Dubuque city and community leaders take “data walk” to discuss employment, living wages, among others

Dubuque leaders look at data regarding income needed to survive in Dubuque.
Dubuque leaders look at data regarding income needed to survive in Dubuque.
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 5:34 AM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Dubuque city and community leaders gathered at the Roshek Building on Thursday to learn more about the pandemic’s impact on the workforce and wages versus the cost of living in Dubuque as part of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque’s fourth annual Data Walk.

Among those in attendance was Anderson Sainci, who currently serves on the Dubuque school board and is the director of the city’s Office of Shared Prosperity and Neighborhood Support.

”What is always exciting for me is that people are willing to get into the conversation and figure out what is their role and how can they use their resources to make sure that when we say all people are thriving in the community, that is what is happening,” he mentioned.

What Sainci was looking forward to most was talking to other leaders about the key aspects they should focus their efforts on.

“The biggest thing that I am looking forward to, besides the conversation and the new relationships, is what are the key things we want to focus on, because the data is the data, and it has always been like this,” he added. “So what are we going to tackle as a community? What are we going to put our time, our energy, and our resources into and collaborate to make sure that this is not the future for our kids?”

Alex Baum, the foundation’s director of initiatives, said the team spent most of the year gathering the data they presented at the event. He explained they met with many community partners, including city and county officials, the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, and non-profit groups to gather information. Baum commented they came up with some surprising numbers.

”I think people will be surprised to see that, for a single parent, you know, a mother with one child, you need to make over $20 an hour working 40 hours a week in order to meet, not a good, successful level, but that basic survival level,” he added.

Baum said numbers on affordable childcare were also concerning to him. Daycare should only make up seven percent of a family’s income, but that is not many people’s reality.

”If you look at the registered childcare options in Dubuque and you bring that out to a year, only 35 percent of the households in Dubuque County would qualify as having affordable childcare for those cheaper options,” he explained. “I mean, that is a shocking and upsetting number.”

Nancy Van Milligen, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Dubuque, said the purpose behind the Data Walk is to make data more interactive and engaging while also gathering city and community leaders around it.

“Usually, when you are looking at data, you are sitting at a desk all by yourself and looking at this sheet of data thinking, but being able to stand next to your neighbor or someone that you work with and thinking about the data together is a whole different viewpoint,” she mentioned. “It helps you maybe look at it differently or think about it differently.”

Baum, on the other hand, recognized solutions probably would not come up in the room, but he at least hopes it starts conversations.

”Also, maybe a little bit of outrage? Maybe a little bit of creativity that comes out of this?,” he said. “If this sparks some of these key leaders to say, ‘I have ideas for how to change this and make this better’, that is fantastic.”

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