Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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September 5, 2011

Sullivan’s Salvos 8/9/11

In this edition:

*RIP Bob Braverman
*University Heights TIF Request
*Courage Ride
*Branstad Should Be Ashamed!
*Did You Know?

*RIP Bob Braverman
Johnson County lost a true character this week with the untimely passing of Bob Braverman. The original local food guy, Bob owned and operated Friendly Farm.

Bob chewed me out longer and louder than any other constituent. He was also one of the kindest, most supportive, most passionate, most decent people I had the privilege of knowing.

Rest in peace, Bob.

*University Heights TIF Request
Below are my thoughts on Johnson County involvement in the University Heights Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Project.

I need to begin with full disclosure. I am a member of Saint Andrew Presbyterian Church in University Heights. I am a former Deacon, and my wife was serving as an Elder when the church voted to purchase land on Camp Cardinal in western Iowa City.

When our congregation voted, I enthusiastically voted to purchase the land. That does not mean I was necessarily for or against the church moving; I simply felt the deal was too good to pass up. I felt that it gave St. Andrew future options it would not have otherwise. I still believe that vote was the correct one.

I took my scenario to the County Attorney’s Office, just to make sure there would be no conflict of interest if I were asked to vote on this issue. I informed Assistant County Attorney Andy Chappell of our family’s annual giving to St. Andrew (around $3000 per year) and he determined that it was not a large enough amount to present any type of conflict. So I am free to vote on this matter.

I think it is important to preface this discussion with a recognition that reasonable people can disagree. I have friends on both sides of this issue; they are all bright, caring people who want the best for their city. No one here is the devil, nor are there any angels. You are all just people who care about your town. I hope all future discussions will recognize and respect this fact.

Clearly, University Heights has some big decisions to make. Supporters of this project refer to the tax base, but it is unclear that the majority of the residents want any development. Residents in opposition need to understand the ramifications of a stagnant tax base. But those decisions are bigger than this project. University Heights needs to decide where it wants to go BEFORE it decides how it is getting there.

University Heights Councilor Mike Havercamp is an old friend, and I love the passion he has for University Heights. Mike is smart, dedicated, and sincerely feels that this project is crucial to the future of the city. If I had the opportunity to vote for Mike, I would do so proudly. It just so happens that Mike and I disagree on the use of TIF for this project.

I have been crusading against overuse and misuse of TIF since prior to my first election as a County Supervisor in 2004. I have written literally hundreds of pages on the topic, yet it seems to have moved very few people.

Contrary to popular belief, I am not against all TIFs. I simply believe that TIFs have been abused in Johnson County. The job of government is providing quality public services at a reasonable cost. When we create convoluted public-private financing schemes, we take our eyes off of the ball. Governments have a mission, and they should stick to it.

The biggest sticking point in all TIF discussions is the “but for” argument. In other words, “but for the TIF, this business would not (leave, come, expand, etc.).” The “but for” argument is always referenced, but never proven. It creates a scenario whereby governments are held hostage in every single economic development application.

To understand the TIF request for this project, one simply needs to examine the bottom line. The developer feels that he cannot make enough money without the TIF. Well, in my opinion, it is not the job of any governmental unit to ensure that a developer attains a certain profit. This is a classic example of socializing the risk while privatizing the profits. Lower income people are afforded no such benefit.

A friend of mine who owns a small business put it this way: “I have been paying local property taxes for years. When is the government going to step in and give me a guarantee?” This points to the basic inequities at play when governments begin to pick winners and losers.

My philosophy is simple - if a project does not pencil out, don’t do it. Similarly, if Hills Bank or Midwest One will not finance this concept, why should the public sector?

I can envision a scenario where the County’s debt capacity would be accessed to help arrange a major project, but it would have to be a project involving a basic sector employer who was creating hundreds of jobs that paid far better than average wages and provided full benefits. Even then, any deal would need to be carefully scrutinized.

Again, the job of government is providing quality public services at a reasonable cost. When we do that, we create an environment that is business-friendly.

I am opposed to the involvement of Johnson County in this project.

*Courage Ride
The 2011 Courage Ride is August 27th, leaving from Iowa Mennonite School. Register online and ride with us!

Hosted by the Bicyclists of Iowa City (BIC), the Courage Ride honors the courage of Seth Bailey, a former IMS student. Your entry fee goes to a great cause! This annual bike ride is dedicated to improving the lives of people living with cancer by raising money funding local cancer research at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Your donation can help find a cure for cancer!

You can pedal over gently rolling green hills leading past Amish homesteads and over old stagecoach routes! You can enjoy fabulous foods all day from start to finish; a mouthwatering Belgian Waffle Breakfast, a substantial biker's lunch, and a plethora of surprise snacks at rest stops that will keep your legs fueled! The hills will be alive with the sound of music; live entertainment throughout the day - even at the rest stops! You can also place a winning bid on bikes and other fantastic items in our silent auction!

A detailed route map, SAG support, bike mechanics, hot shower, free grass camping, and really cool bike socks are all part of the package. Bring your family and friends! There is something for everyone! For more info, see:

*Branstad Should Be Ashamed!
I was heartbroken to learn of Governor Branstad’s recent veto of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

One of my proudest accomplishments as a County Supervisor is the series of countywide Free Tax Help clinics set up in cooperation with the Tippie School of Business. One of the best features of these clinics is the emphasis on getting people the EITC they are due. The program is even called “You Earned It, Now Claim It!”

The law passed by the Iowa Legislature would have amounted to a tax cut of about $100 for working families with incomes under $45,000. And Branstad vetoed it!

Apparently, the GOP prescription of tax cuts only matters when you are talking about tax cuts for wealthy Branstad donors. Tax cuts for poor and lower-middle-income folks are a distraction.

Branstad called himself a Christian on the campaign trail. He certainly did not behave as one with this veto. The Governor should be ashamed!

*DID YOU KNOW? The average age of a US resident is 37 years. (Source: US Census.)

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.

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



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