Letters to the editor: Community members sound off on candidates for Iowa City Council

(l to r) Brianna Wills, Bruce Teague, Christine Ralston, Ryan Hall and Ann Freerks, at League of Women Voters, Aug. 29, 2018. — photo by Zak Neumann

Little Village has covered the candidates in the special election to fill the vacant at-large seat on the Iowa City Council as they’ve discussed important issues in two public forums:

City council candidates discussed core values at the first forum before Iowa City’s special election (Aug. 22, 2018)
Candidates in the Iowa City Council special election discuss their views at League of Women Voters forum (Aug. 30, 2018)

LV has also received many letter about the candidates, and for the convenience of voters still making up their minds about whom to vote for in the Sept. 4 primary, we’ve compiled those letter below.


Ann Freerks

Ann Freerks speaks during a forum at The Mill. Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. — photo by Zak Neumann

Ann Freerks is committed to the quality and future of our town

In my 33-year career as a city planner I served in cities across the country: from Midland, Texas to Kansas City, Missouri to Windsor, Connecticut and Iowa City. I worked with scores of planning commissioners who volunteered enormous time for the betterment of their cities. Of all of these, Ann Freerks impressed me as being the most dedicated and thoughtful. In her 18 years on our Historic Preservation and Planning commissions she worked to analyze reports, plans and correspondence from staff, developers and residents. She listened to all sides and deliberated thoughtfully.

Ann demonstrated a commitment to the quality and future of our town. When a development proposal did not comply with the comprehensive plan, or did not have a proper drainage plan, she sent it back to the drawing board. She supports preserving historic buildings and neighborhoods—but also development where appropriate. Ann understands that a “complete” community needs neighborhoods with a mix of single-family homes, duplexes, and apartments — for households of all sizes, ages, and incomes. She knows the importance of transportation and connecting our neighborhoods not only by streets, but also by trails and sidewalks for biking, walkability and sustainability. On the Planning Commission, Ann worked to include parks and trails in new subdivisions.

Based on Ann’s work and dedication to Iowa City, I am supporting her for council. Of all of the candidates, Ann Freerks has the most experience with the development and civic issues that council deals with weekly. Please vote for Ann Freerks on September 4. Or, vote early at the Auditor’s office, 913 S Dubuque Street.

—Robert Miklo


Ann Freerks will hit the ground running

I heartily support Ann Freerks for City Council. Many times I saw her in action on the Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission — a volunteer commission that she served on for 17 years, and chaired for eight. With thorough analysis beforehand, she posed thoughtful questions of every proposal. She listened closely to all perspectives. And she was not afraid to ask for more — more information, more consideration of the people impacted, more rethinking on behalf of the community at large. Reviewing plans for a multi-family development, she asked, “But where will the kids play?” She made sure a park with playground equipment was added. Her end goal is never what’s just OK and acceptable, but what’s the best possible for Iowa City.

Ann knows well both local challenges and opportunities. She has mastered the mechanics and the purpose of zoning and the comprehensive plan. She balances historic preservation and new development, protecting old neighborhoods and creating new ones, and advocating preservation of the best of our downtown. Both creative and pragmatic, Ann is an innovative and independent thinker who applies her considerable work ethic to whatever she takes on. If elected, she will hit the ground running, bringing a strong track record and years of experience of consensus-building and leadership.


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—Ginalie Swaim


Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall speaks during a forum at The Mill. Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. — photo by Zak Neumann

Vote Ryan Hall for Iowa City Council on Sept. 4

Ryan Hall ran a credible campaign for Iowa City Council last year as he came close to defeating an incumbent councilor. For the past year, Hall has continued to actively advocate for affordable housing, energy efficiency and a bus system to better accommodate second shift workers and those with special needs. He is now a candidate for city council in the Sept. 4 primary, and he has my vote.

Hall believes Iowa City can take greater initiative to address the rising price of housing that affects many people in Iowa City.

