My awakening moment in the fight for justice

Erika Brighi of Marion has been working with Advocates for Social Justice, based in Cedar Rapids. -promoted by Laura Belin

Black. Lives. Matter. We have heard these three words before—yet this time, the fight feels different.

All lives matter, right? Yes. That’s the goal. But all lives matter” can’t be true until black lives matter as well. The fight for justice has never stopped, but this time, there are more voices and they are louder; they aren’t being silenced after your typical week of anger and outcries on social media. 

The voices are still there. Allyship is becoming stronger.

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Republican Brad Hart wins Cedar Rapids mayoral election

Iowa local elections are nominally non-partisan, but Republicans have reason to celebrate attorney Brad Hart’s victory in today’s Cedar Rapids mayoral runoff election. Hart defeated former city council member Monica Vernon by 9,518 votes to 7,995 (54.3 percent to 45.6 percent), according to unofficial results. It’s the third straight win for the GOP in Iowa’s second-largest city. Outgoing Mayor Ron Corbett, a former Republican speaker of the Iowa House, did not seek a third term because he is running for governor.

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IA-Gov: Ron Corbett running first radio ad

Leadership is the theme of Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett’s opening commercial promoting his gubernatorial candidacy. In the first half of the 60-second spot, a woman whose home was “nearly destroyed” in 2008 says the mayor “delivered” on his promise “to rebuild our city better than ever.”

Corbett then tells listeners, “the floods in Cedar Rapids proved that we can’t wait for things to get better on their own.” Without mentioning current Governor Kim Reynolds, Corbett asserts that “Iowans can’t afford the status quo,” and the state needs “a bold new leader in the governor’s office” to “slash income tax rates and champion conservative solutions.”

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Weekend thread: 2017 elections edition

Many posts about Iowa’s 2018 campaigns for state and federal offices are in progress, but for this weekend, I want to focus on elections happening in 2017. The weather looks almost perfect for the last few days of GOTV in Jefferson, Davis, and Van Buren counties, where voters will choose a successor to State Representative Curt Hanson this Tuesday. The House district 82 special election may not foreshadow what happens in next year’s legislative races, but the outcome could shape the media narrative about whether Democrats or Republicans have momentum in small-town and rural Iowa, which in turn could influence people thinking about running for the state House or Senate in 2018. If you’ve been knocking on doors or phone banking in House district 82, please share your stories in the comments.

August 3 was the filing deadline for the September 12 school board elections across Iowa. In future years, school board and local elections will be held on the same day of November in odd-numbered years. Proponents say the shift will increase turnout. John Deeth isn’t a fan of the change.

Candidates for city council or mayor will need to submit nominating papers between August 28 and September 21 in most Iowa towns, which don’t hold primaries before the November local election. (The filing period for local candidates runs from August 14 to 31 in cities that sometimes hold primary as well as general elections for local offices; this document explains more.)

Anyone thinking about running for school board or city office should read Lauren Whitehead’s advice on waging a successful local campaign.

Iowa’s most closely-watched city elections include the Cedar Rapids mayoral race, where Monica Vernon is one of several well-known local figures hoping to succeed Ron Corbett, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. (Former State Representative Tyler Olson considered that race but decided against it.)

Four candidates have announced in Des Moines City Council Ward 3, where longtime incumbent Christine Hensley opted to retire: Josh Mandelbaum, Michael Kiernan, Chris Draper, and Abshir Omar. Mandelbaum has the most backing from local political leaders and organized labor. CORRECTION: Draper recently dropped out of the city council race.

Quite a few central Iowa incumbents don’t yet have challengers, as far as I know, including the mayors of West Des Moines and Urbandale.

I expect an intense city council campaign in Windsor Heights, where some residents are outraged that sidewalks are finally being installed on three streets near two elementary schools. You probably don’t understand why hundreds of people in this small suburb fiercely oppose making the neighborhood more walkable. I can’t explain it either, even after living through several of these battles during the past fifteen years. Most residents of the Des Moines metro area find sidewalks convenient but otherwise unremarkable. For whatever reason, multiple city council races in Windsor Heights have turned into a referendum on the sidewalks question. Even though the city is paying the full cost of the installations this summer, I expect a strong backlash from the anti-sidewalk contingent in November.

When Iowa Republicans destroyed all meaningful collective bargaining rights for public employees earlier this year, they also enacted major union-busting provisions, such as frequent re-certification elections for public-sector labor unions, under rules making it difficult and costly for a union to remain certified. Those elections will begin in September Brianne Pfannenstiel reported this week in the Des Moines Register. Excerpts from that story are after the jump.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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A Word of Caution on Local Control

Pete McRoberts describes how some local officials in Iowa lobbied against a 2016 bill designed to protect domestic violence victims from eviction. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It’s impossible to spend any time at the state legislature this year without hearing phrases like “local control” and “home rule” discussed in concert with any number of progressive questions. At yesterday’s public hearing on a statewide preemption bill, many people based their opposition on these same ideas, specifically, that a local government “knows best for its residents,” and that city councils are where big decisions should be made.

The Iowa Constitution, and state law, both support this idea – within some clearly defined boundaries. Home rule is simple; it generally means local governments are in charge when there’s no contrasting state law, or when they are acting to execute an identified city power.

These rights exist for a reason; there are more than 900 cities in Iowa, each with their own local issues. The boundaries exist for that same reason, but on the other side of the ledger – a person’s rights can never be diminished because of a local decision. Home rule and local control work when both of those parts are understood.

An example of local control and home rule falling apart came to my attention in 2014, when activists began a multi-year response to abusive local ordinances in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines which hurt survivors of domestic violence, and set them up for eviction upon calling the police when they needed to. It was a full-blown battle. Those cities spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to defend their corrupt ordinances, all in the name of “home rule” and local control. They nearly won.

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