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December 2008

November 2008

Johnson County Supervisors failed to budget properly

According to a report in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, county government will have to do less, with less.

County Engineer Greg Parker indicated that expenditures for roads were anticipated to be higher this year, yet the budget remained flat.

Johnson county One of the primary functions of county government, is to maintain roads.  So if the costs to maintain county roads were anticipated to be higher, why did the budget for roads remain flat?

Without question the flood of 2008 and a harsh 2007/2008 winter hit Mr. Parker's Deparment hard.  The county had to react to the flooding and that's understood.  But what county didn't do was get proactive with the budget for roads.  They knew costs were going up.  The rise in cost for gravel, salt and construction were all noted in the article.  So the failure to properly budget with that knowledge is poor management.

From the article:  For example, Parker said the department is putting less rock on gravel roads in an effort to cut expenditures. The cost of rock has increased by an average of 4 percent in each of the last three years.

County has realized increased costs for three years, yet the budget remained flat.  County government increased their overall budget by over 13% for fiscal year 2009, but the money for roads remained flat.  How responsible is that?  County can buy new furniture, give themselves raises, and ask for $20 million MORE to buy up some land for unspecified uses, but virtually IGNORE one of their primary duties?  Buying new furniture is more important than road maintenance?   Supervisors get a pay raise and now residents have to drive on poorer quality roads?  

That's unacceptable.  Supervisor priorities are out of whack, they lack proper focus.

Contact Supervisor Chair Rod Sullivan and give him your two cents: 

rsullivan@co.johnson.ia.us


 


Incomes are up, consumption is down

Personal income increased $42.4 billion, or 0.3 percent, and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $45.1 billion, or 0.4 percent, in October, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) decreased $102.8 billion, or 1.0 percent. 

The full text of the release on BEA's Web site can be found at
http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/pi/pinewsrelease.htm


Twelfth Annual Citizen’s Police Academy

IOWA CITY, IA. -- Applications to attend the “Citizen’s Police Academy” are now being accepted through 7:00 AM Friday, January 9th, 2009. Class size is limited so early registration is encouraged. Application forms are available at the Iowa City Police Department, Coralville Police Department, Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, and the University of Iowa Police Department, during normal business hours.

The “Citizen’s Police Academy” (CPA) meets once a week for 10 weeks, beginning January 14, 2009, from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM. Each week covers a different topic and is meant to promote a better relationship between law enforcement and the community it serves. The CPA is sponsored jointly by the four area law enforcement agencies. Meetings will take place at the University of Iowa Police Department located at 808 University Capitol Centre.

Training includes department tours and ride-alongs, defensive tactics, evidence collection, drug investigation, and many other areas of enforcement and operations.

For more information, contact:

Sgt. Mike Lord or Sgt. Kevin Hurd – Iowa City Police Department 356-5286
Officer Meleah Droll – Coralville Police Department 248-1800
Lt. Gary Kramer – Johnson County Sheriff’s Department 356-6020
Officer Brad Allison – University of Iowa Police Department 335-5043


Road Construction - Lafayette Street Closure

IOWA CITY, IA. -- Lafayette Street will continue to be closed to through traffic from Dubuque Street to Clinton Street. This closure is due to an emergency sewer repair. Access to businesses along Lafayette Street is still available via Clinton Street. It is anticipated that Lafayette Street will closed through Friday, December 5th.

Motorists are to take note of this construction and to seek an alternate route during this time period. As always, caution should be exercised when traveling through all construction areas.

For updated information on road construction in Iowa City, visit the City of Iowa City's website at http://www.iowa-city.org/works/roadconstruction.


GDP Report: Economy Shrinking

Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- decreased at an annual rate of 0.5 percent in the third quarter of 2008, (that is, from the second quarter to the third quarter), according to preliminary estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  In the second quarter, real GDP increased 2.8 percent.  Profits from current production (corporate profits with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments) decreased $14.6 billion in the third quarter, compared with a decrease of $60.2 billion in the second quarter.  

The full text of the release on BEA's Web site can be found at
http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdpnewsrelease.htm


Check your smoke alarms this winter, UI injury prevention experts say

During winter months, the risk for home fires increases significantly, so now is a good time to inspect home smoke alarms, say injury prevention experts at the University of Iowa.

"Fire risk rises as temperature falls," said Jingzhen (Ginger) Yang, UI assistant professor of community and behavioral health in the UI College of Public Health. "The risk of a house fire can increase by more than 20 percent during the winter months because of defects in heating appliances."

Nearly 65 percent of home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms or smoke alarms that work properly, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), whose guidelines recommend changing smoke alarm batteries once a year and replacing alarms more than 10 years old.


