City seeks change with Hart, Vanorny

Mayor elect Brad Hart celebrates his win with his wife, Jade Hart (right) at Cedar River Landing in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Hart won the runoff election against Monica Vernon with 54 percent of the vote to Vernon's 46 percent. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Cedar Rapids voted for change on Tuesday.

Two City Hall newcomers won runoff elections this week. Brad Hart will be our next mayor, while Ashley Vanorny will serve District 5 on the Cedar Rapids City Council.

The next leader of Iowa’s second largest city faces enormous challenges in the coming months. Hart must navigate a wide range of development and land use questions; fend off rising tension with state and local government; and lead the community through the potentially uneasy corporate acquisition of our largest employer, Rockwell Collins.

Hart prevailed in a runoff election where many voters found little difference between two candidates on key policy issues. Both Hart and opponent Monica Vernon have long and admirable records of public service, and either would have been a worthy leader. It’s no surprise they emerged from a deep, diverse field of eight candidates in November’s general election.

However, the candidates delivered different visions for the role of mayor. Vernon promised to be a highly involved executive, like outgoing Mayor Ron Corbett. Meanwhile, Hart called for more restrained leadership, ceding more duties to the city manager.

Voters ultimately sided with Hart this week.

We are confident Hart will make good on his commitment to carefully weigh public input as the city moves forward in addressing a long list of new and ongoing issues.

Yet we also urge Hart to recognize this is a moment when Cedar Rapids requires a tireless spokesperson in City Hall and beyond. Our ongoing flood protection needs and Rockwell Collins’ transition to new ownership demand bold leadership.

We need a leader who will go to Des Moines and Washington, D.C., to advocate for our community’s best interests. We hope Hart can rise to the challenge.

In District 5, Ashley Vanorny will replace incumbent Justin Shields on the council.

Vanorny brings years of experience as a community member and organizer. Her experience as an advocate for local social organizations will serve the city well as we tackle affordable housing, public safety and other key issues.

Most of all, we are looking forward to moving past the partisan politics that crept into the final weeks of the election.

Vanorny’s progressive vision for local government stirred some controversy, like when she called for removing a swastika from City Hall’s historic mural. Despite the fuss, Vanorny managed a decisive victory over a respected incumbent.

And in the mayoral race, Republicans largely sided with Hart, and Democrats with Vernon. Some were concerned Vernon made the wrong enemies during her campaigns for federal and statewide office, like Rep. Rod Blum and Gov. Kim Reynolds.

However, municipal issues seldom break down along partisan lines. The problems facing Cedar Rapids are much larger than the petty partisan bickering we see at the national level.

The election is over. It’s time for Cedar Rapids to move forward together.

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