County districts best option; more engagement needed

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A sliver of Linn County voters decided Tuesday to keep the current representation plan for the Board of Supervisors.

The choice of requiring supervisors to live in a district and be elected by residents of that district was, in our opinion, the best way to mitigate a potential lack of rural representation when the board shrinks from five to three members next year. It also was an expensive proposition for county residents.

About 9,300 residents participated in the special election, which came with a $250,000 price tag. That’s roughly a 6 percent voter turnout — thousands fewer than the signatures gathered to call for the election. To put it another way, it cost the county roughly $27 per vote.

More than 70 percent of those voters indicated the county should keep the status quo.

It’s an expense that could have been avoided. A majority of supervisors already had established a redistricting committee to review possible maps based on the current representation model. As has repeatedly happened in the past few years, continued distrust and turf battles among county officials derailed the least expensive path forward.

Now that 6 percent of voters have spoken, the plan can continue.

As we’ve argued before, reducing the number of supervisors almost certainly will lead to fewer rural and suburban residents elected to the board. And while the finalized redistricting plan likely will produce one rural/suburban district, that representative certainly will serve alongside two urban counterparts.

It remains a less than ideal option for those who once wanted more geographic and ideological diversity in county government. And yet it is the best of the remaining worst options.

Cedar Rapids is home to 60 percent of Linn County voters, and it soon will return to comparable dominance on the Board of Supervisors. It’s difficult to believe that’s what residents of rural Linn County wanted, but it is what rural voters approved.

Ensuring one supervisor is elected from a non-Cedar Rapids district will at least keep the appearance of shared governance.

No matter how future districts are drawn, residents outside of Cedar Rapids will need to consistently and effectively engage with county officials if they want their viewpoints heard.

Isolated actions, like signing a petition, won’t be nearly enough if voters aren’t willing to follow through.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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