2015 Iowa City Election Results with 100% of Precincts Reporting
Core4 Candidates Win by Large Margin
Congratulations to the Core4 candidates, and many thanks to all those who make the sacrifice of running for public office and serving. Win or loose, your efforts are deeply appreciated.
About the Candidates
This year in Iowa City there are eight candidates running for City Council positions. Only four will be elected. See the voter guide for details. While politics tends to pit individuals against each other, in this race some alliances are forming among candidates and their supporters. In the local papers and media, letters of endorsement are supporting several candidates, rather than just an individual candidate. This website has been setup independently as a central portal where people can learn more about the Core4.
Those representing ‘the establishment’ such as the current and former mayor, and 63 downtown business owners, are endorsing Tim Conroy, Scott McDonough, Rick 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. A Facebook page called IowaCityCore4 has been setup for the Core 4 candidates.
While these natural alliances have formed, it's important to note that neither group is a formal slate, but instead are each individually running their own campaigns, and most of the candidates have cordially stated they would be happy to work with whoever else is serving on the City Council.
Different Candidates, Common Goals
The Core Four candidates each have their own unique strengths, experiences and views. Yet, something they agree on is the need for cooperative collaboration among those serving in the City Council in a way that serves and engages all our community members. Although they are running different campaigns, they acknowledge that many of their goals are the same. If you visit their respective websites and read the letters of endorsement you'll see these similarities. They are not a formal 'slate' although some of their detractors refer to them as such.
Jim Throgmorton has been criticized harshly for pursuing what his critics refer to vaguely as ‘pet causes.’ If you visit Throgmorton’s website, you’ll learn that his ‘pet causes’ 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. These are most likely common concerns of many in our community, so it's unfortunate these issues would be trivialized.
Setting the Tone of the City Council Election
On October 14, Mayor Matt Hayek published a letter in the Press-Citizen (source) that significantly set the tone for the City Council race, and also clarified who the establishment-endorsed candidates were. His letter and some responses to it are below.
Despite this somewhat polarizing moment during the election, there are some very nice non-polarizing personal endorsements of the individual candidates by people who know them, which focus on their unique strengths.
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.
Reactions to the Mayor's Commentary on the City Council Election
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.
Tom Carsner Commentary
26 October 2015 @ 4:30 PM (Source: Press Citizen)
The “sky is falling” theatrics of Mayor Matt Hayek’s recent letter to the editor is typical of a king at the end of his reign. He and the City Council majority can’t bear to hear an opposing viewpoint or dissent from the establishment perspective.
I urge Iowa City voters to ignore Hayek’s fantasy of an anti-growth, micromanaging, reversed progress, tax-losing government if the “Core Four” — Thomas, Cole, Taylor and Throgmorton — are elected.
When Hayek says “micromanaging,” he reflects the intolerance of dissent from staff or the council majority that is content to let the city staff make decisions for us. John Thomas, a candidate for council, was kicked off the Planning and Zoning Commission after several years of service because his dissenting opinions were no longer welcome to the council majority.
The “growth at any price to grow the tax base” philosophy of the present council majority puts Iowa City at financial risk when one TIF-financed Big Bang project turns south. A series of smaller investor-financed mixed use — business and residential — projects can energize multiple neighborhoods and build a more reliable and sustainable tax base.
Hayek’s breathtakingly wide and arrogant slap at the “Core Four” candidates for City Council reveals how defensive and desperate the city establishment looks at these candidates. I urge Iowa City to welcome the just, equal, affordable, inclusive and sustainable growth vision presented by John Thomas, Rockne Cole, Pauline Taylor and Jim Throgmorton. Vote for them to shake loose the scared establishment of the present City Council.
Shelton Stromquist Commentary
27 October 2015 @ 4:38 PM (Source: Press Citizen)
Mayor Matt Hayek’s recent op-ed is curious for a variety of reasons. He cites a series of “progressive” accomplishments in Iowa City, for which he and his current council majority can claim only partial credit at best. Indeed, in some areas — affordable housing and police-community relations, for instance — they dragged their feet when others took the initiative. Then he pivots from what purports to be an upbeat assessment of a vibrant, progressive Iowa City, to levy a mean-spirited attack on Jim Throgmorton and an unnamed “slate” of candidates who if elected, he argues, would undermine all the good that has been accomplished. This is a very strange, Jekyll and Hyde-like, intervention in the current council campaign by a retiring councilor and mayor. It does him no credit. But maybe it is not so strange.
