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The 2015 Iowa City Council Race in 10 Minutes

This year in Iowa City there are eight candidates running for City Council positions. Only four will be elected. While politics tends to pit individuals against each other, in this race some alliances are forming among candidates and their supporters.

In the local paper, letters of endorsement are supporting several candidates, rather than just an individual candidate.

Those representing ‘the establishment’ such as the current and former mayor, and 63 downtown business owners, are endorsing Tim ConroyScott McDonoughRick Dobyns, and Michelle Payne. A Facebook page called Vote Iowa City has been launched in support of these candidates.

City Council member Jim Throgmorton, running for reelection, has endorsed Rockne Cole, John Thomas, and Pauline Taylor (along with himself) — a group which has become known as the Core Four.

Throgmorton has been criticized harshly for pursuing what his critics refer to vaguely as ‘pet projects.’ If you visit Throgmorton’s website, you’ll learn that his ‘pet projects’ include improving racial equity in the city, fair use of Tax Increment Financing, investing in City resources that benefit all residents, investing in neighborhood schools, promoting sustainability, and making City Council meetings more accessible to citizens.

Below are two letters of endorsement, one from each camp, that provide a general overview regarding the upcoming election and the issues facing our city. The first commentary is from Jim Throgmorton and it includes additional details about where to vote. The second commentary is from Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek.

Jim Throgmorton Commentary

24 October 2015 (source)


On November 3, Iowa City voters will elect four people to our City Council. In addition to myself, I will be voting for John Thomas, Pauline Taylor, and Rockne Cole, and I ask you to consider doing the same.

In the 3 weeks since our first social and economic justice forum on September 30, we candidates have participated in 6 forums. They focused on issues of interest or concern to environmental groups, seniors, the IC Area Chamber of Commerce, retirees living at Oaknoll, bicyclists, and the League of Women Voters.

We have also met with the editorial boards of The Gazette and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Most of us attended a candidates’ academy organized by the Iowa City Federation of Labor. And Cole, Taylor, Thomas, and I have participated in “meet and greets” with neighbors in various parts of the city.

The editorial boards of The Gazette and the Press-Citizen, the City Federation of Labor, and a growing stream of individuals from all parts of the city have endorsed me for re-election.

I am very grateful for these endorsements. But I see them, not as endorsements of me personally, but of my efforts to help lead Iowa City toward becoming a Just City: a city that is good on the ground for all of its residents both now and in the future.

For details about what becoming a Just City means in practical terms, take a look at the Welcome and Platform sections of my “Jim Throgmorton for City Council” Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Throg4IC. It definitely means having a City Council that is open and responsive to all of the city’s residents.

Let me be clear. Getting re-elected does not, by itself, mean very much to me. What does matter is being able to shift City policies and actions more in the direction of the Just City.

This is why I entered the City Council race as an at-large candidate: to get enough votes on the Council to move Iowa City in that direction.

After all our forums, all our editorial board interviews, and all our “meet and greets,” and after having worked with several of the candidates for several years, I have become fully persuaded that having Rockne Cole, John Thomas, and Pauline Taylor on the Council will enable us to move in a creative, inclusive, and just direction.

I hope no one takes my support for those three individuals as a personal rejection of the other candidates. Much of what Scott McDonough advocates is quite compatible with the Just City vision. And Rick Dobyns, Michelle Payne, and Tim Conroy are all good people who have a great deal to offer the city.

If re-elected, I will do my utmost to work collaboratively and constructively with all members of the new Council, whether I supported their bids for election or not.

And, with your help and support, I will continue to serve the people of our city to the best of my ability.

A few notes about the election itself…

Remember, all registered voters in Iowa City can – regardless of where they live in the city – vote for 2 of the 4 at-large candidates, 1 of the 2 candidates for District A, and 1 of the 2 candidates for District C.

Remember also that you can vote on Tuesday, November 3, at your normal voting location. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on that day. If you do not already know your voting location, you can find it through the Johnson County Auditor’s Office at: http://www.johnson-county.com/dept_auditor.aspx?id=18890

Or you can vote early at any of the following times/locations:

  • 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 29-30 at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Fountain Lobby, at 200 Hawkins Drive, in Iowa City.
  • Iowa City Public Library, at 123 S. Linn St.:
    • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 29;
    • 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 30; or
    • Noon to 5 p.m. on Nov. 1.

Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek Commentary

14 October 2015 (source)

By almost any measure, Iowa City is exceptionally progressive. We were the first city statewide to measure the community’s environmental footprint, mandate affordable housing and maintain civilian oversight of police operations.

We have lobbied for TIF reform. We have expanded historic preservation, bike trails and community gardens. We have launched multiple diversity initiatives. We fund public art, a full-time human rights coordinator and an emergency wet homeless shelter. We support dozens of nonprofits doing incredible work throughout the community.

At the same time, we recognize it will take effective leadership to manage the budget pressures municipalities across Iowa soon will face. Recent tax legislation will hurt Iowa City alone by more than $50 million in the coming decade.

The looming fiscal challenge is real, and it is serious. We are meeting it with strategic planning and smart government to protect the tax base necessary to pay for the countless services Iowa City provides. The results are starting to show.

Just five years ago an unruly bar zone, our downtown is now a vibrant mix that includes cafes, boutiques, art venues and creative economy employers. It attracts retirees, young entrepreneurs, families, artists and residents of all ages. Our live music scene is booming.

We have invested in other commercial areas — from Towncrest to the Sycamore Mall to Riverside Drive — and they are resurgent. We have turned around fragile neighborhoods like Miller-Orchard through critical enhancements to the housing stock. We have transformed aging parks like North Market Square, and established new parks like the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area.

Every corner of Iowa City has seen major investments in public infrastructure, from streets to ADA compliance to wastewater facilities to historic structures to recycling centers.

We have maintained the city’s credit rating — the highest in the state — and reduced our tax levy four years in a row, all while providing more services to a growing population.

These accomplishments are the result of careful planning, prudent budgeting and operational efficiencies. They reflect a balance between investment in our future and adherence to our values.

A group of city council candidates threatens this balance. They call themselves the “Core Four” and seek a majority on the council. One of them is presently suing the city. Another says our community is not “just” and wants to issue public debt to fund his pet causes. All of them are unabashedly running as a slate.

If this slate wins, the next mayor will likely be Jim Throgmorton. We will return to the anti- growth, micromanaging city hall of eras past. We will lose the critical progress made by recent councils with the help of talented professional staff. We will jeopardize the city’s long-term ability to fund important social services for our most vulnerable populations.

Iowa Citians — progressive and moderate alike — can avoid this. I am supporting candidates marked by common sense and humility who can move this great city forward.

In District C, Scott McDonough is a house remodeler and a nonprofit leader. In District A, Rick Dobyns is a family physician and an important west side voice. In the at-large race, Michelle Payne is the hardest-working, best-prepared councilor I know, and realtor Tim Conroy represents a new generation of community servants.

Each would bring a thoughtful approach to the council. Each would be an independent thinker. Each understands that balance is essential.

The election is November 3rd. Your vote matters.

Learn More

To learn more about the eight candidates, you can read about their various campaigns on their respective websites and through the local media.


By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com