Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Janelle Rettig for Supervisor

January 19, 2010, 7:00 a.m.

The Satisfaction, and Responsibility, of Voting
(brought to you by FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com*)

It's election day.

Sadly, few of those eligible to vote will do so. Don't you be a stay-at-home. (Want to know more about today's election, including where you go to vote? Check out the Johnson County Auditor's Web site; you'll find it all there.)

There's a satisfaction to voting -- and a responsibility. Besides, there's a prize. Those who participate in the process of nominating and electing our public officials get the right to comment on how well they're doing their job once in office.

But the Johnson County Board of Supervisors positions are somewhat unique and more significant than those of other local, elected officials.

School Board members, who are paid nothing, hand over responsibility for running the school district to a very handsomely paid "superintendent."

The City Council members, who are paid something but not much, work with a "city manager" who is the administrator-in-chief of all the City's functions, offices and employees.

The County Board of Supervisors, by contrast, are the the "superintendents," the "managers," of the county programs -- and are paid as such.

They each have a real job. In fact, if we voters followed the school board's lead we'd be out there trying to find a search firm to select the candidates for supervisor we could then vote for.

What is their $85 million-dollar job? Take a look at the County Web site, the Supervisors' Web page, and especially the Power Point slides for the 2010 budget presentation last March (actually a slight reduction from the prior year).

It is a job that requires familiarity with and the skills to manage an incredible array of programs and projects.

All of which brings me to the reasons for voting for Janelle Rettig today.

Since the Iowa City Press-Citizen Editorial Board happens to agree with my assessment on this one, I'll just quote some passages from its editorial endorsement of Ms. Rettig and then add a comment or two based on my own experience working with her.

Rettig is the right choice for Jan. 19 election
January 13, 2009

Rettig's advantage isn't merely the result of having been appointed to the position in late October and serving as a supervisor for less than three months. It's the result of years of involvement in county politics and an acute understanding of the way local governments do and don't work.

Back in 2008, when Rettig chaired the Land, Water, Future campaign, we were very impressed with her knowledge of county issues. And the résumé she submitted when applying to be appointed to the supervisor position shows a strong amount of government experience working for Democrats and Republicans.

For two decades, in fact, Rettig has shown rare ability for a would-be politician: She examines issues from multiple perspectives. In her work with many local and state boards and commissions, Rettig repeatedly has shown she can seek and actually find compromise and common ground.

Rettig's past experience ranges from land use planning, to civil and human rights, to environmental and conservation issues, to government openness. . . .

Rettig provided the most comprehensive answers [of all those running for the position] for how our budget-tightening county needs to go about:

• reducing expenses by working more cooperatively with local cities and the state to streamline government functions;

• conducting public business in full view of the public and in as professional a manner as possible;

• ensuring that all residents have a voice in county government;

• updating and overseeing the county's land-use plan;

• keeping an eye on the operational expenses for the new joint emergency communication center; as well as

• deciding how best to address the problems needs on by inadequately sized county jail and county courthouse. . . .
I agree. I saw these qualities when working with her on the conservation bond issue.

Janelle Rettig scores about as high as anyone could in terms of the experience, raw intelligence, information, knowledge and wisdom -- the basic competence -- to do a professional job of county management.

That makes her rare enough as a candidate for such a position.

But she's so much more.

I've been involved in politics virtually all my life, as a candidate and as a part of others' campaigns for offices from president of the United States to school board member in Iowa City. As a result of that experience, one of the highest compliments I can pay anyone is that they are "a political person," in the highest sense of that phrase. To me, a political person is someone who really likes people, enjoys being around and getting to know them, who takes satisfaction in helping others to feel good about themselves, who can empathize with their sorrows and needs, and who is constantly looking for ways to help others -- as Robert Kennedy said, to "dream of things that never were, and ask 'why not'?" Moreover, in their governance, they can demonstrate a capacity to balance their idealism with just enough pragmatism to actually get things done -- without simply capitulating to the demands of the wealthiest, and most powerful. It is in these positive ways that I say Janelle Rettig is "a political person."

Ah, but there's more.

Anyone who can bike across Iowa for fun, as Janelle does during the RAGBRAI ride (that I used to do and report on for National Public Radio, but no longer) obviously has the energy needed for public office.

Put it all together and she's just fun to be around, smiling, enthusiastic, fun loving, energized. How many public officials do you feel about in that way?

Janelle Rettig is clearly someone you need to get out on a cold Iowa January day and vote for. Just do it. You'll feel good about yourself. I promise.
* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source, even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson

1 comment:

Tung Yin said...

Re the effort of voting -- Oregon has all mail-in voting. You can also drop your completed ballot off at designated locations. It's very civilized!