CEDAR FALLS — The makeup of the Cedar Falls City Council will be decided Tuesday.
A runoff election pits Rob Green, former head of the Overman Park Neighborhood Association, against businesswoman and Planning and Zoning Commission member LeaAnn Saul. Incumbent Nick Taiber did not seek re-election.
Neither Green nor Saul gained a simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote required for victory in the Nov. 7 general election. Green received 40 percent of the vote and Saul received 34 percent. The third-highest vote-getter, Erin Cornelius, earned 26 percent but was eliminated. Eligible Cedar Falls voters citywide may participate.
Saul said she’s been sending out flyers and working the phones to get out the vote, retaining her supporters and then some.
“I still think I’m the best candidate, so I’m working hard,” said Saul, who operates Professional Insurance Planners and Consultants with her husband, Greg, and is president of Cedar Falls Community Main Street.
“It’s obviously a get-out-the-vote battle,” Green said, “reaching people from across the political spectrum who sat out the November election and showing them why this runoff race matters.”
Saul said voters can see “there’s a difference between us,” particularly their positions on public safety — police and fire protection.
“I support the public safety program. I believe our city needs it. It could work,” Saul said. She supports cross-trained police as public safety officers to fight fires. However, she said the existing force of full-time firefighters should not be reduced and a full-time career firefighter should be hired to replace any career firefighter who leaves. She believes, though, public safety officers can “supplement” the city firefighting force.
Green has said he supports cross training of first responders, but does not believe a 1-1 replacement of firefighters with public safety officers is wise.
“I support hiring career firefighters and police officers separately and providing incentives for them to cross-train,” Green said. “But I don’t believe it’s in our best interest to take away career firefighter positions and give them over to this new public safety officer position. Police and fire should remain distinct and cross-train as appropriate.
Saul also supports construction of a new public safety building to get police and fire under one roof, though she questioned the building’s planned location in the southern part of the city. City property at the current Iowa State Patrol post on West First Street would have been better, she said. The city offered space near city’s public works building in a bid to acquire the the State Patrol location, but the state never acted on that proposal.
Green differs. “The new Public Safety Building seems to be a done deal,” he said. “I still have misgivings. The justifications they gave for it didn’t sway me to support approval right now. Eleven million dollars is a lot of money. Had I been on council, I’d have been the lone ‘no’ vote on it. It’s just a premature decision; a lot more discussion and buy-in was needed.”
However, he said, “I’m certainly not an obstructionist. We have to respect the council’s decision, and press ahead in good faith.” He would have liked to see Black Hawk County Emergency Management located there as well.
Saul noted she’s been criticized for being too conservative in matters unrelated to city business. She opposed a $118 million September 2014 school district bond issue for a new elementary and high school, which was defeated, but she backed a smaller $32 million April 2016 plan for a new elementary school in the southwest part of the city. A slightly larger $35 million proposal also was defeated in July 2015.
She also expressed concerns about municipal elections taking a partisan turn, noting many Democratic officials supported Cornelius. She questioned whether they would now back Green.
“The amount of money being spent is a huge difference, as well as, I think, the tones of the campaigns,” Green said. “I know I’m nowhere near being the top spender in this race, and that’s totally fine. We can accomplish so much more without letting labels and identity politics get in our way, and I really want to model that on City Council.”
Green has said he hoped to court Cornelius supporters this time around. Cornelius said, “I am not officially endorsing anyone.”