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Coping with Trump, replacing Corbett and Iowa City makes history: 2017 in local politics


Mazahir Salih celebrates with her family as the final election results come in at The Mill. Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. –photo by Zak Neumann

The year started with reactions to the new Trump administration — some involving careful city council deliberations, one involving fire — and such reactions continued throughout 2017. The year also saw elections for the school board, followed very quickly by a major change in leadership after the new board was sworn in. There were also city elections. In Cedar Rapids, voters had to choose a replacement for Mayor Ron Corbett, who decided to run for governor, instead of reelection. Iowa City made history by electing Mazahir Salih to the city council, the first Muslim to serve on the council and likely the first Sudanese-American woman elected to office in the entire country. In a preview of what is to come in 2018, Iowa City native son and LGBTQ activist Zach Wahls announced a run for state senate just before Christmas.

As 2017 draws to a close, relive the year in local politics with these 10 stories from Little Village.

File photo

Jan. 19: Iowa City Council nixes ‘Sanctuary’ label but reaffirms hands-off policy on immigration enforcement

A resolution unanimously passed by the Iowa City Council reaffirmed that no public resources would be devoted by the city police department to detecting undocumented immigrants. Council members noted that the move works to help maintain relationships between police officers and the community, ensuring that victims and witnesses of crimes feel comfortable reaching out to law enforcement.

Matt Uhrin, Cedar Rapids, sprays a fire extinguisher and takes flags from protestors Jordan Adams and Paul Osgerby on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann

Jan. 27: Flag burning in downtown Iowa City led to confrontation, citations

Two citations were issued following a flag burning protest on the Iowa City Ped Mall in which a FedEx delivery man intervened with a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and take away some of the flags.

Protesters Kelli Ebensberger and Paul Osgerby received a citation for not having a permit for an open burn. Under Iowa City Code, open burning is prohibited unless an individual has obtained a permit from the fire marshal. A violation is considered a simple misdemeanor or municipal infraction. Simple misdemeanors are punishable with a fine of at least $65 or up to $625, and imprisonment for up to 30 days.

Iowa City Hall — photo by Zak Neumann

Mar. 23: Going green: Iowa City Council takes steps to make city more environmentally-friendly

Iowa city council members discussed ways to make Iowa City greener — including moving forward with a climate action steering committee, making the city more bicycle friendly and making it easier to recycle — during a March meeting.

Five members were appointed to a newly established Climate Action Steering Committee, which will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city. The council also discussed progress on the city’s Bicycle Master Plan and approved a proposal to purchase new recycling trucks, which could increase local recycling since residents won’t have to sort recyclables before they are picked up.

One of many clever signs at the March For Science. Saturday, April 22, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann.

April 23: Photos: Iowa City’s March for Science

Hundreds of people filled the Pentacrest to advocate for science and the scientific method Saturday. Young and old alike held signs, marched and listened to scientists speak about the countless ways scientific research and the scientific method have been beneficial to them and society as a whole.

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The march stretched down Clinton, Jefferson and Gilbert Streets before heading back up Iowa Avenue to the Pentacrest where several teach-ins were held on various subjects, including “Ask a Climate Scientist” and a discussion about microbiomes led by Dr. Terry Wahls.

Aerial view of LEED-certified Johnson County buildings in Iowa City. — photo courtesy of Janelle Rettig

June 9: Johnson County and Iowa City say they’ll honor the Paris Agreement

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution Thursday, June 8 committing to honor the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change from which President Donald Trump withdrew the United States. The City of Iowa City passed a similar resolution Tuesday, June 6.

Protesters gathered outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices in Cedar Rapids to protest the detention of Asucena Natareno Ramirez. Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. — photo by Lauren Shotwell

Oct. 20: Protesters stand up for immigrant rights outside Cedar Rapids ICE offices

A group of activists and community members gathered on the south side of Cedar Rapids outside a nondescript building with a tiny sign: “Homeland Security.” They were protesting the detention of Asucena Natareno Ramirez, who had been detained following a routine check-in at the Cedar Rapids office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Mazahir Salih celebrates with her family as the final election results come in at The Mill. Tuesday, November 7, 2017. –photo by Zak Neumann

Nov. 14: The 2017 elections brought a historic win, a surge of write-in votes, a mayoral runoff and more to Johnson and Linn counties

The morning after winning a seat on the Iowa City Council, Mazahir Salih was up early working to support one of the causes she believes in. She testified before the Johnson County Board of Supervisors on community IDs, even though she’d barely had any sleep.

“News people had been calling me all night,” Salih told Little Village. That’s not surprising. Salih’s decisive win in her race for an open city council at-large seat was featured in news stories about the numerous progressive electoral victories across the nation on Nov. 7, because Salih is reportedly the first Sudanese-American woman elected to office in the United States.

Janet Godwin — photo by Zak Neumann

Nov. 16: Janet Godwin elected president, as the Iowa City school board makes its second leadership change in three months

Janet Godwin was elected president of the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) Board of Directors during the board’s meeting. Godwin’s election followed Ruthina Malone’s resignation as president at the beginning of the meeting.

Malone had been elected president in September, at the first board meeting following the school board election earlier that month. Asked at the meeting if she wanted to make a statement regarding her resignation, Malone said, “No.”

Brad Hart and Monica Vernon appeared on a mayoral roundtable episode of Iowa in Focus on CBS 2/Fox 28. — video still

Dec. 4: Voters will choose between Vernon and Hart for Cedar Rapids mayor on Tuesday

Voters choosing between Monica Vernon and Brad Hart in Tuesday’s run-off election for mayor of Cedar Rapids will find the candidates have much in common. Both list improving flood protection, fixing the city’s streets, fostering economic development and working with neighborhood associations to strengthen communities as priorities. Neither has expressed any current interest in serving more than one term, and both said they would not have run if Mayor Ron Corbett had sought reelection. Vernon and Hart even use the same phrase (“can-do”) on their campaign websites to describe the spirit of Cedar Rapids.

Zach Wahls announces his candidacy for Iowa State Senate. Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann

Dec. 21: LGBTQ rights advocate Zach Wahls announces Iowa Senate run

Iowa City-native Zach Wahls, an advocate for LGBTQ rights and author of a bestselling book My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family, announced his campaign for the Iowa Senate with a series of social media posts as well as an event in Coralville.

“I am running for Iowa Senate District 37, which is my home. It is where I grew up, where I went to high school, where I got my first job, and where I started my first business. I’m running for a simple reason: our state is at a crossroads that will define the future of our state for generations to come,” Wahls said in a series of tweets.


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