Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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November 30, 2012

Sullivan’s Salvos 12/4/12 In this edition: *Items in Salvos *50-50 Rock Agreements *Veto Power? Not if You Want Good Government! *Did You Know? *Items in Salvos I get occasional requests to run things in Salvos. I never realized how controversial this could get, but it seems to have caused some friction between some of my friends and I! So please allow me to explain my thoughts. I have never created “rules” in terms of what I will/will not include. I just don’t want to get that formal, frankly. Getting this out weekly can be a bit of a chore, and I just don’t want to make it any more difficult. I don’t have any staff. No intern. Nothing. This is just me, which can get a bit daunting. I date each edition of Salvos as a Tuesday, even though you will likely get it over the weekend. The idea of how to date each edition is stolen from the publishing industry; they want you to be able to buy magazines over a period of time knowing they will remain relevant. So Salvos is written in such a way that if you do not read it until Tuesday morning, it should still be relevant. That affects what I will run and when. If you send me an item on Thursday the 13th for Saturday the 15th, I am extremely unlikely to run it. Because I know several folks will not see it until after the 15th. And I want each edition to be relevant. So get me your information ASAP. Give me some time to work it in. And please do not be offended if I decided not to run your item. I am doing my best to put out a product that 400+ people will find interesting and informative each week. It is not easy! *50-50 Rock Agreements I am frustrated. Johnson County maintains a number of so-called “50-50” rock agreements on rural roads. Allow me to give a bit of history, and I’ll explain my frustrations. Right of way (ROW) is the area between the actual road and your yard. In the country, it includes the ditch, and usually goes to the fence line. In town, it is the area between the sidewalk and the street. ROW is actually owned by the property owner, but the government maintains a permanent easement. If the government needs a bigger easement, they must purchase it from the property owner. Years ago, federal and state standards were changed to require 60’ of right of way for rural roads. Like other jurisdictions, Johnson County attempted to comply. In most cases, landowners dedicated (gave) the necessary ROW, because they wanted the improved road that would follow. In other cases, the landowners refused to donate ROW. Sometimes the County relented and paid for it. In other cases, the County simply left the road in a more primitive condition. Today we call those “minimum maintenance” or Level B roads. So, in most cases, people who refused to donate ROW ended up with property abutting Level B roads. In some cases this made sense, because the road got very minimal use. In other cases, the roads in question were nothing more than long driveways, with no real public purpose. Then, over time, something happened. Some of the people who owned land along these roadways argued that they deserved/needed rock on their roads. Never mind that the situation existed in the first place because their daddies were stubborn! By God, they pay taxes, and they deserve rock! Like today, the Boards of Supervisors in that era were always concerned over losing any single vote. So they decided to grease the squeaky wheel and enter into “50-50” rock agreements. This meant that the person who owned the property would pay half the cost, and the public would foot the rest of the bill. Over time, many of these 50-50 agreements have faded away. But there are still a couple dozen out there. And they cost you $3500 annually just for the rock. This does not include plowing, grading, and other maintenance. Needless to say, I believe this to be an example of bad government. $3500+ is a drop in the bucket as far as the County roads budget goes. But it is the principle of the matter. There is no public purpose in splitting these costs. There was no public purpose in 1960, and there is none today. I believe we should end all 50-50 agreements. Give folks one year’s notice, and end them all. Unfortunately, the current Board simply goes nowhere when we discuss any changes to 50-50 or Level B roads. We cannot get three votes to do anything. And it drives me crazy. Again, it is more about principle than money. The status quo reinforces the worst possible image of County Boards as weak managers and good old boys, who bestow special favors in exchange for votes. I hate it, and I’d like to end it. *Veto Power? Not If You Want Good Government! The City of Iowa City is once again discussing urban chickens. One controversial idea under consideration is the idea that neighbors could veto whether or not someone got chickens. I think this is a horrible idea! Government must not be arbitrary. The rules that govern us must not be arbitrary. When you allow one neighbor to veto something another neighbor wants to do, you have reached the height of being arbitrary. Look at the cases of other animals. Some dogs are very loud. They bark at all hours. Their poop smells. Given the opportunity, many folks would opt to deny dogs to their neighbors. Yet you do not award veto power to neighbors where dogs are concerned. You create rules, and enforce those rules. Other issues would seem to call for the idea of a "neighbor's veto" before chickens would. Fire pits, for example. The smoke one neighbor creates may have a marked impact on another neighbor, yet no veto power exists in these cases. Set rules, and enforce those rules consistently. If a neighbor has a legitimate complaint, the facts can be investigated, and penalties applied. To do anything else is not good governance. *DID YOU KNOW? The Johnson County Ambulance Service arrives in less than 6 minutes over 54% of the time. This is outstanding considering the number of rural calls to which they respond. 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. If you do NOT want the weekly E-mail, simply reply to this message, and type "unsubscribe" in the subject line. If you know anyone else who might be interested, just forward this message. They can E-mail me at with "subscribe" in the subject line. As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you! ---Rod


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