Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2018

What about plan two?

By Brooks Taylor


Mt. Pleasant News

In 11 days (Aug. 2), those who have not already voted by absentee ballot will have the privilege of voting on the future selection process of the Henry County Board of Supervisors.

Plenty has been written and said about the election. One group is adamant about retaining the status quo (candidates running at large and elected through an at-large vote or plan one on the ballot). Another group wants supervisors to run by district and elected by a district vote (plan three on the ballot).

What comes between one and three?

Plan two or the neglected plan whereby supervisors run by districts and are elected through an at-large vote.

Seemingly, plan two is a compromise of plan one and three. That is why I am surprised we hear so little support for plan two.

I am not here to endorse a vote for plan two. Your choice is fine with me and I am certain you do not need my advice on how to vote.

However, the more I think about it, the more plan two makes sense. One of the major arguments for plan one is that all voters have a voice on the composition of the supervisors. Plan three’s supporters say it is the best plan because it ensures rural representation and also eliminates Mt. Pleasant owning the three board seats as it does now under at-large candidacy elected through an at-large votes.

Having heard both sides present their plans several times and having published over 10 letters on the subject, I still have not had this question — what is wrong with the status quo? — answered.

That takes me back to the old cliché that if something isn’t broken, it doesn’t need fixing.

Another question I haven’t had answered is how Mt. Pleasant benefits from all three supervisors living within the city limits.

These are county, not city, supervisors, elected to serve the residents of the county no matter where they live. The City of Mt. Pleasant receives no county funding for capital projects, equipment, police protection and salaries, all of which combine to occupy the lion’s share of the city budget. The county does give some funding to the city library, as it does for every library in the county. But beyond that, the city virtually receives no funding for the county. So how can the city benefit from having a majority of the board?

Secondary roads, meaning county roads, and salaries are two of the major items in the county budget. Just one county elected official, I believe, other than the supervisors lives in Mt. Pleasant, so the salaries from the other elected officials are being spent in other communities as well.

Over the years, I have reported on supervisor meetings from six Iowa counties. Some elected supervisors by district through a district vote, some by district through an at-large vote and others on at-large candidacy through an at-large vote. It never was apparent that one mechanism was better than another.

I do agree with a statement during presentations at a recent meeting. It was said that plan three is the first step toward enlarging the board from three to five members. That statement has some credibility because if districts are created, I fear that soon it will be said that the rural districts are too large and more rural representation is needed. Enlarging the board by two members will cost county taxpayers about $100,000 a year, according to county officials.

There are only two drawbacks I can see in plan two. One is that all cities and the county will have to redraw precinct or ward boundaries and secondly, attracting qualified candidates in every district.

It has been mentioned during the presentations that Mt. Pleasant Community School directors are elected by district. Four of the directors are elected by district, the remaining two through an at-large vote. Recent discussion at board meetings, however, suggests that might be changing. Mt. Pleasant Superintendent Dr. John Roederer has urged board members to take a long, hard look at the current method of selection.

Each of the three plans has merit, but most important is that the best candidates are selected to govern the county.