Staff Editorial

District 2 Supervisor: Experienced leaders needed to address mental health crises

Linn County's Jean Oxley Public Service Center, 935 2nd St. SW, in Cedar Rapids on Oct. 3, 2018. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)
Linn County's Jean Oxley Public Service Center, 935 2nd St. SW, in Cedar Rapids on Oct. 3, 2018. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)

In the District 2 race, we endorse incumbent Supervisor Ben Rogers.

Rogers was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. He faces Linn County Auditor Joel Miller, running as an independent, in the newly formed district, which includes Robins, Hiawatha and portions of northern Cedar Rapids.

Rogers’ interest and expertise in issues related to mental health and substance abuse is badly needed at this moment, as Iowans consistently say crisis intervention services need more resources at the state and local levels.

Rogers has led the charge for establishing a behavioral health access center in Linn County. That facility would divert intakes to the county jail and local medical facilities, which often are unfit to handle such cases and ultimately drive up local governments’ expenses.

Rogers has shown himself to be a diplomatic pragmatist as the county deals with contentious state legislative issues.

With the state government taking steps to expand access to crisis services — including a new law calling for six state-supported behavioral access centers across Iowa — we hope Rogers will refocus his outreach to state policymakers. In doing so, the county may be able to maximize state support for a worthy project, and also help ensure county and state governments are not duplicating their efforts.

Rogers also has emphasized the need for the county government to improve relations with other local governments.

That commitment will be crucial as the Cedar Rapids City Council pieces together funding for its planned flood protection measures, likely facing a $78 million shortfall. Rogers is open to asking voters through a bond referendum whether the county should made a significant contribution.

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In a county where no-party voters outnumber Republicans and Democrats, we admire Miller’s decision to run as an independent candidate. Miller has pitched himself as a taxpayer watchdog, vowing to uncover inefficiencies and misspending within the county government’s $111 million annual budget. It’s a noble and worthwhile endeavor, but it’s also something he can do in his current role as county auditor.

No matter who wins in November, we have no doubt Miller will carry forth his mission of closely scrutinizing the county’s finances.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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