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March 2008

Iowa City government to enter private business

Shortly after their building was destroyed by the tornado that ripped through Iowa City on April 13, 2006, the members of St. Patrick's church decided to relocate to the east side of Iowa City.

With that news, Iowa City leadership stepped in and purchased the old church property that sits on South Linn Street for a reported $3.05 million. The purchase includes the church parish hall and adjacent parking lot.

The city plans to build more city parking, as well as residential and commercial space. 

According to Iowa City's Planning & Community Development Director Jeff Davidson, the development will include up to 600 parking spaces, commercial space, and residential condominiums. 

Davidson stated that the city will own the property, but a private developer will be responsible for and involved with the housing portion of the plan.  Davidson also added that a project like this involving residential space is something new for the city.  Adding to the taxpayer burden of financing this project, city officials plan on hiring a consultant to help with the planning.

Tax implications have not been publicly addressed in this proposal.  Typically, when land is purchased by the government, it is removed from the tax base.  So unknown to taxpayers is how the development will be or will not be involved with generating property tax revenue.  Government owned land also costs money to maintain it and reduces the supply of land that would otherwise generate tax revenue. 

Editor's Note:  Taxpayers should question the wisdom of the Iowa City Council spending more than three million taxpayer dollars on and getting itself involved in a commercial development.  The council already has enough problems dealing with its already over-flowing plate of issues, which includes inadequate roads, inadequate fire department coverage, and an inadequate jail facility to name just a few.

Police Investigate Robbery

On Sunday, March 20th, at 5:06am, Iowa City officers responded to a reported robbery in the 600 blk of S. Dubuque St. After speaking with the victim, officers learned that she had been walking northbound in the 600-700 block of S. Dubuque St, at around 4:45am, when she was approached from behind by a male armed with a knife. The male took her to a secluded area where he demanded money from her. After taking an undermined amount of cash he told her not to call the cops or he’d kill her. He then fled westbound on the tracks. The victim was not injured during the robbery.

The victim described her attacker as a black male about 6’ tall, wearing a grey or light colored jacket.

Anyone with information about this robbery is encouraged to call the Iowa City Police Department at 319-356-5275 or Iowa City area CrimeStoppers. Iowa City Area CrimeStoppers is offering a reward of up to $1000 for information leading to the arrest of this suspect. Anyone with information about this crime is urged to contact CrimeStoppers at 358-TIPS (8477). All calls are held in strict confidence and anonymity is guaranteed. Individuals providing information do not have to reveal their identity to collect a reward.

Press-Citizen's anti-war bias is clear

The Iowa City Press-Citizen ran an anti-war puff piece today that clearly demonstrates their disdain for the war, and how they'll try to slant *news* in order to sway people's perceptions.

The piece, titled 'Vet turns against the war after time in Iraq' (editors craft the titles, not the reporter), is an interview with Army National Guard Sergeant Andrew Duffy, who is now the president of the Iowa City chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The Press-Citizen failed to ask Duffy tough questions, it's clear they simply wanted to craft an anti-war piece.  Here are some dubious parts of the article, areas where the PC did not care to live up to their journalistic obligation:

1. Duffy claimed that American soldiers - to include the command structure - are trained to be scared of Iraqi people.  That's highly unlikely and the PC didn't probe.  American soldiers are trained to be cautious and prepared, but not scared.  This is a prerequisite to No. 2, below.
2. The PC failed to mention that American soldiers have been killed and wounded by suicide bombers, roadside bombs, and people dressed like civilians or police or Iraqi military driving civilian or 'official' looking vehicles that ended up being car or truck bombs.
3. The PC failed to ask why Duffy was in a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road.  What exactly were the circumstances?  The implied, "Just because" by Duffy isn't to be believed and it's clear the PC did not care to properly check out his story.
4. Medical missions to nearby towns were denied Duffy said, but again the PC failed to ask why. If the risk was too great, then yes, the mission gets scrubbed.  The Army doesn't unnecessarily put it's people in extremely high-risk situations.  Each situation is different, and if the risk outweighs the mission need, then it's a "No-Go."

Something obviously dubious is how the PC was all too willing to make the Vietnam comparison. Duffy claimed and the PC wrote, "At the time, they had some of the drill sergeants who had gone through Vietnam," he said. "They were starting to compare this war to Vietnam. (But) I tried to stay positive."

Vietnam was a very, very long time ago, which would make these drill sergeants Duffy had at least 50 years old.  That's possible, but HIGHLY unlikely. These 'drill sergeants' would also most likely not be drill sergeants at the latter stages of a military career and many would have retired at the 20 years of service mark.  The Vietnam War ended in 1975, so a drill sergeant at about age 20 would have put in 20 years by 1995.  A thirty year retirement would have come in 2005 and that would require the promotions necessary to get to thirty years, well above the duties and responsibilities of a drill sergeant.

The PC completely failed to do some very basic 'check out all angles' reporting with this piece, and that's just irresponsible.  For a publication that puts up a front of 'open source' and objectivity, what they put into print should not be taken at face value.

