Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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April 17, 2015

Sullivan’s Salvos     4/21/15

In this edition:

*Newport Road Rezoning
*Education = Cure For Poverty?
*NAMI Walk
*Shelter House Gala
*Did You Know?

*Newport Road Rezoning
         The Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 last Thursday to approve a rezoning on Newport Road. There is a great deal of misinformation out there regarding this area of the county. Please allow me to set the record straight.

         The applicants (Jeff and Judy Stevens) own a 14-acre parcel, which includes a house, some outbuildings, and a hay field. The Stevens wanted to rezone it from Ag to Residential, with the idea that somewhere down the line, they may sell half of it for development.

         This parcel sits squarely in the North Corridor Development Area, which is the county’s designated area for residential growth. While the land has been used as a hay field for decades, the Corn Suitability Rating (CSR) is only 58 - pretty low for Iowa. There are no environmentally sensitive areas on the property. The Land Evaluation Site Assessment (LESA) score showed the land to be very appropriate for residential development. There are already literally SCORES of homes in the area – just look at aerial photos. Adding homes to this area is infill, despite what opponents would have you believe. Opponents claim the traffic counts are too high, but they are only half (1000 vehicles per day) the limit established in our Road Performance Standards.

         By any reasonable measure, this application meets every standard set forth by Johnson County. Are we required to rezone, then? No, the law never requires it. But there is only one area of the county where we WILL rezone, and this is it. Everywhere else in the county is off limits (except villages). All farmland is protected everywhere EXCEPT this area, where a great deal of residential development has ALREADY occurred.

Could the Board have voted this down? Yes. But I believe it is critically important for the Board to be predictable. The public, including landowners deserve predictability.

         And yes, landowners do have some rights! I am more willing than most Supervisors to put requirements on landowners. But I don’t think it is fair to arbitrarily pick winners and losers. I believe you create policies, then you follow them. If they need fixed, you fix them. This was a case of following our policies.

         Can our policies be improved? Certainly! I have spent years on the losing end of 3-2 votes that would strengthen our land use policies. I am hopeful that those days are over, and that we can move forward with improvements to our existing policies.

         Meanwhile, we recently had another rezoning in the North Corridor Development Area. It is almost exactly the same size. No one complained about it. Why? What is the difference?

         I asked opponents to explain the difference, and only got one response – while Newport Road is 4 miles from infrastructure of Solon and/or Iowa City, the other rezoning was only two miles from the “infrastructure of Shueyville”.

That is rich. If you know anything about the area, you’d know that Shueyville does not HAVE any infrastructure! No city water, no city sewer…they don’t even maintain their two main roads – Johnson County does!

Clearly this response is just grasping at straws. The only difference between those two rezonings is political. And bringing politics into zoning decisions creates problems.

Zoning decisions are not popularity contests. That is the OLD way of doing county business. Want something rezoned? Well, do the Supervisors like your Daddy? Thank God we are not operating this way any longer. It almost always favored the rich and well connected, without regard for the merits of a given application. We should make zoning decisions based upon the facts, not other relationships.

*Education = Cure For Poverty?
         Conservatives and liberals don’t agree on much. One thing they tend to agree upon is the claim that education is the cure for poverty. This is a universally accepted truth. I push my own kids to continue their educations.

         But does education really work? There are several studies that show a worker with a college degree is likely to earn much more money over her lifetime than a worker without. I am not going to dispute those studies. But I found this interesting data set while reading Ezra Klein:

         In 1970, the educational attainment of the poor broke down like this: 56% had not finished high school. 31% had a high school diploma. 8% had some college, up to and including an AA. And 6% were college grads.

         That same look at the educational attainment of the poor today looks like this: 23% have no high school diploma. 34% have a high school diploma. 28% have some college. And 15% have a college degree.

         Obviously, today’s poor are MUCH more educated than the poor of 45 years ago. Yet by almost every measure, the poor today have deeper struggles than the poor 45 years ago. How do we explain this?

         I think the answer is pretty simple, really. While education is a huge help to many people, it is not enough. We need to return to the values of the New Deal, and adequately fund the social safety net.

         Your Chamber of Commerce types will reluctantly support educational funding – they like the idea that with education, a motivated young person can pull herself up by her bootstraps. Heck, I like that idea, too.

         But we need to acknowledge that our motivated young woman is unlikely to “pull herself up” without adequate shelter, food, medical care, etc. Education is great, but education alone is not enough.

*NAMI Walk
         I am once again participating in the NAMI Walk for the Mind of America. The 2015 NAMI Walk is Saturday, April 25 at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. Check-in: 9:00 am; Start Time: 10:00 am.

         Feel free to sponsor me (or another walker) by visiting and looking up the Iowa City walk.

For more information about this event, please contact:
Walk Manager Mary Issah at or 319-337-5400.

*Shelter House Gala
         The Shelter House is holding its annual Gala on Friday, April 24 at the Hotel Vetro. Doors open at 5:30, with dinner at 7:30. For more info, contact

*DID YOU KNOW?  All Johnson County Land Use Plan documents are available at:

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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