Iowa City Council endorsements
Two years ago, Iowa City voters opted for a “core four” slate and a different direction in local government. This election holds no danger to that majority, but it must light a path for the brightest blue city in an increasingly red state.
Progress has been made on the social justice, economic and sustainability issues highlighted during the last election.
As part of a 15-point Affordable Housing Action Plan, a new fund allows nonprofits better leverage state and federal dollars. Inclusionary zoning in Riverfront Crossings Park provides a working example of what could be done on a broader scale. Tax increment financing incentives are more transparent, and are no longer so closely tied to downtown.
Council members completed and adopted a Bike Master Plan, which is now being implemented to increase walkability and bikeability throughout the city. Recycling changes are underway, with the city moving to a single stream system that will include multifamily residential. A council-appointed Climate Action Steering Committee is working alongside a consultant to develop Iowa City’s first Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.
A full review and analysis of existing public transit services is on the horizon, with many anticipating further discussion of innovative alternatives.
But city leaders also face a new crop of opposing views and shrinking influence at the Statehouse.
An Iowa City occupancy ordinance and a council-approved minimum wage hike were shot down by state lawmakers. Research on possibly regulating plastic grocery sacks fell to a pre-emptive state harpoon.
Whether right or wrong, Iowa City’s reputation as an oasis for “unhinged” liberals too often overshadows effective and innovative ideas. Tomorrow’s leaders must be visible advocates of a more unified community, and more effective throughout the region.
Voters are choosing between Ryan Hall, a non-traditional student at the University of Iowa who previously served with AmeriCorps, and Susan Mims, a financial adviser who has served two terms as an at-large council member. Terry Dickens, who currently holds the seat, chose not to seek re-election.
While we applaud Hall’s passion on social justice issues and desire to serve the community, our endorsement goes to Mims. We believe she provides necessary continuity for ongoing projects, financial knowledge and insights not held other council members, and leadership experience needed to expand the city’s influence.
“Of course we have the support of our local state legislators, but we’ve had promising discussions with other lawmakers fall apart once those lawmakers learned they were in conversations with someone representing Iowa City,” Mims said. “So, this is an issue and we need to find ways to either diffuse it or work around it.”
Mims suggested working through established organizations, such as the Iowa League of Cities, to form collaborations on specific issues.
“We know good ideas can come from any city, and we need to be more open to working together for the common good.”
The race includes Mazahir Salih, community organizer and president of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, Angela Winneke, an Iowa City native named honorary nighttime mayor of the Iowa City Downtown District, and Kingsley Botchway II, a first-term incumbent and equity and engagement director at the Iowa City Community School District.
All three care deeply about the community and hope to bring more diversity to city government. We believe Botchway and Salih are best positioned to fulfill that promise.
Botchway, current mayor pro tem, focused on the need for affordable housing in his previous contest and has been instrumental in implementing the 15-point housing plan. He wants to accelerate the process during a second term, and advocates for a review of inclusionary zoning to ensure it is addressing a broad spectrum of housing and development needs, and for continual exploration of innovative housing solutions developed in other communities.
“While we’ve seen some success with appropriating funds toward affordable housing, we’ve not addressed mental health in the same way,” Botchway said. “We need to develop an action plan to address this issue, and we need to work with other governing bodies in the region.”
Botchway hopes to create a task force to help assisted living facilities and organizations better address needs of their service populations, and is an advocate of crisis intervention training for emergency personnel.
Both Botchway and Salih would accelerate portions of the city’s strategic plan to address social justice and racial equity.
Salih, a native of Sudan, has experience within several organizations that bring people together and forge solutions to complex community problems. It’s a skill she’s eager to apply to local government.
“I know from experience that we don’t have to be trapped in the old ways of doing things. Bringing diverse views to the table is hard work — work that I can do and have done — and, as we saw in the Forest View development, solutions are possible.”
Because of her work with immigrant populations, Salih will bring a much needed voice to future council discussions of inclusion and, more specifically, how existing public transit options limits workers, employers and other businesses.
“I love this city and all of its differences,” she said. “We need to keep our neighborhoods distinct, livable and vibrant; keep our diversity celebrated and protected. To do that, we have to bring as many new groups as possible to the table of city government. Working together we can meet our current issues and future issues head-on. We can prosper together.”
• Comments: (319) 398-8262; email@example.com
Learn more about the Iowa City Council candidates:
• Ryan Hall, District B
• Susan Mims, District B
• Kingsley Botchway II, At-Large
• Mazahir Salih, At-Large
• Angela Winnike, At-Large