The authors of this column all participated in changing Linn County government in 2006 by bringing about an election to change from three to five supervisors. As a new election is before us to change back to three, we feel it is important to remind people why we felt it so important to have five supervisors 10 years ago and why it is even more important today.
That 2006 election was about representation for all Linn County residents. Rural residents and those living outside Cedar Rapids felt at the time they were not adequately represented by the three supervisors who were all residents of Cedar Rapids. Historically, there have been rural and urban dynamics that have required different solutions an different perspectives. Ten years later, with five supervisors, the issue of representation seems to be working well and, we believe, most people feel better about how they are represented by the board of supervisors.
One of the main points made back in 2006 was, because of state law, with only three supervisors, any time two of them met to discuss business, it was considered a quorum and, therefore, it became an illegal meeting. Imagine the difficulty of dealing with county business when two supervisors can’t even meet in an office to discuss possible solutions or to bounce ideas off each other. That problem has now magnified with the Iowa Supreme County 2016 decision in Hutchison v. Shull that made it illegal for a supervisor to even use an administrator as a conduit to pass along information to another supervisor on a three-=member board. WE believe it is important to have supervisors who are able to discuss business without constituting a quorum/ Tow members of a five-member board can do that, but two members of a three-member board cannot.
At the time of the 2006 election, our groups always felt the supervisor positions should be part time and the proposal we made at the time was to take the salaries of the three supervisors and divide that into the five supervisor salaries. The sitting supervisors at that time did vote to become part time, solely so it would not be a re-election issue. Shortly after the election, however, they reinstated themselves to full-time status with full-time pay. Now their individual salaries are over $103,000 a year. This has become a distraction from the original intent of representation by five supervisors.
Because of the salary controversy, there are now two issues that have the voters confused and concerned: 1) Representation of rural and urban constituents and 2) the salaries of supervisors. We hope the voters can separate the two issues because the ballot item deals only with representation. The salary issue can be resolved by electing people who will reduce the supervisor position to part-time status and reduce the salary commensurate with part-time status. The representation issue is too important to be entangled with the salary issue.
Keeping five supervisors is important for all Linn County residents.
Bernita Rozinek Ford