Hall believes that paying all city employees a minimum wage of $15 an hour sets a great example for local businesses, stabilizes families and supports our local economy.

Hall has three years’ experience in AmeriCorps, retrofitting homes for increased energy efficiency. He will bring that background to the council and help implement renewable energy and efficiency plans to make the city’s climate change plan more effective.

Ryan Hall knows these and other issues, and he knows the city councilors so he can get off to a running start. Go to to learn more about his campaign. I encourage you to vote for Ryan Hall for Iowa City Council Sept. 4.

—Tom Carsner


Christine Ralston

Christine Ralston speaks during a forum at The Mill. Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. — photo by Zak Neumann

Vote Christine Ralston for Iowa City Council

Iowa City should vote for Christine Ralston for City Council on Sept. 4.

I met Christine while she was a professional mediator. I watched her skillfully navigate tough disputes by guiding meaningful conversations. What struck me first was how well Christine listens: without an ego or a personal agenda, but with deep care and compassion.

Since then, I’ve worked with Christine on other projects, especially in her art, her support of local nonprofits and as a champion of recent UI graduates. My experiences show Christine is more than just a smart person who listens well.

Christine builds consensus. She knows so many parts of our community, will learn with an open mind when she doesn’t know and will work tirelessly to bridge the gaps among us.

Christine is decisive. While thoughtful deliberation is a great skill Christine will bring to Iowa City’s City Council, she will not shy away from making tough decisions. I have seen Christine quickly assess options and decide the best course of action, accounting for the interests of each stakeholder.

Christine is the most substantively qualified candidate on the ballot. At the Iowa Policy Project, Christine worked on issues currently impacting our community: employment and the environment. Her educational background in urban planning and in law provide her with a solid understanding of how our city council can and should operate to serve its constituents. Further, Christine’s diverse volunteer experience shows she can create and leverage partnerships throughout Iowa City.

Please join me in voting for Christine Ralston in Iowa City’s primary election for City Council on Sept. 4.

—Laura Bergus


Christine Ralston has what I want in an elected official

I intend to vote for Christine Ralston for Iowa City City Council.

It took Christine less than five minutes at the farmers market to convince me that this brilliant and inquisitive soul, that I have grown to appreciate as a friend over several years, was the right person for this job. Our conversation included her briefly sharing her sensibilities about certain policies (her support for a higher minimum wage, her perspective on the use of TIF).

More importantly, to me, our conversation gave me a sense of how she would make decisions as a city councilor. I could hear in her thinking something that I value more highly than whether or not I agree with every policy decision an elected official makes. I heard a thought process that was fair, thoughtful, nuanced and steeped in what clearly are her core values of kindness, compassion and service to a community she loves. Christine has what I want in an elected official. I want authenticity, thoughtfulness, compassion, intellectual heft and curiosity, the humility to listen and the courage to speak. This is what I see in Christine Ralston. She earned my vote in those few minutes and I believe she deserves yours.

—Michael Shaw


Christine Ralston supports downtown Iowa City

I own a plant shop downtown called Moss. I chose to locate my business in downtown Iowa City because I believe in this vibrant, walkable, urban space filled with unique local businesses, art and culture. In my view, downtown is the city’s most important asset and Christine Ralston is the best candidate to advocate for policy ensuring its health and vibrancy.

Christine Ralston is someone who shops, eats and spends her free time downtown. As a regular patron of my store and many of my downtown neighbors, Christine lives by her values and supports downtown merchants. I frequently see Christine and her daughter at many popular downtown haunts including The Bread Garden, Prairie Lights and the library. She gets downtown, in both senses.

In her responses to the Iowa City Downtown District’s questionnaire for Iowa City Council candidates, Christine Ralston exhibited a nuanced understanding of the current challenges faced by downtown businesses. I am certain Christine will advocate for thoughtful solutions which work to support the downtown business community and the community as a whole.

