The REAL View by Mike Thayer (For those of you who live in University Heights, that means it's an opinion piece)
A small town can at times, find itself limited in what it can purchase from who. Whether it's a product needed or a service to contract, it's somewhat understandable then that a tractor for example is bought from the mayor's buddy, who owns the nearest John Deere dealership. Clarence, Iowa, pretty much out in the middle of nowhere on Highway 30, would be an example of a town somewhat limited in what it can reasonably purchase from who.
But for folks around here, well we don't live in a small town with limited access to vendors and service providers anymore. Those times are long gone and Clarence-like circumstances just don't exist around here. Iowa City, University Heights, Coralville, North Liberty and arguably Tiffin have all morphed together into one big (by Iowa standards) metro area. Sure, there are still some small town flavors here and there, but without question, this area is loaded with choices, access and availability.
Yet, cronyism seems to exist, and what could be considered tolerable by yesteryear's small town standards, isn't confined within the borders of the cities making up the larger metro area.
Sadly, the local papers aren't reporting on all the cronyism going on around here either. It apparently takes concerned taxpayers to do the job newspapers are supposed to do. Taxpayers shouldn't have had to form a formal group to uncover a possible corporate welfare scandal happening in North Liberty. The newspapers should have been reporting on the issue and either developing it or putting the story to rest - publicly. But that didn't happen. Despite having the information available to them, area newspapers ignored the city of North Liberty proposing a 60 acre land purchase deal, benefitting the University of Iowa Community Credit Union. This deal will apparently benefit the credit union in two ways, 1. They would get interest from the bonding they'll underwrite for the financing of this deal. 2. They will also benefit because the city of North Liberty has also proposed to turn around and sell the credit union 24 of those acres for just $1. Those two items combined are enough to at least investigate, and the local papers dropped the ball on it. What does one publication do instead? Write about how some North Liberty residents are fuming over the deal. Not about how fishy the deal smells mind you, but about how some residents are fuming......
That's journalism? That's properly informing the public?
And excuse me, but isn't business as usual, this is how it's done a basis of frustration being expressed by an ever-growing sector of voters? You would think newspapers would pick up on that wouldn't you?
But wait a minute..... Could the fact that the realtor likely to broker the North Liberty land deal (for those of you who live in University Heights, that would mean a large commission would be generated) advertises in at least one of the area's publications? Could a representative of the realty company also be a crony buddy? Just ask'n, because the newspapers aren't. Gee, a local credit union also advertises in local publications too right? Things that make you go hmmmm.....
It's true, money talks.
Taxpayers have cause to be concerned over what looks to be at a minimum, an unwise deal. Unwise because the deal comes on the backs of not just North Liberty taxpayers, but on Johnson County taxpayers. Why? Because another element local newspapers aren't reporting on is that this deal also includes the land being purchased getting designated a Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) district. Basically, that means money that would ordinarily go to schools would go to payment on the bonding instead. Since this story broke, officials are now telling people that the state will subsidize that loss, which amounts to a used car salesman trying to unload a lemon.... The state doesn't have any money and thanks to Governor Culver they've recently cut funding for schools! So with the state unable to reimburse the loss (and even if they could provide some funds it wouldn't come close to covering the entire loss) due to TIF, what does that mean? Property taxes throughout the county will get jacked up.... AGAIN.
But that's not being reported on..... Except by some concerned citizens and yours truly.
Related crony questions not being asked, not being reported on: In a related shennanigans story, North Liberty gets some bids for a skidloader it apparently doesn't really need, and they got bids from the same company in three different cities as opposed to bids from three competing companies. Hmmm, isn't that weird? Where does the representative from this one company live? Just ask'n, 'cause the papers won't. Did North Liberty council member Chris Hoffman work for a local financial institution at one time? Just ask'n. Is North Liberty council member Terry Donahue the same Donahue that used to be the Mayor of Creston, Iowa? The same Donahue that hired a young Kelly Hayworth to do some financial number crunching for him? And is that the same Kelly Hayworth that is now the City Administrator of Coralville? And North Liberty Mayor Tom Salm, doesn't he work for Terracon? Isn't that the oufit that does all of Coralville's Brownfield research?..... Are those no-bid contracts? Just ask'n.....
City limits? What city limits?
Things that make you go hmmmmm......