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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:


Somebody in government is conniving another way to tax you

According to an Iowa City Press-Citizen report this morning, tourism generated over $294 million dollars for the Johnson County area in the last year.

That dollar figure and related tourism numbers for the area are in The Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau's annual report. 

Editor's Note:  I can guarantee you ladies and gentlemen, that as some government officials were reading that PC story this morning, they were thinking, "Wow, $294 million dollars, how can my department get some of that money?" 

Those aren't thoughts generated by a defined need and then asking how / if it fits in the budget, those are thoughts generated by pure greed.  That kind of thinking, "look, there's a pot of money, we need to tap into it, now let's put together some vague projects, then figure out ways to package it so we can spend it......" is NOT good government, such a mindset is NOT putting the best interests of the people first.  Government officials having money pot thoughts, need to be removed from office. 

Rod Sullivan loves government, and spending your money

Rod_sullivan Rod Sullivan is Chairman of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors. He writes a weekly e-newsletter to subscribers called "Sullivan's Salvos".  I used to be a subscriber, but in a cowardly act, Sullivan stopped sending me my copy when I voiced opposition to his stance on the conservation bond issue.  In his latest edition, Sullivan talks about how he loves government.  Below are some excerpts in blue, from his November 16th edition:

".....taxes are not bad; taxes are the method by which we pay for government. Most of the people in Johnson County live in a family where taxes pay all or part of the family income. Taxes help support the UI – and that is a good thing!"

While it's true that the University of Iowa is the county's largest employer, note how Sullivan is trying to imply that people wouldn't have an income if not for government.  That's a pretty sad statement.  It should also be noted that Sullivan works for the county government (he forgets that he works for us, it's not the other way around), and his wife is a doctor at the University of Iowa.  The Sullivans are a dual government income family.  Never mind that being a County Supervisor is WHOLLY different than being a nurse, a doctor, or a clerk at the University of Iowa Hospital & Clinics.  A nurse can't raise my taxes when the county budget is about to go in the red, a nurse can't decide a skywalk is *needed* between two county buildings so Mr. Sullivan doesn't get wet when it rains, a nurse can't put a special interest group item on the county agenda, leading to a $20 million tax hike on residents. 

Rod himself says that he is proud to work in government.  Rod is apparently proud of his tax hike record, he's apparently proud to increase the county budget by more than 13% over the previous year.  Rod is apparently proud of government doing something as opposed to the private sector doing that very same thing - better.  His mentality?  Apparently government knows how to run your life - better than you do.  Want to seek a private solution to your problem?  There's no need, according to Rod, that's what government is for.

"If we want a military, we need to pay for it. Want clear air and water? Want safe food, medicine, toys, cars, planes and other products? Want garbage picked up, fires put out, roads cleared, and criminals arrested? "

Who doesn't?  But let's focus on county government here huh?  Note how Rod tries to lump military defense in with snow plowing and fire protection, part of his "All government is good" mantra.  What Rod mentioned, most all those things are important and no reasonable person objects to paying taxes for those things (garbage collection for example could and SHOULD be privatized, but that's a debate for another day).  But here is where Mr. Sullivan confuses NEEDS with WANTS.  Having a strong military, police and fire protection are NEEDS.  But what Mr. Sullivan obviously doesn't get, is that we don't WANT skywalks when skywalks aren't necessary.  We don't NEED $20 million bike trails and cabin/lodge proposals during these lean economic times.  We don't want joint communication center boondoggles costing taxpayers extra money. 

"But I’m tired of people talking about taxes as though they were some type of disease."

When government officials use their power in government to provide for every whim, for WANTS instead of NEEDS, then yes, taxes do become a disease.  No society has ever taxed itself into prosperity.  Mr. Sullivan should try being frugal and efficient, instead of pretending to be some big corporate CEO, treating our money like it grows on trees.

".....let’s stop the government bashing. I am proud to work in government."

How DARE we criticize a public official!    Apparently Mr. Sullivan doesn't like it when large numbers of people reject his special interest proposals and resulting tax hikes.  And when an elected official says he is proud to work in government, he intends on being a career politician - something our Founding Fathers scorned and warned against.  Perhaps Mr. Sullivan missed the classes in grade school about the Boston Tea Party and the base premise of the Revolution.  


