Larger council adds to vision

For more than 100 years the crucial decisions for Iola have been made by as few as two people, sometimes three, if they all get along.
Commissioners decide the course of a town. They decide tax revenues, tax breaks. It’s their responsibility to ensure the city’s electric, water, sewer and gas services function properly. Commissioners are elected to serve their constituents by listening to their concerns and taking a collective pulse in the making of decisions. In a progressive city, they work to make the city attractive with programs and facilities that en-courage community.
To do it right, it’s a heckuva lot of work — especially for three
On Tuesday’s ballot will be the opportunity for voters to expand the commission from a three-member body to an eight-member council, plus a mayor.
In the Register’s opinion, the vote for a larger commission should be “yes.” More people involved in the decision-making process will bring a broader variety of backgrounds, varying opinions, and a better representation of the community as a whole.

ARGUMENTS against the expansion include the added expense, that it will take more time to effect government and that there are not enough able-minded people to fill the posts.
Tell that to pint-sized Humboldt, which with its council/mayor system has made great headway these past few years in deciding public projects such as an upgraded city hall, expanded public parks and bike lanes. The council also works closely with the USD 258 school district producing a top notch recreation program that has young and old alike enjoying a multitude of activities.
The biggest advantage of a larger council is not only the division of labor but also the pooling of talent. This format allows threesomes to work on specific issues — say, what to do with the newly created green space generated by the 2007 flood — and then report their findings back to the entire council. Because councilmen represent their elective wards, better representation of the entire town occurs.
An added bonus of this format is communication. As it is now, no two members of the city commission, that is, a majority, can legally discuss city affairs outside of a publicized meeting. While this protects citizens from possible secretive dealings, it also can inhibit the spawning of ideas that naturally takes place when people gather.
Compensation of an expanded council should not be an issue. Every business knows what it can’t afford is not to get the job done. If that means more hands on deck, then it’s well worth the investment. If an eight-member council and mayor were paid at the current level of $250 and $300 a month, that would amount to $27,600 out of a $22,000,000 budget.
If that is still too big a pill to swallow, then break it up and give smaller allotments to each councilman. The good folks of Humboldt serve on their council at no expense to taxpayers. Likewise, our USD 257 board of education members serve free of charge.
Iola needs more, not less, involvement from its citizens to take the city forward.
A “yes” vote on Tuesday will take us in that direction.

— Susan Lynn