Community elites, who assert a natural right to govern in cities, have a long history — not just in Iowa City — of claiming to act for the community as a whole on the basis of a non-partisan interest. They characterize their opponents as partisans who have parochial concerns and who organize themselves into “slates” to pursue those interests. Such opponents do things, to quote Hayek, like undermine a proper “balance between investment in our future and adherence to our values.” Whose values? And they seek to “return to the anti-growth, micromanaging city hall of eras past.”
What goes unspoken and is largely invisible in this diatribe is the fact that council majorities in Iowa City at least since the early 1980s, have been composed of “slates” that are quietly recruited and supported by developers, real estate interests and the Chamber of Commerce to insure a development-friendly environment. They adhere to an agenda that is pro-growth, anti-tax and anti-regulation of business. Because they have the resources to pour into council elections and because turnouts in this heavily Democratic city are historically low in municipal elections, they have pretty much had their way. The members of their slates are touted as “individuals,” “independent thinkers,” who understand that “balance is essential.”
Mayor Hayek is as much in the hip pocket of local developers and the Chamber as any of the members of his anointed slate or those that have come before. He simply obfuscates this political reality in a rhetoric that professes only an interest in “balance” and the well-being of the whole community.
We have an at-large system of electing a city council where all councilors are voted on by all city voters, and we only indirectly elect a mayor. Hayek, like his predecessors, was chosen by his fellow councilors. The vast majority of citizens — working people, ethnic and racial minorities and real progressives — find themselves at a disadvantage as candidates and as voters against the resources that community elites can mobilize in city-wide elections. We need new, genuinely independent voices on the council, representing these voters and not beholden to developers and the Chamber. That’s why I am supporting Jim Throgmorton, John Thomas, Rockne Cole and Pauline Taylor. It is time to take our city back from the business elite and their “slate.”
Shelton Stromquist, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Iowa, is completing a book, tentatively titled "The City and Social Democracy."
Vote Your Hopes, Not Your Fears
by Karen Kubby
2 November 2015 (Source: Daily Iowan)
A friend suggested I write about my time on City Council. Their recommended title was, “Ordinance Passes 6-1, Kubby Voting No.” This is kind of funny, yet does not fully reflect my experience; 95 percent or more of votes on the council, no matter what the council makeup, will be 7-0.
Mayor Matt Hayek’s Press-Citizen opinion piece on Oct. 14 used fear to steer the community toward his candidate picks for Iowa City. He used the term, “threatens the balance.” I read that to mean “threatens the status quo.” Progressive policymakers should always be threatening the status quo, even ones they built. As is said, “Change or die.”
The real issues in this election are about those few votes where there is a difference in approach and value — both in terms of process and content. I believe these issues will be in the areas of racial justice, affordable housing, development density, sustainability, and economic development.
Let’s get real. All candidates understand that density in the core of our community makes sense environmentally and economically. The differences are about the scale of increased density — 15 stories or eight stories. Both are greater density than the current status quo.
All candidates have stated that they would support TIF projects under varying circumstances. The differences are two-fold. The first contrast is about concentration — giving larger projects large amounts of public assistance versus offering lesser amounts to more entities providing economic drive to our community. The other divergence is about circumstances under which public assistance will be provided — how strong will they be about energy efficiency, building materials, affordable housing, and affordable commercial space. These differences are a matter of scale, decentralization of public assistance, and ensuring the community is getting enough back from this form of public assistance.
This is not a council race about micro- or macro-management, as indicated by the mayor. It is not a race about pet projects. It is not even a race about who will be the next mayor.
This is a race about core values and the scale in which our community will grow. This is a race about how we will approach issues of racial justice.
