On the Forum

“If Virtue and Knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslav’d. This will be their great Security”. Samuel Adams (1722-1803), in a  letter to James Warren, February 12, 1779

Last week I attended the Candidate Forum hosted in Winterset by the Farm Bureau. Those in attendance were candidates for Madison County Supervisor Joan Acela (by petition), Brandy Macumber (R) and Joyce Kooker (D). Bob Duff (R) had to cancel due to illness. Also there were the candidates for State House Julian Garrett (R) and Tim Pierce (D), as well as State Senate Kent Sorenson (R). Incumbent State Senator Staci Appel (D) declined the invitation to attend the Forum via email. Calls to her office were not returned.

Questions asked of the County Supervisor Candidates:

  • Are we on track with the courthouse dome cost of over $1 million: all candidates in attendance agreed it was a long-overdue repair that was necessary. Macumber says that they will be using 20% of the 1% sales tax. Acela proposed setting up a 503c so people can donate to the repair as well and get a tax write-off
  • What would they recommend for the next project to use the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST): Kooker said to upgrade the heating and A/C; Macumber said we already had a new boiler installed, so maybe new A/C and handicap access. Acela said to install better handicap access
  • How will they stay connected with constituents, given the fact that not everyone can attend their morning meetings:  Acela said to have open forums in different towns, Macumber said to have evening forums, Kooker said anyone can call her cell or office number
  • Given the growth of northern Madison County due to people moving from West Des Moines, do they support increasing the number of supervisors to five: Kooker and Macumber were in support.  Acela was not due to increased cost, but maybe in future if revenues could justify
  • What are their feelings about the amount of benefits and reducing them to lessen burden on taxpayers:  Kooker agreed that the benefit packages offered are too generous and need to be reduced. Macumber and Acela agreed, but noted to do so also involves negotiating with unions, which takes time. 
  • Do they support tax incentives for businesses to move into Madison County: Macumber and Kooker are in favor, but would want to investigate terms first. Acela was opposed, because everyone else pays their sales tax. However, she would still review the option if approached.
  • Does the county have too many employees: Acela said that the Supervisors work a kind of Human Resources for the county, and they are not hiring, nor are there areas to cut. Macumber agreed that the county was keeping staff low, and Kooker could not see anywhere else to cut.
  • Do they have any influence on school spending or budgets, to increase efficiencies and reduce property taxes: All candidates said no, and said that this burden is on the legislature, which passes unfunded mandates that are passed onto the schools to implement.
  • Do they support the creation of a regular maintenance fund for repairs: Acela said that there are 2 schools of thought: either return any unused taxpayer funds to the taxpayers as they are currently required to do, or keep a fund. Macumber said that attempts have been made to fix, but some repairs cannot be planned for. Kooker said that the infrastructure has just been put off for too long due to lack of funds.
  • Are they in support of local control for factory farming:  Kooker is in favor, but need legislature to support. Both Macumber and Acela are in support.

Questions asked of the Legislative Candidates:

  • Are they satisfied with how the State Revenue Conference works in helping establish the state budget: Garrett and Sorenson said yes, as it just shows the current state of finances so a budget can be determined. However they mean nothing if we cannot rely on our representatives to pay attention to them. Pierce stated that they are using numbers that no one can predict.
  • What is your position on attending legislative forums for the public: All said they would have them and attend.
  • How else will you keep in contact with your constituents: Pierce said he has email and is not afraid to contact an engage people. Garrett said he has a website and email. Sorenson said he also has a website, and email, as well as Twitter and Facebook.
  • What are you feelings on a stimulus package to protect the elderly: Pierce said that people cannot take care of themselves if everyone else is working and that we need to take care of each other. Sorenson said we need local control to do so, he wants to take care of his family and neighbors on his terms, not those of the government. Garrett says that we need to take a lesson on other countries that are actually moving away from the government spending more money.
  • What are your positions on Keynesian economics: Sorenson said that there is no such thing as free money and is not a supporter, Garrett agreed and said it has not worked for any economy that has attempted to apply them. Pierce said that we are too quick to put Band-Aids on things and we need to spend money to retrain people as trickle-down economics does not work.
  • How would you help create jobs: Pierce said that he would lower the business tax. Garrett said that high taxes and regulatory uncertainty hinder job growth and that government cannot create jobs so need to be reduced. Government can only create the environment for the private sector to create jobs. Sorenson agreed, as he himself created jobs when he used to own his own business, which he sold at a profit and even still works at.
  • How would you fix the current budget issues: Sorenson said that he proposed numerous savings to cut cost in the last legislative sessions but all were rejected by the majority.  Both Democrats and Republicans need to work together in this. Garrett said we need to cut spending. Pierce said that the public needs to decide if they want to cut services or taxes.
  • How are you going to address issues of reduction of net income due to federal decisions that affect income: Garrett and Pierce said that the state cannot control. Sorenson said that the people elected us to vote to make tough decisions, and he will make the tough choices others will not.
  • What are their feeling of a monetary system at the state level that is backed by gold and silver: Sorenson said he is a supporter of the 10th amendment and that a state should have the right to do this. Garrett acknowledged that moving back to a gold/silver backing will take time. Pierce was unaware of that and gold/silver no longer backs our currency.
  • What are their feelings about I-JOBS- debt vs. raising taxes, and what will they do to eliminate this: Sorenson said that the only way  is to cut the budget. Garrett agreed and said that any unspent I-JOBs dollars need to save and use for something else. Pierce said that the only way to save for things is to borrow things.
  • Will you commit to cutting 15% of spending and not spend more than 99% of state revenue in order to get the budget under control: Garret said yes. Pierce said yes, however we won’t be happy with the results. Sorenson said yes, and then asked for those people to stand who would be willing to do without services to get the budget under control (over 2/3 of the attendees stood)
  • Do they support the constitutional amendment that will be on the Nov. 2nd ballot that allows for a 3/8 cent tax increase: Garrett and Sorenson do not support, with Sorenson adding that he does not support giving the government any excuse to raise taxes. Pierce said we can either pass this or speed up saving money by cutting services.
  • Do you support illegal immigration control, up to an including a law similar to that passed in Arizona: Garrett said he supports more control, and that we need to reduce the economic advantage of hiring illegals by penalizing employers, plus he will go along with tough laws like the one in Arizona. Pierce said that we need to get back to public humiliation of employers that hire illegals, as well as penalize them legally. He did not take a position on the AZ law. Sorenson said that he would support the AZ legislation being passed in Iowa. He only supports legal immigration.

I am disappointed in the fact that Senator Appel declined attending the Forum. I welcome her to take this opportunity to answer the above questions either on her website or in some other public way, so as to keep her employers informed. Otherwise we may erroneously conclude that she does not really care about what we think, and therefore search elsewhere for a more reliable employee.

“Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interest of his constituents, as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate in their burdens. “ George Mason (1725-1792), in a speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention for the U.S. Constitution, June 17, 1788

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