Linn County Supervisor District 3 covers Marion, Mount Vernon, Fairfax and most county townships.
Name: Brent Oleson
Occupation: County supervisor; attorney
Education: University of Iowa, bachelor’s of political science, communications; University of Iowa College of Law, Juris Doctor
What are the three most important issues in Linn County, and how would you address them?
• Transportation: The Tower Terrace Road interchange has now made it in the State of Iowa’s five-year funding plan for fiscal years 2018-2022.
• Parks, trails, water quality and recreation: We must continue to invest in our parks, trails, waterways, and recreational opportunities. Linn County passed the $40 million Water and Land Legacy bond which will significantly help in this area. It is important to make Linn County a great place to live, work and play.
• Fiscal responsibility: Linn County is in great fiscal condition. The general levy rate of 5.84 per $1,000 is the second-lowest rate among Iowa’s urban counties. We must continue to budget for priorities and not be all things to all people.
What issues would you like to see the board push for in the coming two to four years?
• Tower Terrace Road and interchange completion
• Water and Land Legacy park, trails, and water quality investments
• Jail enhancements
• SET Task Force
• Budgeting For Outcomes
• Mount Trashmore and Site One operations
• Public transit
• Law Enforcement and Public Safety Regional PSAP study
• Regionalization of Mental Health and Development Disability Program
• LC3 Linn County Customer Centered Culture — Investment in HR
• Linn County/Regional Access Center (mental health, psych, etc.)
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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?
This is a step backward for the county. Having only three members will make it difficult to communicate and put forward a dynamic agenda for Linn County. Rural Linn County and the non-Cedar Rapids communities will lose representation, and Cedar Rapids could effectively dominate county government and our bonding capacity could be captured for only Cedar Rapids infrastructure projects. I will work to protect our county budget and agenda from moving away from core county functions.
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?
This will be the most important issue facing the three-member board. At a minimum, the county must protect May’s Island, which houses Linn County’s courthouse and jail. Cedar Rapids will ask the county to help fill its $78 million funding gap, and the board will have to determine the most appropriate process for using county bonds to assist in this critical infrastructure project. Flooding events are occurring more frequently and the need for flood protection is becoming more urgent.
How well does county government work with city governments within the county? Are there efficiencies that can be achieved with intergovernmental agreements?
Linn County works well with almost every city government within the jurisdiction of Linn County. The Linn County and City of Cedar Rapids relationship needs improvement. The City of Cedar Rapids has a tendency to want to control every project or just want county money for a project, rather than a partnership of equals. If flood control, transportation, infrastructure, and other meaningful projects are to get done, we must move to a cooperative and equal relationship.
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?
We should always try to work together, as a partnership that is meaningful, substantial, and with respect for each of the jurisdictions. Sometimes that simply is not possible and when it is not, the county should move forward on its own. We did this with the $40 million Water and Land Legacy Bond referendum. We may have to do that with SET Task Force as well. Good ideas should not have to wait forever to get unanimous support from politicians.
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If you’re forced to cut the county budget, where do you look for savings? Why?
Our county budget is in very good shape because we do not try to be all things to all people. We have had to say “no” to many proposed projects and programs from cities and from well-meaning groups. The county must stick to its core functions and responsibilities, tracking with its strategic plan, and understanding that the taxpayer cannot be an unlimited supply for government spending. Prioritization of issues and projects and sticking to that is key to keeping spending in check.
Do you think the county should increase spending on rural road maintenance?
The county spends the maximum amount authorized by the Legislature on rural roads. In addition, 50 percent of the local-option sales tax goes to rural road maintenance. Linn County should continue to spend the maximum amount allotted on rural road maintenance and secondary road construction.
Would you favor the regionalization of some services? If so, which ones?
Mental health programs have been regionalized. Public transit systems should be regionalized. Emergency and law enforcement communication systems should be regionalized.
How would you communicate with your constituents?
I communicate with my constituents via mail, phone, social media, email, and every Friday having on-site rural road and zoning appointments at my constituents homes, farms, roads, or properties. I will continue to be accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week if re-elected as supervisor.