Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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February 11, 2012

Sullivan’s Salvos 2/14/12

In this edition:

*Happy Valentine’s Day!
*Planning and Zoning Stats
*Income Inequality
*Congratulations, Jordan!
*Did You Know?

*Happy Valentine’s Day!
I recognize that Valentine’s Day can get pretty lonely for people who are not in a relationship. I feel for these folks, and wish them well. It certainly helps to remind me how lucky I am to have such a wonderful wife! Happy Valentine’s Day to each of you, regardless of your circumstances!

*Planning and Zoning Stats
The Board of Supervisors recently got an annual report from our Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Department, and it was loaded with statistics. I am a bit of a stats geek, so I found all of this fascinating. I hope you do, too!

1. In 2011, P&Z issued 370 building permits totaling over $22 million. There were 39 new single-family homes, with an average price of $335,000.

It is interesting to break these numbers down. For one, 39 new houses seems like a small number for a county our size. It is. This is because our policies are geared toward protecting farmland and environmentally sensitive land. We encourage folks who want to build single-family homes to first look toward our cities.

The $335,000 price of an average home is eye opening as well. This average has been pretty consistent, however, over the past ten years. Some would argue that this indicates that the County should be doing more to promote low-income housing. I happen to disagree with that. I firmly believe low-income housing in rural areas creates pockets of isolated despair. Transportation is critical for lower income folks, as rural areas lack jobs, stores, and services. And if our cities step up and provide low income housing in the appropriate locations, the County can continue to focus on funding the many social services that our citizens need. That is a model for a successful partnership!

2. Johnson County rezoned 163 acres in 2011, up from 30 in 2010. Normally, this would be a cause for concern. But we actually down-zoned 133 acres in 2011 – something that rarely occurs in a growing county. We added 109 acres of farmland in 2011 – the first year that number has risen in decades. (Economics matter here. Farmland is now worth almost as much for farming as it is for development! That is a significant change, which presents a whole different set of issues!)

3. The 2011 vacancy rate in Johnson County was 26.2%, virtually unchanged from 2010. Vacancy rate means the percentage of buildable, zoned, platted lots that are not built. This statistic is vitally important when considering rezoning from Ag to Residential. Rather than rezoning, the Board can use this statistic to direct folks toward a more infill type of development.

4. There were 11.56 acres annexed by our cities in 2011, all by Iowa City. This is down dramatically from 339 acres in 2010. (The Board has zero control over this, by the way.)

One thing that the statistics do not show – we are blessed with a GREAT Planning and Zoning Department! I sincerely appreciate the work these folks do!

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding any of these issues, please let me know!

*Income Inequality
If you are a regular reader of Salvos, you know that I often write about income inequality. I think the issue is of vital importance on several fronts:

Economics: Henry Ford realized that Ford Motor Company would be more successful if Ford employees could afford to buy the vehicles they were building. Unfortunately, far too many of our wealthiest companies and individuals are striving to earn more no matter the cost. Ironically, they are hurting themselves. The economy works best when the middle class is big and strong.

Politics: The “American Dream” was available to generations of people. If you worked hard and followed the rules, you would do OK. If you combined those two factors with skills and a little luck, you had the opportunity to do very well. Unfortunately, the American Dream now seems out of reach to a large number of citizens. It appears that the game is rigged.

Religion: Jesus Christ was VERY clear – greed is a sin. The rich have little chance of going to Heaven. He very clearly states that we should feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend to the sick, and visit prisoners. Yet we now live in a country where so-called “Christian” leaders try to justify greed.

These are but a few of the reasons income inequality is a problem. And FAR too many people still don’t get it! Mitt Romney recently said he “earned some money from speaking – but not much!” (Followed by laughter.) Romney earned over $374,000 in speaking fees! In what WORLD is $374,000 “not much”?

Income inequality is one of the most important issues facing us today. I hope you’ll join me in the fight for greater equality.

*Congratulations, Jordan!
Congratulations to my daughter Jordan, who recently signed a National Letter of Intent to run track at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois.

We are very proud of Jordan’s academic and athletic accomplishments!

*DID YOU KNOW? One legend of St. Valentine contends that he was a priest in third century Rome. The Emperor Claudius had outlawed marriage because single men made better warriors. Valentine, however, continued to perform marriages in secret. When the Emperor discovered what Valentine was doing he ordered that Valentine be put to death.

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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