The Hot Beat

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

The supervisors’ side of things

To be fair to Supervisors Linda Langston, Jim Houser and Lu Barron, there is a coherent argument for them to have done what they did on Tuesday.

It’s this: We don’t believe the job is or ever was part-time, we only made it part-time for political reasons, and now we’re clearing the decks for the new five-member board to start over with the Compensation Board and reset our salaries at whatever is appropriate.

Langston argues that though the move to repeal the part-time resolution looks bad, it is necessary.

This is where people disagree.

So, question number one: Is the job full time?

If the answer is no, then of course the supervisors screwed up by repealing the resolution.

But the supervisors have been fairly consistent in insisting that the job is full time.

“I don’t have any belief that this is going to be any less than a full-time job,” Langston said in March, the day she announced that they would pass the resolution to make the job part-time. She said candidly that the resolution was “the only way around the laws that exist” for them to lower the pay in response to public wishes.

If the supervisors are right, and yes, the job is full time, then, question number two: Was it necessary for the supervisors to repeal the resolution halfway through the fiscal year, thus giving themselves and the two new supervisors a $9,000 raise over what they would have made in the next six months?

This question is more difficult for the supervisors to answer.

Instead of repealing the resolution on Tuesday, and making the March charade entirely meaningless, they could have conceivably resolved to repeal the part-time resolution on June 30 (the end of the fiscal year), and allowed the Comp Board to set their full-time salaries effective July 1.

That way they wouldn’t have had to go back on their March decision and wouldn’t have given themselves a “raise” over the next six months. But they still would have made the job full-time and given the Comp Board the opportunity to decide a full-time supervisor’s salary for the fiscal year that starts July 1. (Just to be clear, what the Comp Board decides in February will have no bearing on the next six months. It will apply to fiscal 2010, which starts July 1.)

Meanwhile, the words of Dave Machacek, who lost to Houser in the Nov. 4 election, sound awfully prophetic. He was there on the day the supervisors passed the part-time resolution, March 10, 2008.

“Why do they have to be cornered before they act?” he said. “All this is a political ploy to take the heat off their backs until after the election.”

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Supervisors: Merry Christmas to us!

The Supervisors will on Tuesday decide whether to repeal a March resolution that turned them into part-time employees of Linn County, effective Jan. 1.

If they repeal it, the new Board of Supervisors will start Jan. 2 with salaries of $89,522 each.

The part-time resolution was the only way for the supervisors to reduce their own salaries after a heated, tangled controversy in which the county “Compensation Board” gave them a 6 percent raise even though the board of supervisors is expanding from three to five members.

Public outcry was significant. The Comp Board (it’s a 7-member board appointed by the elected officials whose salaries it decides) decision was particularly frustrating to those who’d pushed for a five-member board thinking it would mean the salaries of the three supervisors would be split among the five.

The supervisors (who made no argument to the Comp Board for their salaries to be cut) at first pinned responsibility on the Comp Board, then tried to get the Comp Board to reconvene and cut their salaries. When the Comp Board refused, the supervisors passed a resolution making themselves part-time, a move they said would reduce their salaries to about $70,000, but not until the five-member board took office Jan. 2.

It was a jerry-rigged solution, but it put the controversy to rest, or at least on simmer, through the primary and general elections.

Now, two days before Christmas and 11 days before the new five-member board takes office, the supervisors might repeal the resolution.

If they do in fact repeal it, their salaries will be restored to $89,522 per year unless the Comp Board decides to cut their wages. This has never happened before, but Linda Langston said the new board will meet early next month to forge a recommendation for the Comp Board.

Unless they recommend a cut, and the Comp Board accepts the recommendation (those are both pretty big ifs), the supervisors will have received not a single paycheck under the reduced salary.

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A dunk tank for the supervisors

Representatives for the Linn County Fair Board complained Monday that people don’t think to attend the July county fair because it’s located in Central City.

People don’t realize it, said Fair Board Treasurer Jennifer Dunn, but Central City’s only 20 miles away, and it’s all four-lane road between Cedar Rapids and there. She suggested there be a “supervisor of the day” at this year’s fair (five days, five supervisors), perhaps to drive traffic from all parts of the county.

Hey, whatever works.

Lu Barron was noncomittal (she needed to check her schedule to make sure there was no conflict with the National Association of Counties annual conference).

Jim Houser had an idea. He suggested, with a grin on his face, that the fair get a dunk tank for the supervisors. You know, the kind where a metal target is connected to a seat over a tank of water. People pay to throw a ball at the target, and when they hit the target, the seat drops out from under the person sitting on the seat, sending them into the water.

Linda Langston chuckled.

“We hope it’s a hot day,” she said, “’cause we’ll spend a lot of time in the water.”

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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.

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