Friday, October 29, 2010
Iolans prefer eight
By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
If a decidedly unscientific survey of random Iolans in random settings is any indication, Iola may have an eight-person governing body next April. If people can figure out the ballot, that is.
Many of the Iolans surveyed by the Register were openly confused by the ballot language.
“Even if you could read it, you had to be a language expert to understand it,” noted Don Britt. “I’m thoroughly aggravated by it.”
Britt believes the wording on the ballot is purposely meant to obfuscate the issue.
“I’d like to get rid of all of them,” he said of current commissioners.
William Nelson agreed.
“On the ballot, you couldn’t make head nor tails of it. I think they wrote it that way to confuse people.”
Nelson, who voted early, noted, “I asked for help and I didn’t get it.”
Both he and his wife, Barbara, asked clerks at the courthouse to clarify the language, or asked if any written materials were available that explained it. None were, they said, and workers told the couple they could not explain the measure, which references Charter Ordinance 17 and asks only that voters either allow it to take effect or not, with no mention that it ties to governing body size.
Simply put, a yes vote puts into place a five person commission, including a mayor, while a no vote would provide an eight person council, plus a mayor, to govern the City of Iola.
Once he saw the ballot explained in the Iola Register, Nelson said he understood it. By then, though, it was too late.
“I’d already voted,” Nelson said. “I left it blank.”
A NUMBER OF those who have followed the issue expressed frustration that they had to vote on the matter yet again.
Iolans approved an eight person council in a vote in April, 2009. Commissioners requested another vote, with ballot wording for only a commission form of government presented, and subsequently put forth Charter Ordinance 17 to seat a five member commission.
While the delays have caused many to lose interest in the issue, others retained their original opinion.
“I’m leaning toward the eight-person council because I think that’s what we voted for the first time,” said Dale Donovan.
“We said we wanted the larger body the first time,” said another man, who preferred not to be identified. “They just didn’t listen,” he said of current commissioners.
Some voters tied the size of the next governing body to their hopes for Iola.
“I’m concerned about my home town,” Britt said. “I want Iola to grow.”
He noted that current commissioners seem more interested in retaining office than they do in taking steps that would “capitalize on Iola’s strong points.” Iola needs to sell itself, he said.
Other communities with similar-sized populations across the country are marketing themselves, their environments and the quality of their workers, Britt noted. Iola should do the same.
Iola’s leaders must step up to encourage interest from business, he said. “We’ve got to be smart and take advantage of it when it comes our way.”
To that end, he believes a larger governing body would benefit the town.
“I think when you’ve got people with different heads, it takes more time to make a decision. More thought goes into it.
“When three people (the current number of commissioners) can sit down and in 10 minutes decide what to do with our money, it’s not right,” Britt said. “If three is good enough, Britt added, “why do we have so many congressmen and senators?”
Others felt the same.
“Five would be better than three, but eight would be better than five,” said Jim Smith.
“I’m all in favor of the eight member council,” Ralph Romig said. “The power needs to be divided.”
Romig was the only voter who had no problem with the ballot language.
“I’ve spent my lifetime in law enforcement so I’m used to reading legal documents,” he said. But, he noted, “Lawyers write (ballot language); lawyers write lawyer talk.”
Romig will vote for the eight-person council, he said, because he believes more representatives will better reflect the wishes of Iolans.
He has given the matter much thought, he added. Currently working as a municipal judge, Romig noted, “I’m conservative, but open-minded. I study both sides of every issue.”
Kim Romig also plans to vote “No” on the issue, a “No” vote reflecting preference for an eight-person council.
Like Britt, she felt that the present smaller body hasn’t worked out in Iola’s favor.
A lifelong Iolan, Kim Romig recalled when “there were seven groceries and three mom and pops.”
With an eight person council encouraging new businesses to come to Iola, she said, “Maybe we’ll get a grocery store. Maybe we’ll get something else back in here. I’m tired of going to Chanute to shop.”
ON THE OTHER side of the fence, Alfred Link proclaimed “I think five people is a world of plenty, and I’ve already voted.”
His daughter, Maria Erb, disagreed. “I thought eight was a good idea. I really think we need more opinions. And,” she said, “they need some women in there, not just men.”
Linda McDermeit “Hadn’t thought too much about it. I wouldn’t mind either way,” she said.
Still, like others, she said Iola “really needs to get some stuff going.”