Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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May 4, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos     5/7/13

In this edition:

*Justice Center
*Plant Sale –Part 1
*Plant Sale – Part 2
*Livable Community for Successful Aging
*Did You Know?

*Justice Center
Johnson County residents now have the opportunity to vote yes or no on a new Justice Center. I support this measure. Here is some background:

The current jail was built in 1981 to house 46 residents, which was inadequate from the start. It also was built with insufficient footings to expand vertically. The surrounding land is a high priority for the UI, so it is not available. Double bunking allowed the jail to house 92 inmates, but it does so neither adequately nor comfortably. This move also cost the jail all available space for treatment, exercise, small groups, visitations, worship, and the like.

Fast forward to the present. The average daily population in 2011 exceeded 170. That means on an average day, 80-90 inmates get shipped to other counties. That leads to $1.3 million in annual expenses. Other counties charge between $45 and $70 per day to house each prisoner. Add in transportation costs, and it runs roughly $65/day to house an inmate out of county. Interestingly, it also costs roughly $65/day to house inmates in our own jail. While exact figures are extremely difficult to nail down in either instance, it is clear that the costs are very close.

Problems exist with the current arrangements, however. First, transporting prisoners is a logistical nightmare. They need to appear in court frequently, and also have a right to visitors, which is hard if they are in another county. Secondly, there is not adequate room for exercise, study, religious services, or classes. These are all part of a humane and rehabilitative system for housing inmates. Finally, the current jail is also less than ideal for the deputies that work there; they are more at risk than we would like.

One of the clear messages from the failed 2000 referendum was that the public expected alternatives to incarceration. This is an area where Sheriff Pulkrabek and County Attorney Lyness and their staffs have excelled. Most of the alternatives that could be used are already in place. The public has gotten what they asked for, and the results have been very positive. There are still a few more measures that can be taken, but not without more space in which to work.

While positive, the results have not alleviated the overcrowding to the extent we had hoped. Alternatives eliminate an average of several inmates per day, but when the average daily population is still 150, that total is not enough impact to change the big picture. The biggest obstacle to more alternatives is, ironically, a lack of space.

The other related issue that must not be ignored is the courthouse. The courthouse is just as crowded as the jail, and courthouse overcrowding leads to inmates waiting for court dates, thereby spending more days in jail. In addition, there are serious security issues at the current courthouse. Obviously, the current facility is on the National Register of Historic Places, so it should not be altered too dramatically. The architecture severely limits the ability to utilize the existing building.

I view the jail situation as being similar to private home ownership. If the cost of renting gets close to the cost of a mortgage, you probably ought to consider buying. Consider the record-low borrowing costs, and I think it is time to buy.

Opponents claim the new proposal is no different from the first. That is simply untrue. The number one complaint we heard was the jail portion of the project had too many beds. So we cut it by almost 50 beds. Plus, the last proposal got over 56% of the vote in the second biggest turnout election in Johnson County history. Why would we change things so dramatically as to lose that strong support?

We are often reminded that the US leads the world in the percentage of people incarcerated. But arrest rates locally are among the lowest in the nation. To those who claim, “build it and they will fill it,” I say – your argument is being proven false every day. We have nothing to fill now – yet our jail population continues to rise. No officer on the scene of a crime stops to think about jail bed availability. They don’t do it now, and they won’t do it with a new facility.

For many folks, a no vote is a protest vote. They don’t like the way the ICPD handles marijuana cases. They do not like the fact that the ICPD disproportionately stops minorities. Guess what? I don’t like it, either. But Iowa City doesn’t do what I ask. As a matter of fact, they pretty much do the opposite of whatever I want. So why punish the County deputies for the sins of the ICPD? It is like saying you don’t like Hawkeye football so you are boycotting West High football. It doesn’t have any impact.

The bottom line is, most residents use neither the jail nor the courthouse. For most residents of Johnson County, the jail and courthouse are simply expenses. I hope these folks see that we are doing what we can to take control of our costs.

We need the safety, security, and space that would come with a new Justice Center. I am voting yes, and I hope you will do the same!

*Plant Sale – Part 1
Project Green Plant Sale – Saturday, May 11, 9–11:30 am at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Here are some of the 
reasons to support and attend our sale: All funds raised from the 2013 
Garden Fair will be earmarked for a major contribution to the landscaping at the new Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. There will be a display at the Garden Fair with more information about this project, as well as Project GREEN’s other projects - past, present and future.

Contrary to popular rumors, there are plenty of plants available for the duration of the sale. You do not need to be present when the doors open in order to have a good selection of plants for purchase.
We will have refreshments available for purchase - coffee, muffins, sweet rolls, sweet breads and the like; plus tables and chairs where you can take a break from your shopping!

Expert advice! Local experts will be available to answer your garden questions. Experts from Master Gardeners, Iowa City recycling and composting, Department of Natural Resources, and other wildlife experts, biologists, and foresters will be on hand.

Plant sitters! Plant sitting stations will be available where you can stow your boxes of plant treasures while you talk to the experts, enjoy refreshments, or shop for more.

*Plant Sale – Part 2
         The annual Friends of Hickory Hill Park Plant Sale will again be held at 1167 E. Jefferson Street on the following weekends:

Friday, May 10th, 4 to 7 PM; Saturday, May 11th 10 AM to 4 PM; Friday, May 17th 4 to 7 PM; and Saturday, May 18th 10 AM to 4 PM.

New plants will be added for the 2nd weekend.

*Livable Community for Successful Aging
Join us Thursday, May 9 for Livable Community's Spring Annual Meeting. In celebration of Older Americans Month, we invite you to join us for our annual report to the community!

7:00am: Registration & continental breakfast; 7:30am to 9:00am: Program. First Presbyterian Church, 2701 Rochester Ave. Iowa City.

See how our updated website can help you find services and stay connected to events happening in the community. Find out how to get involved and volunteer in our community. Fun opportunities to meet new friends and learn helpful information. Please RSVP by replying to:

*DID YOU KNOW?  Area Farmer’s Markets are open for the season!

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!



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