Three days after the Iowa City Council voted to hold a special election to fill the at-large seat left vacant when Kingsley Botchway resigned, there are now two candidates in the race: Ryan Hall, a University of Iowa undergraduate and member of the Iowa City Board of Adjustment, and Brianna Wills, the executive director of Old Brick.
Wills made her announcement on her Facebook page on Sunday morning.
In our current political climate, good people can’t afford to be “sick and tired” of politics. I’m sick and tired of our political climate too, and that’s why I decided that I can’t wait for the “right” time to step forward…today is the right time. We are truly more alike than different, and we can work to make Iowa City a City that serves all of our residents. I’m ready.
Hall made his announcement in front of Iowa City Hall on Monday morning in front of a group of supporters who showed up for the event despite overcast skies threatening rain.
“This campaign is not about me,” Hall told the enthusiastic crowd of about 30 people. “My name’s on the ballot, but this is about us. This is about the Poor People’s Campaign. This is about fighting poverty, about speaking truth to power, ending our war economy, lowering our cost of living in this community—because we pay the highest rents in the entire state, and it’s not right.”
Hall talked about what he wants to see in Iowa City: “We need to be the example at the city-level that we can pay a $15 minimum wage. We have the money for it, we have the will. We just need to put pen to paper, and put people power in city hall.”
Hall said he still embraced the issues he ran on last year, when he unsuccessfully challenged Susan Mims for the open council seat in District B — “affordable housing, taking action on climate change, on economic justice, on racial justice, on transforming our police system, about creating vibrant communities and neighborhoods” — and that he wanted to expand on those themes.
“These are not just my policy points, these are ours,” Hall said.
While speaking about the need for better public transportation to serve the needs of late-shift workers, Hall gave an example of the sort of actions he’d favor on the council.
“We need to invest in solar energy, create an electric vehicle fleet and have designated, coordinated, very efficient transportation for folks who need it, who are working class and who don’t get to access our public transportation system because they work the wrong hours,” Hall explained. “That’s not right and that needs to change.”
“It’s solutions like these that need to come to our forefront.”
Hall has been a very active community and political organizer since moving to Iowa City in January 2017 to pursue a degree at UI. A nontraditional student, Hall is majoring in Environmental Planning, with a minor in Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies. In December 2017, he was appointed by the Iowa City Council to a four-year term on the Board of Adjustment, which handles requests for zoning code exemptions and variances.
“I’m a proud card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America,” Hall told his supporters, as a slight drizzle of rain began. “I’m not going to run away from any of my identities, either. I’m a gender-queer-nonbinary pansexual working-class student.”
He added that people could use any of those terms as labels to describe him. “The labels mean justice, they mean equity and they mean action.”
Hall was introduced at the event by former City Councilmember Karen Kubby.
“I think having a young, experienced, policy wonk activist is such a great combination,” Kubby said, after the event. “The median age in Johnson County is 26, and it’s about time we had a younger person on council, who was fit for the job.” Kubby, who described herself as part of Hall’s campaign team, also supported Hall in 2017.
A current member of the city council, Mazahir Salih, also attended the event. Like Kubby, Saleh supported Hall in 2017.
“Ryan and I, we have a lot of similar issues that we care about,” Salih told Little Village. “And I need an extra vote on the council to support my ideas.”
Salih cited “affordable housing, transportation and economic development for all,” as areas in which she and Hall are in agreement.
“Tomorrow we have a work session [of the city council], and I’m proposing that city employees, regardless of whether they’re part-time or seasonal employees, be paid $15 an hour,” Saleh said, explaining her proposal would have the new minimum wage phased in over two years. “I believe in the minimum wage, and I believe we [as the city government] have to set the standard high for the community, starting with our own employees.”
“I think Ryan will support these kind of things.”
A press release sent out Monday afternoon by the Wills campaign described their candidate as having been “involved in local issues since moving to the community eight years ago.”
She served on the Johnson County Planning and Zoning Commission and volunteered with multiple nonprofits including HACAP, Meals on Wheels, and United Action for Youth. She volunteered on a City of Iowa City neighborhood park planning committee and is a member of 100+ Women Who Care. She serves on the Johnson County Democrats Central Committee.
According to the press release, Wills’ “nonprofit experience informs her desire to improve affordable housing opportunities and access to transportation. She is interested in working with the University of Iowa, The Iowa City Community School district, and other stakeholders to address community-wide issues. She supports the City’s promotion of environmentally-sound practices and development.”
Wills promises to “prioritize our community’s needs yet keep a close eye on the cost to taxpayers.”
The special election to the city council vacancy will be on Oct. 2. If more than two candidates enter the race, there will also be a primary election on Sept. 4. Anyone interested in running must file a candidate petition with the Johnson County Auditor’s Office by Friday at 5 p.m.
A candidate must be 18 years-old, a resident of Iowa City and eligible to vote. To qualify for the special election, the candidate must collect at least 128 signatures from Iowa City residents eligible to vote.