By Katie Gienapp
In a rare occurrence, a University of Iowa student will vie for a position on the Iowa City City Council.
Ryan Hall, a 24-year-old undergraduate, decided to run for the Council District B seat after realizing two-term Councilor Susan Mims was unopposed.
“I thought that it may be time for a new voice, a student voice, and so I’d been searching for a candidate,” Hall said. “My friends were pointing the finger at me.”
Hall’s platform includes sustainability, student involvement, economic justice, and racial justice.
“A lot of economics is racial justice,” he said. “If we improve upon wages, and housing, and transportation, then we’re building up our people and helping lift them up out of poverty.”
Hall also aims to advocate for a higher minimum wage throughout the University of Iowa and Downtown Iowa City area. Meanwhile, he plans to push for affordable housing and address social issues. Because Hall identifies as queer, he hopes to counteract the trend of mental illness and addiction in the LGBTQIA population.
“I find a very safe place in this community, and I want to build on that,” Hall said. “There’s still a lot more to work on in terms of mental health, in terms of building up those who are most vulnerable to the ills of society.”
Currently, the UI Student Government’s City Council liaison represents UI students on the council. This year, Benjamin Nelson assumed the role, having had experience as last year’s vice liaison to the City Council.
Nelson said the City Council liaison emerged as a compromise between the City Council and the UISG. Instead of permitting an undergraduate student to assume a role as an active councilor, the council allows a UI student to represent fellow students during council meetings.
Nelson believes that the liaison would remain relevant if Hall is elected.
“We represent University of Iowa undergraduate students; Ryan Hall would represent District B,” he said. “The Student Government does not endorse students, but we are glad to encourage student participation in all levels of government.”
He noted that while a city councilor with a student perspective could be “helpful,” the UISG remains impartial.
While Hall is aware of the liaison position, he believes that the City Council should reflect the large student population through proportional representation.
“I think it’s great what the liaison position does, and it’s the beginning of the bridges that we’re trying to build between the university and the city itself,” Hall said. “We need to expand on that.”
While an active student presence on the City Council would be new, City Councilor Kingsley Botchway believes student representation on the council is always necessary and helpful.
“We have a substantial student population, so it’s very important to the fabric of Iowa City that our students are well-represented,” Botchway said.
Hall hopes his campaign will encourage more members of the student population to participate in the political process.
“We need them now more than ever if we are to build any sort of movement that gives us power,” he said. “That provides equity and justice in a tangible way.”
UI student Ryan Hall is running for the City Council District B seat in November’s election.
He hopes to address sustainability, student involvement, economic justice, racial justice, and social justice. The latter term is not listed on his platform.
City Council liaison Benjamin Nelson, believes a student perspective could potentially be helpful, but he emphasized UISG’s impartiality.
Mayor Pro Tem Kingsley Botchway believes students should be well-represented on the council.