When you disagree with Rod Sullivan, he arrogantly condescends

Rod_sullivan Rod Sullivan is the Chairman of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.  He helped push the Conservation Bond issue through the Supervisor *approval* process, placing it on the November general election ballot.  The issue was about authorizing the county to buy up unspecified lands, for unspecified uses at a cost of 20 million taxpayer dollars.  Here is some email correspondence with local Republican Cyndi Michel regarding that issue and the spending habits of the county supervisors.  Rod Sullivan's responses are in blue.
From: Cynthia Michel
Hi Everyone,
This is the response I got from Rod Sullivan to my email. What do you think? I say there's no hope. Should we contact Nobama and tell him, Pelosi and Reed we need a bailout here in Jo Co?
----- Original Message -----
To:  Cynthia Michel
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 8:24 AM
Subject: RE: Mis-information


Hi, Cynthia. Please see my responses below.


From: Cynthia Michel []
Sent: Monday, November 10, 2008 8:57 PM
To: Rod Sullivan
Subject: RE: Mis-information
You really should apologize to the people of Jo Co for telling them this will not raise their taxes more than $2.20. That sir is a flat out lie.
This land will be taken off of the tax rolls/base therefore we the tax paying citizens of Jo Co WILL pay MORE in taxes than $2.20 to offset the deficit. Our taxes will go up to pay for the hiking trails or whatever you, et all, decide to do with this land.  
That opinion is not shared by the County Assessor, who is undoubtedly the foremost expert on this topic.  
Since you and your board cronies can not control your spending our taxes will go up again to fund whatever whim you all decide you can't live without.  
A large majority (60.8%) of the people voted to do this. The public made this decision. 
This is not scare tactics this is just plain and simple, fact.  
It is NOT fact, as I pointed out above. 
Or maybe you people have a plan to plant those trees that have money growing on them instead of leaves. If that is the case I stand corrected.
Why not charge the people using those trails a fee? Let them help pay for the up keep. That includes a bicycle license. 
Several entities (including Linn and Polk Counties) have tried fees on trails, and dropped it when they found it to be unworkable. I think licensing bicycles is a pretty good idea, however. We would need to figure out the details, but I agree. 
Thanks for writing.
Cynthia & Steven Michel
PS: My husband wants his name added also. And when are the gravel roads going to be repaired or do we get a tax rebate?
Way to go Cyndi! 
Let's take a look at Rod's responses one by one shall we?
1. RE:  The conservation bond issue cost being higher than $2.20 per month, as the vote yes people - who Sullivan participated with/supported - claimed.  Rod tries to stick out his chest in flailing the county assessor's figure, as if "How dare you question me or another county official!"  Rod isn't being straight with the people of Johnson County.  The assessor's figure dealt with the $20 million price tag for the measure.  Based on an 'average' value of a Johnson County home of $200,000, the now approved conservation bond will supposedly cost the owner of that $200K home about $2.20 a month in property taxes.  This is for the $20 million taxpayer dollars authorized over a 20 year period.  That's just to buy land.  The assessor's figure did NOT, nor did the bond proposal include additional costs for developing lands purchased under the conservation bond umbrella.  If the people of Johnson County want to build a bike trail, that will cost extra.  A park?  Extra.  The assessor's figure also did NOT include the fact that lands purchased under the conservation bond will come off the tax rolls, and that means higher property taxes resulting from population growth but a smaller pool of lands to tax.  It's called a property tax offset.
After reading Sullivan's crap, I inquired with the County Assessor's Office for details.  Here's the response I received from County Assessor Bill Greazel.  Note how he clearly indicates that his office was NOT involved with conservation bond tangibles such as additional costs for development, maintenance, and tax revenues lost due to bond purchased lands taken off the tax rolls.  

The $2.20 per month was based on an “average” $200.000 home.  We have many $90,000 condos and $600,000 single family residences.  The terms of the bond issue wasn’t something this office was involved with. The conservation board and treasurer’s office would be a better source for those questions.