—Anne Armitage


Bruce Teague

Bruce Teague speaks during a forum at The Mill. Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. — photo by Zak Neumann

Why Iowa City needs Bruce Teague on the city council

There is no shortage of opinions about the upcoming city council election in Iowa City, but it seems there is a gap in the conversation: the identities of the candidates. With the field of candidates that is 80 percent white to fill a seat previously held by a black man, it seems odd that no one is asking the question: “If these folks are so concerned about bringing voices to the table, why not start by making space for the most marginalized voices first?”

The candidacy of Bruce Teague does just that, however. His identity as a black, gay man not only provides a perspective and lived experience that is not currently represented on the council, but his presence as a business owner and operator within Iowa City for many years means he holds an ongoing stake in the success of this community for years to come. His positions and platform are consistent with increasing accommodations to historically underserved populations, maintaining a balance between fiscal responsibility and leveraging resources for the greatest good, and continuing to ask critical questions regarding public transportation accessibility, truly fair housing, and the fiscal priorities of the city council.

Bruce’s specific experiences in this community — shaped by his identity and the world we live in which historically undervalues and dismisses the experiences of black men (especially gay, black men) — add a critical perspective which would bring voices to the table that have not been heard before. If we, as a community, remain committed to bringing more voices to the table and truly creating an atmosphere of inclusion, then we must remain vigilant to not just elect people who are “a voice for others,” but instead aim to elect those who have lived the experiences which are not a majority experience, so they may tell their own story as they push us all to be better together.

—Nolan Petersen


There are five qualified candidates for Iowa City Council, but Bruce Teague stands out

Bruce Teague has started several businesses in Iowa City aimed at helping persons. He is sensitive to the needs of people. His priority issues: human rights, transportation and inclusion.

As Bruce explained at the first candidate’s forum: A Human Rights City identifies the needs of all its citizens and build its budget to address those needs. A Human Rights City recognizes the worth of each and every citizen. All persons are valued.

Bruce wants a transportation system geared towards meeting the needs of all citizens, including those who work late night shifts. He wants Iowa City to be a diverse inclusive community where all feel welcome and everyone is treated equally.

I share these hopes.

There are five qualified candidates. However, Bruce brings a unique set of skills to complement those now serving on the council. I hope you will join me in voting for Bruce Teague for the Iowa City City Council.

—Bob Welsh


Finally a city council candidate that represents the disabled

Bruce Teague, if selected on Sept. 4 and elected on Oct. 2, 2018, will be the first member of the Iowa City City Council to represent the disabled. He will provide additional balance on the council. For years, problems facing the physically disabled have been disregarded in Iowa City. This is why SEATS was allowed to go up 100 percent in out-of-pocket costs; rents rise with each Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment; and SNAP benefits are cut while the cost of food rises. Some of these expenses may be beyond the control of the council, but other benefits and services are not.

The banking-up of snow against the curbs and sidewalk ramps, downtown and especially in the neighborhoods is a constant winter danger to the wheelchair-bound. Outdoor dining tables blocking downtown sidewalks where wheelchairs and walkers are crowded off sidewalks must be addressed for the safety of the pedestrians as well as the diners themselves. The frame of a former restaurant’s outdoor seating at the Old Capitol Mall, that should have been dismantled when the business closed, blocks the downtown Transit Center sidewalk. Sidewalks and street ramps are potholed. There is a lack of bus shelters and/or benches at bus stops in working class neighborhoods including the former Sycamore Mall bus route, Gilbert Street and Highland, Highway 6, and First Avenue and Muscatine (for which I have been protesting and lobbying Council since 2016 to no avail). This is a sign of class distinction.

Bruce Teague will be able to deal with these problems because — unlike the present councilpersons, who only seem concerned with 15-story skyscrapers — he is able to think at ground level, where all the handicapped people’s problems are.

