The Politics Round-Up #2: Local Endorsements & Redistricting

LOCAL ENDORSEMENTS: Y'all, there's an election next Tuesday! I know it's an off-year election and not particularly sexy, but every election is important and there are some local issues (and candidates) to consider on the ballot this year both for School Board and for City Council.

Let's start with the School Board. I don't really have any strong feelings about any of these candidates. I feel like Malone and Claussen have done a good job while on the Board, I see no reason not to re-elect them. Burrus with her background in data science intrigued me, but Pilcher-Hayek is already deeply involved in the District, being co-President of the DPO and Sheila Pinter, while not as outside the box as Phil Hemingway was, does provide a different perspective, which I think would be important to have in the mix for the Board. With all that said, I'm going to give the nod to: J.P. Claussen, Ruthina Malone, Maka Pilcher-Hayek, and Sheila Pinter.

There's also a ballot question related to the District's Facilities Master Plan 2.0. Again, not a lot of controversy with this decision- no new money and no tax increases, it seems like an easy 'yes' vote to me. So, SAVE & PPEL Extention: YES

The City Council is seeing some action too. I don't think the race has been particularly spicy or controversial, but for sure, the events of the past year are hanging over these races and while I think that's probably impossible to ignore, however much I would like to I'd prefer to focus on how to move the community forward and not wallow in the past- but it is what it is. 

One of the more irritating aspects of City Council elections is that everyone can vote on the District races, so it doesn't really matter where you live. If I could change one thing about Iowa City's governmental structure it would probably be that. I don't have any problems with At-Large seats, but if everyone can vote on the District seats (and I'm pretty sure they can, that was my understanding as of a few years back anyway, that might have changed), then what's the point of having Districts at all? (I'd also like some consideration given to a directly elected Mayor too, but I think Iowa City's model of government has been the way it is for long enough now I don't imagine that changing anytime soon.)

District B is easy, as there's not really a lot of other options on the ballot. Shawn Harmsen is probably more progressive than I am, but I love his focus on affordable housing (always a problem in Iowa City) and improving transportation around the town.

The At-Large race was a little harder to parse. Bruce Teague is an easy yes. I don't really have any strong objections to his leadership so far. I think he's done a decent job under very trying circumstances, especially in the past year or so. Jason Glass and Megan Alter were harder to decide between. I appreciate the focus Glass seems to want to bring to collaborative leadership on the council and Alter's push to attract needed retail growth in Iowa City also intrigues me. As much as I'd like to focus more on forward-facing, future-focused policies for our community, I think the tiebreaker has to come down to the tiresome and eye-rolling debate over the MRAP.

As a rule, I don't like to write about my day job all that much, but this is one of those times where it's more or less inescapable. The MRAP was always preposterous. But if the Federal government is giving them away more or less for free, we shouldn't be surprised when cash-strapped (and yes, at the time, police budgets were tightening nationwide) agencies said, "yes, please!" and took it. At the time, I was honestly surprised there wasn't more outcry about it. There was some grumbling, some general unease, but by and large, not much else that I can remember. This is a county that stopped speed cameras- not even actual speed cameras, just consideration of speed cameras dead in its tracks. This is a county that when the Sherrif went to the voters for a new jail, hoping for an easy lay-up, smacked that weak shit down like Dikembe Mutumbo. (This actually forced the county to get serious about jail alternatives on any number of issues well before the events of last year.)

So yeah, it is kind of perplexing to see the MRAP becoming such a hot-button issue now. I would like the Democrats in Congress to actually, you know, do something and end the 1033 program that ships all this military hardware to police departments That is the way to stop the militarization of police. Selling the MRAP will make people feel good, which is nice, I suppose, but some other county will snatch that shit up so fast, making us all culpable in perpetuating the problem. I think transparency about its use is important. I think the Sheriff should be required to give a yearly report about its use to the Board of Supervisors and the public- but the public also needs to realize that with the justice system, flawed as it is, treating people as innocent until proven guilty, they may see the MRAP being used in the community, but they are unlikely to be provided with the full and complete context of what it's being used for because of that. I don't know if there is a way around that- agencies that use it would have to be very careful about how they provide details to the public for any number of reasons- but it is a conundrum. 

