The Hot Beat


The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him:

My goodness is Brian Gardner confident!

In an almost monotone voice that exudes inevitability, candidate for Linn County sheriff Brian Gardner continues to make the same point leading up to the Tuesday primary. It boils down to this (and I paraphrase): You would be an idiot not to vote for me.

Gardner’s opponent, Bill Elam, is not doing a good job of rebutting this, at least not publicly.

Gardner is third in command in Don Zeller’s generally well-respected sheriff’s office. He speaks and acts on behalf of the sheriff regularly, he has a long list of impressive credentials and he says frankly that he’s always wanted to be sheriff, spent his career training for the job and now knows that he’s ready.

He enjoys broad support. Everyone from City Council Member Brian Fagan to Mount Vernon businesswoman Mary Quass to Rich Patterson of the Indian Creek Nature Center has contributed to his campaign. Also: Linda Langston, Amy Boyle, Joan McCalmant, Mary Lou Pazour, Rich Mahaney and many others. Michael Carr, the Linn County jail administrator, donated $500 to Gardner’s campaign. I called him to make sure the name and address listed on Gardner’s campaign finance report matched the Michael Carr who operates the county’s extremely cost-effective jail.

It did. “He’s the only candidate, as far as I’m concerned,” Carr said.

Elam, a deputy who mans the metal detector at the entrance to the county courthouse on most days, would appear to have an uphill battle. He’s not a polished public speaker, his basic campaign message is that the troops under Zeller and Gardner aren’t happy and need to be, and he’s dogged by Audrey Rahn, a Cedar Rapids resident who’s still angry about Elam’s role in an infamous dog castration in the early 1990s.

But Elam has been able to raise some money and he’s got one group firmly behind him: the unions. The Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 125 and four other union groups including the IBEW Educational Committee in D.C., have donated to his campaign fund.

Whoever wins on Tuesday will face former Cedar Rapids Public Safety Commissioner David Zahn.


Filed under: County Government, , ,

Sterzenbach drops the rural urban bomb

Should Linn County supervisors answer first to rural residents even though most people in the county live in the Cedar Rapids metro area?

That was one of the questions Norm Sterzenbach asked at a forum for Democratic candidates on Wednesday. Here’s what they said.

– District 2 Democrat Bernita Rozinek, of Ely: supervisors should first represent their districts. 

– District 5 Democrat Larry Wear, of Center Point: just remember there is a Linn County outside of Cedar Rapids.

– District 4 Democrat Don Gray, of Central City: a lot of supervisors will serve both rural and metropolitan areas.

– District 5 Democrat Jim Houser, of Cedar Rapids: actually Linn County spreads more gravel on rural roads than any county in Iowa.

In the midst of that, Supervisor Lu Barron, of Cedar Rapids, rose to her feet. Smiling stiffly, wearing a teal jacket and holding a sheet of paper in her right hand, the District 1 Democrat gave an answer that steadfastly refused to acknowledge either the legitimacy of the question or the historic changes this primary represents:

I believe our job is to represent all the residents of Linn County…no matter where they live.”

Strictly speaking, she will not represent all Linn County residents. In the county’s new political landscape her District 1 constituency will consist only of Cedar Rapids residents.

They  will decide — not voters from Walker, Prairieburg or Mount Vernon — whether it is she or Cary J. Hahn who wins the election on Tuesday, and so it will be they she represents.

Filed under: County Government, , , ,

Is Linn County urban or rural?

Obviously it doesn’t have to be one or the other, but again, I’m looking for people’s ideas on this question. The primaries are less than two weeks away, and this election year is the fruition of a long struggle for rural residents who want more representation in county government.

This November, Linn residents will elect five supervisors instead of three and they will choose them by district instead of at-large. The idea was this: more supervisors + election by district = more chance of their being a rural resident elected to the Board of Supervisors. We’ll see what happens, but this is a rural vs. urban question. Should farmers be given a spot on the BOS simply because they’re crucial to the county’s economy? Is farming crucial to Linn County’s economy?

This is not a poll (I learned my lesson last time). It’s just a way to get a sense of what some people think.

Filed under: County Government, , ,

Barron says no to Cary J. Hahn emceeing Memorial Day service

For several years, former KGAN-TV “Iowa Traveler” Cary J. Hahn has emceed the Cedar Rapids Metro Area Veterans Council Memorial Day service, scheduled this year for Monday at All Veterans Memorial Park.

But this year, Hahn is running for a seat on the Linn County Board of Supervisors, and he won’t be allowed to emcee the event.

AM radio station KMRY 1450 is broadcasting the event, as it has for a few years. Because of equal time rules governing radio broadcasts, they had to check with Hahn’s primary opponent, Supervisor Lu Barron, to see if it was OK for them to allow Hahn to speak at the service.

“She told us she would have difficulty with that,” said Kevin Alexander, KMRY’s station manager.

So Hahn will not be emceeing the event. Instead it will be Veterans Memorial Commission member Peter Welch.

Hahn has already taken a leave of absence from FM station KCCK 88.3, where he hosts a show called Big Band Memories.

“I just said, ‘Why don’t you just do what KCCK did?'” Barron said.

Equal time rules require that radio and TV stations that broadcast non-news events featuring political figures offer equal time to the candidates’ opponents.

“It gets really into a pickle during election time,” Alexander said. “We don’t make the rules, we just have to live by them.”

Barron and Hahn are squaring off in the June 3 Democratic primary for District 1, the only Linn County supervisor district confined entirely to Cedar Rapids.

Filed under: County Government, , ,

You weigh in: Miller or Hanson?

Who’s going to win and why? Also, does this race matter? Why? Why not? Trying really hard to get some comments here. Please help.

Filed under: County Government, , ,

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