As an activist, I can be impatient with the pace of local government. In 1997, Jim Throgmorton and I were part of a minority in support of mandatory inclusionary zoning. We called it the “Fair Share” policy. Here we are a generation later, still waiting for voluntary action by the private sector, waiting for a community-wide fair share policy. Either would have helped reduce socio economic status disparities in some of our newer schools.
The city has a new sustainability plan with many great ideas and projects to reduce climate change in practical ways. There is a plan to work on issues of racial justice in the areas of police policy, training, and practice, in the area of recruitment for boards and commissions, and general communication. The question is how fast and how hard will the city work to implement these plans. I believe with Core Four candidates, these plans will be implemented more quickly and deeply.
Don’t follow the path of fear mongering from the mayor, the business community, or anybody about the Core Four. Get to know the stances of the Core Four individually: Jim Throgmorton and Rockne Cole in the at-large race, Pauline Taylor in District A, and John Thomas in District C. Decide for yourself. Vote your hopes and not your fears.[Karen Kubby owns a small family owned downtown retail bead store and served on the City Council from 1989-2000.]
Additional Endorsements of the Core 4
"These four progressive candidates--the 'Core Four,' including Rockne Cole, Pauline Taylor, John Thomas and Jim Throgmorton--are inspiring voters with their experience and their commitment. They have the vision and skills to tackle the complex challenges of economic development with a vision of sustainability, livability, and justice in our communities planning. This includes responding to a number of current challenges while considering the avoidance and mitigation of perhaps even larger challenges on the horizon." ~ Geoffrey Lauer, 20 October 2015 (Source: Huffington Post)
Iowa City Federation of Labor
"An hour or two of your time could be the difference in having a progressive city council in Iowa City... Iowa City residents can vote for all four of Labor's endorsed candidates Jim Throgmorton, Rockne Cole, Pauline Taylor, John Thomas." ~ Jesse Case for the Iowa City Federation of Labor, 29 October 2015 (Source: Facebook)
"We have an abundance of good candidates this election. I support Jim Throgmorton for City Council and Rockne Cole for Iowa City Council in the at-large race, John Thomas in District C, and Pauline Taylor in District A." ~ Ann Duggan, 29 October 2015 (Source: Facebook)
"Friends, join me in supporting James Throgmorton, Rockne Cole, John Thomas, and Pauline Taylor for City Council." ~ Lisa Heineman
"Vote #Core4 for a progressive Iowa City Council that matches our Core Values! Iowa City has a very important City Council election in less that a week. This election is about the heart, soul & future of our fair city. Please get out and vote. Join me in voting for Jim Throgmorton, John Thomas, Pauline Taylor and Rockne Cole. That's 3 T's and a C." ~ Mike Carberry, 27 October 2015 (Source: Facebook)
Voting Times and Locations
Regardless of where they live in the city, all registered voters in Iowa City can vote for:
- 2 of the 4 at-large candidates, and
- 1 of the 2 candidates for District A, and
- 1 of the 2 candidates for District C
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 or use this online tool.
You can also vote early at any of the following times/locations:
- University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Fountain Lobby, 200 Hawkins Drive, in Iowa City.
- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 29-30 (Thursday and Friday)
- Iowa City Public Library, at 123 S. Linn St.:
- 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 29; (Thursday)
- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 30; (Friday)
- Noon to 5 p.m. on Nov. 1. (Sunday)
- Johnson County Administration Building
- 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 2 (Monday)
Vote Now! Time is running out...
About this Website
This is a non-commercial, non-partisan, educational civics 'pop-up website' sponsored by AGovernmentOfThePeople.com. It is an adaptation of the article "The 2015 Iowa City Council Race in 10 Minutes." The content on this site is not paid for or endorsed by any candidate or campaign. The purpose of this site is to simply inform by serving as a portal to existing content. This site is journalistic in nature. As such, this site does not endorse any particular candidate, platform, or party. The site was launched on 29 October 2015. For those interested, the Iowa City Architecture Facebook page is a sister resource with recent campaign news and endorsements covering all candidates (not just the Core Four).
If you have comments, suggestions, or would like to suggest features or content for this site, please use the contact form below. To contact individual candidates, please use their own respective websites or Facebook pages. Thanks.