Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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January 15, 2011

Sullivan’s Salvos 1/18/11

In this edition:

*Tucson Tragedy
*Free Tax Help!
*Congratulations, John!
*Property Maintenance Ordinance
*Did You Know?

*Tucson Tragedy
I join other Americans in offering my sincere condolences to the victims of the recent shooting in Tucson. I hope and pray for the most positive outcomes possible.

I apologize if this comes across as selfish, but the combination of this and other tragic events plus the hatred that is often directed my way really has me thinking. I never used to consider my safety in my position as an elected official. That has changed.

I know there are people out there who hate me. They tell me so. The anti-government rhetoric is personal for them. I just hope they can limit themselves and choose not to act upon that hatred. And needless to say, I hope we never again have to hear reports of mindless killings.

*Free Tax Help!
Johnson County is proud to announce another year of free tax help! “You Earned It, Now Claim It” is a program that has done great things for taxpayers in Johnson County.

Don’t pay a fee to get your refund! The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program provides trained volunteers that will help you file your taxes. This service is available FOR FREE to people who earned less than $49,000 in 2010. E filing is available, and translation is available at all sites.

The service is available almost every day in February and March, at sites throughout the county. Please spread the word, so even more of your friends and neighbors can avail themselves of this service!

For more information Call United Way Toll-Free by dialing: 2-1-1, or visit any of the following websites: • •

*Congratulations, John!
Congratulations to my good friend John Stimmel as he celebrates 30 years of living on his own after spending almost 30 years at Woodward State Hospital School.

Amazing story, amazing man. Happy anniversary, John!

*Property Maintenance Ordinance
The Board of Supervisors recently met to discuss the proposed Property Maintenance Ordinance. As you may know, this proposal met fierce resistance from the Farm Bureau. After a long public hearing, the Board decided to revisit the topic after the holidays.

Well, the revisiting has occurred. News headlines struck me as a bit misleading; the proposed ordinance was not so much “dropped” as amended. I do expect something to pass in upcoming months – whether or not what passes is adequate to address the issues we face remains to be seen.

I will attempt to spell out what happened; it is important to understand that no new proposed ordinance has been drafted, and there are still plenty of opportunities for individual Supervisors to change their minds.

1. The Board was unanimous in wanting to address abandoned homes. The definition of abandoned still needs to be determined, but this appears to be an area of strong agreement.

2. The Board was unanimous in wanting to create an ordinance that sets forth standards for rental homes.

3. I had hoped that the same ordinance would also cover owner occupied homes, but that failed on a 3-2 vote. My concern is that most mobile homes are owner occupied; I’m not sure a rental-only ordinance will address that issue.

4. The Board agreed to focus the ordinance on houses; all outbuildings will be exempt. I am glad we cleared this up, as it was a major concern for many farm families.

5. Several members of the Farm Bureau had lobbied for an exemption for farmhouses. The Board voted 3-2 to include all houses. I am glad this happened, too. It has always amazed me that we would exempt someone from an ordinance because of her/his occupation. If we tried to exempt bankers, the public would be furious – and it should be! I grew up on a farm, and I respect the farm life. But I see no compelling reason to exempt the homes of farmers.

6. Others had lobbied for an exemption when one family member rents to another. The Board decided against exempting family-to-family rentals. I can see some merit to this, and I might be persuaded, but I want to hear from other governmental units first.

7. The Board decided to enforce any ordinance on a “complaint only” basis. There are some tough choices here. By only investigating complaints, the implementation of the ordinance would cost virtually nothing. Existing inspectors (who now inspect only new construction) could easily deal with complaints as part of their current jobs.

On the other hand, only inspecting on a complaint basis may be useless. There may be lots of very substandard rentals that are never seen. But, inspecting every property would necessitate a registry and inspections every 2-3 years. This would likely lead to inspection fees, and potentially require additional staff.

Is that all as clear as mud? Staff in Planning and Zoning and the County Attorney’s Office will now be charged with putting these decisions into a draft ordinance. I’ll let you know once a draft is available for public viewing.

Another interesting development was that the Johnson County Republican Party passed a resolution opposing a property maintenance code. A half dozen local GOP activists showed up, and a couple voiced their disapproval.

I find this interesting, since most Johnson County residents live in a jurisdiction that already has such codes. I specifically asked if they would like to see the existing codes repealed in Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, etc. But no one really answered my question.

The Board had a public hearing, and over 200 people showed up. Many were angry. My guess is that some folks will attempt to capitalize upon that electorally, as is their right. So look for this to be an issue in future campaigns for Supervisor.

So – what are your thoughts? I would like to know!

*DID YOU KNOW? Armored knights raised their visors to identify themselves when they rode past their king. This custom has become the modern military salute.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

"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.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks again for your service, Rod. I wish we didn't live in an age where you actually have to fear for your safety because some view disagreement with governmental decisions as rationale for losing all sense of civility.

Thankfully, it rarely does come down to actual violence. In retrospect, the shootings in Arizona seemed to have had nothing to do with political rhetoric. But I can easily understand that doesn't change the anxiety you feel.

But that rhetoric does extend to the property code issue. It seems hard to believe that people can be so up in arms about an attempt to rectify the subhumane conditions that county government could do nothing about at the Regency trailer park. It's a sorry comment on the current state of discourse that so simple an ordinance can result in some people only seeing the big hand of government swooping down to come get them.

All of your arguments make sense to me, Rod. Keep up the good work.

-Steve Groenewold

January 15, 2011 at 1:41 PM  

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