2021 Runoff Mayoral Voter Resource Guide

Cedar Rapids will hold a “Runoff” Election for Mayor on Tuesday November 30! In Iowa, candidates for office must receive 50% plus 1 of the votes to win. If this does not happen, as is the case with the Cedar Rapids mayoral election on November 2, the two candidates who received the most votes will participate in a runoff election. Cedar Rapids residents will now decide between Tiffany O’Donnell and Amara Andrews to be the next mayor. Runoff Election Day is November 30. 

To help our members in their voter decision, the Economic Alliance has once again put together a Voter Resource Guide. While we are a non-partisan entity and do not formally endorse or donate to political candidates, we do encourage our members to be informed on the issues and vote for business and community-friendly candidates and initiative when they go to the polls.

As was the case before, you don’t have to wait until November 30 to cast your ballot! You can request an absentee ballot request form now and return it to the Linn County Election Services office by November 15, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.  In person early voting dates and locations will be announced by Linn County soon. We will update our Election Day Toolkit when that information becomes available. Finally, the polls will be open on Election Day, November 30, from 7 A.M. to 8 P.M.

We hope you find this Voter Resource Guide useful in helping to make your voting decisions. Contact the Economic Alliance’s Public Policy Strategist, Barbra Solberg, with any questions.

This message is paid for by the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, 501 First St. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401. The executive director of the Economic Alliance is Doug Neumann. This message is not authorized by any candidate, candidate’s committee or ballot issue committee.

Economic Alliance contact information:
319.398.5317
EconomicAlliance@cedarrapids.org

 

Barbra Solberg,
Economic Alliance
Public Policy Strategist

Races & Candidates

* = Denotes Incumbent

Cedar Rapids Mayor

Amara Andrews

Amara Andrews

Age: 46 Occupation: Director of Business Development and Strategic Communication at TrueNorth Companies

What differentiates you from your opponent?
What differentiates us the most is experience. Experience matters. I have been a school teacher in the inner city and have seen with my own eyes how difficult it can be for families living in poverty.  I started an incubator program at the University of Illinois for startup companies, helping people start and grow their businesses.  I am a leader in a social justice group that was responsible for organizing the largest, most successful, peaceful grassroots movement in our city’s history. This work brought together people from all walks of life for a common purpose, resulting in unanimous support from city council members on policies benefiting our city.  For the last 8 years, I have worked in the business community in Cedar Rapids through my employment at TrueNorth. This breadth of experience has made me uniquely qualified to find solutions to problems in our great City and lead us forward. 

What programs (new or existing) will you support to attract and keep businesses in Cedar Rapids?

We must prioritize our existing businesses, helping them to grow and flourish.  I support tax increment financing (TIF) programs for local businesses and to help out-of-state businesses locate here with some conditions. We should ensure that TIF is reserved for companies that provide living wages, build with local union labor, and commit to sustainability and meaningful diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.

I also have a particular interest in further developing our startup ecosystem and would like to provide more support for entrepreneurs and investors.  Examples include:

  • Providing microloans through a revolving loan fund. These loans would be low-interest, forgivable after a certain amount of time, and targeted toward promising businesses that help balance our local economy.
  • Hosting or sponsoring a Startup Weekend where entrepreneurs could demonstrate how their business could benefit our city or help us meet a strategic need.

What areas of focus, improvements and/or resources are needed to create a more welcoming experience for visitors and to be more successful at attracting workforce to Cedar Rapids?

We have a great city but we haven’t reached our potential. We must recognize areas of opportunity like attracting and retaining diverse populations to help build our workforce and strengthen our communities. We need to develop a social and corporate culture that values a living wage, robust DEI plans, affordable housing and childcare options, among other things. Taking care of our workforce will not only help us retain talent, but it will attract talent as well.

When it comes to entertainment options, there are plenty of exciting things happening in our city already, but people don’t know about these events. In order to solve this problem, we need to work with our partners interested in economic development to better advertise these events. Our communications strategy must be able to reach everyone in our city, including diverse and underserved populations and this includes improving the City’s social media presence.

What ideas do you have for filling open commercial space in downtown?

In order to better understand how to use open commercial space in our downtown district, we must first try to understand our needs. The Economic Alliance and other partners often engage in market research, analyzing economic trends and developing forecasts that give us an idea of where we're headed.  We should use this data to supplement our own economic development team’s work to give us an idea of how this space should be used. We could also explore a program that would subsidize prime commercial real estate spaces for startup businesses. One large obstacle to businesses relocating downtown has always been parking and that is something the City can work on addressing. 

