Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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SULLIVAN'S SALVOS

July 17, 2010

Sullivan’s Salvos 7/20/10




In this edition:


*Regency FAQ
*ADA Celebration
*Johnson County Fair
*Did You Know?




*Regency FAQ
Regency mobile home park has been all over the news recently… without repeating the whole story, I will try to answer a few Frequently Asked Questions.


Q: Why don’t people just move?

A: Lots of reasons. First, most of the trailers are pre-1976, which means they cannot legally be moved. Secondly, many of the residents there are low-income, and cannot afford a deposit plus the first month’s rent. Thirdly, many of the residents have bad credit, and landlords will not rent to them. Fourthly, many of the residents have legal issues that have led them to choose a more anonymous existence. Those are just a few of the reasons.


Q: Why haven’t residents reported all these alleged crimes?

A: Almost exactly the same as above. Many of the residents there are low-income, and cannot afford representation. Many of the residents have legal issues that have led them to choose a more anonymous existence. Residents who make allegations can be evicted. Those are just a few of the reasons.


Q: Why hasn’t Johnson County just forced the removal of the uninhabitable trailers?

A: We have no ordinance allowing us the power to act. While Iowa City, Coralville, and other cities have such codes, Johnson County does not. I think this can be explained by the fact that the County has always been more “live and let live” than the cities. We discussed a housing ordinance in the wake of the Jetseta Gage tragedy, but there were not three votes to pass it. The Board is discussing an ordinance once again; I think something will pass this time.


Q: Why hasn’t Johnson County Public Health taken action on the water and sewer issues?

A: They have no jurisdiction. In large mobile home parks, water and sewer are regulated by the State of Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). I am one of several Johnson County officials who have spent months working with Senator Bolkcom to change State inspection rules. We want the State to allow counties to do water and sewer regulation for the DNR in cases where that is mutually agreeable. That change would have allowed us to address this years ago. (Senator Bolkcom is supportive, by the way.)


Q: About half the properties are in arrears on taxes. Why can’t Johnson County take the mobile homes for unpaid taxes?

A: We could. But mobile homes are more complicated than other properties. Because the owner of the mobile home does not own the land beneath it, tax sale participants are not interested. In addition, after the 2008 floods, Johnson County bought out several properties on leased land. But the process just got finished, and took hundreds of hours of legal work. FEMA paid for those; Johnson County has no money budgeted for any other buyouts. Finally, few of the mobile homes in question have clear titles, which complicates the process even more.


Q: Are all mobile home courts like this?

A: Absolutely not! Most of the mobile home parks in Johnson County are very nice places. While Regency is overall a pretty awful place, there are a few nice homes there. There are a couple other mobile home parks in Johnson County that are in very poor condition; Regency is definitely the worst.


Q: Why did it take a story in the Register for Johnson County to act?

A: It didn’t! This is one of the biggest misperceptions! While it is true that Johnson County could have done more sooner, our Mobile Home Task Force was created months before the Register article, and had met twice before it went to print. The Register article served two very important purposes, however. First, it got the DNR to act. Secondly, it outraged the citizens of Johnson County – as it should have. Now I hope the citizens will hold county government accountable for improving things.


Q: Is there a part of the story that is missing?

A: Yes. This is the “free market” at its best. The Churchill Group is concerned about one thing – making money. They do it well, making almost $1 million a year off Regency alone. Regency is virtually unregulated – this is what happens when there are no rules. Churchill is just like BP, Goldman Sachs, Massey Mining, or any other big business that has few rules.


Q: Is there another part of the story that is missing?

A: Yes. This is yet another example of what happens when a community ignores low income housing needs. The same people who express outrage at the conditions at Regency beat the drum for less affordable housing in the Iowa City metro area. Where will these folks go? What conditions must they endure? What obligations do we have as a community? Would inclusionary zoning have helped? Those of you who consider yourself Christians – where would Joseph and Mary be allowed to live?


Those were a few of the questions that I have been asked. If you have others, please feel free to call or E-mail me and I will do my best to reply.




*ADA Celebration
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is celebrating its 20th birthday, and Johnson County has several special events planned.

Things run Saturday, July 24 from 1-4 PM in downtown Iowa City. There will be music, speakers, vendors, and a whole lot of fun in store for the afternoon!

Our keynote speaker will be Senator Tom Harkin. Harkin knew firsthand about the challenges facing people with disabilities from his late brother, Frank, who was deaf from an early age.

Senator Harkin’s signature legislative achievement is The Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects the civil rights of millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities.

For more info, contact Access 2 Independence at 338-3870.




*Johnson County Fair
The Johnson County Fair begins Monday, July 26 and runs through Thursday, July 29. For schedules and details, see: http://www.johnsoncofair.com.

Meanwhile, expect more on the County Fair in next week’s edition of Salvos! Hope to see you there!




*DID YOU KNOW? The original Johnson County Fairgrounds were on the site of City High School.




Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-
www.johnson-county.com.

"Sullivan’s Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or rodsullivan@mchsi.com. I look forward to serving you!

---Rod

1 Comments:

Blogger Sated Cow said...

Thanks for the Regency write-up. I learned a couple things about jurisdiction issues.

You're right about the low-income housing issues. People can't speak out about inclusionary zoning in Iowa City on one hand, and then lament the conditions at Regency on the other. Although I suspect there might not be as much overlap between the two groups as one would think.

People certainly have some valid concerns about Section 8 housing, but the Regency situation is a vivid example of how the poor can be exploited. The answers lie in continuing to figure out how best to make the greasy nuts and bolts of government programs and regulations work, while keeping them as unintrusive as possible.

July 19, 2010 at 11:59 AM  

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