What are the three most pressing issues likely to face your government body during your term, and what specifically would you support to address them?
Ewoldt: Economic development is always important and the board needs to continue to work with all municipalities in the county to attract new and expanding businesses to enhance our tax base. There are a number of groups with which the board should keep close ties, such as Bi-State Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Quad-City Development Group. This will enable all communities throughout the county to benefit from potential development.
A new or expanded jail must be a part of any future board's consideration. This issue needs to be reviewed in-depth, and needs, as reflected in the pending citizens' advisory-board report, must be considered. Appropriate action can then be taken.
Continuing to work cohesively with all county department heads, regardless of political affiliation, is vital, in order to continue fiscal responsibility and keep tax rates down.
Hancock: Cost impact of the increasing jail population. The board established a Community Jail and Alternatives Advisory Committee made up of citizens from the community; representatives from the judicial system, law-enforcement community, and county support departments; and various people from mental-health and substance-abuse agencies. This diverse community group is working to identify and address criminal-justice-system issues and outcomes that impact the jail and to develop solutions that are practical and owned by the community. The board is updated periodically on the committee's efforts and expects a comprehensive recommendation in early 2002. Our various alternatives to incarceration to mitigate the number of inmates required to be housed in out-of-county facilities include a case expeditor, case management through a court-compliance officer, electronic monitoring, pre-trial release, community services, and expanded substance-abuse treatment to reduce recidivism.
Increasing space needs by the courts, county attorney, and sheriff's department at the courthouse. A 10-year space-utilization master plan is being implemented on a pay-as-you-go basis, which will move non-court and -law-enforcement departments out of the county courthouse to the Bi-Centennial Building. This will also allow for improved security at the courthouse and more secure, efficient prisoner movement from the jail to the courtrooms.
Continued technology upgrades and training. A computer-network study is currently underway and should be completed for the board's review and consideration during the upcoming Fiscal Year 2002 capital-improvement budget process. The board wishes to enhance public accessibility to the county's electronic databases and work toward improved e-commerce for various governmental transactions for its citizens.
Rhomberg: Jail - $48 million debt? No, thank you! The jail issue is driven, in part, by a Department of Corrections rule that allows only 40 percent of prisoners to be housed outside of the "hard lock-up." Thus, only 80 people can be housed in the jail annex on North Tremont Avenue. First, we need some relief from the rule. For several years, four-fifths of the board were members of the same party, all but one of the county legislative delegation were the same party, and the governor was a member of that party, too. What we need for short-term relief is a rider to a bill exempting Scott County from the rule for a short period of years. We could immediately reduce crowding by placing additional beds at the North Tremont annex. Long term, I favor cooperation with Davenport in a joint complex from Harrison to Ripley Street. A new law-enforcement center, with Davenport carrying its financial share, will give the county an opportunity to add 20 to 40 cells to the present jail complex. Costs must remain as low as possible. Further aggressive use of the alternatives to incarceration programs, which seem to be working, is imperative.
Begin a critical review of the 1987 Wong Space Needs Study. This adopted plan has committed the county to a $14 million remodeling project at the Bi-Centennial Building and courthouse. Completed before anyone knew how the Internet could improve our access, it tries to deal with the many people who must visit the courthouse to access records, apply for licenses, pay fines, etc. I propose that every public record in the courthouse and every transaction be made available online to any computer and that the need for expensive remodeling be reviewed to see if the demand for on-site services still exist.
Coordinate regional transportation services. Rock Island has one transit system, Davenport has another, and Bettendorf offers a third, all on different timetables. I think we should be able to get on a bus at North Scott High School and arrive in East Moline without having to reinvent the wheel! (Pun intended.) This is an issue all can support, and it will begin to draw governments together through cooperative efforts.
Schaefer: The county has, as its current Top Priority Targets, the jail direction; facilities/space-plan finalization; and economic-development direction. These priorities are established by the entire board in January, every two years as a new board is seated. These priorities are set after input from our facilitator and county department heads, as well as the Supervisors. Target issues are set, and Action Plans are established and reviewed quarterly. I will obviously review each of these issues seriously and respond accordingly. I want to be sure all public input has been received before making my final decision.
Differentiate yourself from your opponent(s) on three issues you think are important that you also expect your governmental body to consider during your term.
Ewoldt: The Juvenile Detention Center is an important issue that needs to be addressed. I have toured this facility and can see the need for improvement. What is needed and how this will be accomplished would need to be reviewed by the entire board.
I would look at all issues, weighing the pros and cons, and make decisions based on the facts and what I feel is the best for all citizens of Scott County.
Hancock: Develop a good employee-retention program to attract and train quality employees. To continue to deliver our services in a nonpartisan way. Continue our effort to target our most important needs and direct our resources toward them.
