Tuesday, January 12

Viewpoint: The Johnson County Supervisor's Race

Janelle Rettig, Lori Cardella, and Jim Knapp are running hard for the Johnson County Board of Supervisor's vacancy. As such, the campaigning has turned bruising. This is politics--opposing ideas attempting to find concensus.

As a progressive, it would be difficult not to support Janelle Rettig as she is the only true progressive candidate running for the office. What makes the endorsement of Rettig easy for me is that she is the only candidate that has a track record of supporting a human rights ordinance in the county to make sure all residents have the same rights and has fought for sustainable land use and worked for well over a year to secure the support for a land conservation bond issue that passed with over 60% of the voters. She is not a "one trick pony." Add to this that she has studied, participated in boards, and worked for former Congressman Leach and dealt with constituent issues, she understands how policy is made.

Added to this is her commitment to Johnson County as a place where quality of life is part and parcel of "economic development." Taken on the face, Johnson County is the home to a state university and whose largest employers' jobs are in human and educational services. Additionally, it is a destination for retirees and mid-career professionals who seek quality of life issues such as good schools, excellent health care, and recreational amenities. Add to this a mixture of service workers from lower SES to upper middle class who see Johnson County as a more affordable, growing community with opportunities, then you could imagine the importance of amenities like recreation areas, trails, parks, senior services, schools, and the arts.

On the other side of the ledger as the area continues to grow, there are growing pains and conflicts in values. It makes sense to elect people who appreciate diversity of thought as well, and it is a compelling argument to say that a county that has had one party running the show may be seen as being insensitive or uncaring of differing viewpoints. But this may be overstated by those who see themselves as representing those opposing viewpoints.

Partisan politics means that elections have consequences. People vote the way they do for many reasons, not the least of which is they desire the same things that candidates are campaigning on. For opposing views to be successful, they have to understand and articulate what a majority of voters desire and run for office to support those views. Once elected though, those same persons have the responsibility to serve all constituents.

The good news about this special election is that there are two candidates, Lori Cardella and Jim Knapp, who express those opposing views and are campaigning for them. Credit should go to those who petitioned for a special election, and hopefully the state statutes will be changed or be made more specific about when it is appropriate to appoint or hold elections. Whether they are in step or out of step with the majority of voters in the county will be known on January 19th. But it should be noted that they are acting with the same sense of conscience as Janelle Rettig is in standing in opposition to them.

I fully expect that with a reasonable turnout, that Rettig will be handily elected and that it will remove the perceptual "whammy" that being originally appointed has created for her. As both Cardella and Knapp have committed to running in the November election, I sincerely hope they do a good job in listening to all residents of Johnson County, as they have said they would. Perhaps then their message of fiscal conservatism will have to reckon with a constituency that wants to maintain a quality of life. It's a tough balancing act, and frankly, I think that is why Janelle Rettig is so formidable an opponent, she understands this already.

But it is now our responsibility to vote our values and to do it between now and 9 pm on January 19th.

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