Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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August 2, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos     8/6/13

In this edition:

*August Leases
*Coalition for Racial Justice
*ICCSD Board Candidates
*Policy Vs. Politics
*Rent and Property Taxes
*Did You Know?

*August Leases
         The August leases have begun, and people are pouring into our community. There are now lots of drivers, bikers, and pedestrians who are not completely certain where they are headed.

         Please allow a little more time and a little more space. The newbies will figure things out in due time!

*Coalition for Racial Justice
         The Coalition for Racial Justice (CRJ) has been doing some great work of late, and I thought it was worth giving that group a tip of the hat here.

         The CRJ was responsible for a nice event in downtown Iowa City in the wake of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict. The event stayed calm, but folks had a venue for singing, crying, and just being together.

In addition, the CRJ recently released a report entitled “Racial Equity in Iowa City and Johnson County”, which can be found at I strongly encourage everyone to read this report! It does a great job of quantifying the racial disparities that exist right here at home.

         Most importantly, the CRJ is bringing people together to discuss the ways we deal with our differences. Keep up the great work, CRJ!

*ICCSD Board Candidates
         The filing deadline has passed, and the field is set for school board elections across the state.

         Things are particularly interesting in the Iowa City Community School District, where NINE candidates have filed for three seats.

         I’ll have more to say on this race later. But for now, my friend John Deeth gives a quick list of the players at

         You know it is a big election when 9 candidates are running. Tune in, and be sure to vote on September 10!

*Policy vs. Politics
         There is a lot of national coverage of politics. Polling data, campaign stops… the media dissects every word the candidates say in search of a faux pas.

         Meanwhile, there is much less national coverage of policy. Policies are only seen as political tools.

         While I love politics, I adore policy! And I think much of the voting populace feels the same way. I hope the old adage, “good policy equals good politics” holds up! Unfortunately, I’m not so sure this is true locally.

         I know many local voters who have no idea how any Supervisors have voted on any issue. They do not see what one Supervisor promotes and another opposes. The public seems to view us as all the same, despite some deep policy differences.

         I would love to see more people pay more attention to the actual policy positions of our local elected officials. The differences MATTER! But the message to elected officials is: choose the easiest, least courageous route possible. Because voters do not care about policy.

Unfortunately, locally as nationally, politics trumps policy. Sad but true. If you wish to see that change… it starts with you! The September school elections give you an opportunity.

*Rent and Property Taxes
         I have been battling this issue for almost 20 years now. Some argue that lower taxes will lead to lower rents. I tell them landlords will always charge the most the market will bear. Doubters refuse to listen to me because I am not an acolyte of the Chamber of Commerce.

Unfortunately, I now have an opportunity to prove myself correct. Last session, the Iowa Legislature passed the biggest commercial property tax cut in Iowa history. Taxes were not only cut for businesses, but also for owners of apartment buildings, mobile home parks, and nursing homes.

         So – if you believe, as I do, that rents are a function of supply and demand – you would expect rents to rise despite these HUGE tax cuts. If you believe, like the frustrating folks I’ve argued with for 20 years, that tax cuts lead to cuts in rent – you should expect rents to go WAY down in the leases that begin this August.

         Mobile home parks, apartment buildings, and nursing homes are all leasing as we speak. What is the verdict? I’ve checked the papers closely, and spoken to three different people who work in property management. Each says that apartment rents have risen substantially this fall. (I know my daughter’s rent went up 7%.) Mobile home park lot rents seem to have risen a tiny bit. I have yet to hear/see any that have gone down.

         The only place I have heard of that does NOT lump property taxes into rents is Oaknoll, where each bill contains a line that specifically spells out the property tax paid. It will be interesting to hear how they address this large cut. Meanwhile, I have not been able to gather any further information on nursing home rates.

         The verdict? Taxes went down, but rents went up anyway. That is EXACTLY what I’ve been arguing. For years.

         Look, it is not that I’m so smart. I’m not. But I’m smart enough to listen to Peter Fisher of the Iowa Policy Project, who has been saying this all along.

         The Iowa Legislature cut taxes where no tax cuts were warranted. The benefits did NOT trickle down. Renters have NOT been helped in any way. Saying this may be bad form, but I told you so!

*DID YOU KNOW?  The Johnson County Attorney’s Office brought in $239,868 in past due fines in FY13.

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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