Iowa has higher property taxes per capita than California

Last week the non-partisan Public Interest Institute, a public policy think tank based at Iowa Wesleyan College, released a table that shows a ranking of the 50 states (highest to lowest) ordered by Property Tax per Capita.   

Iowa ranked 18th out of the fifty states, with property owners paying higher taxes than those in notable states such as California, Florida, and Colorado.

Per Capita Property Taxes, by State from Highest to Lowest
1. New Jersey
2. Connecticut
3. New Hampshire
4. New York
5. Rhode Island
6. Maine
7. Vermont
8. Massachusetts
9. Illinois
10. Wyoming
11. Wisconsin
12. Alaska
13. Texas
14. Kansas
15. Michigan
16. Nebraska
17. Maryland
18. Iowa
19. Florida
20. Montana
21. Virginia
22. Washington
23. Colorado
24. Pennsylvania
25. Ohio
26. Indiana
27. Minnesota
28. Oregon
29. California
30. North Dakota
31. Nevada
32. South Dakota
33. Georgia
34. South Carolina
35. Arizona
36. Idaho
37. Missouri
38. North Carolina
39. Utah
40. Mississippi
41. Tennessee
42. Hawaii
43. Delaware
44. West Virginia
45. Kentucky
46. Louisiana
47. Oklahoma
48. New Mexico
49. Arkansas
50. Alabama

With Iowa already number 18 on the list, the impact of bigger government minded leadership in Des Moines on our property taxes could be devastating.  The Democrat led legislators in our state capital have already changed Iowa's collective bargaining law, which is a virtual lock to raise property taxes if Governor Culver puts his signature on it. 

The state isn't the only level of government jacking up your taxes.  Higher property taxes have already been given approval by local officials in a number of area communities.  The Johnson County Board of Supervisors have given the OK for higher property taxes as well.

Unless citizens speak up against these tax hikes, Iowa will most definitely be climbing up the Per Capita Property Tax list, and quickly.   

Remodeling to start on the Coralville Police Department facility

Coralville_3 The remodeling of the outside front of the building, adding the vestibule and reconstruction of the parking lot, will get underway in earnest on Monday, March 31st.

The front entrance will be closed for the duration of the project, with the access to the Police Department being re-routed temporarily through City Hall.  There will be signage in place and instructions posted at City Hall to help direct visitors.  Access from City Hall will only be during the hours that City Hall is open – 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

All visitors to the Police Department must be escorted or secured at all times. If a citizen has an emergency, they should call the police department on 911.  Citizens needing to stop by the police department to speak with someone, should anticipate some delays - patience will be greatly appreciated.

The parking lot and all of the concrete in front of the building will be removed and replaced during this remodel. It is anticipated that the demo and replacement of the parking lot will take about 3 weeks, starting around May 11.  The project is scheduled to last until mid June.

As with any construction project, there will most likely be additional modifications as the project moves forward.  Weather will also be a factor, so please keep in mind that the long term benefit will far out weigh the temporary inconvenience.

Senator Dvorsky misleads public

DvorskyState Senator Bob Dvorsky (D-Coralville), is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of his constituents with a guest opinion piece he wrote for the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

In his piece Dvorsky claims, "Democrats are balancing the state budget responsibly while keeping our commitments to Iowans, including improving student achievement and teacher quality, creating more good-paying jobs, and ensuring access to affordable health care for every Iowan."

Democrat Dvorsky is misleading the public.  There is no indication that an adopted budget approved by the Democrat led legislature, will be responsibly balanced.

Regarding Democrat Governor Culver's budget, State Auditor David Vaudt assessed the following In a press release issued February 12, 2008:

Iowa's "Charge Cards" are Maxed Out

The Governor's budget "maxes out" Iowa's charge cards - the funds used to balance the budget. These funds include the Senior Living Trust Fund, various tobacco related funds, and the Property Tax Credit Fund. "The depletion of these funds in Fiscal Year 2009 leaves a $193 million hole for Fiscal Year 2010," commented Auditor Vaudt. "The question taxpayers should be asking is - how does the Governor propose to fill that hole?"

Bonding Leaves Future Generations Paying for Current Year Operating Expenditures

One-time bond proceeds of $67 million are used to balance the Fiscal Year 2009 operating budget and taxpayers will pay for those services for decades to come. Auditor Vaudt stressed, "This is contrary to good budgeting principles because this practice leaves future generations to pay for current year operating expenditures."

Spending Continues to Exceed Revenue

Auditor Vaudt noted planned expenditure growth of 16% over a two-year period (Fiscal Year 2008 and Fiscal Year 2009) still outpaces anticipated ongoing revenue growth of 12% over the same time period. Auditor Vaudt added, "Considering 80% of that two-year revenue growth comes from tax and fee increases, it's obvious the trends in expenditure growth are unsustainable through economic growth alone. To spend at such a torrid pace, we must increase taxes and fees at a torrid pace. That in turn, could adversely impact economic growth in our state."

