5 candidates for single at-large Iowa City City Council seat discuss views in public forum

Five primary candidates for the Iowa City Council special election gathered at The Mill to discuss their personal values and what they hope to bring to the city council.

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5 candidates for single at-large Iowa City City Council seat discuss views in public forum

City Council special election candidates shared their vision for Iowa City at the Mill.

City Council special election candidates shared their vision for Iowa City at the Mill.

Yue Zhang

City Council special election candidates shared their vision for Iowa City at the Mill.

Yue Zhang

Yue Zhang

City Council special election candidates shared their vision for Iowa City at the Mill.

Paul Elwell, News Reporter

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Iowa City City Council special-election candidates had the chance to tell constituents about their backgrounds and values at a forum Monday night at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St.

The special-election, set for Oct. 2, will fill the seat of former City Councilor Kingsley Botchway. His term runs until 2021.

A primary election will be held Sept. 4 to narrow the field of candidates down from five to two.

“Most of us here didn’t plan to run because it came up so suddenly,” candidate Brianna Wills said. “All of us are flying by the seat of our pants, but I think what we all do share is a deep commitment to understanding what is important to our neighborhoods and how we move this city forward.”

All of the candidates running participated in the forum: Wills, Ryan Hall, Bruce Teague, Anne Freerks, and Christine Ralston.

University of Iowa Adjunct Assistant Professor Daniel Boscaljon hosted the forum, beginning by discussing important community topics and the qualities desired in the person filling the seat.

“Consider for the next two hours that we live in a world where politics is the pursuit of the good …” he said. “Let go of cynicism for just two hours and listen to the vision of good people who worked hard and entered politics based on a desire to serve rather than a desire to control.”

Boscaljon gave each candidate the same series of questions, provided to them before the event. The questions were broad in scope and meant to give the candidates a chance to tell the audience about themselves as people.

The candidates were asked to name two traits they admired about themselves and discuss how they have built upon those traits throughout their lives.

After spending time working at a prison-to-school pipeline in Columbus, Ohio, Hall said he learned about racial inequality and how it affects income.

Teague spoke about his struggle with depression and how going through it helped build his character and, in turn, improved the lives of others through his businesses.

A strong work ethic, ability to work with others, and upbringing have brought success, Freerks said.

Ralston described both her privilege and her personal achievements, including her job as director of career services at the UI College of Law, noting they have given her perspective on community issues.

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Wills grew up in Saudi Arabia when her father took a job there. She discussed how it affected her perspective on the world, specifically regarding the treatment of women and their position in society.

In an inverse of the traditional town hall, the second part of the forum featured candidates asking questions for the audience to answer.

One of the most common topics suggested throughout the night by candidates and constituents alike was what made Iowa City unique. Each candidate at one point shared some reason they feel Iowa City is an exceptional place, and some of the questions they asked the audience revolved around this idea.

“Healthy, connected, vibrant neighborhoods are important. We nurture things that make us unique, and those places are everywhere,” Freerks said. “Deluxe Bakery, John’s Grocery, the parks, theaters, gardens, or even just someone who waves at you from time to time.”