Concerned Citizens of Linn County, led by Kevin Kula of Coggon, have a long list of grievances against the Linn County Board of Supervisors. The group contends the board isn’t responsive to issues raised by residents, and its members’ six-figure paychecks are too high, among other issues.
But instead of pursuing campaigns to oust individual supervisors, the group mounted a petition drive to shrink the board from its current five members to three. Those petitions prompted the supervisors to put the question on the November ballot. But a three-member board would be less responsive, less geographically diverse and less representative of the county’s suburban and rural residents. For those reasons, we oppose the ballot measure and support keeping a five-member board.
It’s been just 10 years since voters expanded the board to five members. Back then, the three-member board was comprised of three Democrats from Linn County. Rural interests, including the Farm Bureau, saw expansion as a chance to break the Cedar Rapids lock.
The board now includes a Republican from Palo representing much of rural Linn County and a Democrat from Marion representing Bertram and Central City, alongside three seats held by Cedar Rapids Democrats. Going back to three supervisors, whether they be elected in districts or at-large, virtually guarantees a return to a board with three Democrats from the county’s largest city.
We think the five-member board has made progress in bringing significant change and innovation to county government. We haven’t agreed with every decision, but going backward won’t solve the county’s problems and challenges.
It’s hard to imagine that smaller board will be more interested in issues raised by concerned citizens from Coggon, Central City or other communities outside Cedar Rapids. Concerned citizens from outside Cedar Rapids, it seems to us, would have even less of a voice in county decisions.
As for the pay issue, we simply don’t think the savings gained by shrinking the board outweigh the damage that would be done by making county government less representative of its citizens. We dispute the notion there’s not enough work for five supervisors in Iowa’s second most populous county.
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We admire the petitioners’ effort and wish more citizens would get involved in local government. But this effort smacks of punishment without benefit. Maybe you want to vote the proverbial bums out, but trading better representation for less representation is a bum steer.
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