Brad Hart and Monica Vernon are the survivors of an eight-person mayors' race. Vernon led the first round, with 30.3 percent of the vote to Hart's 20.4 percent out of 17,642 votes cast (Morelli). In our city's council-manager system, the part-time mayor is technically just one at-large vote on the City Council, but the visibility of the position allows considerable leadership potential, as outgoing mayor Ron Corbett demonstrated in his two terms. Both are running on their biographies, which are impressive. Both have been public, if not (in the case of Hart) political presences in the city for a number of years. Both surely exceed the threshold of strategic competence, articulated by my former writing colleague Paul J. Quirk as a generalist's ability to recognize the signs of responsible argument on a broad array of issues. As a manager of problems with high levels of personal activity and familiarity with the city, either would be fine.
Both have fairly elaborate websites (cited below) with separate issue pages. There's a lot of commonality between them. Vernon covers more issues, 12 to 8, while Hart's statements are longer. Both indicate recognition of city needs like jobs, financing and inclusion, but beyond being in support of all three there's not a lot of policy substance.
Employment, for example, is surely one of the core challenges America faces in the 21st century in the face of automation, outsourcing and persistent poverty. Here's Hart:
Strong businesses + workforce = healthy community. People will come to live and work in a community that is welcoming and has a great quality of life to offer--schools, housing, entertainment, recreation, safety. People stay when they become connected to the community and its people. We can all help in that effort by being more friendly, more welcoming, by random acts of kindness. Volunteering will play an important role here, too.
Opportunity waits for no one. Economic development must be serious business for Cedar Rapids and the Mayor of Cedar Rapids must be a self-starter who will lead the charge with passion. Building and developing and re-developing this city must be done with a "pedal to the metal" mentality. Using common sense and an approach of equal opportunity, we must continue to push forward for progress.
I'm seeing good intentions here in both cases, but nothing one could call a plan, or even a suspicion of a strategy.
The Gazette profiles of Hart and Vernon shook loose some more specific positions. Vernon's more detailed answers include reasonable defenses of city investments in Greene Square and the New Bo City Market. She and Hart agree on the importance of recruiting and retaining major employers, accommodating all means of transportation ("we must also have drivability," says Vernon), getting state/federal support for flood protection, and judicious use of tax increment financing (TIFs), all of which involve a great deal of negotiating with and listening to businesses, state and federal officials, and city residents.
A rare criticism of past policy, besides their agreement that the incremental conversion of one-way streets to two-way has been "confusing," is Vernon arguing that the closing of the 1000 block of 2nd Avenue SE to accommodate Physicians Clinic of Iowa should have included funding for the immediate conversion of the entirety of 3rd Avenue. Funding from... the city (from what pile of cash)? Or from PCI, in which case how does that square with her stated willingness to "fight to keep" major employers, whether the issue is "housing, workforce development, land or infrastructure?"
Hart mentioned as part of an answer on city finances that "We also need to review the street construction requirements for new streets developed by others so when those streets become the responsibility of the city they last for the 40-50 years expected." That's a rare example of the mayor articulating a specific expectation, and it's spot on, although from what I know 40-50 years is optimistic for streets with a modicum of traffic.
|Justin Shields, from cedar-rapids.org|
|Ashley Vanorny, from her website|
America, which includes Cedar Rapids, faces some profound challenges. How do we enable a satisfactory quality of life and economic opportunity for our citizens in the face of economic, environmental, racial and financial challenges? Cedar Rapids faces specific issues of a major physical remake of our school system; an overhaul of the zoning code; continued implementation of complete streets policies, particularly funding for sidewalks; development in the MedQuarter, core neighborhoods and new areas created by the Highway 100 extension; and the future of our bus system as well as potential inter-city public transportation. We've managed to have a school board election and two rounds of a city council election this fall without serious debate over any of these. It's no wonder so few people vote.
"Cedar Rapids Mayoral Forum Nov. 13, 2017" (video), KCRG-TV9, 14 November 2017
B.A. Morelli, "Hart and Vernon to Face Off for Cedar Rapids Mayor in Runoff," Cedar Rapids Gazette, 7 November 2017
Michaela Ramm, "Cedar Rapids District 5 City Council Race Headed for Dec. 5 Runoff," Cedar Rapids Gazette, 7 November 2017
Steve Shriver, interviews with Brad Hart and Monica Vernon, 3 October 2017
"Brad Hart for Mayor: Home," www.hart4cr.com
"Justin Shields for Cedar Rapids" Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/JustinShieldsForCedarRapids/
"Ashley Vanorny--A Voice for Cedar Rapids," www.ashleyvanorny.com
"Home--Monica Vernon Cedar Rapids Mayor Candidate," www.monicavernonformayor.com
"Cedar Rapids City Council Runoff," Holy Mountain, 23 November 2013