116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
V Fixmer-Oraiz, 44, of Iowa City, is a Democratic candidate seeking one of two open seats on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in the Nov. 8 general election. Fixmer-Oraiz has not previously held elected office and works as founder and CEO of Astig Planning in Iowa City.
The Gazette posed a set of questions to Johnson County Supervisor candidates. Below is the transcript of Fixmer-Oraiz’s answers. Polls will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What do you think are the three most important issues the county is facing? What would you do to address them?
Fixmer-Oraiz: Affordable Housing. Out-of-state companies are buying our manufactured housing communities, then increasing rents and ignoring onsite maintenance. Owning or renting a home is out of reach for too many. I will continue to advocate for safe, affordable, and decent housing. Inclusive Economic Development. Our Black, Latinx, and immigrant residents are increasingly calling our county home and want to start businesses. We can create a more inclusive business community by reducing barriers and establishing multilingual, culturally competent county offices. Climate Change Sustainability & Resilience. We need to plan for a future where we are resilient in the face of floods, tornadoes, and public health pandemics. As an environmental planner, I have the experience to lead our preparations.
Do you support the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines? Why or why not?
Fixmer-Oraiz: No, I do not support the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines. We put ourselves and future generations at risk when we pipe dangerous and toxic materials through our towns and across our rivers. The risk of environmental damage and human toll is too great to justify this course of action. We need and deserve better, more sustainable solutions. As a private citizen, I protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. As an elected official, I will use any available resources of my office to fight CO2 pipelines and the use of eminent domain for their creation.
If you’re forced to cut the county’s budget, where do you look for savings? Why?
Fixmer-Oraiz: As a project manager, I look for efficiencies whenever possible. I believe in transparent evaluation and open communication in order to identify issues before they pose a problem. If efficiencies can be put in place or workplace systems can eliminate redundancy, that’s where I look for savings. As a small business owner, I see each staff member as a person who is responsible to their work and clients, and also to themselves and perhaps a family. I take the responsibility of supervising over 500 county employees very seriously.
How would you assess the long-term planning and vision of the county? Are there areas that you think should be planned for?
Fixmer-Oraiz: COVID-19 has exposed gaps in many of the social safety nets we count on in times of need. As an environmental planner with a specific focus on climate change impacts and social and racial justice, I see the need for a plan that will take into consideration the current climate change modeling, our built environment, and natural resources, all with a social justice framework. To truly create a long-term plan, we need a 50-100 year Climate Change Plan that looks at what is changing with the climate and who is being most affected. When we look at our county through the lens of those who are most vulnerable, we can easily identify the resources, relationships, and commitments needed to move forward in a way that builds safer, more sustainable communities for everyone.
What should the county's role be when it comes to affordable housing programs? Should there be additional partnerships with cities or other organizations? What other programs could the county implement to assist residents in need?
Fixmer-Oraiz: The county can further assist non-profits already engaged in affordable housing by stabilizing current resources and exploring additional opportunities to address unmet or emergent needs. Given the current crisis we are experiencing in our manufactured housing communities, I would like to see more focus on how to assist the communities being destabilized and displaced, while also looking to future options for affordable home ownership. One possibility could be to utilize county-owned land to create smaller homes that would be more affordable. These projects could be partnered with a number of nonprofits to assist with the creation, design, and development. With the political will, collaboration, and city and county resources, we can take much bolder steps toward housing affordability.
Does Johnson County need a new jail? Why or why not? If yes, should the county consider a multi-county facility? Why or why not?
Fixmer-Oraiz: Building a new jail would be a tremendous cost for county residents, so I would need to hear very significant reasons why it is a necessary investment. My background as a program manager leads me to back up and ask what the full range of options are. My background as a community organizer and advocate for underestimated people leads me to question what other investments could be made in our community to reduce our dependance on incarceration.
How should the county approach balancing the needs of urban and rural residents?
Fixmer-Oraiz: Regardless of what part of Johnson County you live in, you want and deserve a good quality of life. Having done a lot of work with farmers and rural residents, I am excited to work with all of Johnson County in a fair and welcoming way. I hear from rural residents that their needs take a back seat too often. I believe the county is responsible for investing in infrastructure and creating sound policy that balances economic growth with natural area conservation. There are often more options that we can see right before us and I look forward to listening and taking action.
Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors rejected the Sheriff’s request for a smaller armored vehicle. Sheriff Brad Kunkel has previously said he would not negotiate the need for an armored vehicle but would get rid of the MRAP if the smaller BearCat was purchased. What is your opinion of the need of these armored vehicles in Johnson County? Would you support a request for a smaller armored vehicle, why or why not?
Fixmer-Oraiz: I will not support the purchase or use of a militarized, armored vehicle. The right to assemble, free from state violence, is the cornerstone of our democracy. Arming our police force with militarized vehicles erodes our democracy. I have spoken with the Sheriff about this, and he feels that he needs this vehicle to protect his officers from armed community members. It is absolutely true that Iowa has incredibly lax and dangerous gun laws. Every single Johnson County resident deserves the safety that can come from a comprehensive approach to this issue -- gun control, access to safe and affordable housing, access to food and higher education, and the elimination of militarized vehicles in our police force.
What do you see as next steps for mental health services in Johnson County? What should the county do to continue providing resources and encourage them to seek those services?
Fixmer-Oraiz: Currently, much of the funding for mental health is held at the state level. We need more local control over these funds in order to support those that need mental health assistance in our county. Sadly, because of the isolation and trauma that many of us endured throughout this Covid-19 pandemic, because of widespread economic, political, and social anxiety, we need even more robust mental health support than ever before. I am really impressed with the progress we have made in expanding our investments and systems of response over the last few years. I will remain a fierce advocate for supporting and expanding mental health services wherever possible, and, as always, doing that with a careful eye on equitable access and outcomes for all.