How will you engage citizens, city staff and our surrounding communities?

I decided to run for office after my own experience engaging with city officials to develop a citizen’s review board for Cedar Rapids. This was a huge undertaking because of the lack of access everyday citizens have to City government.  Making government more accessible means sponsoring more town halls in every quadrant of the city. It means actively inviting community groups and residents to participate in meetings where big issues are discussed. It also means investing deeply in fostering relationships with surrounding municipalities and other governments to tap into our Collective IQ. We will make better, more effective and inclusive policies when we bring more people to the table to address the challenges ahead.


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Tiffany O'Donnell

Tiffany O'Donnell

Age: 52  Occupation: Chief Executive Officer, Women Lead Change

What differentiates you from your opponent?
 

A big difference in my opponent and me is my approach to campaigning and governing. The partisanship in our national politics paralyzes our government and corrodes our society and now it’s seeping into our local races. My opponent has run a negative campaign with national backing – the first we’ve seen in Cedar Rapids. My campaign has been positive, forward-looking and non-partisan throughout. A clear demonstration of the governing style you’ll get from each of us.

The reason for me is very simple – I want to be the mayor for all of Cedar Rapids. From the start, I met with people and organizations of all backgrounds and perspectives. If you want to know how I will lead as mayor, just look at how I’ve run my campaign. My focus has been on listening to all views, building coalitions, and bringing people together with an eye towards building a better future together. 

What programs (new or existing) will you support to attract and keep businesses in Cedar Rapids?
 

My first focus isn’t a program, but an attitude. Cedar Rapids must be open for business. I have a favorite saying, “Find a way to yes.” That means being a partner to our business community to help local businesses grow and succeed. I will foster positive, productive relationships with existing businesses and new companies to ensure Cedar Rapids is a part of their long-term plans.

Next, we need to make sure the city puts a thumb on the scale for our local businesses. As mayor, I would require contracts that go outside of the Cedar Rapids area get reviewed by the Council. I will commit to doing everything to use local, first.

Finally, entrepreneurship is what makes Cedar Rapids unique. We need to lean into that identity. That means working with groups like NewBoCo to identify and create funding for the next new great Cedar Rapids business.

What areas of focus, improvements and/or resources are needed to create a more welcoming experience for visitors and to be more successful at attracting workforce to Cedar Rapids?
 

Attracting and retaining good people requires a combination of amenities and opportunity. The city must provide a mix of both while also providing safe streets and housing that fits a variety of different needs. We must make sure that we are mindful of the needs and wants of diverse populations who want to make Cedar Rapids home.

My vision that I’ve been promoting throughout the campaign is about creating a vibrant city of diverse neighborhoods surrounding a strong city core. Bikeable, walkable. A place to really live, work and play. My vision is like the recent Community Climate Action Plan and it’s also what’s worked at other mid-sized cities across the country.

The city must also work closely with our education systems. Let’s provide support for those students and adults wishing to upskill to meet the needs of new opportunities, whether it be through public or higher education.

What ideas do you have for filling open commercial space in downtown?
 

The way people work has changed forever. It was already changing before the pandemic and that only accelerated the move. We need to look at the incentives in place to convert commercial space to the mixed use that the market wants. That likely will require zoning changes as well as looking at how financial incentives work.

As mayor, I would sit down with our local developers and property owners and ask them, how do we help them accelerate the change. I hear a lot about better funding options to reduce risk. We can also utilize outside funding support to create workforce housing including affordable and market-rate options.

Sometimes it just takes someone going first. We need to look at how the city can help the first ones take that step.

How will you engage citizens, city staff and our surrounding communities?
 

Communication and bringing people together combine for Job One for the mayor. In our form of
government, the mayor is part-time, and the city manager runs the operation. The mayor needs to be out active in the community listening so our government can be responsive.

As mayor, I would look at how the council interacts with the public to ensure we have more public input and so we operate transparently. Like Mayor Canney from years ago, I would establish “office hours” where anyone can set an appointment to meet with the mayor. I would also set up regular open meetings run by city council members to get feedback outside of monthly council meetings.

Lastly, I have talked throughout the campaign about fixing the dysfunctional relationship with the County and surrounding communities. We can’t have stories like the Gazette published this summer about not working well with our neighbors. One of my first actions as mayor would be repairing those relationships. We’re better together.

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