Rhomberg: I seem to be the only candidate that feels we deserve much better government that we get. Without criticizing any individual member, one can say that the history of the board has been a serious lack of action. Look at Linn County (Cedar Rapids) or Polk (Des Moines) and see county boards that vigorously develop outside capital for local projects. Des Moines already has its new convention center using outside funding; Cedar Rapids is ready to start its Rain Forest tourist attraction. Scott County itself is last out of the gate and far behind with Vision 2000 or on any other aggressive funding searches. I seem to be the only candidate promoting citizen access and review of decisions. Change the meeting time from 8 a.m. because the public can't attend. Go cable! I seem to be the only candidate favoring (or discussing) improvement of emergency-response/rural-ambulance services
Schaefer: I cannot speak to what other candidates think are important issues, but I feel three other issues that need to be addressed are employee retention; emergency medical services; and the bridge-development schedule.
List three specific programs or projects for which you would support increasing funding, even if it required reducing funding to other programs or projects.
Ewoldt: Not being part of the county governmental process, it is difficult to make any comment on what needs are more or less important or could use more or less funding. All requests would have to be reviewed and decisions for funding based on merit.
Hancock: Inherent in your question are a couple of misleading assumptions. One assumption is there are things we as a board should be providing citizens that we are currently not providing. The second assumption is some of our programs are unneeded and unwarranted. I'm not sure either is true. Through the county's budgeting process, the board constantly looks at how our tax dollars are being spent and whether or not we're getting maximum return on those dollars. We maintain a constant vigil.
Rhomberg: Yes, for rural ambulance, county library system including commitments to Eldridge and LeClaire for their new libraries, and development of 21st Century Internet access to data and records.
Schaefer: With the budget process we have in place, all programs and their funding are reviewed by the staff, analysts, and board. These are very thorough, in-depth analysis methods from which final priorities and funding are determined. After these items are adopted, there is a continuous year-round review schedule in which changes can be made if circumstances require it. This system has resulted in Scott County being awarded the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. Scott County is one of only two counties in Iowa to receive this award and has done so for the past 10 consecutive years!
List three specific programs or projects for which you would support decreasing funding, regardless of whether the budget required it.
Ewoldt: Even though I have spent a great deal of time reviewing the current budget for Scott County, it would be precipitous of me to comment on projects or line items that could be reduced in funding.
Hancock: See response to previous question.
Rhomberg: Yes, for "remodeling." $300,000 per bed for juvenile detention is too much. $1 million for rent/remodeling for temporary office space is too much when we own usable property on 5th Street next to the courthouse that could be rehabbed, used for a few years, and turned back to the neighborhood. $14 million for remodeling the Bi-Centennial Building and courthouse is too much.
Schaefer: See response to previous question.
If it were clear that a large majority of people in your district opposed a proposal that you strongly favored, what decision would you make and how would you justify it to your constituents?
Ewoldt: If I have done my research, listened to both pro and con on any issue, I should be able to defend any decision I have made, regardless of its popularity. It is also important to be sure that decisions were made for the majority, not just the vocal minority. I would stand by my decisions because I would make them based on facts, not emotion or popularity.
Hancock: Go with the people.
Rhomberg: "Always let your conscience be your guide." - Jiminy Cricket. Our task is not to represent the staff or the dealmakers, but the people. The staff and dealmakers are paid full-time to push their issues. We're paid part-time to make sure the people don't get burned. I'm willing to be persuaded by the constituency, but in the end, I have to live with the man in the mirror. I feel I am a good man to represent families and working people. That's where I'm from.
Schaefer: I would definitely respond to a majority of citizens in the county if their viewpoint differed from mine. We are elected by the constituents to serve them. The important factor required is to determine if a majority view is truly being represented or only a vocal minority is seeking influence.
What specific proposals would you support to bring genuine economic growth - new jobs that pay well, companies committed to the community - to the Quad Cities?
Ewoldt: Making specific promises or proposals at this time would just be political rhetoric. Board members need to work as a team with the entire board and other governmental bodies to be sure decisions are made to benefit the residents of the county. However, we do need controlled growth throughout the county. I think the board should actively support such groups as the Quad-City Development Group, Bi-State Metropolitan Planning Commission, the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greater Davenport Redevelopment Corporation, the various chambers of commerce and any other group promoting the Quad Cities for development.
Hancock: I would continue to support the experts, like the Quad-City Development Group, an entity with a proven track record in bring new businesses to Scott County. For the record, the director is a former Scott County supervisor. He understands our needs, and we work well with him.
Rhomberg: Let's recruit a world-class technical/electronics school - a DeVry or something on that level. With skilled graduates, high-tech business will begin to look at our area as a desirable place to locate - without TIFs.
Schaefer: The county, during the past several years, has played an important role in providing funding to many projects in the county and area, both directly and through established organizations such as the Quad-City Development Group, Bi-State Commission, Convention and Tourism Bureau, and the Greater Davenport Development Group. We have also made interest-free loans available (Eldridge Spec Building) and helped provide bond underwritings that have resulted in millions of dollars in county business expansions. I would support the continuation of this funding, based on the merits of each individual request. We also are presently funding, in cooperation with DavenportOne, Davenport, and Bettendorf, the application to the Vision Iowa Program that will distribute millions of dollars to approved projects throughout the state, and hopefully in our county.
