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  • Holly Harris

Enhancing Local Governance: A Project for Iraq


From November 17th to November 23rd, Global Ties Iowa hosted visitors from Iraq for a program titled “Enhancing Local Governance.” This program aimed to provide Iraqi local government officials with examples of how to provide greater transparency and accountability in their actions. On Thursday, they arrived on a snowy day and had the rest of the evening to get settled into their hotel room.


On Friday, Global Ties Iowa Board Member Newman Abuissa met them at the hotel and walked them to their first meeting of the day with Janet Lyness, the County Attorney for Johnson County, and Rachel Zimmerman, County Attorney Elect for Johnson County. Once their meeting ended, the visitors got special permission with the help of Ms. Zimmerman to go beyond the public line and even sit in the judge’s chair and take photos! After a lunch break, the group headed toward City Hall to meet with Mayor Bruce Teague and Rachel Kilburg, Assistant City Manager of Iowa City. The visitors learned from them the current issues facing the Council and the efforts they are taking to mitigate these problems.


Later that evening, they went to Ashley and Matt Laux’s home for an Iowa Table Dinner. They enjoyed delicious food, fun games, and rich conversations!


“[Ashley and Matt Laux’s] family was very wonderful. I got to know the American family from the inside,” commented a participant.


On Saturday, the delegation toured Kalona Historical Village. There, they learned about the basic beliefs of the Amish and Mennonite faith and then explored the Kalona Buggy Shop. When they arrived back in Iowa City, they had the rest of the afternoon to explore the city.


“The city of Iowa is one of the cities that I loved so much. It is characterized by simplicity and familiarity, and makes you feel safe as you walk in its streets. All materials are available in its stores and their prices are good. If I had the opportunity to live in the United States, I would choose to live in Iowa City,” wrote participant Ayat Mudhafar Nori Al Baroodi.


On Sunday afternoon, Newman Abuissa met back up with the visitors and walked them to their meeting with Amanda Nichols of the Community Police Review Board of Iowa City. They discussed the role of the board and how they review police policies and recommend changes to the City Council.


Monday was a free day for the group to explore the city and relax. On their last full day of programming on Tuesday, they headed to Cedar Rapids to meet up with Global Ties Iowa Board Member, Arnold Daniels Jr., and Rob Davis, Cedar Rapids Flood Control Program Manager. The visitors had the opportunity to tour current construction, delve deeper into the logistics of the Flood Control Plan, and learn how they can implement similar projects in their own communities.


After this meeting, they headed back to Iowa City for a short lunch break before meeting with Lisa Green-Douglass and Jon Green on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors. They talked about their roles on the Board and then opened it up for a question and answer session.


The next day, the group woke up bright and early in order to catch a 6:30 am flight out of Iowa.


“[My experience] was very positive because I have met very energetic people who work to serve their local society, and it gave us a better idea about how the American [government] system runs,” commented a participant.


Thank you to our local professional resources who met with our Iraqi visitors: Janet Lyness, Rachel Zimmerman, Amanda Nichols, Rob Davis, Lisa Green-Douglass, and Jon Green. We could not achieve our mission of connecting the world and the heartland without you all who take time out of your days to engage our visitors and share your knowledge and expertise!


Thank you as well to our Board members, Arnold Daniels Jr. and Newman Abuissa for escorting our visitors to their meetings, and the Laux family for opening your home to them! You help make their time in eastern Iowa memorable!


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