At-large incumbent Chuck Swore and an accomplished field of six community-involved challengers are competing for two at-large council seats on the Nov. 5 ballot.
All seven candidates agree on some key issues: They all support the extension of the city’s local-option sales tax to fix streets, the city’s use of traffic enforcement cameras and the need to build a flood protection system.
All generally support the current direction of the city and the City Council’s emphasis on promoting private-sector investment in the city.
The field is comprised of Swore, 70, who runs his own business consulting firm and is 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.
At-large council member Don Karr is not seeking reelection.
Brown, of 834 25th St. NE, would be the youngest member of the council by far at age 29. He said he offers a fresh perspective and can give voice to those who are underrepresented on the council.
He calls himself a “community builder” and “connector” and he said he will push to foster a climate for innovative business development.
Freie, of 2052 Linn Blvd. SE, said people need “a sense of place,” and he said as a City Council member he would work to make Cedar Rapids flourish and progress so people and businesses want to be here and move here. A strong, successful economy creates jobs and gives opportunity to people who might not otherwise have it, he said.
Freie is a member of the city’s Civil Rights Commission.
Knox-Seymour, of 1902 J St. SW, said she wants to promote city policies that will help the local economy grow and helps small businesses like hers thrive. That way more people get to work and buy homes and spend more in the local economy, she said.
At the same time, she said the city should do what it can to help at-risk children and youth in the city become successful adults.
McGrane, of 1105 Eighth St. SE, said he will give a voice to “the people who flip hamburgers at Hardees.” In his time on the City Council from 2006 through 2009, McGrane pushed the Enhance Our Neighborhoods initiative, which he called “the seed” for the city’s new nuisance property abatement program.
He lost his home in the 2008 flood, and he said that makes flood protection for the city all that much more important to him.
Russell, of 4415 Beaver Hollow SE, said that he worked with city governments of all sizes in his engineering career and so can bring an understanding about city infrastructure, tax structure, economic development and government efficiency to the council.
Russell, a civil engineer, said the city’s flood protection plan rates as “very sound,” and he said it comes with the ability to shift the alignment a little if needed. He said the city should check data to see if and where traffic enforcement cameras are reducing crashes.
Swore, of 2609 Iris Ave. NW, said he is seeking re-election because he enjoys serving on the council. He credited the council with taking some “aggressive, progressive” steps in the last four years to help move the city ahead. He counted as bold the council’s decision to buy and renovate the failing downtown hotel, and he said he pushed for economic incentives to finally get the Westdale Mall property positioned for a transformation.
The rebuilding of the city’s public buildings after the flood has helped fuel an infusion of private investment in the city, he said.
Weinacht, of 1211 A’Hearn Dr. NE, said she wants to bring a “fresh perspective” to City Hall and she promised to work to attract more good-paying jobs to the city, to support development and to revitalize neighborhoods. The city has a lot to be proud of five years after the 2008 flood, but it’s not time to take a rest, she said.
To win an at-large seat, a candidate must receive 25 percent of the total vote plus one vote because each voter has a chance to cast two votes. There will be a runoff vote on Dec. 3 if two candidates top the necessary votes for victory on Nov. 5.