Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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November 15, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos     11/19/13

In this edition:

*Elected Officials & Affordable Housing
*General Assistance
*JFK Assassination 50-Year Anniversary
*TIF Pot, Meet TIF Kettle!
*Did You Know?

*Elected Officials & Affordable Housing
         Now that City Council elections are over, it is time for us to get to work on affordable housing. As I have said many times, I am firmly convinced that a lack of affordable housing remains our number one challenge.

         The Public Policy Center at the UI just finished a report on inclusionary zoning. Jerry Anthony, local housing expert and UI Professor of Urban and Regional Planning is the main author. (Inclusionary zoning is a key missing piece to the affordable housing puzzle.) You can find this report at

         In Iowa City, all the election winners listed affordable housing among the issues upon which they wanted to work. Now is the time to make those campaign promises come true!

         In Coralville, Councilors Mitch Gross and Jill Dodds have agreed to work on this issue; hopefully, they can bring their city to the table. North Liberty is already interested in talking. Tiffin might be.

         School Board member Jeff McGinness has spoken out in favor of addressing affordable housing, and Director Tuyet Dorau told me she favors inclusionary zoning. We will need the support of the ICCSD!

         The issue is at crisis level; we simply must get to work on this! Elected officials – we were elected to lead! We have talked the talk – now we need to walk the walk! Let’s do this!

*General Assistance
         Below is a portion of the FY13 General Assistance (GA) report. GA provides short-term monetary help to Johnson County residents in extreme financial crisis. GA offers a safety net for those not eligible for other government programs and promotes community strength by encouraging individual stability, self-sufficiency and responsibility.

Financial assistance is available to address the following needs: rent, utilities, prescriptions, food/provisions, and burial/cremation to eligible applicants. As per the Code of Iowa, Chapter 252.25, counties are required to provide General Assistance for poor persons in need. The code directs the Board of Supervisors in each county to establish general rules and eligibility requirements for the program.

According to the 2010 census, 18.2% of residents lived in poverty compared to 11.6% statewide. The FY13 Fair Market Rent for an efficiency apartment was $559 per month and $670 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. The 2013 estimated average wage of a renter household in Johnson County was $8.03/hour, while the estimated housing wage (that wage which is needed to afford to rent a two bedroom home at the Fair Market Rent) was estimated at $16.40/hour (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2013).

The maximum rent benefit in the Johnson County General Assistance Program in FY 2013 was $350 per month for a one-person household and $450 per month for 2 or more persons in a household. The vast majority of assists, 73%, went to rental assistance followed by other (prescriptions, health supplies and groceries) 16% and assistance with utilities, 11%. 

Services rendered are paid directly to the landlord or other applicable vendor. Persons seeking assistance must submit an application for each month in which help is requested.

There were 1330 applications submitted for General Assistance, and 1073 or 81% were approved in fiscal year 2013. The number of applications received decreased slightly while the number of households receiving assistance increased over last fiscal year.

Providing information and referrals to other resources is also an important component of the General Assistance program. This fiscal year 556 referrals were made to additional local resources.

*JFK Assassination 50-Year Anniversary
         November 22, 1963 is one of those dates in American history that is burned into our brains. I was not quite born yet, but for people who were old enough, they will never forget where they were when they heard the news.

         Local writer Larry Baker is organizing an event to commemorate the 50-year anniversary. The event will be Friday, November 22 at noon in Room A of the Iowa City Public Library.

Though I was not around for the assassination, I have always been fascinated by the events surrounding this dark day in our history. Nothing about it ever seemed right. Go forbid we ever go through a similar series of events!

*TIF Pot, Meet TIF Kettle!
         You may have seen that developers have submitted a plan to Iowa City that would redevelop the former Mumm’s property on the banks of the Iowa River.

         First, a disclaimer. I have spent some time in Mumm’s. I know it was a dump, even when it was open. But towns NEED a dive bar or two, if you ask me! So yeah, I’m a bit sentimental. But setting that aside, this is certainly a good spot for redevelopment. So I will admit this is a good thing.

         My issue is this – the developers for this project are Kevin O’Brien and Hunter Parks. They sued Coralville over that city’s use of TIF and other overly generous business incentives.

         This proposed redevelopment is in a TIF district. Are Mr. O’Brien and Mr. Parks doing this without any incentives? I doubt it! I would LOVE to be proven wrong, but I doubt they are doing this without the assistance of Iowa City.

         If only there was some group of businesspeople working to call attention to these arrangements, pushing cities to stay out of financial deals that should be handled by banks…

*DID YOU KNOW?  People are considered “cost burdened” by their housing if it exceeds 30% of their income. In 2000, 34% of Iowa City residents were cost-burdened by their housing. By 2012, that number had risen to 45%.

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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November 20, 2013 at 9:22 PM  

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