116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Oct. 13, 2021 5:00 am, Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 3:26 pm
Hai Huynh, Laurie Goodrich, Mike Knudson and Cindy Riley are running for three seats on the Coralville council. ► Get to know the other candidates.
Name: Hai Huynh
Office sought: Coralville City Council (incumbent)
Age: 44 (born Oct. 13, 1977)
Occupation: Community projects coordinator with the Coralville Food Pantry
Campaign website: haiforcoralville.com
Have you held office before? Yes. I serve with my colleagues as a council member for the City of Coralville.
Personal bio: Coralville City Councilor Hai Huynh, the first Iowan born in Vietnam elected to any political office in Iowa, is seeking reelection this fall. Huynh — a Coralville resident for 20 years, mother of four, and Community Projects Coordinator with the Coralville Community Food Pantry — is eager to continue her work after campaigning and winning a historic special election in September 2020. Huynh's "vision for a better Coralville" includes emphasis on COVID recovery as well as her core platform priorities from 2020: People First Development, Community Mobility, Racial & Economic Justice, and Climate Action. To learn more, please visit haiforcoralville.com.
Why are you running for city council?
I love Coralville, my home for the last 20 years. This is where my family has spent countless hours together enjoying Coralville's many amenities and devoting ourselves to its schools and community organizations. Over the years, I have served my community in many different ways. That gives me a unique glimpse into countless stories about a lack of resources and support in Coralville, and policies that are not serving all of our residents. Volunteering and listening no longer seemed like enough. I decided to ask my community for their trust to be a voice of representation that is often missing at the discussion table, with the power and influence to make positive, tangible change for our most vulnerable neighbors. I was honored to earn their trust in 2020, and I am now asking my community to trust me to serve them for a full term of four years.
How do you rate the city’s current performance? What areas are going well, and what could be improved?
The last 18-plus months have posed an unprecedented challenge to local governments everywhere. Despite losing key revenue, I believe the City of Coralville has responded well to some of the crises experienced by its community members and businesses. The City has maintained essential public services such as roads, waste management, parks, library, etc.; increased support for critical social services; made improvements to community transit; prioritized the health of community members with mask mandates; and taken small, but necessary, first steps to address racial and economic inequality by establishing a citizens police review board and utility assistance program. That said, there is still much room for improvement. Decisions continue to be made with little to no input from our most vulnerable community members. Their voices matter, and we should take steps to improve our neighborhood and community outreach — one solution would be to hire outreach personnel tasked with engaging and supporting historically marginalized community members.
What are the three largest issues facing the community and what will you do to address them?
The three most pressing issues facing Coralville are COVID recovery, addressing the need for affordable housing, advancing racial and economic justice.
The pandemic has devastated our community in many ways. In our quest to "return to normal," we must prioritize tangible and robust relief for our neighbors who have been impacted gravely by COVID-19 — economically, emotionally, and physically. We must work to ensure that our community returns to a better normal in the months and years ahead. That includes prioritizing American Rescue Plan funds to help the most people as possible, especially those who were excluded from any federal or state relief in the past two years.
Housing is a right, and every single one of our neighbors deserves a home that's safe and affordable. We cannot be idle as many continue to become priced out of Coralville. We must continue to work on protecting existing affordable options and invest in affordable housing projects, especially those that do not cost more than 30% of a person's income.
We can advance racial and economic justice by increasing financial support for vital community resources like human service agencies, nonprofits, and community groups working to reduce poverty, racism, violence, and injustice in our community. We must direct our resources toward supporting BIPOC-owned businesses and initiatives. Finally, I will work with our new Police Review Board to amplify concerns and take steps toward improving public safety for all.
If you were forced to cut the city’s budget, how would you approach these reductions? What areas would you look to for savings and why?
Suppose budget cuts were the last resort option on the table. In that case, the Council should work with City staff and knowledgeable community organizations to look to areas that would do the least harm to the smallest number of Coralville residents. No matter what, we should prioritize funding critical public services, especially those utilized by our most vulnerable populations. Only after we have exhausted every possible solution to avoid cutting expenses, should we proceed with making these tough decisions.
What new policies might you propose for the city to enact? Why do you think they are necessary?
Johnson County is the most expensive place to live in Iowa. I believe Coralville needs to take a step to formally codify an ordinance to invest in new and protect existing affordable housing options. For example, every new development should set aside a specific percentage of units at prices affordable to low and moderate-income households. Without a formal commitment to affordable housing, we will continue to see family after family displaced from this great City.
Another policy I would like to see enacted involves combating worker exploitation and wage theft. I would like to see the City work with local labor and workers rights advocates to develop a policy that would allow us to vet "lowest bidders" for public improvement projects to ensure they do not have a history of exploitation. As a City, we must lead by example to protect workers' rights and fair wages.
Are there quality of life improvements that could be made in the community? What are they and how would you fund them?
In addition to COVID relief, affordable housing, and racial and economic justice, I believe quality of life in Coralville would be enhanced by addressing water quality and recycling. These are issues that I have devoted some time to as a Councilor and will continue to prioritize moving forward. Coralville has really hard water, which has detrimental impacts on appliances and plumbing. Not everyone can afford water softeners, so the damage can inflict significant financial burdens for countless households. On the recycling side of things, I would like to see the City implement curbside organics (compostable) pickup, continue to work on establishing a centralized recycling facility and develop the corresponding infrastructure to make it successful.