The Iowa Democratic Party Progressive Caucus is proud to highlight the candidacy of caucus member Kurt Friese. Kurt is running for Johnson County Supervisor. Sustainable development and environmental issues are very important to him. Johnson County must find solutions for balancing growth and food production. According to Kurt, “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 farmland to local food production, and creating ways for SNAP benefits to be worth double at Farmers’ Markets.”
Kurt Friese is one of the founders of the Johnson County “farm to table” movement, which promotes cooking with local ingredients at home, at restaurants and in schools, preferably through direct acquisition from the producer. He has said that we can promote this by “Offering property tax rebates on farmland that is moved from commodity production to local food production, which 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.”
Kurt Friese is a successful entrepreneur and an advocate for small businesses. He has successfully owned and operated his restaurant, Devotay, for 20 years. Devotay is a community leader in local and sustainable cuisine and was the first restaurant in Iowa City to focus on sourcing locally. In 2012 the restaurant won the Iowa Restaurant Association’s “Good Neighbor Award” for community service. Supporter Nate Kaeding said, “Kurt is one the founding fathers of the burgeoning Iowa City culinary scene and a true pioneer in the local farm to table movement. I have no doubt he’ll bring the same high-level or leadership, work ethic, and innovation to the role of County Supervisor that he’s exemplified for decades as a community-minded entrepreneur here in Johnson County.”
Kurt Friese strongly favors raising the minimum wage. As a small business owner, he was asked why he is in favor of his expenses going up. He said, “I do business a little differently than some in the industry. I believe I have the best crew in town, and part of the reason for that is that I pay them well. In an industry where staying at the same job for a year makes one a veteran, my place has staff members who have been with us for eight, ten, thirteen years. And I’d like to pay them even more, but there’s a level at which it puts me at a competitive disadvantage because the other restaurants would then have even lower comparative labor costs. If the minimum wage is raised across the board, it affects us all equally.” He cites Seattle as an example that raising the minimum wage to a “living wage” did not hurt the economy. He believes that paying people a living wage will only benefit the economy because those with more discretionary income will put more of it back into the economy.
Along with a living wage, Kurt feels that affordable housing is vital for building a strong economy. He has worked closely with the Shelter House of Iowa City to create a micro-apprenticeship, which helps their clients gain skills required for entry-level employment in the food service industry. He feels that part of proper urban development is creating spaces for affordable housing and that any new development project should set aside spaces to make sure affordable housing is available in all areas of the county.
Kurt Friese is the type of progressive that Johnston County needs. He is interested in creating a space that works for everyone. He takes the issues important to progressives very seriously. His life’s work is a perfect example of this. Kurt has created a successful business, started a magazine (Edible Iowa), and worked on many projects that have benefited a lot of people. Supporter and Mayor Pro Tem Kingsley Botchway said, “I cast my vote for Kurt Friese in the June 7th primary. I heard Kurt at a worker’s rights conference some time ago and was impressed by his ability as a restaurant owner to articulate a perspective supporting minimum wage increase in the midst of uncertainty in the business community. His ideas are fresh and innovative and I look forward to working on various projects with him.” For for information about Kurt go to http://www.kurtfriese.com/