Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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October 6, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos     10/8/13

In this edition:

*Housing Crisis
*Johnson County Annual Report
*Book Festival
*Democratic Party BBQ
*Did You Know?

*Housing Crisis
         I keep mentioning the lack of affordable housing in Johnson County as our single biggest problem. A recent article in the Press Citizen (Friday, September 27) reinforces this idea.

         I hope local leaders will sit down and discuss this issue. As a matter of fact, I think we should have an Affordable Housing Summit and invite all the players. I’ll get to work on that!

         Meanwhile, I have gotten some pushback on my suggestion that the Board use a portion of the Poor Farm land for affordable housing.

Most of that opposition came from people who felt parkland was too valuable. I have several responses to this. First, I'm the guy who came up with the idea for the $20 million Conservation bond. I know we need parkland. My plan would ADD 100 acres of park that is not there now.

We have $19 million of the $20 million still available for the purchase of public land. We have the ability to add parks and open space. This is the Supervisors’ ONLY opportunity to address low-income housing.

The Poor Farm is public land now, yes - that is being row cropped. No one gives a darn who owns it, because they cannot use it. My plan would allow much greater public usage.

And while we need more open space, we do not need it as much as we need affordable housing. We have almost 1,200 people living on the streets. That does not include all the people who are doubled up! Rents went up 10-15% despite huge tax cuts for landlords. The vacancy rate is one half of one percent.

People must come first. Parks second. Period.

The public sector keeps putting its faith in the private housing sector. And for 25 years, the private housing sector has failed miserably. Rents are higher than ever. Very little progress has been made. But Iowa City continues to claim it “prefers” a market-based solution. There IS no market-based solution! The private sector WILL NOT fix this! You need to act!

And the Iowa City approach, bad as it may be, is much better than the approach of Coralville. They simply pretend there is no problem. They should be ashamed.

A former Coralville councilor and I were once arguing about public subsidies for low wage jobs. He told me that the people who work low wage jobs (taxpayer subsidized) in Coralville could “just live in Williamsburg”. Unfortunately, that is the most conversation that has ever been had on affordable housing in Coralville.

Other respondents supported affordable housing, but wanted to see it built closer to the core. First, which city “core”? This crisis is not Iowa City’s alone. Second, there IS bus service to the area. The City bus stops at Chatham Oaks. Finally, if one wants to harp on the City Councils for lacking courage and failing to enact inclusionary zoning - I'll join you. We have an opportunity with municipal elections coming up to ask our leaders to do better.

Want affordable housing downtown? Johnson County does not OWN those spaces! I'm suggesting we commit the ONLY asset we have available. I'm calling for Johnson County do what it can to address our single biggest problem.

I go back to last week’s piece: We talk about the Poor Farm, and our focus is always on the “Farm” part of the equation. I think we need to put more focus on the “Poor” part of the equation.

Our forefathers had a way, albeit crude, of housing the poorest among us. Over 150 years later, affordable housing is the number one problem in Johnson County. We should not lose sight of this.

*Johnson County Annual Report
         We are trying something new. For the first time in recent memory, Johnson County is doing an annual report.

Thursday, October 10 at 4pm Elected Officials and Department Heads will be presenting a report on FY13. From Ambulance calls to bridges, from property taxes to death investigations – we are going to tell the community what happened in FY13.

There will be food and drink, as well as some time to chat. The whole presentation will be quite short, with additional written and electronic information available. I really have high hopes for this event. I hope that if you are reading this, you will stop by!

As I noted, we hope to make this report an annual event. I hope the community supports this effort. We are trying our best to communicate with our constituents, but that is becoming more and more difficult.

One way that you can help – talk to local media about this. Urge them to cover it. I can’t get local papers to our meetings, but perhaps with your encouragement we can get them to this.

*Book Festival
         The Iowa City Book Festival runs from Thursday evening October 10 through Sunday evening October 13 in locations across Johnson County.

         This year’s event will be the biggest and best yet. For a full schedule of events, visit:

*Democratic Party BBQ
         The Johnson County Democratic Party is holding its annual Fall BBQ on Sunday, October 13 from 3-7 pm at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. Speakers include Congressmen Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack; there is also music, a silent auction, excellent Neuzil pork, homemade desserts, drinks, and fun!

         For more info call 337-VOTE or visit:

*DID YOU KNOW?  Democrats outnumber Republicans by better than 2:1 in Johnson County.

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.

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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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