IEM within less than half percentage point in presidential race prediction

With all the votes counted, the Iowa Electronic Markets predicted the final vote count in this year's presidential election to within a half percentage point.

Prices on the IEM's Vote Share Market predicted that Barack Obama would receive 53.55 percent of the two-party presidential popular vote, and John McCain would receive 46.45.

After the ballots were counted, Obama received 53.2 percent of the vote, and McCain received 46.8 percent, leaving an average error per contract of only .3 percent.

The average absolute error by public opinion polls, meanwhile, was 1.2 percent. But Tom Rietz, a finance professor at the University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business and a founder of the IEM, said the IEM traders saw Obama's win even before anyone knew who the two parties' nominees would be.

"This year was a good year for pollsters in that most polls correctly foresaw the vote share that Barrack Obama would take in the two-party popular vote," said Reitz. "But traders in the Iowa Electronic Markets showed little doubt about the election outcome for more than two years, since the market opened in June 2006. During this 886 day period, the average absolute error was 1.29 percent for the IEM, amazingly similar to the final polling results but for a much longer period."

More than 1,100 traders exchanged 513,467 contracts on the two presidential markets, worth a value of $235,341.

IEM traders also called the Minnesota Senate race to within 2 percentage points of the actual results. According to the last prices, traders predicted Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman would each receive 40.2 percent of the vote.

After Minnesotans went to the polls, Coleman and Franken were in a virtual tie with 42 percent of the vote. A recount is currently underway.

The Iowa Electronic Markets is operated by the University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business as a real-money futures prediction market. Begun in 1988, the IEM is a research and teaching tool that has achieved an impressive prediction record, substantially superior to alternative mechanisms such as opinion polls. Such markets have been significantly more accurate than traditional tools in predicting outcomes ranging from political election results to movie box office receipts.


Iowa Memorial Union hosts Welcome Back Week Dec. 1-7

The Iowa Memorial Union (IMU) will celebrate its recent reopening and the University of Iowa's post-flood progress during Welcome Back Week, Dec. 1-7. Events will include the reopening of the River Room Café, The Iowa House Hotel, a Coca-Cola sponsored "bags" tournament, three screenings of "The Dark Knight" and the Holiday Thieves' Market.

The Iowa Memorial Union at the University of Iowa reopened to the public on Nov. 1 after being closed due to the historic flooding. The first through the third floors of the building are open, but the ground floor remains closed.

The River Room Café, located on the first floor of the IMU, is scheduled to open with a full menu on Monday, Dec. 1. The menu will include made-to-order pasta and grill favorites, a deli, and Mexican and Asian Cuisine along with home-style and grab-n-go options. The River Room Café will also be offering a free 12-ounce fountain drink with any food purchase during Welcome Back Week.

River Room dining will be open to the public from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is also open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for brunch and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for dinner.

Coca-Cola and the IMU will sponsor an official tournament of the popular tailgate game called "bags" at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4 in the IMU Main Lounge. The winner of the tournament will receive a Coca-Cola branded game set. Free pizza will be served from 6 to 7 p.m. and Coca-Cola will distribute 2,000 cans of Full Throttle, NOS and Vitaminenergy. Other prizes offered include t-shirts, posters, magnets, pop-up coolers, hats, sandals and glow-in-the-dark slap bracelets. Z102.9 radio will also be at the event to celebrate the reopening. Admission is free.

Late-night entertainment will feature screenings of the recent Batman thriller "The Dark Knight." The Campus Activities Board and UI Student Government will present three showings of the film at midnight in the Bijou Theater on the first floor in the IMU. The screenings will take place Thursday, Dec. 4., Friday Dec. 5 and Saturday, Dec. 6. Tickets will be $2. Free popcorn and pop will be provided. Campus Activities Board will also be giving away movie tickets for next year.

The week will wrap up with the Holiday Thieves' Market Saturday, Dec. 6 and Sunday, Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hundreds of artists from all over the Midwest compete to exhibit and sell their original work in painting, drawing, photography, ceramics, jewelry, woodworking, metal and much more. This event, sponsored by the Fine Arts Council, will take place in the IMU Main Lounge. Admission to the show is free and open to the public. For more information visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~finearts/art_markets.

The Iowa House Hotel also opens Monday, Dec. 1. For reservations call 319-335-3513.


Honey Creek Resort Continues to Drain Taxpayers’ Wallets

MOUNT PLEASANT, IA – The development of Honey Creek Resort at Lake Rathbun – a privately managed, profit making “destination resort” on state property – is a demonstration of poor stewardship by elected officials, as well as a drain on taxpayers’ wallets.  

