Despite the obvious need to focus all efforts and spending priorities in the county on flood recovery, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to place a $20 million Conservation Board Bond referendum on the November general election ballot.
Concocted under the guise of preservation last October, the bond referendum is being pushed by the Johnson County Conservation Board, which wants to take millions of dollars away from the residents of Johnson County, so they can buy up undeveloped land in rural areas. The questions of exactly what land, why, when, how that land will be maintained and at what further cost to the taxpayer in detail remain unanswered.
Project details pertaining to the Conservation Board's desires have been hard to come by, and when asked back in March if some specifics could be reviewed regarding the polling data the board used to push this issue, Johnson County Conservation Board Executive Director Harry Graves responded with, "That is proprietary information that belongs to the Trust for Public Land."
Why the secrecy?
Despite resident objections to the vaguely proposed land buys and passing up the opportunity to publicly ask the Conservation Board for specific details about the issue, all members of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted on Thursday to proceed with placing the Conservation Board Bond Referendum on the ballot.
This was not an issue developed through a petition drive by residents. In other words, it's not a priority for most residents of Johnson County. It's a Johnson County government WANT, and not a true need. With that in mind and according to Iowa Code, since the Board of Supervisors themselves approved of this measure in the spring, they had the power and the obligation to the people to dismiss the ballot language and approval of the measure with the vote on Thursday. They were asked to table the proposal. They arrogantly chose not to exercise that authority.
In considering the massive flood damage in Johnson County, the Supervisors have once again demonstrated a set of priorities that do not meet the needs of Johnson County residents. The Board prefers its pet projects over the people.
Johnson County Supervisors also appear to lack a backbone. According to Supervisor Pat Harney: "It was quite clear that if the board were to vote against this that there would be a petition submission which would place this on the ballot."
Notes: So let the process work Pat. So what if there is a petition drive? Wouldn't that tell the real story of whether or not the good folks of Johnson County want to spend $20 million of their hard earned money on a proposal you and your cohorts won't define?
What Pat claims is also like a football fan saying in early January, "Well, the New England Patriots are undefeated, just give them the Super Bowl trophy, there's no need to play the game." For you non-football fans, the then undefeated and supposed favorite New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the underdog New York Giants.
So it seems that even at the local level, politicians cater to the special interests of a few. In other words, screw the flood recovery needs and fiscal concerns with that issue, let's ask Johnson County taxpayers to cough up $20 million for pet projects that we arrogantly don't care to table for a later time.
And again, so what if the Supervisors would have said no to ballot approval? It's their job to scrutinize proposals, it's their job to properly inform voters, especially when the proposal requires taxpayers to cough up millions of dollars and on this one Supervisors haven't scrutinized diddly-squat. Do they have something to be afraid of or is there some backroom deal in the works? Do Supervisors even know how to say no?