Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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November 11, 2011

Sullivan’s Salvos 11/15/11

In this edition:

*More JECC Problems
*City Council Elections
*Local Banks, Dodd-Frank, and the Occupy Movement
*Did You Know?

*More JECC Problems
I need your help! The Joint Emergency Communications Center (JECC) Board is proposing a 43% increase in their FY13 budget. Odds are that you, like me, find this number to be obscene in light of our current economic circumstances.

That is why I need your help. The JECC Board refuses to listen to me. I have been arguing with them since the planning for the facility. They just assume I am a crank, and they ignore me.

If you feel a 43% increase is too much, YOU need to say so! The JECC Board is holding a public hearing on their budget at 7:30 AM on Friday, November 18 at the JECC facility, behind Chatham Oaks just west of 218 on Melrose Avenue.

I recognize that this is a TERRIBLE time for a public hearing, but please attend if you can. If you cannot make it personally, please call and/or e-mail the members of the JECC Board. Those members are Mike Wright and Regenia Bailey from the IC Council; Tom Salm from North Liberty; John Lundell from Coralville; Pat Harney from the Board of Supervisors; and Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek. In addition, I got the following e-mail off their website: Who knows where that goes…. But you could copy it on an e-mail.

I am so upset about this that I get sick. When JECC was in the planning stages, I tried hard to create a different arrangement. I lost that battle, but I was hopeful that this less-than-ideal governance could still work. Unfortunately, it has been a colossal failure. 911 calls are being properly routed, and that is the most important thing – but the cost is absurd.

Not only is the budget too high, they have screwed up in two additional important ways. First, the E911 Board (upon which I serve) already voted to put $300,000 into equipment expenses at the JECC. The Director was at that meeting. Yet he did not include any E911 money in the budget. That alone would reduce their 43% increase to around 25%.

Secondly, JECC Board members continue to argue that they need a huge reserve. They do not, and keeping a big reserve is very poor financial policy. Here is why:

If an emergency arises, Johnson County can bond for whatever the JECC would need. Plus, by bonding, we can access the TIF Districts. Otherwise, properties in the TIF Districts will not contribute toward the JECC. So bonding is actually a win-win. Building a reserve means you build it on the backs of all non-TIF property owners.

It sounds as though only the Director and JECC Board President were aware of what was contained in the budget. They should have both known better. But the rest of the JECC Board also screwed up. The JECC Board should have exercised better oversight. I hope the local media will get to the bottom of this. The same type of thing happened a couple years ago, and it was swept under the rug. The people deserve better.

We have too many needs to sustain this profligate spending. The JECC Board needs to get the message from the people of Johnson County. It is up to you.

Tell the JECC Board NO to the excessive increase, and NO to the costly reserve fund!

*City Council Elections
Congratulations to everyone who won a local city council race in Johnson County. Thanks, too, to all who stood for election.

I wish I could keep this whole post positive, but I cannot. Unfortunately, turnout was once again abysmal – about 15% in both Iowa City and Coralville, and a few percentage points either way in other cities. University Heights, deep in the controversy over One University Place, led all cities with a turnout of about 60%.

Frankly, I think a 60% turnout is embarrassingly low. I do not believe we should settle for anything below 80%. (I am a realist, and I know that there is a certain percentage of the population that is just too stubborn to participate. So I arbitrarily chose 80% as a threshold. But you get the idea.)

We simply must do better. I wish I knew how. What are your thoughts?

*Local Banks, Dodd-Frank, and the Occupy Movement
Before I argue the following points, which will undoubtedly earn me some ire, please allow me to submit my bona fides: I am firmly convinced that I am among the biggest advocates of buying local.

After years of pushing, I got the County to adopt a Buy Local policy. This has had a direct economic benefit to several local businesses, including LL Pelling, Iowa Book, Big Country Seeds, Tallgrass Business Solutions, and Computer Solutions, just to name a few.

I think if you ask Nancy Quellhorst, she would agree that I was instrumental in the Chamber’s Buy Here initiative. I actually wanted to go much further than most – my definition of a “local” business was one that deposited their money in a local financial institution. So I stand by my record as a buy local advocate.

Having offered those disclaimers, I am angry at some of our biggest and best local businesses - our local banks. This anger is due to two issues: Dodd-Frank and the Occupy Movement.

When our local bankers tell me that Dodd-Frank is a costly problem for them, I believe them. When they tell me that the feds took a “one size fits all” approach to regulation, I believe them. When they tell me they are concerned about their abilities to comply with the new regs, I believe them. In short, I trust my local banks.

My problem is that our local banks are simply calling for a repeal. I have not once heard a local bank official acknowledge that big banks were in large part to blame for our financial collapse, nor that big banks need more and better regulation. The local banks are silent on the bailouts, credit default swaps, and obscene salaries at the big banks. The local banks have called for an end to Dodd-Frank, but have not suggested any substitute regulation to help us avoid another meltdown and subsequent bailout.

I want to see our local banks try to be a part of the solution. History tells me that less regulation is no solution. I would like to see them join in the call for a better answer.

As for the occupy movement, it sounds as though local banks feel under attack. I have spent some time with the local occupy movement at College Green Park, and I have not heard or seen any sign of this. In fact, I saw the opposite.

I really respect the work of the Corridor Business Journal, but I was extremely disappointed in their recent editorial on the matter. The CBJ framed it quite simply – your choice is this or Cuba. I reject those limited choices, as do most of the “99%”.

Had the CBJ chosen to actually speak with some of the protesters, they would have found that great pains were taken to support local businesses, local banks in particular. The original plan was to occupy the Ped Mall, but that idea was scrapped when organizers feared that would have a negative impact on local businesses.

I cannot guarantee that NO protester had a “Screw Hills Bank” sign. But I can guarantee that if there was one, that person was a definite outlier.

More importantly, there has been a national movement among the “occupy” crowd and their sympathizers to move their money from the six big banks that ruined our economy to local banks. As of this week, over 750,000 Americans had taken this step. If each of these people had just $500 apiece in the bank, that is a $375 MILLION windfall for local banks! You would think that local banks would LOVE these folks!

Meanwhile, I continue to get e-mails and facebook posts from employees of local banks (often identifying themselves as such) criticizing and mocking the occupy movement.

I still love and support our local banks. I just wish our local banks paid the same respect to the protesters that the protesters have shown them.

*DID YOU KNOW? Antonia ('Tonie') Nathan, the 1972 Vice-Presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, was the first woman in American history to receive an electoral vote.

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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