Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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September 17, 2011

Sullivan’s Salvos 9/20/11

In this edition:

*School Board Election Results
*Exceptions Are Dangerous!
*US Constitution and You!
*Local Foods Harvest Dinner
*Did You Know?

*School Board Election Results
Congratulations to the winners of our local school board races. Joel Yedlik and Sheila Burr were elected in Lone Tree. Steve Swenka, Rick Hergert, Bob Broghammer and Terry Davis were elected in Clear Creek-Amana. Dan Coons and Dean Martin were elected in Solon.

In the ICCSD, Karla Cook ran away with the 2 year term. Marla Swesey, Jeff McGinness, Sally Hoelscher, and Patti Fields were elected to 4 year terms.

I appreciate the challenges of school board service. My younger brother Andy has served several years on the school board at our alma mater (Lisbon Community Schools), and I have seen firsthand the incredible amount of work he puts in. What’s more, I have seen how badly he gets treated. It is a pretty thankless task!

Good luck to those of you who were elected. These are challenging times for local governments; we will need your best efforts!

Finally, a sincere thanks to everyone who threw her/his hat into the ring. Win or lose, you put your money where your mouth is. It is easy to sit back and criticize; I have a lot of respect for individuals who actually step up!

*Exceptions Are Dangerous!
No policy is perfect. There are always situations that do not quite fit, and scenarios that make decision making difficult.

Because of this, we have exceptions to policy. So, grant an exception and everyone is happy, right? Right? Not exactly.

Policies exist for a reason. They should be followed. Exceptions should be rare, and only be granted when there is no other practical option.

That is how things are supposed to work. The Board of Supervisors granted an exception of the worst kind at our formal meeting on Thursday the 8th.

Let me set the scene. A Solon area farmer wanted to split a residential lot off from his farm. Our regulations allow each farm to do this once and only once. At issue was the driveway.

Johnson County has a policy that requires at least 500 feet of separation and at least 500 feet of sight distance for each driveway. It is a safety issue. Some driveways are grandfathered in, but when a landowner wants to subdivide, he needs to bring the driveway into compliance.

We have had 4 driveway situations in the past 4 years where exceptions were granted. Some of these applications had languished for years while applicants, County staff, engineers, and others debated how to proceed. In each case, it was simply impossible to make the 500 feet work.

When it was finally determined that there were no practical solutions, the Board granted these exceptions. The policy worked, the exceptions worked, and I was proud of the way in which we proceeded. Unfortunately, I do not feel the same way about our recent decision.

The farmer in this case had many options. He could have put his driveway literally hundreds of other places. He just didn’t want to. That does not rise to the level of granting an exception.

The Planning and Zoning Commission followed the County policy, and voted unanimously to deny the application. Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to overrule P&Z. The farmer got his wish, and gets to put the driveway where he wants.

Every time you grant a driveway exception, you are sacrificing safety. If you grant exceptions simply because they are cheaper for the developer… what if someone dies? Was it worth it? Should we all be a little less safe because it might cost a developer a bit more? I don’t think so.

Just as importantly, now you have created an unfair playing field. Citizens need to have faith that they will be treated fairly by their governments. If the Board makes an arbitrary exception in this case, why not the next one? And the next?

Will exceptions depend upon who you are or who you know? Will they depend upon your campaign contributors? How can citizens trust that they will be treated fairly?

The Board of Supervisors made a bad decision on the 8th. I hope this is not the start of a trend.

*US Constitution And You!
The local League of Women Voters is sponsoring a series of discussions around the Constitution, beginning this month and ending in May of 2012.

The fundamental goal of this project is to make the U.S. Constitution and the final arbiter of its meaning, the U.S. Supreme Court, better understood.

The law will be discussed in the context of the social, political, and economic factors that influenced it and how those same factors are influencing our current debate. If the Constitution both shapes and reflects civil society, what is the story it tells and what is the current narrative?

The series has seven parts. See for a complete listing.

*Local Foods Harvest Dinner
Harvest Dinner, a benefit for Johnson County Local Food Alliance (JCLFA) will be Sunday, September 25 at 5:30 PM at 201 South Linn.

Tickets $50 Tickets sold online, New Pioneer Food Co-op stores and Hy-Vee (812 S. First Ave. in Iowa City). 

The 3rd annual Harvest Dinner, a JCLFA benefit event, will delight the senses by putting Iowa’s abundant harvest into the hands of some of the area’s best chefs delighting you with a dinner that will not soon be forgotten!

Special guests include author & local chef Kurt Friese and local food advocate Francis Thicke.

*DID YOU KNOW? Johnson County staffs three ambulances 24 hours a day with two paramedics in each ambulance. Two of the ambulances are stationed in Iowa City and one in Coralville. We have three reserve units that we are able to use in the event of high call volumes. We also use the extra trucks to take to special events.

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!



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