Iowa caucus, during the presidential election year of 1980.
“I was immediately drawn into the whole process,” said Green-Douglass. “When you are at a caucus, you are in the initial picking process. You help create the party platform. Sometimes, some of those issues end up getting legislated. It was such a thrill for me to see grass roots politics, and really understand for the first time in my life what that really meant.”
Between now and the June 3 primary election, Green-Douglass will be involved in her own grass roots movement, hoping to secure a nomination to run as a Democratic candidate for Johnson County supervisor. Though the official filing period for candidates does not begin until March 3, incumbent county supervisor Janelle Rettig and Iowa City challenger Mike Carberry have joined Green-Douglass in announcing their intent to run in the Democratic primary.
Green-Douglass came from Los Angeles to attend graduate school at the University of Iowa. She fell in love with the Midwest and decided to stay. By 1984, she became active in the Johnson County Democratic Central Committee and involved in the Iowa caucus process. Eventually, she served as a precinct captain for Madison Township, and has served on county subcommittees in the areas of agriculture and the environment, health care, and education.
“I have been frustrated my whole adult life with health insurance,” she said. “And as an educator, parent and community member, I have very strong opinions about education. After No Child Left Behind (was enacted), I couldn’t just sit by and be quiet on that issue.” Her children have been a big focus in her life, and Green-Douglass has supported their education in the Clear Creek Amana school district by serving on the facilities exploratory committee and chairing a major bond issue campaign to build the new high school in Tiffin.
Politics was not her first career choice, however. Green-Douglass has a master’s degree and PhD in Spanish and has worked as an educator for more than 30 years, first in high school and later at the University of Iowa and Cornell College. She left the world of higher education eight years ago to serve as a trainer to other professionals in using the Spanish language in job-specific settings; for example, she trains paramedics, law enforcement officers, jail and prison personnel and conservation officers how to functionally communicate with Spanish-speaking persons in their everyday encounters.
“It’s wonderfully practical, but there is a cross-cultural component to it too,” she said. Teaching diverse groups to understand the subtexts of body language, eye contact and social morés of other cultures has given Green-Douglass the ability to look at issues from many perspectives. It has also helped her cultivate and articulate one of the main planks of her campaign platform at the local level.
“I want to reach out to people who are not currently part of the voice of Johnson County,” she said.
Strengthening mental health services is one place she would like to start.
“We have wonderful professionals in our communities throughout the county who provide services, but they aren’t always as accessible as you would like,” she said. Consolidating services locally– such as the efforts of the 1105 Project in Iowa City and Johnson County’s jail alternatives programs– is a great start, but Green-Douglass would like to ensure future funding and make services more available. She envisions a mobile mental health crisis response team that can be dispatched to situations much like law enforcement or emergency medical personnel are now.
“It isn’t an issue that is new; it’s just that people are becoming more aware and asking how people are best served. I think everyone’s own inner circle contains someone who has been touched by the issue of mental health,” she said. “(But) it’s a matter of funding; it’s becoming more challenging because of the regional consolidation. It’s an unmet need.”
Affordable housing has become a topic at Johnson County governmental tables recently, but Green-Douglass doesn’t see any action beyond the conversations.
“It is a really important issue that affects everybody. It’s been talked about for years, but there hasn’t been anything actually done beyond creating little pockets of it here and there,” said Green-Douglass. She co-owns a couple of apartment units that accept subsidized housing, and said she understands the financial pressure landlords endure. Financial incentives from a county funding source could help, she believes, and it might be time to consider inclusionary zoning as well.
“It would also solve the issue in Iowa City schools where they are trying to ensure socioeconomic integration. Bussing is not a good approach, but if you had affordable housing scattered throughout, rather than concentrated, the impact would be spread out as well,” said Green Douglass. Further, the area’s average income and available jobs market needs to be part of the discussion and definition of what constitutes affordability, she added. However it’s addressed, Green-Douglass said the issue of affordable housing is on her radar, and should be addressed on a countywide level.
“I think we need a more coordinated effort among the bigger municipalities in the county, perhaps with input from a county entity. There needs to be a more coordinated plan,” said Green-Douglass.
The candidate is comfortable with plans; she believes they are good tools for decision-making, and that’s why she supports Johnson County’s adoption and application of its Land Use Plan.
“In some ways it’s been controversial, but it shouldn’t be,” she said. “It wasn’t capricious. It wasn’t done overnight. There were people from all different factions and with all different interests involved in the creation of that plan. I can see why it works for the county.”
The Land Use Plan seeks to contain growth to certain designated areas and clustering rural subdivisions, while maintaining those areas more suited to agricultural land and preserving green space. That makes sense to Green-Douglass.
“What is frustrating is the implementation of the plan has not always appeared to be consistent,” she contended. If you have the plan, you need to stick to it, and if it isn’t working, you have to ask if there is something about the plan that needs updated.”
It’s the type of information Green-Douglass likes to gather before going to the table to vote; having all the facts before forming a decision is her governing style that she feels fits well with the position of county supervisor.
“I might go into something with an opinion but I am smart enough to recognize that it’s just my opinion,” she said. “I prefer to base my opinion on information from more than once source so I have a better idea of the big picture.
That bigger picture has been in Green-Douglass’ sight for about 10 years now, and the 2014 election year presented the perfect timing for her, personally and professionally, to make a run for a candidate nomination.
With her experiences in academia, working with professionals from all walks of life, advocating for people from other cultures who don’t speak English, as a landlord and a parent and a champion of educational progress, Green-Douglass has heard many different viewpoints and understands their everyday realities.
“Compromise is a good word,” said Green-Douglass. There are people who get so stuck in their own ideology, but stubbornness does not get things moving. If you need things to move along, you need to be willing to give a little and take a little.”
State Representative Mary Mascher supports Green-Douglass as a candidate who can accomplish things through cooperation.
“I have known Lisa Green-Douglass for over 20 years and have always been impressed with her ability to get things done,” said Mascher. “Her outstanding work as an educator for over 25 years has prepared her well for this elective office. She is able to address complex issues by listening to all sides and building consensus. Her leadership skills, work ethic, dedication, and knowledge of the challenges that face our county are what we need to move forward.”
After spring break, Green-Douglass and her campaign committee will be knocking on doors, calling and attending events along with the county’s voters. Learn more about the candidate at www.green-douglassforsupervisor.com.