Thursday, July 25, 2013

Porter Announces For City Council

The Iowa City Council District B race won't go uncontested after all. Community activist Royceanne Porter announced yesterday she's seeking the open but not really open seat:

It's official! After consideration of the request to run for City Council for Iowa City, Iowa I have decided to move forward and launch my campaign!!! I will be a candidate for District B and I am looking forward to a positive and successful outcome! I will be seeking your support as I endeavor to represent our community on City Council.

Porter is opposing Terry Dickens, currently serving in an at-large seat but running this year in District B. Seat switches like that have been rumored in the past, but my research tells me this is the first time it's actually happened since the present district system was established in 1975. The current District B incumbent, Connie Champion, is retiring. Her daughter Catherine Champion is running in the at large race.

Still with me? Hang on, it gets weirder. Iowa City's hybrid district/at large system is almost as confusing to new voters as the Iowa Caucuses. 
  • The city elects seven council members: three in this year's cycle, four in 2015. 
  • Two at large members are up each cycle. You can vote for two and top two win each time. This year, Dickens and Susan Mims (seeking re-election) are up, but as noted Dickens is trying to swap seats. In 2015, it's Matt Hayek and Michelle Payne. 
  • The District B seat, roughly the east side, is also up this year. In 2015, Rick Dobyn's District A seat (roughly the west side) and Jim Throgmorton's District C (north side and downtown) are up. 
  • The city also has a primary system. It's not a partisan primary so you don't have to declare a party. 
  • A primary happens on October 8 if five or more people run at large. Right now we're at four announced candidates at large: Mims, Champion the younger, Kingsley Botchway and Rockne Cole. 
  • A primary also happens if three or more candidates run in a district seat. As noted we're now at two in District B: Dickens and Porter. If there aren't enough candidates, the primary doesn't happen. This is also different than a partisan primary, which has to happen whether or not there are contested races. 
  • Iowa City hasn't avoided a primary since 1991. For some reason, the city council race has historically been more attractive to, um, unusual candidates than, say, a legislative race. We've had several primaries with five at large candidates, one of whom is clearly very weak or sometimes not even actively campaigning. It's a free country. 
  • If there's a primary, you can only vote for two at large and one in the district. You're not picking which four (or two) go on, your picking which two (or one) you want. 
  • Now THIS is the most confusing part. If there is a primary in a district seat, only voters in the district vote in the primary. The WHOLE city votes on both the at large AND the District B in the November 5 election.
  • And oh, yeah, there's that little bar issue, too. This week the council voted to put 21 Bar on the ballot for the third time rather than repealing it themselves. They also, the same night, voted to ease the 500 foot distance requirement for new bars EXCEPT in downtown. One standard for old people, another for young people. 
  • The 19 Bar guys clearly aren't interested in my help. (Maybe I have an ego, but I like getting called. Even if I won't be with you, I might be less against you.) They must expect young voters to just magically appear. I'll still vote to repeal 21, sure, and probably write something, and take a yard sign if one is offered. But this isn't really my fight. If they can't get their 21 and 22 year old friends to support them - and the prevailing attitude among the juniors and seniors has been: I got mine, screw the freshmen - then they don't need a grandpa on board. I have better things to do in support of young people, and probably with a better chance at success.
  • Theoretically, University Heights could also have a primary, but this hasn't happened since at least 1977 (as far back as I've seen records) and may never have happened. Almost happened in 2009; one more candidate for mayor or council would have done it. 
So, back to the District B race. Porter has been active in southeast side community organizations and the Police Citizen Review Board, where she's been a frequent critic of ICPD. Looks like that cluster of racial disparity issues is carrying forward from the No Jail campaigns. She's also the second African American candidate, along with Botchway in the at-large race.

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