Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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October 8, 2011

Sullivan’s Salvos 10/11/11

In this edition:

*Occupy Iowa City
*Psychology of TIF
*Community Foundation of Johnson County
*Paul Engle Day
*Under A Cider Moon
*Did You Know?

*Occupy Iowa City
I was excited to stop by and join the group that decided to “Occupy Iowa City” as a show of solidarity with those who are protesting on Wall Street.

I like the approach of the local group. Our local banks haven’t done anything wrong, and they should not be disturbed. College Green Park is as good a location as any.

The point here is not WHERE the protesters are – it is that 99% of us SHOULD be protesting! The average American is getting screwed while 1-2% of the population lives high on the hog. It is wrong, and it needs to change.

The Republican Party likes the status quo – they want even more wealth disparity. And national Democrats lack the guts to change things. So it is up to us, led by our friends in the park!

Many kudos to the protesters in New York, Iowa City, and elsewhere! Keep the pressure on!

*The Psychology of TIF
With the recent Von Maur to Coralville fiasco, more and more people are questioning the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF). I have been asked why cities head down the TIF path. I think there are several reasons, most of them more psychological than anything. In no particular order, here are a few:

1. Councilors (and staff) DREAD being labeled as "anti-growth" or “anti-business”. They will do anything to avoid that label.

2. Every other city is doing it. If you don't do it too, you fear putting your city at a competitive disadvantage.

3. Similarly, you want your city to keep up with the Joneses. City next door got a new pool? We need a bigger pool. City next door has a theater? We need a theater. It never ends.

4. Councilors work other jobs full time. They have families. They simply have not taken the time to do the necessary research. They accept what staff gives them without enough questioning.

5. Councilors/staff feel "special" when developers come to them. The developer makes the councilor/staff feel special, and explains how “so many people in town just don’t understand this, but I know that YOU do!” Councilors/staff begin to feel as though they are big-shot wheeler-dealers. It is not unlike being on a drug. In this case, the drug is a sense of power.

6. TIF laws are obscure, and allow cities to obfuscate their true financial situations. For example, TIF debt is not counted toward a city’s total debt. (Why? Because the Iowa Legislature says so.) This allows the true picture to be muddled.

7. TIF laws in Iowa allow everything but murder. So you can do anything you want, look the public in the eye, and say, “The deal is legal.” Unfortunately, that statement will always be true given the TIF laws in Iowa.

8. TIF hurts County government more than any other government. This is critical, because County government is the least understood and least appreciated level of government. This makes it the easiest to justify raiding.

9. The downside of TIF is in the future. It is always easier to choose short-term gains, regardless of long-term costs.

These are but a few of the reasons TIF is used, overused, misused, and abused. I am certain there are others, but I’ve seen these in effect in Johnson County.

Don’t get me wrong – I understand this. One can see why a city council member chooses TIF. I do not agree, but I get it. Not every example cited above is present in every case. And I certainly don’t think a councilor is a bad human being because she/he voted for a TIF. I just think she/he is wrong.

I hope that either council people will change their minds regarding the use of TIFs, or that the Legislature acts.

*Community Foundation of Johnson County
I have served on the Grants Committee of the Community Foundation of Johnson County (CFJC) since its inception, and I am proud to say that I am doing so again this year.

For those of you who are unfamiliar – the CFJC develops resources and grants them back to the Johnson County community. Obviously, that is an extremely brief description – for more info, see:

The CFJC has granted over $3 million in the past 10 years – about two thirds of that went toward flood recovery. This year, the CFJC will grant a bit over $100,000.

Johnson County has an amazing 324 nonprofit organizations. A comparison to Linn County is interesting: in 2010, Linn County had 14 applications requesting $116k, and granted about $100k. Johnson County had 73 applications requesting $684k, and granted about $89k.

The need is there! I hope you will take the time to learn more about the CFJC.

*Paul Engle Day
The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature is proud to present Paul Engle Day on Wednesday, October 12.

Paul Engle was a noted American poet, editor, teacher, literary critic, novelist, and playwright. He is perhaps best remembered as the long-time director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and as founder of the International Writing Program (IWP), both at the University of Iowa.

Events will include a reception, Award Ceremony, High School Essay Contest and more. See for more info.

*Under A Cider Moon
The Johnson County Heritage Trust (JCHT) is once again holding its “Under a Cider Moon . . . a Celebration of Autumn” event.

The event is Saturday, October 22, at the brand new Celebration Farm at HWY 1 and Newport Road.

Be sure to get there when the doors open at 5:30 p.m. so that you can look over and bid on the silent auction items and enjoy the evening. The live auction begins promptly at 7:00 p.m.

Entertainment will be provided by the Guy Drollinger Trio. Locally prepared food and refreshments from area wineries and brew pubs will be available. In addition, dessert will include pies prepared by winners of the 2011 Johnson County Fair’s Jo Beers Pie Contest.

Tickets are $50 per person ($30 is tax deductible). Make your reservations by October 1, to be eligible for the early bird drawing! Reserve tickets by calling Tammy Richardson at the JCHT office, 338-7030, or by e-mail at

The annual “Under a Cider Moon … A Celebration of Autumn” event has been the most important fundraiser for the Trust, generating over $85,000 the past four years. Proceeds from the event help make it possible for the JCHT to continue its mission: To preserve our natural heritage through protection and management of land and water with significant environmental value.

*DID YOU KNOW? 7 US Presidents were born in Ohio, second only to Virginia’s 8.

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

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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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