Yesterday’s election of Lauren Whitehead to the Solon City Council represents a turning point in local political activism.
Whitehead campaigned diligently in an environment where city residents sought to become more active in politics after the 2016 general election.
What she accomplished by activating local voters serves as a model for the Iowa Democratic party’s future — a bottom up organizing effort focused on local issues. Some issues, like curb and gutter infrastructure, would not have come to the forefront if she had not raised them. Voters cared about issues Whitehead raised.
Whitehead did things that are absolutely necessary for a candidate to win, the sine qua non of getting elected. Most importantly, she worked in the community to meet residents and explain her campaign. Her work serves as an example of what is possible with a solid candidate among citizens seeking to articulate their frustration with the electorate that gave us our 45th president.
That’s not to say City Council work will be easy. Council had been slow to address infrastructure issues, which were an important part of the campaign. After voters rejected a $1.35 million ballot initiative to purchase a building to serve as city hall and a community center in 2011, they spent more to acquire property and build the current city hall. Likewise building the city’s required drinking water capacity has been delayed. The city has been bumping its debt limit in recent years despite reasonable management of city finances. Debt incurred for existing projects restricts council’s ability to make new plans. To make a difference, Whitehead needs time to learn about the current financial structure, retire old debt and implement her ideas. That includes getting re-elected in November when her current term expires.
Those of us who know and have worked on campaigns with Lauren feel good about the election results. Even though the sun is setting on the type of political activism in which she came up, if we look east, a new day is coming.
Lauren Whitehead represents the future of what politics can be. The Iowa Democratic Party would do well to pay attention.