Even if we do decide to get rid of it, law enforcement needs something. It probably won't look all that nice, but it's not supposed to. I'd rather keep the MRAP and be fully transparent about its use and limit it wherever possible, but if we do get rid of it, they're going to need a Bearcat. Given that, I'm going to say: At-Large, Teague and Glass, District B, Harmsen

REDISTRICTING: Well, the good news is that we avoided a potential partisan gerrymandering and our Congressional maps now look like this:

This is not a bad map. I think the first map was okay too, but this isn't a bad map by any stretch of the imagination. You could talk me into a lot of permutations with this map-- I could see a 2-2 split and a 3-1 split either way with these district maps. But, however you lean, politically, this is a map that should produce competitive races in the majority of Congressional districts. And to me, that's a win for every voter in the state, whether your Republican, Democrat or Independent. (Or, as Iowa officially terms us political lepers "No Party Affiliation")

Let's break it down by district:

District 01: Little bit wild with the boundaries here, Johnson County loses Linn County from the first map and picks up Jasper and weirdly, Warren County as well. I can't recall off the top of my head from years past, but this might be the first time I can remember when we've picked up Warren County. (I'm pretty sure we've had Newton and Jasper County in years past.) The big question here is going to be what Dr. Triple M is going to do. She lives in Wapello County, which has flipped to District 03, but the majority of where she's campaigned over her many match-ups with Dave Loebsack is still in District 01. She's gonna have to move or gear up to take on Cindy Axne in District 03 and with Polk and Dallas County in 03, I think it's a tougher match-up. It's going to be Christina Bohannon versus Somebody. We'll just have to see who.

District 02: This to me, is the marquee match-up for next year. The Battle of the Former KCRG-TV9 News Anchors should be feisty, fierce, and will probably attract a fuck ton of money. Ashley Hinson does have incumbency advantages, but Liz Mathis isn't exactly new to the District either. Mathis is going to need to win Linn County (Cedar Rapids Metro), Black Hawk County (Waterloo/Cedar Falls), and Dubuque County to have a shot and none of those are out of the question to me. 

District 03: Polk County, Dallas County, and a crowded Republican Primary all say Advantage: Axne to me, but this District, even shorn of Council Bluffs and Pottawattamie County has always been the perfect nail biter. It could legitimately go either way. 

District 04: Remains good old District 04! Bleeding Heartland thinks that Democrats have no realistic chance of picking this up and in 2022 I would agree with that assessment. However, I think (but do not know, not being super plugged into State Politics) that actually investing some time and energy in that area of the state would be an excellent long-term investment for State Democrats. It's mildly irritating the sort of hand-waving, writing off of a whole chunk of the state they do sometimes, especially when JD Scholten proved that the right candidates (and yes, the right circumstances) can be competitive in the area. And being competitive in District 04 would be a good thing, not just for Democrats, but for every voter in the state. 

If you want a deeper dive into the State Legislature breakdown I'll give a hearty recommendation to Bleeding Heartland's analysis. It's an excellent, highly detailed write-up and worth a peruse if you're interested in how this thing is going to shake out over the next decade or so. My biggest takeaway: if you're a Republican, you're probably largely okay-to-happy with this. Your majorities are (for now) secure. If you're a Democrat, nil desperandum! Do not despair... some investments in the medium-sized cities to at least be competitive there should help the cause- but if you can lock down the cities, you need to start winning some towns to get back into power. If you're a fan of neither party, then while right now, everything is probably advantage Republicans, it ain't necessarily so going forward. Competitive races (at least on paper) across the board have to be considered a good thing for every voter in the state of Iowa. 


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