Lake Rathbun in Appanoose County was originally created during the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon as a flood control project.  Since that time, there have been various efforts to create a “resort” facility there.  Incentives were offered to private sector builders to develop the resort, such as free land and reduced taxes.  However, because of the isolated location on two-lane roads over two hours from Des Moines, nothing was ever built.  

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, encouraged by local Legislators, finally decided that the state government should build the resort and lease the operations to a private management company.  The construction cost of the lodge, conference center, and water park was projected to be $14.3 million.  The actual cost to date is $21.6 million, an increase of 51 percent.  Due to this cost overrun, the funds raised from the sale of state bonds were not adequate to cover the construction of the family cabins that were part of the original design for the resort.  In order to fund the construction of the cabins, Governor Culver and the Iowa Legislature appropriated an additional $8 million of taxpayer money toward the Honey Creek project earlier this year.

This direct appropriation brings the State into compliance with the requirements of the original bonds, but changes the nature of the resort from a self-sustaining, profitable, endeavor to just another taxpayer funded earmark and an example of poor stewardship on the part of the Governor, the Legislature, and the Department of Natural Resources.

Other areas of cost overruns are the golf course equipment and facilities, which are 250 percent over budget and the landscaping, parking, and signs at 220 percent over budget.  Administrative and pre-opening expenses are 63 percent over budget, affected by the resignation of the original project management company and the hiring of another company in the middle of the project.

“Meanwhile, the first bond payments are due soon, the taxpayers’ money is being spent, and no one has been held accountable,” said Deborah Thornton, a Research Analyst with Public Interest Institute in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.  

Public Interest Institute’s INSTITUTE BRIEF, “Honey Creek Resort Continues to Drain Taxpayers’ Wallets,” and POLICY STUDY, “Government or Capitalism as a Solution to Rural Population Loss?” are available at www.limitedgovernment.org.

For an interview or more information on this issue, contact Deborah Thornton, Public Interest Institute Research Analyst.


Holden launches cancer research fundraising effort

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa, one of 12 world-class cancer centers in the Cancer Research Alliance (CRA), and Mall Networks, the leading provider of merchant-funded loyalty shopping solutions, today announced the launch of a new online shopping mall to raise money for cancer research.

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, consumers can now visit http://www.shopforcancercures.org/ and make purchases from more than 600 leading online merchants. A portion of each purchase will benefit cancer research done by Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Consumers can shop at the site for their holiday shopping needs and help fight cancer without having to fight a crowd. Highlights of the online shopping mall include:

--Hundreds of discounts and coupons from more than 600 merchants.
--Free shipping offers.
--Special, limited-time offers.
--Comparison shopping across 20 million products.

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and the CRA are dedicated to empowering individuals to make a positive change in driving breakthroughs in cancer care.

"We appreciate the commitment of Mall Networks, and its customers, to support innovative cancer research," said George Weiner, M.D., director of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Ben Kaplan, COO of Mall Networks, said, "We are delighted to support the CRA in its efforts to raise money for these highly regarded cancer centers this holiday season by offering the most innovative and exciting online shopping program for consumers. Driving consumers to actively support the CRA is crucial to the success of the Shop for Cancer Cures campaign, and our online shopping program is an effective way to help reach this goal. With this new online mall, we're proud to help the CRA to simultaneously engage holiday shoppers and accelerate cancer research."

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI is Iowa's only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers are recognized as the leaders in developing new approaches to cancer prevention and cancer care, conducting leading edge research and educating the public about cancer.

The Cancer Research Alliance is comprised of 12 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers representing varying geographic areas of the United States. All of its participating facilities are designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as comprehensive cancer centers -- a distinction shared by only 39 institutions in the country. The NCI designation as "comprehensive" acknowledges the breadth, depth and integration of the cancer centers' laboratory, clinical and population-based research programs.

Mall Networks is the leading provider of merchant-funded loyalty shopping solutions that increase revenue, strengthen customer loyalty, and improve member engagement for a range of industries, including financial services, card issuers, airline and hospitality, affinity organizations and loyalty programs. Featuring an integrated network of more than 700 world-class online and bricks-and-mortar merchants, Mall Networks' multichannel shopping solutions and flexible, on-demand platform power personalized online and in-store shopping programs for more than 30 million consumers. Industry leaders including JPMorgan Chase, Upromise, Verizon, Shop.org, Spirit Airlines, Virgin, and NASCAR rely on Mall Networks to build loyal, profitable customer relationships. Mall Networks is headquartered in Lexington, Mass. For more information, visit http://www.mallnetworks.com/.