This year, the race for Cedar Rapids City Council has a particularly diverse cohort of candidates who are lending their voices and efforts to making our city a better place for everyone.
Sofia Mehaffey is running for city council in Cedar Rapids District 2 against Scott Overland.
Mehaffey is a black woman who came to Cedar Rapids at age 19 — a single mother with only $37. She worked her way through school relying on food assistance, medical assistance and low-income housing. In her meeting with The Gazette’s editorial board, Mehaffey was passionate and knowledgeable about the issues facing senior citizens, low-income families and high-risk children. But it wasn’t just her story or her knowledge about the city that was impressive. It was her intelligent and pragmatic consideration of issues from the tourism board to zoning issues.
Jorel Robinson is running for one of the two at-large council seats against Ann Poe and Patrick Loeffler.
Robinson grew up in a biracial home with his father in jail and his mother working as a nurse. In his interview with The Gazette’s editorial board, Robinson stood out with his bold plans to try to decriminalize marijuana possession in the city and his understanding of the needs of Cedar Rapidians who rely on public transportation. His work with kids through the Big Bang Foundation also has given him deep insight into the issues facing our city’s youth.
The school board race also has diverse candidates, including Maurice Davis and Rafael Jacobo. In their editorial board meetings, Jacobo and Davis demonstrated passion for the community, a deep knowledge of the issues and plans for the future.
Each of these candidates offers experience and perspective that is missing on our council and across our city governance. It’s impossible for our city to grow and serve all residents if all residents are not reflected in our governance. And if we want our city to grow and change, diversity has to be fostered and voted in.
In Cedar Rapids, the diversity of our city is not adequately reflected in our local governance. Cedar Rapids has never had a black mayor. And the racial and gender representation on our council has historically been dominated by the voices of white people. The rare exception is Dale Todd, who is currently the only black on the city council.
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Change in Cedar Rapids will take a focused and sustained effort, not just on the council, but all across our city governance — commissions, county supervisors and school boards.
Diversity is an essential element for any growing community. Diversity of representation ensures that a broader range of people, perspectives, talents and identities can lead to more innovative ways to address community issues.
Diversity in representation is also essential — without it, we alienate people in our city from engaging in local issues.
A plurality of voices — from people with different backgrounds and race and gender — ensures a council can make decisions that will benefit our community as a whole, including the most vulnerable and marginalized.
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