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Ben Rogers, candidate for Linn County Board of Supervisors District 2

Ben Rogers
Ben Rogers

Linn County Supervisor District 2 covers northern Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Robins and Monroe Township.

Name: Ben Rogers

Party: Democrat

Residence: Cedar Rapids

Age: 38

Occupation: Linn County Supervisor

Education: Bachelor’s, political science, University of Iowa

Website: benrogers.org

What are the three most important issues in Linn County, and how would you address them?

• I am creating a behavioral health access center that can divert individuals seeking treatment for their mental illness or substance abuse away from emergency rooms and jail. This access center is being created in partnership with Linn County, law enforcement, area hospitals, mental health and substance abuse providers. This will become one of Iowa’s first access centers.

• Linn County being involved in flood protection for downtown Cedar Rapids and Linn County infrastructure on May’s Island. We need to protect our homes, businesses and valuable infrastructure.

• Investing in quality of life initiatives to make Linn County a great place to live, work, play and raise a family.

What issues would you like to see the board push for in the coming two to four years?

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• Flood protection for Cedar Rapids and protection of the Linn County Courthouse and Linn Linn County Correctional Center on May’s Island

• Partnership between Linn County, the City of Cedar Rapids and CR School District to study and address systemic issues related to poverty and violence in our community through the Safe, Equitable and Thriving Task Force

• Continue Linn County’s Customer Centered Culture initiative to make county operations more efficient

• Invest in quality of life opportunities

The size of the board will reduce from five members to three at the start of 2019, how does this impact the board? How would having a three-member board change your approach as a supervisor?

I believe the workload, committee assignments, meeting schedules, constituent outreach and time demands will increase once the board is reduced to three. The work demands of five will now be the responsibility of three. Two Supervisors will not be able to discuss county issues or policy outside of a public meeting as that is now represents a quorum. Rural residents will have less representation so it’ll be important for the three Supervisors to be responsive to rural concerns and issues.

What should the county’s role in flood protection be? Should the county pursue flood protection measures and, if so, how would you do so?

Counties are limited, by state law, to bond up to $1.5 million for a project of this type without a vote of the people. The city of Cedar Rapids has not made a formal request to Linn County for financial assistance for flood protection, so an amount is not known at this time. Linn County would need to place any bond measure for flood protection on a ballot for residents to approve. We must protect May’s Island which houses the Linn County Courthouse and Linn County Jail.

How well does county government work with city governments within the county? Are there efficiencies that can be achieved with intergovernmental agreements?

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Linn County has built and maintained positive working relationships with each municipality in the county. We’re sought out by municipalities to partner in economic development projects and quality of life opportunities. We have many intergovernmental agreements, called 28E’s, that are partnerships between municipalities that oftentimes create greater efficiencies, less duplication, increased communication and outreach. I’ll continue to build relationships with each municipality in the county.

Should the county push the envelope with state matters or with multi-jurisdictional issues? When should the county work with other entities and when should the county go its own way?

Linn County has pushed the envelope recently with trying to increase the minimum wage and construct the new Public Health building with a Lease Purchase Agreement. On multi-jurisdictional matters, like the SET Task Force, Linn County wants to study and address systemic issues of poverty and violence with Cedar Rapids and the CR School District. We always seek to partner and collaborate before taking on an issue alone, but we are prepared to take lead on this issue because it must be addressed.

If you’re forced to cut the county budget, where do you look for savings? Why?

I would advocate a collaborative approach with the Board of Supervisors, county department heads and elected officials to identify discretionary, non-mandated and nonrevenue generating programs as the first places to cut. Linn County’s Budgeting for Outcomes process sets the dollars we can spend before the budgeting process begins and we are able to make decisions based on those projections. This allows for greater flexibility if we are forced to make cuts during the budgeting process.

Do you think the county should increase spending on rural road maintenance?

For many years, the Linn County Board of Supervisors has transferred the maximum amount allowed by law to the Secondary Roads Fund. In addition, a large portion of the Linn County Local Options Sales Tax is dedicated to rural road construction, improvement and maintenance. Linn County’s rural roads are among the best in Iowa and our Secondary Roads department has a five-year construction and maintenance plan to ensure our rural roads help farmers feed the world.

Would you favor the regionalization of some services? If so, which ones?

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Linn County is part of a nine-county region that provides Mental Health and Disability Services. Regionalization of these services has been a great benefit to smaller counties who did not have a wide variety of these critical and necessary services available for people with mental illness and disabilities. Regionalization demonstrates that government works best, when it works together.

How would you communicate with your constituents?

One of the most important duties of an elected official is being accessible to your constituents and communicating with them regularly. I communicate with my constituents by email, phone, in person, at my office and through social media. It is not uncommon for constituents to approach me at a restaurant or the grocery store! Being accessible and addressing their concerns or questions is a critical component to being an effective and responsive supervisor.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.