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Iowa City Council to discuss filling vacancy
Janice Weiner leaving council to take Iowa Senate seat
IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Council is scheduled to discuss Tuesday how to move forward with filling a vacancy after council member Janice Weiner was elected to represent Iowa Senate District 45.
The council can fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term either by appointment or holding a special election.
There is about one year left on Weiner’s four-year term. Weiner’s resignation becomes effective Jan. 1 and the at-large term runs through Jan. 2, 2024.
If council decides to fill the vacancy by appointment, voters could still petition to hold a special election instead. An election would cost at least $50,000, city staff said.
Council members could make a decision at Tuesday or vote to defer it to a later meeting.
Weiner, a Democrat, easily won the seat, with more than 80 percent of the vote over Republican Howard Weilbrenner. District 45 includes much of Iowa City and all of University Heights.
The Coralville City Council earlier this year filled a vacancy by appointment. After weighing the two options, the council ultimately agreed on appointment since it was less costly and would fill the vacancy faster. The North Liberty City Council, however, had a special election earlier this year to fill a vacancy. The estimated cost of the election was $5,000.
A memo to the Iowa City Council from city staff outlines the two options.
If the majority of council is in favor of a special election, the election “should be held as soon as practical,” the memo said. If the city notifies the Johnson County Auditor’s Office by Wednesday, the election would be held as soon as Feb. 7 with a primary on Jan. 10.
The council could have the election sooner — on Jan. 31 with a primary on Jan. 3 — but the memo brought up the proximity to the holiday season.
The cost estimate for both a primary and special election is about $100,000, the memo said. If only a regular election is needed, the cost will be $50,000. At the time of council’s decision, it will not be known if a primary will be needed.
The Iowa League of Cities told the city that the “vast majority of cities choose to appoint because it is faster and cheaper,” according to the memo.
If council decides to make an appointment, it must be made within 60 days after the vacancy occurs. The council would have between Jan. 1 and March 1 to make the appointment.
It will be up to the council to craft its application for people to apply, and decide how to proceed, such as conducting public interviews.
Residents have two opportunities to file a petition for a special election. Residents can file a petition within 14 days after the council decides on appointment and within 14 days after the appointment is made.
A petition requesting a special election must have signatures from at least 743 eligible Iowa City voters.
If council needs more time, the decision can be deferred, but this would push back the election dates, the memo said.
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