CEDAR RAPIDS — Supervisors James Houser and Stacey Walker are facing off for the second time this year, with the winner of the Nov. 6 election securing one of three seats remaining on a smaller Linn County Board of Supervisors.
While Houser points to his over two decades on the board as qualification for another term, Walker argues he initiated more progress in the county in his first two years as a supervisor.
In individual meetings with The Gazette editorial board, both candidates to represent District 1 made their case for another term on the board.
Walker, who in 2016 became the county’s first African-American supervisor, pointed to his efforts in addressing poverty, flood protection and health care — what he identified as the county’s three biggest challenges.
“I think I’ve done a pretty good job on a number of these issues and so I’m running for reelection because I want to finish the job,” he said.
Houser, who lost to Walker in the June Democratic primary but in August changed his affiliation to no-party, said he has the experience to serve on the board.
“I bring the most valuable experience with 23 years on the Board of Supervisors,” Houser said. He pointed to his work on the county opioid task force, efforts to advance flood protection and support of the county’s customer service initiative as recent achievements.
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Both supervisors noted health and flood protection as county priorities. But one area they differ on is on addressing neighborhood gun violence, following recommendations made by the Safe Equitable and Thriving Communities, or SET, task force, which studied youth gun violence in the wake of a series of fatal shootings.
For Walker, who has championed the task force, the county needs to take action on cyclical poverty, with or without financial support from the city of Cedar Rapids and the Cedar Rapids school district.
“I think it would be a disappointment for the community that we couldn’t get these major stakeholders to play nice with each other and agree on plan to move forward, but we’ve got to do something,” Walker said. “If it is the case that we can’t get to an ambitious implementation framework, then I’m prepared to just have the county try to do this work.”
Houser, on the other hand, said that while he supports addressing poverty, he would be reluctant to have the county go it alone. He also argued that other factors are to blame for some violent incidents here, including people from out of town.
“That is really not in the wheelhouse of county government, to hire a person to be specific to gun violence issue within one of the cities in our county,” he said. “That’s one of the goals of county government, poverty and homelessness that is our main objective, but I think if we look at where the people are coming from that are doing a lot of this gun violence, they’re coming from outside of our community — they’re not Linn County, Cedar Rapids citizens, that were born and raised here — they’re coming in from, a lot of times Chicago, trying to set up their gang activities inside our community.”
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