Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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February 2, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos 2/5/13 In this edition: *Democratic Candidate for Supervisor *SEATS *Mayors Rock! *Arc Chili Supper *Did You Know? *Democratic Candidate for Supervisor Johnson County Democrats held their nominating Convention on January 31 at Northwest Junior High in Coralville, and chose Terry Dahms of Newport Township to be the Democratic candidate for County Supervisor. Terry is retired from the UI, and has extensive background in county government. He has served as Chair of our Planning and Zoning Commission and Chair of our Trails Advisory Committee. He has also spent two years as Chair of the Johnson County Democratic Party. I have known Terry since the early 2000s, and I have found him to be a GREAT guy! He is smart, thoughtful, and trustworthy. I think he’ll make an excellent Supervisor, and I hope you’ll give him your support. The GOP meets on February 6 to nominate a candidate. The election is Tuesday, March 5. In addition, there will likely be some early voting opportunities. *SEATS The Johnson County SEATS program has been in the news lately. I believe it is important that the public have some more information. SEATS is a department of County government that provides paratransit services throughout the county. Rides are provided to elderly folks and people with disabilities who would otherwise be unable to take the fixed route bus systems. SEATS has been in operation since the mid ‘70s. Federal law requires municipalities with fixed route bus systems to also provide paratransit services. Iowa City and Coralville accomplish this by contracting with SEATS. (The rest of the County is not under the same federal mandates.) The existing 5-year contracts expire June 30. This is good timing for the County, because we are subsidizing the cities a tremendous amount. Last year, Johnson County subsidized Iowa City over $500,000 and Coralville over $100,000. Obviously, Johnson County would prefer a contract that sees the cities pay 100% of their responsibilities. How did we get there? Growth. SEATS now provides over 112,000 trips annually, about two-thirds of which are the federally mandated responsibilities of Iowa City and Coralville. The County asked our SEATS Director to begin negotiations back in September, but the first thing he heard from either city was just a month ago. This creates a problem for negotiations. Budgets must be finalized by mid-February in order to meet publishing requirements. We need to put some numbers in the budget now. So little time remains. Iowa City and Coralville offered two year contracts that would have had Johnson County subsidizing Iowa City over $300,000 each year and subsidizing Coralville $95,000 each year. Johnson County countered with a pair of three-year contracts. We would subsidize Iowa City $100,000 in year 1, $50,000 in year 2, and zero in year 3. We would subsidize Coralville $30,000 in year 1, $15,000 in year 2, and zero in year 3. This strikes me as more than fair. The county is under no obligation to subsidize the service. We felt that a three-year phasing down to zero was extremely generous, and gave the cities ample time to adjust. It is a stark contrast from the take-it-or-leave-it approach Iowa City used with Johnson County when discussing the animal shelter. In addition, both cities continue to TIF. Every time TIF is used, the county gets shut out on all growth. In FY13, Iowa City TIFs cost Johnson County about $100,000. Coralville TIFs cost Johnson County over $3.2 million last year alone! They keep diverting tax revenue from Johnson County – over $30 million in the past decade! Yet Johnson County is willing to ease them into a new SEATS contract. So – what happens next? The cities really have three ways they can go. They can sign a contract with SEATS, provide the service themselves, or find another vendor. I am convinced that any objective review of these options will demonstrate that SEATS is a fantastic value! Compare our cost per mile, per trip, per rider, etc. with paratransit systems all over the US, and you will see that SEATS is among the most efficient services anywhere. In addition, the rates of accidents and complaints are both very low, comparing favorably with any system in the country. Most importantly, SEATS staff (represented by AFSCME) are extremely experienced and well-trained. They know the riders personally. They care deeply about the riders. It is very difficult to put a price on a deep level of commitment. The people of Iowa City and Coralville get a very good deal when they contract with SEATS. I hope their leaders recognize this fact, and enter into a contract. *Mayors Rock! I was thinking recently about the small town Mayors in Johnson County. They are a remarkable group of people! With all due respect to the Mayors of our larger cities – all fine people – small town Mayors have VERY difficult jobs! They lack the staff support of their colleagues in larger cities, yet expectations can be just as high. They serve on innumerable committees, and would amaze you with their vast knowledge! I am not certain why these folks are not held in higher regard. Too many people think “Mayor” and conjure up an image such as the bumbling Mayor Quimby on the Simpsons. I am here to tell you, that is just not the case! The stories are too numerous to mention. Loose dog? Call the Mayor. Incorrect water bill? Call the Mayor. Noisy neighbors? Call the Mayor. Does not fit neatly into any other category? Call the Mayor! These folks do phenomenal work for very low pay. The headaches are many, and the appreciation rare. I believe the current group is as good as any we’ve ever had. So, a special shout out to: Tim Mason, Swisher; Bryan Bredmann, Shueyville; Louise From, University Heights; Don Saxton, Oxford; Steve Berner, Tiffin; Cami Rassmussen, Solon; Tim Kemp, Hills; Tom Salm, North Liberty; and Rick Ogren, Lone Tree. Saxton is the dean of small town Mayors, having served a remarkable 38 years! Thank you to every member of this outstanding group! *Arc Chili Supper The Arc is holding its annual Chili Supper Friday, February 8 from 4:30-8 pm at the River Community Church in Iowa City. All money raised will support the Arc in its mission to help individuals with disabilities have options for where and how they live, learn, work, and play. For more information contact 351-5017. *DID YOU KNOW? Paratransit arose from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This prohibited excluding people with disabilities from federally-funded services. 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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