In the District 3 race for Linn County Supervisor between Democrat Brent Oleson and Republican John Harris, we found our most agonizing endorsement decision.
In the end, our endorsement goes narrowly to Oleson.
The tiebreaker for us was Oleson’s remarkable record on conservation, recreation and environmental protection. He was a driving force behind a $40 million conservation bond issue overwhelmingly approved by county voters in 2016, providing dollars for numerous projects affecting water quality and runoff. His efforts to expand county parks and protect natural areas from encroaching future development have put Linn County in a position to have one of the state’s best outdoor recreation systems.
At a time when politicians often are too focused on the next election, Oleson has taken the long view with efforts that will have generational effects.
“The parks are for every citizen. We have so many natural resources and outdoor recreational opportunities in Linn County we just simply need to unlock them,” Oleson told our editorial board.
Harris, a former Palo mayor and council member, has displayed a strong commitment to the personal, face-to-face and nuts-and-bolts aspects of county board service. We’re struck by his ability to work collaboratively with fellow supervisors, even when he comes out on the short end of a vote. He opposed using a lease-purchase agreement, rather than a competitive bidding process, to build the county’s new public health facility. Now, he’s committed to making the project work.
“The most important thing is getting it built right,” Harris told our editorial board.
We were critical of Oleson and the board’s lease-purchase plan. But Oleson’s rationale for pursuing that course — to make sure the maximum amount of local labor was tapped to build the project — is laudable. And although it drew the ire of state lawmakers, it’s worth noting the current General Assembly has been openly hostile to local government decision-making on multiple fronts.
Oleson and Harris each said the county should participate in funding a flood control system in Cedar Rapids, so long as county voters go along with any bonding needed to make it happen. And both pointed upstream of the city, where Oleson noted county-backed runoff control efforts and Harris said residents who may be affected by downstream walls and levee measures should have a say.
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Differences between the candidates are few. Harris and Oleson had nothing but praise for one another during interviews. Voters in District 3 will be well-served by either. But we, like voters, have to choose, and our nod goes to Oleson.
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