CEDAR RAPIDS — Voters looking for a “throw-the-bums-out” candidate aren’t going to find one among the seven hopefuls competing for two at-large City Council seats in the Nov. 5 election.
At a thoughtful question-and-answer forum last night sponsored by the League of Women Voters Linn County, an audience of about 100 listened attentively as one incumbent and six challengers agreed on most everything.
All seven candidates, for instance, strongly support the ballot question to extend the city’s 1-percent sales tax for 10 years to fix streets. The tax, which was put in place in March 2009 for flood recovery, is set to expire June 30, 2014.
At-large incumbent council member Chuck Swore summed it up at the start of the forum when he said he easily could work with any of the six others on last night’s panel.
The field is comprised of Swore, 70, who runs his own business consulting firm and is a retired vice president and general manager at Acme Electric; Anthony Brown, 29, manager of community engagement and development with Diversity Focus; Leland Freie, 62, day manager at the Foundation 2 Youth Shelter; Carletta Knox-Seymour, 60, a small-business owner and City Planning Commission member; Jerry McGrane, 74, a former City Council member and former president of the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association; Ralph Russell, 67, retired former president/CEO of engineering firm HR Green Inc.; and Susie Weinacht, 50, part-time manager for RWDSU-UFCW Local 110 and part-time executive director of the Iowa PTA.
The candidates support the city’s use of traffic enforcement cameras, noting that they have worked to slow traffic down in the crash-prone S-curve on Interstate 380.
Freie and Knox-Seymour said they had initial concerns about the Big Brother aspect of the cameras, but said the cameras had proved their worth. Brown and Swore said they had gotten tickets and Weinacht said someone driving her car did.
McGrane noted that state officials now are looking to impose new regulations, and said, “Why the state wants to stick its nose in it, I have no idea.”
Russell said the city should compile pre-installation and post-installation data and if fewer crashes occur, the cameras should stay in a spot. If not, they should come down.
The candidates said they would support the proposed Cedar Crossing casino, though Freie said he struggled with the issue and voted against it in the successful March referendum on the issue of “fairness.” He thought it would harm existing casinos, he said.
Swore said the city owns a newly renovated hotel and new convention center and the downtown casino will help make the two city assets a success. The others said the casino will be good for jobs and economic development.
The candidates said the city needed to work to acquire flood protection. Russell, a civil engineer who said he worked on city infrastructure projects his entire career, called the preferred flood protection plan “very sound” and “good” and said the proposed alignment can change a little if needed. McGrane said the city should make sure new developments contain runoff better and Russell, Freie, Brown and Weinacht said the city also should work to improve watershed management upstream.