Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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November 9, 2017

Sullivan’s Salvos     11/14/17

In this edition:

*RIP Calder Wills
*Election Results
*County Budget
*Did You Know?

*RIP Calder Wills
         A twelve-year-old young man from Iowa City named Calder Wills just passed away after a long battle with cancer. To be honest, I never met Calder. I had a couple of meetings with his mother, Brianna, and while she seemed delightful, I can’t say I know her well.

         But Calder attended Hoover Elementary, where my kids went for many years. I have seen how much Calder meant to so many in the tears of my friends and neighbors. It is pretty remarkable.

         It is easy to see that Calder was special. I simply cannot imagine such a loss. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Wills and Hoover families.

*Election Results
         The 2017 city council elections are in the books, and in some ways, these elections were monumental. Perhaps that is fitting, as 2017 is the last year where Council elections are run separately from School Elections.

         In Iowa City, incumbent Kingsley Botchway and newcomer Mazahir Salih handily defeated “Nighttime Mayor” Angela Winnike for the two At-Large seats, 78-19. Salih becomes the first Muslim and first black woman to serve on the Iowa City Council, and I am told she is the first person of Sudanese descent to be elected in the US! (I can’t figure out how to confirm or deny that!) What an accomplishment!

In the District B race, student Ryan Hall took on incumbent Susan Mims, with Mims winning 59-41.

         In Coralville, the lines were drawn between a conservative old guard and more liberal “newcomers”. Meghann Foster was the candidate both sides agreed upon, so she cruised to first place. After that, incumbents Tom Gill and Laurie Goodrich held their seats.

         In North Liberty, incumbents Brian Wayson and Annie Pollock faced off with challenger Jennifer Goings. Pollock was the top vote-getter, and Goings edged Wayson for the final seat.

         Other results of note: Lone Tree incumbent Mayor Sandy Flake lost a close one to challenger Jonathan Green. In the Council race, 5 candidates, including incumbents Kice Brown and Ken Barton, faced off for 3 seats. Ryan Ronan ran away with the top spot, followed by newcomer Tyler Baird and Barton.

          Tiffin had three incumbent Councilors challenged by two others, including a former Mayor. There incumbents Jim Bartels and Al Havens will be joined by newcomer Eric Schnedler.

 True to form, University Heights had 8 candidates (including 3 incumbents) for 5 spots. Herbold, Moore, Quezada, and Maher carried the day there.

         Turnouts were a mixed bag. As usual, University Heights led the way with 50% turnout. Oxford was close behind at 44%, and Lone Tree came in at 26. It only got worse as we get to the bigger cities. Iowa City turnout was 15.5%, Coralville 12.4, and North Liberty 4.9.

         While there have certainly been years that had worse turnout, I think we need to call these vote totals what they are – abysmal. Of course, everything changes next year under the new Iowa Election laws, almost all of which are specifically designed to limit voting by students, seniors, people with disabilities, and people of color. So perhaps 15% will look really good in a few years.

          It is easy to see why people choose not to run; why subject oneself to the headaches of governing? While I understand this thinking, I am certainly glad that not everyone feels this way. Our government does not function unless people step up to fill these roles. My sincere thanks to everyone who ran, win or lose.

*County Budget
Johnson County is beginning the budgeting process for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19), which will begin July 1st of 2018. Here are some ongoing budget issues, and my take on them:

General Fund versus Rural Fund: If you pay property taxes in Johnson County, you pay into the General Fund. All taxpayers do. If you live in the unincorporated area of the county, you also pay into the Rural Fund. The Rural Fund covers expenses specific to rural residents – mostly roads, but also libraries, landfill, and a couple smaller expenses. There are wide variations between counties as to what should be supported by the rural fund. Johnson County pays for virtually everything from the General Fund. (The Rural Fund is only about $6 million of the over $100 million dollar budget.) Other counties do things differently.

Any single individual can easily create a budget: It isn’t that hard to support the programs and services you like, then cut the ones you don’t. It is much more difficult to do this for 150,000 people. Similarly, it isn’t that hard to decide how much you think you ought to pay in taxes, then apply that County wide. It is more difficult when you then recognize how many valuable services would need to be cut. Creating a budget that works for 150,000 people is challenging.

Taxes versus services: I had a man complain to me about his taxes. The next day, his wife complained about the condition of their road. They simply can’t have it both ways! Yes, this is an anecdote, but it sums up the fundamental budgetary difficulty- people want to pay less in taxes, but get more services. It cannot be done.

Mandated versus optional services: Some services are required by law. For example, Johnson County is obligated to hold elections. Other services are optional. On the other hand, Johnson County has no legal obligation to fund DVIP. I take issue with things being portrayed this simply. Let’s go back to elections. While elections are mandated, there is no mandate as to the amount of elections staff, computer equipment, or other expenses. The law says we must do it, but it does not specify the amount we must spend. Funding DVIP (while not required) may, in fact, be a very productive way to work toward Johnson County’s mission.

Conservative budgeting versus low taxes: It is important for folks to recognize that the lowest possible tax rate does not equate to the most conservative budgeting. For example – the most conservative budgeting includes money for maintenance. You need to spend money on upkeep, whether roads, buildings, or vehicles – or you’ll spend more in the long run. And I REFUSE to buy into the idea that taxes are inherently bad! Taxes are the price of supporting a civilized society.

Want to know a government’s priorities? Look at the budget. With that said, I encourage citizens to join us at our budget meetings. (The calendar is on the website.) Meanwhile, what are your priorities? Now is the time to let us know!

*DID YOU KNOW?  The last student to serve on the Iowa City Council was David Perret, who won election in ’75 and ’79. Perret, though a full-time UI student, was also a local who attended high school in Iowa City.

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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