Rainy Day Funds Provide False Sense of Security

"With $600 million sitting in the "Rainy Day" funds, it's easy to get a false sense of security," Auditor Vaudt cautioned.  Considering the $361 million spending gap built into the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, a substantial revenue shortfall could wipe out the "Rainy Day" funds in just one year, Auditor Vaudt warned.  "With a looming threat of recession, such a scenario is entirely possible."

Infrastructure Funds Diverted for General Fund Expenditures

The Governor's budget proposal makes a statutory reallocation of $90 million from long-term infrastructure spending to fund General Fund services. "As last year's bridge collapse in Minnesota underscored, states across the country are facing the need for increased infrastructure spending," commented Auditor Vaudt. "It makes no sense to borrow money for a prison as the Governor's budget proposes to do, while at the same time divert a large infrastructure revenue source that could pay for a substantial portion of such a project without incurring debt in the first place.

Short-Term Focus Continues

"Longer-term planning will allow us to assess how today's decisions will impact tomorrow's budgets," said Auditor Vaudt.  "The Governor's budget proposal calls for a 5.7% increase in spending next year, but is also sets Iowa up with at least a 5.7% spending gap, $361 million, the following year.  It's appropriate to ask the governor how he plans to bridge that gap.  Will it be through tax and fee increases, or will he find areas to reduce spending?  Iowans want to know where the Governor is leading them."  Auditor Vaudt also refuted the notion planning 2 years ahead is too difficult, noting the accuracy of his prediction last year the Legislature would increase expenditures at least 5.5% as a consequence of the commitments made in the 2007 session.  The Governor's budget calls for a 5.7% increase in spending.

The Auditor's assessment of the budget is not a favorable one.  The Democrat planned expenditure growth of 16% over a two-year period (Fiscal Year 2008 and Fiscal Year 2009) outpaces anticipated ongoing revenue growth of 12% over the same time period.  That puts the state budget in a shortfall of $361 million.  How is that "balancing the state budget responsibly?"

Dvorsky isn't being honest with his constituents and nothing he wrote in his guest opinion piece should be believed.  Regarding the proposed budget, the Democrat led legislature needs to learn how to cut spending.  Their cocaine-like bad habit of tax and spend is undesired and unacceptable.

U.S. Highway 6 Improvements

Coralville_2 Starting Monday night March 31st, Streb Construction will begin concrete patching on Highway 6 from 12th Avenue to 22nd Avenue.

Traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction from the hours of 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., Sunday through Thursday nights.  Starting Monday night the two inside lanes will be closed.

Patching work is scheduled to be completed by April 28th, weather permitting.

Traffic on Hwy 6 and access to adjacent businesses will be maintained at all times.

If you have any questions, please contact DOT Construction Engineer Kent Ellis at 319-365-6986

City Garden Plot Leasing - Monday, April 7, 2008

Garden Garden plots will be available this growing season through the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department.

Wetherby Park, located at the south end of Taylor Drive, will have garden plots available to lease beginning Monday, April 7, at 7:30 a.m. at the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center, 220 S. Gilbert Street.

Each garden plot is approximately 10' x 50', and will be tilled when weather permits. The rental fee is $19 each for residents/$24 each for non-residents, and only one plot per person may be leased.

All registration is on a first-come basis and must be done in person at the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center. For further information call 356-5110.

Real disposable income on the rise

Good_money Personal income increased $56.0 billion, or 0.5 percent, and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $48.7 billion, or 0.5 percent, in February, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $12.0 billion, or 0.1 percent.  In January, personal income increased $30.4 billion, or 0.3 percent, DPI increased $43.7 billion, or 0.4 percent, and PCE increased $42.0 billion, or 0.4 percent, based on revised estimates.  Real disposable income increased 0.3 percent in February, compared with an increase of 0.1 percent in January.  Real PCE was unchanged in February; and increased 0.1 percent in January.

Goods-producing industries' payrolls increased $2.7 billion in February, compared with an increase of $1.1 billion in January; manufacturing payrolls increased $2.2 billion, compared with an increase of $1.7 billion.  Services-producing industries' payrolls increased $12.0 billion, compared with an increase of $20.9 billion.

Editor's Note:  Will the local liberal media run this story?  They received the same press release.....

Sueppel Funeral

Sunday parking has been granted for all those attending the Sueppel Family Funeral at 10am, Saturday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Friends may park where parking is normally permitted on Sundays; Dubuque, Gilbert, Jefferson, Linn, Market, Van Buren or Johnson Street. Parking is also available in the metered parking lot on the north side of Market Street between Linn Street and Gilbert Street.

An audio/video link to First United Methodist Church, next to St. Mary’s, has been arranged. Overflow will be directed to First United Methodist.

Reserved parking for media vehicles will be along the south side of the 300 block of E Jefferson Street (between Linn and Gilbert Street). The Sueppel and Kesterson families respectfully ask that media crews and reporters remain on the south side of Jefferson Street opposite the entrance to St. Mary’s.