List specific proposals that would improve cooperation and reduce competition among government bodies in the Quad City area.
Ewoldt: It is important to encourage all local governments to work closely with nonpartisan groups such as Quad-City Development Group, Bi-State Metropolitan Planning Commission, and others to bring development to this area. Growth affects more than just the community in which the new business is located; rather than each municipality struggling on its own, they should work together for the good of all.
Hancock: Supporting organizations such as the Quad City Visitor's Bureau, Bi-State Planning, and Quad-City Development definitely improves cooperation and reduces competition, because they inherently breed harmony, have a broad view, and focus on region.
Rhomberg: The cities, county, and school boards should immediately inventory all available property and designate areas that legitimately qualify for TIF incentives. Right now, business approaches the cities and cuts their deal. The county and school boards have to agree; if they don't, they're "standing in the way of progress." Give the cities additional bargaining power by initiating the incentives ourselves - "Here is truly blighted property, here we will do TIF. There is not blighted, there we won't."
Improve regional transportation services as outlined in the first question above.
Schaefer: I currently serve on a county committee that meets regularly with representatives from the City of Davenport and the Davenport School District. We exchange ideas and seek ways that may be jointly beneficial to us in either cost-savings or improved cooperation on projects. I would like to expand this program to include other cities and school districts in the county. Through 28E agreements, the county is able to share and cost-save on projects that are beneficial to both the county and other government entities in the county. These are routinely performed now, and are a good form of intergovernmental sharing.
List any specific proposals you would support to improve the integrity of your legislative body, including in the areas of campaign-finance reform, lobbying reform, sunshine laws, and ethics legislation.
Ewoldt: Campaign-finance, lobbying, and ethics are areas that are covered by state laws. It is necessary to work with local legislators to increase the dialogue between county and state government and to review and make changes to these laws as the need arises. Ethics should be kept at the highest standard possible to keep honesty and morality at the forefront of government.
Hancock: I have long been a proponent of campaign-finance reform. Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors does not have the legislative power to enact such legislation. Presently we simply have gentlemen's agreements, which seem to disappear when the gentleman is behind in the polls. I support strong campaign legislation. I also support sunshine laws in certain regulatory areas. Sunshine laws require us to revisit certain topics and determine whether or not the legislation was appropriate and should be continued, or perhaps modified or permitted to lapse. However, I have long felt that laws and systems are not nearly as important as the people holding the responsibility to lead. Individually we must continue to avoid not only conflicts of interest but also the appearance of conflicts of interest. My fellow supervisors and I should continue not to make policy or enact ordinances that might benefit or favor us individually.
Rhomberg: My campaign started with this issue. Most people don't know what the county board does because the board does very little to encourage participation by its citizens. I have suggested changing the meeting from 8 a.m. Tuesday to a time more accessible to the public. The board has not considered this proposal. I have suggested that the board use public cable-access TV to allow citizens an opportunity to watch their meetings. Nothing. During the primary campaign, one supervisor said he was going to try to set up a program where high-school students from the county would be invited to attend meetings. Nothing happened. Over the past few months, I met with North Scott High students in their homes to help them on the trigger-lock safety issue they wanted to present to the board. Everyone was pleased to make a successful presentation at the board's October 10 meeting. It can be done. It takes commitment and work, not just words.
Schaefer: Many of these issues are state and/or federal issues that we can influence only through lobbying or legislative changes. During the legislative sessions, the county participates in joint legislative discussions with all elected representatives of our county, cities, and school districts. This is beneficial for the input of all of us. I would also suggest that the county board increase its personal interaction with county legislators to help produce legislation that serves us well, and prevent mandated and nonfunded state legislation.
What proposal(s), if any, would you support to relieve overcrowding in the Scott County Jail?
Ewoldt: There is currently a committee of Scott County citizens looking into the different types and costs of incarceration. Until their report is available, I am not personally sure of the needs of the county, whether more facilities or better use of existing buildings are the answer. We need to look at the trends of jail population and reflect on how they will affect needs in the future.
Hancock: See the first paragraph of my answer to the first question.
Rhomberg: See the first paragraph of my answer to the first question.
Schaefer: The current Community Jail and Alternatives Advisory Committee has been meeting for the past several months. This committee consists of approximately 30 individuals representing a broad range of viewpoints and knowledge. It consists of judges, law-enforcement officials, legal representatives, drug - and alcohol-abuse officials, and county staff and administration, along with several appointed citizens from neighborhood and church groups. County-board members are excluded from the group. The committee is studying current jail and crime trends, the effects of alternatives to jail incarceration (court-compliance officer, substance-abuse services, electronic monitoring, pre-trial release programs, etc.), and security issues. Their report is due in spring 2000, when they will offer their direction on facilities and programs to the Board of Supervisors for review and action.
What are the three most pressing issues likely to face your government body during your term, and what specifically would you support to address them?