Friday, August 05, 2011

Iowa City School Board Candidates

2013 Edition for those of you who found this old one via Google

Iowa City School Board: Majority Of Board Will Be New

If you're here from that Washington Post link looking for a hot caucus story, you'll have to check back tonight for my report from Republicanpalooza in Tiffin (a six county cattle call with Santorum, McCotter, Newt and TPaw). This morning we're all about the Iowa City School Board.

At least four of the seven members of the Iowa City school board will be new after the September 13 election. Five seats are open and only one incumbent, Board president Patti Fields, is running for re-election. Gazette was first on line with the list after yesterday's filing deadline
The prospect of the majority of a board turning over in one election was a big reason the now-shamed Iowa Association of School Boards so long opposed the switch of school board terms from three-year terms with an election every year to four-year terms and elections in odd years only.

Eight candidates are running for four full four year terms, and two candidates are running for a two-year short term. Other than Fields, none has run before. Incumbents Sarah Swisher and Tuyet Dorau hold over.

There's money on the ballot, too: a Kirkwood bond issue. Might boost turnout a bit, but not the way a bond issue for your own school district does.

At the risk of getting people mad, I'm identifying candidates by age, generalized geography and party. Yes, it's a non-partisan election, but a party ID illustrates an underlying worldview. (And yes, I have voted for the occasional Republican for school board.) And geography mattered a lot in the 2009 school election cycle. North Liberty candidate Anne Johnson fell short district-wide but ran well there and in Coralville.

Who's leaving

Toni Cilek, 57, Democrat, north Coralville but identified as east side Iowa City, where she lived when first elected in 2002.

Gayle Klouda, 60, Democrat, north rural. First elected 2004, re-elected 2007. As top vote getter she got a free year when school board terms got extended to four years. (With this election the conversion is complete, as the last three year terms from the last even year election in 2008 expire.)

Jan Leff, 70, Democrat, University Heights. Served from 2000 to 2009, when she didn't run again. Leff was appointed when Michael Cooper resigned mid-term to take a job out of state. It was generally understood that Leff came back as an interim place-holder for four meetings.

Michael Shaw, 48, no party, east side. First elected 2005, re-elected 2008.

Who's running - full term

Jeff Alden, 47, Republican, north Coralville. Applied for the vacant seat in May when Cooper announced his resignation. In the application, Alden said he is a psychiatrist and moved to the district two years ago.

Patti Fields, 38, Democrat, east side. First elected 2005, seeking third term. Day job is as Vice President for Community Impact & Engagement at United Way of Johnson County.

Phil Hemingway, 51, Republican, east side. Has feuded in past with district over contracting and safety issues, the sign policy at board meetings, and over the closing of the district's home building program. Also applied for the board vacancy.

Sally Hoelscher, 45, Democrat, east side. Past Lucas Elementary PTO president.

Jeff McGinness, 36, Democrat, southwest side. Attorney and former Iowa wrestler. Has huuuuge numbers of yard signs out waaay early.

Bob Porter, 50, Democrat, rural west side (Union Township). Former Iowa City Community School District safety coordinator, not a friend of present administration.

Marla Swesey, 57, Democrat, east side. Former teacher active in Iowa City Education Association.

James Tate, 38, Democrat, east side. Not much info; this could be the Some Dude of the race.

Who's running - two year term

Statistical paradox alert: You could see a losing candidate in one race with more votes than a winning candidate in the other. I've always though it would be more fair to change that so this kind of thing could get done in one contest. In this case, give the fifth place person the short term.

But for now, Iowa law says this is a separate contest between:

Karla Cook, 65, Democrat, east side. Former teacher at City High.

Julie Van Dyke, 45, Democrat, Liberty Township (somewhere between IC and Hills). Admin Assistant at University of Iowa. Active in "Coalition for a Greater Hills Community."

So geography looks more prominent in the short term race, with the south end of the district worried that Hills Elementary could be the next Roosevelt on the chopping block. But Hills, even the "Greater Hills Community," is a drop in the electoral bucket compared to North Liberty and Coralville. So a Hills-centric campaign will need some allies. As for the four year race, there's not an obvious geo-centric candidate like Johnson was in `09.

This county has never seen a vote-for-four -- rather, "vote for NO MORE THAN four" -- contest on a scale as big as the Iowa City Community School District (roughly 5/6 of the county voters) before. We've had small towns with vote-for-five city council races before, but usually you only have five or maybe six candidates. In the epic University Heights city election of 2009, the ten candidates for five seats were pretty clearly aligned into two factions.

Here, there's no such obvious framework for the voters. Yet. An electoral jungle of vote-for-four with eight candidates presents voters with some interesting strategic decisions. What if your fourth choice looks like s/he'll get enough votes to knock your first choice into fifth place? It'll be interesting to see what alliances, and what yard sign combinations, pop up in the next few weeks.

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