Linn County Supervisor District 3 covers Marion, Mount Vernon, Fairfax and most county townships.
Name: John Harris
Occupation: Linn County supervisor
Education: High school diploma, some college
What are the three most important issues in Linn County, and how would you address them?
• Flood protection: How will the county participate with Cedar Rapids on flood protection? I believe the County should participate, but with the support of Linn County taxpayers. We must find a way to balance the county’s flood protection participation, keeping in mind it must be a total county expense.
• Taxes: We must maintain the county’s sound fiscal policies as we balance needs and wants.
• Public safety: Twofold answer — 1. Support the sheriff as he deals with the challenges of law enforcement, dispatch capabilities and jail staffing; 2. Continue to improve farm to market roads by improving rock quality, drainage and dust control.
What issues would you like to see the board push for in the coming two to four years?
What I’ve seen in the recent past is the deterioration of the quality of life for our population suffering from food insecurity, homelessness and shortage of affordable housing and safe neighborhoods. I think we need to take a hard look at these issues as we weigh our priorities in the coming two to four years. At the same time we need to maintain those areas where we are doing well, like Lifts transportation, Veterans Affairs, Options, General Assistance and support to our other Electeds.
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?
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The board is the legislative and the executive branch of county government. Given the expanded workload of three supervisors, it’s clear that some responsibilities will need to be delegated to staff. The board will not be able to delegate any of its legislative duties, so the executive responsibilities will be delegated. These responsibilities will be dependent upon each Supervisors strengths and weaknesses. How this all is accomplished will be determined on who the three supervisors will be.
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?
If the county spends over $1.5 million on any project, that amount must be approved by referendum vote. I believe the county has some responsibility regarding flood protection, but the level of such protection will most likely be determined by the voting public.
How well does county government work with city governments within the county? Are there efficiencies that can be achieved with intergovernmental agreements?
The county has an excellent rapport with the municipalities around the county. These municipalities do an excellent job of self-governance, and require little interference from the county. However, each of these cities knows if they require help and assistance from the county, they need just contact us and there is help available.
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 responsibility of operating county government is a huge responsibility, and will be even more so when there are three supervisors. I believe that state matters should be handled by the state without interference from the counties. That being said, the county does have a responsibility to communicate our needs and opinions to our state legislators. The county should go its own way by concerning itself with county matters.
If you’re forced to cut the county budget, where do you look for savings? Why?
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There is no easy response to a question like cutting the budget. I believe the county is being managed efficiently without much waste at all. Cutting the budget would require the review and cooperation of every department manager and elected official. I do believe, however that priority should be given to preserving public safety, mental health and general assistance budgets.
Do you think the county should increase spending on rural road maintenance?
I think improvements on rural roads, including better drainage, better rock and expanded dust control can be accomplished under present budget levels. Secondary Roads budget is augmented by the local-option sales tax, as well as the increase to the gas tax. I have confidence Secondary Roads management can step up and make needed improvements under current budget levels.
Would you favor the regionalization of some services? If so, which ones?
I would support regionalization that makes sense. I still support the regionalization of mental health services. I do not have any candidate departments or functions that would prosper from joining together in a region.
How would you communicate with your constituents?
Be available. Answer their phone calls. Attend their meetings. Go where they ask me to go and check on matters important to them. I spend a part of my time on-site with citizens who are looking for a solution to their problem. The door to the supervisors’ offices is open and we are available to meet with anyone who needs to talk with us.