Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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February 20, 2015

Sullivan’s Salvos     2/24/15

In this edition:

*Congratulations, Denny!
*Bernie Sanders
*Dane County
*”Qualified Electors” and the Iowa City Charter
*Shelter House Used Book Sale
*Did You Know?

*Congratulations, Denny!
         Congratulations to Iowa City Assessor Denny Baldridge on his retirement!

         The Assessor has a difficult job. The Assessor must determine the value of every piece of land in that jurisdiction – from houses, to apartment buildings, to farm fields, to gas stations, to malls… the Assessor decides what each is worth.

         Obviously, property owners all wish their property was assessed lower. That way, they would pay less in taxes. That is the case until the property owner goes to sell – then owners tend to believe their property is worth much more! Basically, people are always upset with the Assessor.

         Because of this inherent distrust, it is critical that Assessors do their jobs very well. The public needs to have confidence that they are not paying too much (or too little), and that their neighbors are not paying too much or too little. People need to have confidence that the process is fair.

         Denny Baldridge can retire head held high, knowing that the Iowa City Assessor’s Office routinely ranks in the top 2-4 offices in the state. If you own property in Iowa City, you are being assessed fairly. And the credit for that goes to Denny Baldridge.

         In addition to doing his job well, Denny is a great guy. I have really enjoyed getting to know him, and I’ll miss having him in the building. Good luck, Denny, and thanks for all the good work!

*Bernie Sanders
         It was great to have Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in town this week! I hope he runs for President – we need a real Iowa Caucus season!

         If you feel the same way, please let the Senator know! He can be reached at:

*Dane County
         I have some exciting news! The Johnson County Board of Supervisors is making a trip to Dane County, Wisconsin on May 4th and 5th.

         Dane County is home to Madison and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Of all the counties in the US, it is one of the most similar to where we live. It is only about two and a half hours away, and yet we have done very little in terms of exchanging information.

         I am proud to say I was at the forefront of changing this. At our first Local Food Summit, just about a year ago, our keynote speaker was Kyle Richmond, a Dane County Supervisor who has been very involved in local food efforts there. As we talked, I mentioned that we should come see the things he was talking about. Kyle agreed.

         A few months later, I ran into Kyle and one of his colleagues at the National Association of Counties (NACo) meeting. We spent some time together, and I once again broached the subject of a visit. This time, Kyle gave me a contact name. Thanks to a LOT of hard work by Executive Assistant Andy Johnson, the visit has been arranged.

         We plan on focusing on a few of the most important issues facing our county – local food, disproportionate minority contact, affordable housing, and more. While Dane County has not solved any of these problems, they offer us a fresh perspective on things. In addition, they are ahead of us when it comes to addressing these issues. I’m hopeful we can learn from the things they got right, as well as the things they got wrong.

         There may be opportunities for some members of the public to attend, assuming they paid their own way. Let me know if you are interested. Otherwise, please let me know if there is something you want me to pursue while in Dane County.

*”Qualified Electors” and the Iowa City Charter
As you have heard here, the Charter Review Commission will soon be making recommendations to the Iowa City Council regarding the City Charter. Of all the things that could or should be changed, the issue of “qualified electors” is the number one issue in my book.

If you take out a petition from any level of government, you will find a disclaimer. It warns anyone signing that their signature testifies that she/he is an eligible elector, and that any type of misrepresentation is punishable by law. So there is little incentive to lie on a petition.

If you turned this petition in to the County Auditor, the office would verify signatures. In Iowa City, however, you’d get another step. The City Clerk’s office would then compare every address listed on the petition to the address listed in the voter file. If they do not match, the signature is disallowed.

I find this very troubling. Iowa offers same day voter registration. The signer is verifying that she/he is an eligible elector, and that is true! That should be the end of it.

You hear “concerns” from grumpy old white men, who say that those signatures should not be counted. They say, “If they don’t care enough to register, why do we care what they think?”

This obfuscates the main point: the vast majority of petitioners ARE registered to vote. They just aren't registered at their current address.

Most Iowa City citizens between 17 and 26 or so move every year. So they sign a petition. Again, the City Clerk checks the address they have given versus the address at which they are registered. The addresses don't match. That signature does not count.

This process systematically disenfranchises thousands of people - not "irresponsible" people as some would have you believe - but YOUNG people. Who make up about half our population.

Imagine for a moment that instead of being young, they were disenfranchised because of race or gender? Would we stand for it?

         This is just another way in which Iowa City treats students as commodities to be exploited. Bring your daddy’s money to town, pay tuition and fees, pay exorbitant rents, pay a couple $500 PAULAs, and don’t try to involve yourself in the decision making. Get a pat on the head from those who have exploited you, and go away tens of thousands in debt.

         This rule is wrong. (I happen to believe it is unconstitutional.) I hope the ACLU sues over it. Of course, they wouldn’t HAVE to if the Council simply did the right thing. I hope the City Council will see fit to change this terrible rule.

*Shelter House Used Book Sale
The annual Shelter House Used Book Sale is Saturday, March 7th from 10:30 am-4:30 pm and Sunday, March 8th from Noon-4:00 pm at the former Ben Franklin store in the Iowa City Marketplace (formerly Sycamore Mall).

Early Birds can get in Saturday at 10:00am for a $10 entrance fee. All proceeds go toward supporting the mission of Shelter House.

*DID YOU KNOW?  The Johnson County Assessor’s Office ranks number one in the state in the most recent statistical ratings. The Iowa City Assessor’s Office ranks second.

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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