—Mary Gravitt


Brianna Wills

Brianna Wills speaks during a forum at The Mill. Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. — photo by Zak Neumann

Vote Brianna Wills in the Iowa City Council special election

Brianna Wills works tirelessly for her community through a variety of service groups. Whether she is delivering Meals on Wheels, or serving as Parent Teacher Student Organization vice president or president, co-president for the Districtwide Parents’ Organization or the keynote speaker at Dance Marathon, Brianna is committed to making the lives of those around her better. She has professional depth and leadership skills in development and public relations for non-profit organizations such as Old Brick and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Brianna sees the big picture and can bring groups together because of her experience and commitment to improving society as a whole, such as her commitment to providing access to affordable housing as well as transportation. Without a doubt, Brianna Wills is an asset to the Iowa City Council.

—Kathy Welsh


Brianna Wills is a no-nonsense problem solver

It is my honor to confidently endorse Brianna Wills for the at-large Iowa City Council seat. Her well-known commitment to our community through her work with the Johnson County Planning and Zoning Commission, Iowa City neighborhood park planning committee and time spent on numerous committees for the Iowa City Community School District speak to her dedication to making Iowa City a welcoming place to work and live.

In the time I have known Brianna, I have seen how caring and thoughtful she is, and the integrity she shows while working with others. Brianna will be a true advocate for all of Iowa City, and she will ensure that every citizen has a chance to have their voice heard. Brianna is a thinker and a doer. She is a no-nonsense problem solver.

Brianna deserves the opportunity to serve the people of Iowa City as a council member, and Iowa City deserves a council member as dedicated and passionate about her community as Brianna.

—Adam Loria


Brianna Wills, candidate for Iowa City Council, is a born leader

When I first met Brianna Wills in 2013, she impressed me with her keen understanding of the inherent relationship between education and housing in our community. She never shied away from asking tough questions or standing her ground in a spirited discussion, but she was always interested in finding genuine solutions to problems.

During my four years on the Iowa City Community School District Board of Education, Brianna was a constant presence on numerous school district committees and was heavily involved in generating solutions to difficult problems in our schools. She has worked diligently to make Iowa City a better place to live and raise a family through her nonprofit work with United Action for Youth, Meals on Wheels, Operation Backpack, Johnson County Planning and Zoning, Johnson County Democrats and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She is a born leader with both grit and charm who has demonstrated an ability to continually work well with others in tackling difficult tasks.

Currently, Brianna’s work as executive director at Old Brick during a major renovation has given her an incredible opportunity to focus on preserving this historic Iowa City landmark while overseeing large budgets and timelines. Brianna continues to take on big challenges and offer big solutions and she does so with her head held high and a smile on her face, even during times of immense personal tragedy.

She will be an asset to the Iowa City Council and I wholeheartedly support her. Iowa City needs Brianna. Learn more at and vote on or before September 4.

—Brian R. Kirschling


Brianna Wills has proven her toughness

As a member and coach of the U.S. National Rowing Team, I have been around some exceptionally mentally and physically tough people. I am voting for Brianna Wills for Iowa City Council because her strength rivals any world-class athlete I have known.

I met Brianna because our children go to the same school. She is the kind of person that, when she sees a system failure or inadequacy, she wants to do something about it. This approach lends itself to Brianna’s community-wide involvement. She has donated hundreds of hours to organizations that advocate for children, education, the disabled and food security.

Brianna’s toughness was put to devastating task when her son Calder was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Many of you reading this already know how Brianna helped the community cope with her son’s illness and death. Brianna helped Calder’s classmates and their families (and a community of thousands) understand what Calder was going through to mitigate the sense of powerlessness cancer causes. Through his brave two-year struggle, Brianna communicated with us about courage, hope and pain.

Even in her most difficult times, Brianna prioritized the importance of community. As a council member, I have no doubt she will continue to support our community. I am voting for Brianna Wills on Sept. 4 and I encourage you to do the same.

—Mandi Kowal

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