Staff Editorial

Election 2019: Local politics makes a difference

Summer McMurrin and other meeting attendees hold up petitions with over 600 signatures calling for the board of education to delay their vote on the master facilities plan during the public comment session of the Cedar Rapids Community School District board of education meeting at the Educational Leadership and Support Center in northwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. The board voted to approve the district's master facilities plan. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Summer McMurrin and other meeting attendees hold up petitions with over 600 signatures calling for the board of education to delay their vote on the master facilities plan during the public comment session of the Cedar Rapids Community School District board of education meeting at the Educational Leadership and Support Center in northwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. The board voted to approve the district's master facilities plan. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

In Iowa, with presidential candidates eating our corn dogs and giving speeches on our tables, it’s easy to forget the politics of our place. For the first time, Iowans will be able to vote for city and school board elections on the same day. The hope is that the move will reduce tax payer money and increase voter turnout. In the last elections, in 2017, turnout in Linn County was less than 8 percent.

With so much at stake in or national politics, it’s hard to focus on smaller issues such as city and school board elections and mayoral races. But these local elections determine the actual soul of our cities and have a material impact on our lives — from which foxes are allowed to stay in which houses, to bike lanes, and textbooks.

In 2017, the Cedar Rapids school board voted for a plan that involved closing at least eight elementary schools. In Iowa City, school rezoning will seek to desegregate school districts in plans that will affect all 21 elementary schools. Each of these changes drastically affects the makeup of our cities and the lives of residents. In Cedar Rapids, the plan to close the elementary schools has been met with a lot of community pushback. At a Cedar Rapids school board meeting in October 2018, director at-large John Laverty noted of the plan, “Although it is not perfect, and I know it is not what some of you in the audience tonight wish would happen, these are very difficult decisions ... It is my belief that we have no choice but to move forward with the framework in front of us.”

The plan was voted through. And however you feel about the outcomes, city council and school board elections prove that when it comes to local races, the personal is truly political.

Local elections often find themselves with a dearth of candidates. Running for office, or encouraging friends to run, is a powerful way of influencing our communities.

In 2019, city and school board elections are slated for Nov. 5 in Linn and Johnson County. In Iowa City, four city council seats are up for grabs. And in Cedar Rapids, three school board spots are open. For Cedar Rapids, the filing period for both city and school elections starts Aug. 26. So, there still is time to start your campaign.

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