DISTRICT 2: STACEY WALKER IS READY TO LEAD
In a rare open race for the Linn County Board of Supervisors, voters in Linn County’s 2nd District will choose between two young Cedar Rapids natives who clearly care deeply about the region they call home.
Adam Jensen, running as a Republican, is a veteran Army medic with an impressive history of exceeding expectations in school and in his career. Democrat Stacey Walker has an equally impressive resume, and also has taken a lead role in tackling some of the community’s most complex problems. While we strongly encourage Jensen to explore ways to bring his talents to public service, Walker earns our endorsement in this race.
Walker has done his homework regarding the duties of a county supervisor, and placed thoughtful consideration behind promises of fiscal responsibility, economic development and numerous other campaign buzz phrases.
We are impressed by Walker’s leadership on the Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Task Force and believe the information he’s gleaned about poverty and violence can be put to good use at the county level. Through this and other work, he has nurtured a vast and diverse sounding board of citizens — people he plans to consult regularly and encourage to be more active in local government.
Walker says he’ll practice “human-centered economic development” that includes citizen impact in cost-benefit analysis. Investments in public transit, walkability and community amenities are a core part of that plan, intended to entice younger, skilled workers into Linn County or encouraging them to stay.
District 2 includes the heart of downtown Cedar Rapids, the main Kirkwood campus and College Township south to the county line. There is no doubt that Walker has done the leg work and is knowledgeable on issues that impact these constituents. We encourage him, if elected, to continue to listen, especially to the rural residents he’ll also serve.
DISTRICT 3: BEN ROGERS’ DRIVE FOR IMPROVEMENT
During the past four years, Linn County District 3 Supervisor Ben Rogers has proved to be a thoughtful, process-oriented county supervisor.
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He assisted with the transition from a county-based mental health/disability services structure to a regional system and helped minimize potential negative effects during the county’s transition away from sheltered employment for some workers with disabilities. He’s been the driving force behind a county initiative to apply business strategies to process improvements in order to streamline services and improve customer experiences.
Rogers has an impressive list of goals for the next four years, if voters decide to return him to office. We think they should.
Like his fellow Supervisor Brent Oleson, Rogers told our board that he is committed to forging a more professional and productive working relationship with Linn County Auditor Joel Miller, who handily won a primary contest earlier this year and faces no opponent in the general election. That pledge is critical to our endorsement.
Rogers also should pay special attention to some of the criticisms raised by his opponent, Tim Gull, a farmer and small business owner who gave voice to concerns that are not uncommon among the voters of Linn County.
Gull told us he is concerned about fiscal responsibility and the future tax burden on property owners. He questioned county expenditures that seemed nonessential and supervisor salaries that seemed to him “outrageous,” especially given what he described as a vague job description and lack of payroll records. In short, he cast a small-businessman’s eye on the workings of the board and found it to be wanting in clarity, focus and restraint.
Rogers told us it is his goal to increase public awareness of the roles and responsibilities of supervisors. That’s clearly needed. But it will be equally, if not more important, for him and other supervisors to listen.
Shorter wait times and streamlined permitting processes are important. Further improvements, such as allowing residents to apply for permits and pay taxes online, are welcome and a good service to the people of Linn County. But always, elected officials must be mindful of connecting with constituents, making clear the reasons for decisions, and listening to, not dismissing, their concerns.
DISTRICT 4: BRENT OLESON PUSHES FOR PROGRESS
The race in Linn County Supervisor District 4, two-term Supervisor Brent Oleson, a Democrat from Marion, is being challenged by Randy Ray, a businessman, teacher and coach from Cedar Rapids. They’re vying to represent a district including Central City, Marion and Bertram.
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We like Ray’s enthusiasm, and the fact that he chose to run for public office to give back to his community. But we don’t think he makes a compelling case for booting the incumbent. So our endorsement goes to Oleson.
Oleson refers to his leadership style as “pushy,” and we appreciate the direction he’s pushed the county on several issues. Soon after joining the board in 2009, he became a leading voice for changing the budgeting process and ending the practice of built-in, automatic increases. Departments now must do far more to explain and justify the need for spending.
Oleson has led the charge to put renewed emphasis on outdoor recreation and environmental protection. We think his push to expand Morgan Creek Park ahead of an expected development explosion along the new Highway 100 corridor was a visionary move. As are his efforts to find more resources for water quality initiatives along the county’s rivers and creeks.
He’s been an advocate for improved regional cooperation in his roles on the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency and on the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization. He’s been a strong supporter of the Prospect Meadows Ball Fields, an ambitious effort which promise to bring tens of thousands of visitors to the region.
We also were heartened to hear Oleson talk about building a more “constructive” relationship between the supervisors and other county elected officials, including Auditor Joel Miller. Supervisors and the auditor have clashed over the years over issues both substantive and petty, with embarrassing and counterproductive results. Oleson made it clear in our endorsement interview that Miller clearly has the support of voters and he, for one, is willing to back a cease fire.
Ray criticized Oleson for switching parties from Republican to Democrat last year, arguing that the supervisor has tried to pull one over on voters. Oleson’s split with the GOP, over mostly state and national issues, was well-publicized. And considering the fact we’ve advocated in the past for county offices to be nonpartisan, we don’t see his switch as relevant to his performance as supervisor.
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