Crumbling foundations: Davenport's struggle with governance and integrity

Photo of Davenport City Hall is by Farragutful, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Alexandra Dermody is a Davenport-based Gen Z community advocate, nonprofit director, and small business owner.

As a lifelong Davenport resident, Gen Z business owner, nonprofit director, activist, and queer woman with a deep vested interest in the future of my community, I am deeply concerned about the state of my city’s governance. Recent events, including the tragic collapse of The Davenport apartment building last May, the contentious city council dynamics, and questionable financial decisions, have cast a shadow over our city’s leadership and particularly Mayor Mike Matson’s administration.

The collapse of The Davenport, resulting in loss of lives and severe injuries, exposed glaring failures in our city’s inspection and oversight systems. It’s disheartening that the city’s investigation into this catastrophe failed to address its own role and responsibilities in preventing such a disaster. This lack of introspection and accountability is a glaring omission, reflecting a concerning lack of transparency in our city government.

The situation worsened with the revelation of substantial separation agreements with city officials, including a $1.6 million payout to City Administrator Corri Spiegel. These agreements, made prior to the November 2023 elections, were withheld from the public, raising questions about the motivations and transparency of our city leaders. (State Auditor Rob Sand is reviewing those settlements.) It remains unclear what role Matson and other officials played in these decisions, further eroding public trust.

Moreover, the allegations of sexual harassment and racism within the city council are deeply troubling. The lawsuit filed by Former Alderman Robby Ortiz against Alderman Tim Kelly for defamation following Kelly’s accusations of racial slurs exemplifies the discord and unprofessionalism plaguing our city hall. This lack of decorum and respect among our leaders is unacceptable and does not represent the values of Davenport.

The council’s recent actions, such as the removal of Former Alderman Derek Cornette and the restrictions placed on former Aldermen Cornette and Judith Lee, indicate a broader issue of governance and accountability. These incidents, combined with the tragic building collapse and the subsequent handling of the situation, point to a leadership crisis.

As a member of this community, I expect more from our city officials. Davenport residents deserve leaders who are transparent, accountable, and dedicated to the well-being of all citizens. We need a new era of governance in Davenport, one that prioritizes the needs and safety of its residents, upholds the highest standards of transparency and integrity, and fosters a culture of respect and collaboration.

Matson and the city council must address these issues head-on. It’s time for them to demonstrate their commitment to the people of Davenport through actions, not just words. We, as a community, deserve nothing less.

About the Author(s)

Alexandra Dermody

  • thanks for these this call to action

    all of this is only going to get worse as the State government imposes even more austerity and so fewer supports for towns and little to nothing in terms of oversight for the safety and care of citizens.
    Can’t keep up with all the million dollar spec houses cropping up on zillow around Iowa City while our older municipalities crumble. The scholar Ruth Gilmore Wilson calls this kind of systemic abuse organized abandonment: