Iowa City’s often-contentious local elections are relatively quiet this year.
Incumbent council members are running unopposed in District A and District C races. Three newcomers are running for two at-large seats, which will be vacated by Mayor Jim Throgmorton and council member Rockne Cole.
On most of the big issues the council is expected to face in the near future, candidates Megan Alter, Laura Bergus and Janice Weiner are largely in agreement. In meetings with The Gazette editorial board, each candidate praised the current council’s work, and offered ideas on how to keep moving in the same direction.
All three candidates have impressive backgrounds in professional and community work, but Bergus and Weiner have a slight edge in our calculation. They earn The Gazette’s endorsement.
Weiner has valuable skills and experience from many years working overseas for the U.S. State Department. She lists affordable housing, child care, climate change and infrastructure among her top priorities. She aptly points out local government is often overshadowed by national politics, and hopes innovative ideas can reverse that disparity.
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Bergus is a former local government employee now working as an attorney with a specialty in dispute mediation, which would be a great asset to the council. Her top issues include affordable housing, regional transportation and managing growth. She impressed us by noting council members sometimes wade too far into micromanaging city staff.
Alter’s policy platform is mostly aligned with this board’s values, and we are confident she has the knowledge to make meaningful contributions to city government. However, one of her ideas in particular — linking energy efficiency incentives to a form of rent control — gave us pause.
It is disappointing that council members Pauline Taylor and John Thomas did not draw any opposing candidates in their reelection bids. Perhaps that — paired with the fact all three at-large candidates subscribe to the council’s current direction — is a sign that constituents are satisfied with the city government’s performance. Still, competitive races would have created an opportunity to discuss the issues in more depth than is afforded at council meetings.
Four years ago, Throgmorton, Cole, Taylor and Thomas ran informally coordinated campaigns under the name “Core Four,” positioning themselves as the progressive slate and sweeping the city election. That election created a perception by some community members that rival political factions exist in city government.
Current council members and new candidates agree the left-versus-center divide on council has been overstated. Whoever wins this year’s election, we hope they will be both independent-minded and collaborative, thereby diminishing any sense of groupthink or partisanship on the council.
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