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Three with UI connections win Iowa City City Council seats

BY ASMAA ELKEURTI | NOVEMBER 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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Former University of Iowa student Raj Patel hoped to make history by becoming the first student to take a seat on the Iowa City City Council in decades.

Patel's electoral hopes were dashed Tuesday night when he narrowly lost the race for one of two at-large City Council seats. However, despite Patel's loss, the university will be well-represented on the new council.

With Michelle Payne, Rick Dobyns, and Jim Throgmorton winning City Council seats, there are three new members of the University of Iowa community in city government.

Payne, who takes classes part-time at the university, said she feels she can represent students as a city councilor.

"I think it's exciting I'm going to be able to be a representative of the students at the university as well as the nontraditional students," said Payne, who works at MidAmerican Energy. "I'm going to do my best to represent all students and the Iowa City community while I'm on the City Council for the next four years."

Before Tuesday night's election, only one member of the UI community was represented on the council. Councilor Mike Wright works at the Main Library. He chose not to run for re-election this year.

Dobyns, a UI clinical professor of family medicine, was running for the second time; his run in 2007 was unsuccessful. With Throgmorton — who is a professor emeritus of urban planning — Dobyns' win puts two UI faculty members on the council.

"I've studied urban issues my entire adult life, and I've taught urban planning for 24 years — probably more," Throgmorton said. "I think that's pretty substantial."

Dobyns said he is in contact with faculty from both the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as UI Hospitals and Clinics.

"I've been at the university for years, so it's a unique qualification for me. I know researchers on both sides of the river very well," he said. "I can work as a bridge between the city and this community."

But Dobyns said he does not necessarily see himself as representing the UI.

"I don't represent the University of Iowa," he said. "I think I can sell the city of Iowa City and encourage people who will do start-up businesses that are based on university research and encourage them to have their businesses in Iowa City."

Mayor Matt Hayek — the lone incumbent in Tuesday's race, who easily won re-election — said he feels the university is an important part of the Iowa City community.

"What the university does affects the rest of the community. We are intertwined and share many things," he said. "I think it's always a good thing to maintain strong ties between the town and gown elements of the community."

But, he said, representation remains to be seen.

"I think with any new council, you have to integrate the new members into the system and solicit their input on all of the issues and develop a rapport," he said.

Throgmorton said his teaching experience could carry over to his work on City Council.

"I think it's important to promote long-term sustainability," he said. "I taught about that for 15 years."


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