Bill Greazel

Sullivan had an opportunity to share all this information with a constituent, but he chose to respond to a taxpayer with, "That opinion is not shared by the County Assessor, who is undoubtedly the foremost expert on this topic."...
Sullivan's response is unacceptable.  It's a blatant abuse and manipulation of the Assessor's number.
2.  RE:  Johnson County Board of Supervisors cannot control their spending.  Our taxes will go up again, most likely on a WANT, not a need.
Sullivan again replies in flippant fashion with, "A large majority (60.8%) of the people voted to do this. The public made this decision."
Never mind that Sullivan didn't even address Cyndi's point - SPENDING.  Instead of talking about spending, he hid behind a vote count like a coward.  And a large majority?  The conservation bond issue needed a 60% majority for passage.  It got 60.8%.  Enough of a majority to win that's true, but hardly "large" as implied. Sullivan's "large" is a whopping 0.8%.  Meanwhile, our taxes keep going up year after year for any little thing the county supes desire.  The fiscal budget for 2009 is up more than 13 percent over last year's budget!  Spend, spend, spend, spend...........  We're told we don't have enough money to repair county roads, we're told we probably won't have enough salt and sand to address road conditions this winter, but by gosh Sullivan wanted $20 million of your money to buy up some land!  The Johnson County Supervisors themselves put the Conservation Bond issue on the ballot, this was NOT something petitioned for by the people.
And this is how Sullivan addresses the FACT that Supervisor spending is up:  "It is NOT fact, as I pointed out above." 
What IS that, a twisted case of denial by Sullivan?   Does he think simply because HE says so, then it *must* be considered fact?  And look how he tried to dump this in the people's lap.  That's called deflection.  Who put the conservation bond issue on the ballot Rod?  YOU did.  Three out of the five county Supervisors belong to the special interest group, "Johnson County Heritage Trust" whose mission is to buy up land and take it out of private hands.  They buy up land so Joe Lunchpail, Joe Farmer, and Joe Employer can't.  Sullivan and his cohorts took that special interest agenda, and made it taxpayer funded.
And lastly, I have to chuckle out of frustration, Cyndi mentioned charging user fees for the trails.  That put dollar signs in Sullivan's eyes, he'll charge some kind of fee for a bike tag to use on the trails, AND STILL hike up your property taxes!  Bike tags would just be another source of revenue for him, not an 'in lieu of'.....
Write Chairman Rod Sullivan, and tell him to quit raising our taxes and manipulating agendas!


Supervisor Rod Sullivan misinforms his readers

Rod_sullivan Johnson County Supervisor and Chairman Rod Sullivan writes a weekly e-newsletter called "Sullivan's Salvos". 

An e-newsletter in general is a nice communication piece and I wish more elected officials would use them.  Sullivan's e-newsletter however leaves much to be desired.  Sullivan seems to crank out misinformation on a routine basis.

I subscribed to Sullivan's newsletter some time ago, but ever since I started challenging him publicly on his stance regarding the Conservation Bond issue, I suddenly stopped receiving my weekly copy.  How cowardly and gutless of Sullivan to remove me from his list.  What's he afraid of, that I'll expose him for spewing crap?  

In his November 8th issue, also available online, Sullivan wrote regarding the Conservation Bond issue: "The other campaign, known as “Flip No”, attempted to use all the best fear tactics of the Bush Presidency and the McCain campaign. Just as the nation as a whole rejected the politics of fear, the politics of hope won the day in Johnson County."

That's nothing but unsubstantiated partisan hack rhetoric.  This issue wasn't about GOP vs. Democrat, it was about fiscal responsibility or the lack thereof.  It was about want vs. need.  It was about a vague idea vs. the lack of a real plan.  And note the complete lack of an example by Sullivan.  No substantive reference was provided to support his wild claims.  This is what liberals do ladies and gentlemen, they put up fake arguments.  They make outlandish assertions and wholly fail to back them up.

Sullivan continued with more liberal hack crap:  "Flip No gave dire warnings of “30% tax increases” which in actuality are less than one percent. We were warned that “people will lose their houses”. If you think you are going to lose a $100,000 house because of a $1.10 per month tax increase, you have bigger problems than that tax increase! Flip No claimed the bond issue would hurt the local economy."

Again, no cited reference, no example, no names about who exactly said such things.....  Just Sullivan typing out wild claims trying to paint the opposition as inherently evil. 

Hey Sullivan, who exactly said there would be a 30% tax increase?  Hey Sullivan, who with Flip No said somebody will lose their house as a direct result of the Conservation bond tax hike?  The answer is nobody did.  You can't/won't/didn't name names because you don't have any!  You don't have a for instance!

More Sullivan crap from "Sullivan's Salvos":  "Even more beyond the pale, several Flip No supporters personally attacked LWF Campaign Co-chair Dick Schwab. If there is a more kind, generous, selfless, thoughtful man in all of Johnson County, I’d like to meet him. Dick Schwab represents all that is good in our community. As I fully expected him to do, Dick turned the other cheek. When you spread lies about Dick Schwab, you have lost all your credibility with me."

Without question Dick Schwab has done some great work in this community.  That's has been and was publicly acknowledged during the campaign.  But questions were asked.  People interested in the bond issue can't ask questions about land deals and the intent of the special interest group Schwab belongs to?  Asking questions somehow parlays into personal attacks according to you Sullivan?  So who specifically, personally attacked Dick Schwab Mr. Sullivan?  What was said/written exactly?  What were these supposed personal attacks?  Why didn't you provide an example with a proper cite and reference if this claim were true?

This is a Johnson County Supervisor, a Chairman, an elected official - Rod Sullivan - just making stuff up folks.  Oh that's right, he's a liberal Democrat. 

Send Rod an email telling him he is without honor: