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Linn County Supervisors prepare for eventual change

Linn County voters decided in November to shrink the Board of Supervisors from five members to three. In August, they overwhelmingly decided to create three districts, requiring supervisors to live in the district they represent, and only allow the people who also live in that district to elect their own supervisor.

Linn County voters decided in November to shrink the Board of Supervisors from five members to three. In August, they overwhelmingly decided to create three districts, requiring supervisors to live in the district they represent, and only allow the people who also live in that district to elect their own supervisor.

It’s the outcome many supervisors wanted, but they say it’s far from perfect.

“There’s a lot of taxpayer money spent outside the metro area,” said District 5 Supervisor John Harris. “At least one voice making as much noise as they can supporting what goes on outside the metro area, I think that’s a very good thing and sometimes that’s a squeaky wheel that eventually gets the grease.”

Harris’ district is called “The Donut” because of the way it stretches around Cedar Rapids and covers much of what is not urban Linn County.

Before the board increased to five members, Supervisor Brent Oleson says all three at-large supervisors at the time were much more well-versed on and involved with Cedar Rapids issues.

“When it came to budget times, some of the first things cut were rural roads and small town libraries,” said Oleson.

Five members, with districts making sure at least two members represented rural areas, changed that.

Supervisor Stacy Walker represents District 2, which is mostly southern Cedar Rapids.

“It’s extremely helpful to have those voices on the board because we’re here to solve problems so I need to have an understanding from Supervisors Harris or Oleson as they need to have an understanding of some of the people who live in the urban areas in Linn county,” said Walker.

All the supervisors’ terms end in 2018 so they can run for the three remaining seats again, potentially against outside challengers and likely against each other.

“There will be some good people with a lot to offer that won’t be back,” said Oleson. “This will be Survivor Island, County Politics version.”

Extra salt in the wound might be the fact that the special election cost about $200,000 to hold for only a little more than 6% of the eligible voters to cast a ballot.

Oleson and Harris say it’s frustrating, but it’s democracy.

“That quarter of a million dollars could have been used for playgrounds, paving a mile of trail, or buying more wetlands for farmers’ water quality,” said Oleson.

“It was expensive, but when you have a group of people decide that they don’t like the way things are working and they want to stop and let the voting public vote if they want to change it or not, that’s the way our government works in the grassroots and I can’t fault that at all,” said Harris.

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