Vote yes on the Johnson County Conservation Board bond issue

I haven’t written much about ballot initiatives in Iowa counties, but I came across this story from the Public News Service last week:

Iowa Watching Johnson County Conservation Vote

October 22, 2008

Iowa City, IA – In just under two weeks voters across the country will be selecting a new president, but in Johnson County, something else is on the ballot that could have a direct affect on the whole state. It’s a bond issue put forth by the County Conservation Board to purchase land to ensure green space for future generations.

Janelle Rettig, a Johnson County property owner and co-chair of Citizens for Our Land, Water and Future, believes the bond issue could be the model that other communities use to expand green space and help alleviate the flood risk along the Cedar and Iowa Rivers.

“Our mission is to start working on Johnson County watersheds and lead by example, so that other counties and cities will hopefully start looking at what they can do to make a difference.”

Opponents claim that the bond issue is too costly and has no plan for use of the property purchased, but Rettig counters that this helps repair years of environmental damage that added to the flooding potential.

“I believe two dollars a month is not a very high price to pay to make a difference in Iowa prairies that have been torn up and our wetlands which have been drained and replaced with concrete and asphalt.”

Under the proposal, Johnson County will spend $20 million over the next 20 years to acquire land that could be eventually preserved as wetlands, trails, and woodlands.

Dick Layman/Steve Powers, Public News Service – IA

For background on why prairies and other green spaces can reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding, read this Washington Post article published in June: “Iowa Flooding Could Be An Act of Man, Experts Say.”

This thread is for comments related to any bond issue or other initiative Iowa voters will consider, such as the referendum on removing the words “idiot” and “insane person” from the Iowa Constitution.

  • Another editorial from the Daily Iowan

    Here is another favorable editorial on this bond issue from the Daily Iowan:…

    They note that the referendum does not allow condemnations, so only willing sellers will take part in this program.

  • Gazette says NO

    While the Iowa City Press-Citizen and the Daily Iowan have both endorsed the measure, the Cedar Rapids Gazette did not.…

    They say the measure is unfocused (which it kinda is) and that 20 years is too long for the measure to take place. I agree with the Gazette that the measure should have more details on what they plan to do with the money.

    It wouldn’t be too hard to come up with a rough plan that says, for example, : 40% of the funds go toward flood control projects, 30% toward wetlands, 20% toward recreation, and so on.

    I’ll vote yes because I think it’s a good idea on the whole, but I too am uncomfortable with how unfocused the measure is.

    • I think it's better not to be locked in

      to any specific formula like 40 percent flood control, 30 percent wetlands, etc. First of all, there’s a lot of overlap between these categories–restoring wetlands is part of flood control, and creating a green space that’s primarily for recreation can also be part of flood control.

      Also, if only willing sellers will be able to take part in this program (as corncam notes above), it would be hard to predict exactly which land they’ll be able to purchase if the referendum passes.

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