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Joel Miller, candidate for Linn County Board of Supervisors District 2

Joel Miller
Joel Miller

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

Name: Joel Miller

Party: No party

Residence: Robins

Age: 63

Occupation: Linn County auditor and commissioner of elections

Education: Associate of applied science degrees in police science and electronics engineering technology; bachelor’s in liberal studies (pre-law)

Website: JoelMiller.us

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

• No new long term debt except for flood control or flood protection.

• Collaborate with Linn County’s cities and school districts to reduce overlapping services and associated costs.

• Streamline the County’s departments/offices to reduce costs while maintaining or improving legally required services.

How? Reprioritize spending. Quit building new buildings; repurpose existing buildings, if necessary. Sell off properties not required for county purposes. Get out of the land speculation and land development business. Stop handing out other-peoples-money (tax dollars) to nonprofits except in rare cases. Spend economic development funds on true “economic” projects.

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

The county’s current budget does not include one dime for flood control, protection or mitigation. If elected, I will push for joint flood protection/control by the City of Cedar Rapids and the county to protect the county’s buildings on May’s Island. I will create a permanent backup location for departments/offices that can be used when services are threatened to be interrupted by the flooding Cedar River or other events.

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?

When the voters reduced the size of the board, they reduced the cost of the board by about $250,000 per year starting on Jan. 1, 2019.

For over 100 years, the county had a three-member board, and the board functioned just fine. I believe the new three-member Board will function just fine, too.

For example, some of the current board have attendance issues. From January through August 2018, two supervisors were absent from 16 board meetings each. I don’t think that issue will occur with the new three-member board.

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?

During the flood of 2016, the county denied services to the public by evacuating the Public Service Center, the Juvenile Justice Center, and the courthouse; and banned public access to the Sheriff’s Office and jail due to a flooding Cedar River.

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Recently, a flooding Cedar River could have caused the county to shut down services once again. If elected, I will designate and equip a permanent backup location for the county to provide uninterrupted services to the public.

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

Combining county and city department that provide the same services could save tax dollars.

Consider: the county’s current assistant conservation director, risk manager and IT director previously worked for Cedar Rapids; and a former manager with the county’s Roads Department works for Cedar Rapids’ Streets Department.

If employees can seamlessly move between the county and city, why can’t two government departments providing similar services be combined? Efficiencies can be achieved and costs reduced if you inspect what you expect.

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?

The Board of Supervisors should vigorously lobby and build consensus to pass state legislation instead of challenging the Legislature as it has done in the past.

For example, there is no evidence that the county’s minimum wage law reduced the demand on county services as advertised by the board. Instead, it was election-year rhetoric that gave hope to people, was short lived and unenforceable. Don’t create laws when you don’t have the means to enforce them or the intent to enforce them.

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

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County management. Overall, the board has too many direct reports and too many management staff. If elected, I will review the organization starting with the number of employees reporting to each manager and deputy elected official, their duties and the costs of each position. I will find some managers that could be managing more and some managers who are really individual contributors, who should be reporting to someone else or their positions combined with another position.

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

No. But I will meet with the trustees in each of the county’s 19 townships and see what they think. At this time, I think the funding for rural road maintenance is sufficient. The question comes down to spending priorities and timelines. The trustees likely have a different view than a county engineer reporting the Board of Supervisors. A “meeting of the minds” might change some priorities and/or my mind.

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

Linn County owns a Juvenile Detention Center, and Johnson County has a contract for beds there, and thus Johnson County avoids owning it’s own Juvenile Detention Center. Johnson County owns an Joint Emergency Communications Center for emergency services and Linn County has three 911 call centers. Could Linn County reduce the number of its call centers by sharing services with Johnson County?

Johnson County needs a new jail. Is it time to move Linn County Jail from May’s Island and out of the flood zone? And create a regional jail? Could Linn County reduce jail costs by running/owning/sharing a regional jail?

How would you communicate with your constituents?

I enjoy face-to-face discussions in restaurants, standing in line at coffee shops, attending Rotary meetings or at church. I will continue to use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and my blog. Our communications department will continue to provide news releases. The most important duty is to be present. To be present and attend scheduled board meetings. To take turns with the other supervisors so at least one supervisor is in the office and available to the public during business hours.

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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.