The leaders of a handful of Iowa’s larger cities are speaking out against legislation that would have the state, not local governments, have the final say on cable TV contracts. Cedar Falls Mayor John Crews says the proposal would take away the local control that has made his city’s cable system unique.
The city signed a franchise agreement with Mediacom and the city-owned cable utility. The two pay franchise fees to the city which Crews says helps bankroll local channels which provide information to citizens by broadcasting city council meetings, community news and interviews with officials from the school district and local non-profit agencies.Crews says this is an erosion of “home rule” policies which contend the best decisions are made by the officials closest to the citizens.
Marion Mayor John Nieland says there’s nothing wrong with what’s happening with local city contracts with cable providers today, and the state should stay out of it. “I wonder if people in Iowa know, for instance, that by state (law) that whenever a new subdivision goes in that the telephone company is the only utility that can say ‘Look, I’m not ready to put my line in. You come back and put it in when I’m ready,'” Nieland says. “I wonder if they’re going to do the same thing in reference to (cable) television. That really scares me.”
Neiland says the franchise fee the cable company pays in Marion raises 250-thousand dollars for his city’s treasury. “Any local official who thinks that bringing it to the state is going to make it better had better pull their head out of the perverbial dark hole,” he says. The mayors held a news conference at the statehouse on Wednesday afternoon.