Iowa City resident Mazahir Salih, president of the Eastern Iowa Center for Worker Justice, announces her candidacy for city council at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center on Monday, March 6, 2017. (The Daily Iowan/James Year)

Iowa City City Council candidate Mazahir Salih hopes to bring diversity to council

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If elected, she would be the first Muslim woman and immigrant on the council.

By Sarah Watson

sarah-e-watson@uiowa.edu

“I represent people who are underrepresented,” Mazahir Salih, a candidate for the Iowa City City Council in the upcoming election, said on her website. “I consider myself a bridge builder, because I bring many different sides together.”

Salih is running for one of two at-large seats and would be the first Muslim woman and immigrant to serve on the council. Salih immigrated to the United States in 1997 from Sudan, where she worked as a civil engineer. She gained U.S. citizenship in the early 2000s.

She met her husband in Virginia  and moved to Iowa City seven years ago. She received a degree as a medical technician from Kirkwood and an early childhood education degree from Ashley University. In Iowa City, she helped cofound the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa.

“The people of Iowa City included me in our community and made it possible for me to include others, too,” her website states.

RELATED: Salih to run for City Council

Her main platform issues are affordable housing, economic development, fair wages, transportation, and supporting diversity and community inclusiveness.

With affordable housing, she encourages all that the Iowa City municipality has done, such as the Affordable Housing Action plan, but she wants to continue funding for more affordable housing.

She said she wants to make creative solutions her priority, looking to situations such as the Forest View Mobile Home Court, where developers and tenants were both able to be involved in the discussion.

“My biggest issue is affordable housing. I’ve fought [for] it myself, and I always think we don’t have to be trapped in the old way of doing things,” she said. “Everyone in the community has creative solutions to things. It’s just a matter of bringing the table together, and I think I have this ability.”

For the economic development of Iowa City, she wants to direct funding for more projects that give workers higher wages. She wants to emphasize economic opportunity for people of all incomes, building on her work in the Center for Worker Justice, where she fought for equal rights of immigrants and advocated for businesses in Johnson County to commit to a $10.10 minimum wage.

“I see people who don’t have enough time to spend with their children to be successful at school because they work two jobs,” Salih said. “And then the poverty cycle continues.”

RELATED: Mazahir Salih aims to bring rights, advocacy to City Council

As for transportation, she wants to re-evaluate the public-transportation system in place and use her experience as a Sudanese civil engineer to help provide a solution for the system. She said she wants to expand transportation services for evening, night, and weekends.

“I’ve been talking to low-wage workers and talking to businesses,” Salih said. “I met with the business association, and business owners said they can pay the minimum wage, but they cannot always find people because workers cannot find transportation on Sunday.”

Her third platform issue is supporting more diversity and inclusion in Iowa City and protecting people suffering from injustices. She also said she wants to hold community translated events so that there are no limitations, such as language, for people to participate in Iowa City City government. She would like to build on her work at the Center of Worker Justice, which, in addition to promoting fair wages, also works to end discrimination.

“Knowing all this, I could really bring this community movement for ideas and solutions to the City Council table,” Salih said. “I am really passionate about it; I want to do it.”

 

Fast Facts

  Age: 44

  Experience: Civil Engineer, Sudan; Community Organizer, Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa

  Education: Civil Engineering Degree, Sudan University of Science and Technology; Early Childhood Education, Ashley University; Electroneurodiagnostic technology degree, Kirkwood Community College

  Seat Seeking: At-large

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