Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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March 29, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos 4/2/13 In this edition: *Happy Birthday, Jordan! *Marriage Equality *Agape Café *TIF Article *Did You Know? *Happy Birthday, Jordan! Happy Birthday to my daughter Jordan on April 8th! Jordan turns 19, and this is her first birthday away from home. Jordan is a freshman at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. Jordan has certainly done a lot to make us proud in her 19 years! She is a really good girl, who has overcome many obstacles. In many ways, she is a hero to me. And I love her more than I could ever explain here. Happy Birthday, Honey! *Marriage Equality This past Thursday, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in support of marriage equality. The vote was 4-1, with newest Supervisor John Etheredge voting against the measure. Passage should come as no surprise. Johnson County has the highest percentage of LGBT residents in Iowa. Johnson County was the first County in Iowa to pass a Human Rights Ordinance – before the Iowa Legislature did the same, and well before the Iowa Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the State. Marriage equality is even one of the top three issues in Johnson County’s Federal Legislative agenda. I am extremely proud of Johnson County’s advocacy for Human Rights. I firmly believe we are on the right side of history. I am very honored to have played a very small role in this march toward justice. As I write this, I cannot help but think of my friend and colleague Kim Painter. Kim and I first met long ago, while she was a “controversial” columnist for the Daily Iowan. You know what is interesting? Kim’s opinions have not changed, yet she is no longer “controversial”. Kim became the first openly gay elected official in Iowa when she was elected Recorder for the first time in 1998. Kim is no longer known for her sexual identity; she is now known simply as an excellent County Recorder. Which is how she wanted it all along. Kim Painter has long been one of my heroes. I am proud to stand by her, and support the issues she so courageously fought for back when it wasn’t cool. I hope you will join us. Now let us hope that the US Supreme Court sees that this is a basic issue of civil rights, and grants marriage equality to all Americans! *Agape Café The Agape Cafe on the campus of The University of Iowa serves a free, hot made-to-order breakfast every Wednesday from 7 - 8:30 during the academic year. Rise and Shine for the Agape Café - 20 Years and still Cookin’ Breakfast Fundraiser: Saturday, April 6, 8:00 am- 11:00 am at Old Brick Church in Iowa City. Join us in celebration with great food, the Champagne Academy of Irish Dance, and door prizes as we thank our donors of 20 years for supporting Iowa City’s Breakfast Café. Freewill Donation requested - $10 is awesome, $20 purchases food for 15 Café guests. Agape Café is a mission of the Episcopal Campus Ministry at the University of Iowa. *TIF Article My friend Nick Johnson recently wrote the following piece on TIF. I liked it so much I asked his permission to rerun it here: Considering all the downsides of tax increment financing (TIF), you have to wonder why public officials continue to use it. Is there that much joy in playing Santa with other people’s money? Whatever the reason, like death and taxes TIFs are here to stay. Officials and their lucky beneficiaries love them, and the public doesn’t seem to care — at least not enough to make an organized, political difference. Nonetheless, it’s worthwhile to remind ourselves from time to time why they are such a bad idea. Here’s a summary: • Roads and schools are traditional government undertakings. Funding private enterprise is not. • TIFs are backwards: voters must approve bonds for legitimate public projects, like the justice center, but private TIFs are awarded without public approval, often over taxpayers’ objections! • They’ve lost their way. Initially designed for urban renewal and low-income housing, taxpayer-funded TIFs are now used to build upscale condos. • It’s ideological hypocrisy to praise free markets while coming to city hall tin cup in hand. • Telling taxpayers, “I’ll keep the profits, you cover the losses,” conflicts with capitalism’s gamble of risks as well as rewards. • TIFs intertwine government and business in something that’s neither socialism or capitalism. It’s called “corporatism,” and combines the worst qualities of both. • TIFs distort the market. • Even if distortion of market forces was desirable, governments have more effective tools than TIFs that don’t require taxpayers’ money — zoning regulations and building codes among others. • It’s inexcusably unfair to fund one business person while leaving his competitors on their own. • TIFs take money from schools and other government units, causing either cuts in programs or increased taxes. • Even if TIFs would produce taxes many years from now, and they often don’t, are ever-increasing taxes (and budgets) an appropriate metric for measuring good government? • TIFs aren’t needed. There are plenty of investors for sound, profitable business plans. If they and bankers won’t fund a project, why should taxpayers? • Many TIFed projects would have gone ahead anyway; it’s virtually impossible to know if the beneficiary’s professed “need” is genuine. • All ventures have risk. TIFs have more, because public officials with little business experience and no skin in the game make more mistakes than experienced investors watching their own money. • Trying to move businesses from one community to another with competing TIF bribes is a lose-lose strategy. • Businesses pick cities for reasons other than TIFs: workforce, local economy, schools, transportation, communication, quality of life. • Telling officials to TIF “prudently” is as effective as beer ads urging University of Iowa binge-drinking students to “drink responsibly.” TIFs can be as addictive as alcohol. • When officials give millions in taxpayers’ money to private, for-profit businesses, the temptations for good-old-boy corruption are great — and virtually impossible to uncover. • TIFs are, for a taxing authority, what impulse buying is for the rest of us — an expensive, unbudgeted, one-off “I’ve got to have that!” moment, often followed by buyer’s remorse. • TIFs can devastate a government’s credit rating, thereby increasing the cost of future legitimate projects. These concerns are relevant for any city. But Iowa City has another reason to avoid TIFs: We don’t need them. Businesses here will thrive; others come because of what we offer. We’re ranked near the top of the nation’s cities in numerous categories. I know our officials will continue dropping millions of taxpayers’ dollars to the bottom line of for-profit, private ventures. But it still doesn’t hurt to ask from time to time, “Why?” Nicholas Johnson, a former school board member, teaches at the University of Iowa College of Law and maintains *DID YOU KNOW? The first TIF was in California in 1952. 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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