Tuesday, October 21

Vote Yes to Conserve Land in Johnson County

I have written about why the bond initiative is worthwhile, but here is more information from the Our Land, Water, and Future group's Janelle Rettig.


As often happens in the closing days of a campaign a lot of misinformation, scare tactics and dirty tricks start appearing. You would think a campaign about cleaning up our local environment with natural projects to help with clean water, flood protection, and clean air would escape these political scare tactics, but that isn't the case. We've prepared a Q & A about the conservation issue that is on the back of the ballot. This issue is the very last thing on the Johnson County ballot and we need 60% to pass it. That means we need about 41,000 yes votes. This is a daunting task, but you can help with just a few minutes of your time.

Here's how:

300 people on this list forward it to everyone, list serves, facebook lists in Johnson County that they know

If we each reach at least 20 people, we will reach 6,000. If those 6,000 reach 10 more each, we will have reached 60,000. If you take out duplicates, we can still reach the 41,000 votes we need in just a few minutes of your time and at no expense. Campaigns are expensive, so free electronic communication is priceless.

Won't you spend a few minutes of time helping this important cause? Please do it today, because people are voting so quickly we don't want to miss anyone that would otherwise be willing to flip the ballot over and consider voting for the environment and conservation.

If you have any questions or are willing to volunteer more, please contact us at the addresses listed at the bottom of this email.

Thank you,

Janelle Rettig

Co-chair, Citizens for Our Land, Water and Future

The Skinny:

What is this $20 million campaign about?

This initiative will provide $20 million dollars over twenty years ($1 million per year) to be administered by the County Conservation Board to acquire and develop lands for water quality, protect forests, improve air quality, protect natural areas and wildlife habitat, and provide for parks and trails.

It will be leveraged with federal, state, and corporate grants and individual, business and non-profit contributions for a likely multiplying effect of 2.5 to 3 times—or $50 to $60 million for our land, water and future. No land will be condemned; only willing sellers and donors will be considered. The plan will be flexible and developed with citizen input; the spending will receive annual audits.

What will it cost a homeowner?

An owner of a $200,000 house would pay an additional $26.36 a year, or approximately $2.20 a month--the cost of a large coffee. Farmland owners would pay an additional 21 cents per acre per year.

Isn't this the wrong time to raise taxes?

There never seems like a good time to invest in the green infrastructure. There will always be another building to build, another road to build. We have to invest in our quality of life in a percentage of the way we invest in our growth. Johnson County will add 29,000 residents in the first 20 years of this century. This growth is gobbling up large junks of land. We must start identifying areas for green space, for conservation and setting them aside for future generations.

A better question might be what is the cost of inaction?

We can see by terrible flooding this year, the cost of inaction. We've torn up the prairies, drained the wetlands and replaced them with miles of pavement, roofs, and row crops. Then we wonder where the snow melt and rains go. As we know after this summer they go into our homes, business, and yards. It's time to put some wetlands back where they belong and out of our front yards. Small natural watershed protections can have enormous benefits.

The only better time to invest in natural watershed flood protection and clean water would have been 15 years ago after the last big flood. One thing is certain the cost of inaction will be much more expensive than $2 or 3 dollars a month.

Many people move to Johnson County for our quality of life. Our quality of life is not a stagnant target. We must continue to invest in it in proportion with our growth. No one has ever moved to a community or brought a business there because the county had a great big new jail. If we have needs for future construction and growth, one way to pay for them is to grow our tax base by making Johnson County an even better place to live.

What does the actual ballot say?

"Shall the County of Johnson, State of Iowa, be authorized to acquire and develop lands with public access provided, to be managed by the Johnson County Conservation Board, in order to protect the water quality in rivers, lakes and streams; protect forests to improve air quality; protect natural areas and wildlife habitat from development, and provide for parks and trails, at a cost not exceeding $20,000,000 and issue its general obligation bonds in an amount not exceeding $20,000,000 for that purpose, to be repaid in not more than 20 years? All expenditures will be subject to an annual independent audit."

Is there a plan?

The County Conservation Board is creating an additional strategic plan (adding to their current plan) for conservation should this initiative pass. They have already had five public input sessions throughout the county and have had several planning sessions. The meetings are open to the public and input is welcome. They must vote on acquiring land and those land purchases also must be approved by the County Board of Supervisors, thereby creating several layers of transparency.

The public and conservation board are very concerned about water quality, watershed protections, and natural flood prevention. Wetlands, buffer strips, prairies have multiple beneficial qualities. There is also an interest in buffering existing parks, such as Kent Park, Hills Access, etc. Two trail corridors have already been identified -- Solon to Ely to tie into the Linn County Trails that connect to Cedar Falls (eventually tied to North Liberty and Iowa City) and Tiffin to Kent Park (which will eventually tie Coralville to the Amana Colonies).

Why don't they know specific lands that they will purchase?

They do know the two trail corridors that are already identified. The County doesn't know what lands will become available for sale in the coming year. Please remember that land will not be condemned. That means the land owner has to be willing to sell, sell below market value, or donate land. A previous ballot issue created Kent Park. But the County is unlikely to create a big park. Because big parks take an enormous amounts of money to develop and annual maintenance budgets. We can get a lot more beneficial water protection and natural areas if we acquire property in strategic areas. Any land along a river, lake or stream is of interest; any land abutting existent green space; any land that has unique natural features or original prairie remnants; any land that connects green areas. It is impossible to identify specific land when we just don't know what will become available over twenty years.

This is not dissimilar to school issues, when we know we are bonding to build schools, but we don't know the specific location. In this case we know we are voting to build more wetlands, prairies, woodlands and trails, but the specific locations will need to have some flexibility, but will be subject to public meetings and votes by the board.

Don't taxes just keep going up?

This is happening in part because we are a growing community, and previous elected officials didn't invest enough in our infrastructure. However, this issue is a little bit different because you actually get a vote on whether or not to tax yourself for a particular issue. By voting you send your elected officials a message about the priorities you have in spending. In this case, we get to tell our government how we want to spend our money. By voting for conservation, we also send a message as to what is important to us. But, the added benefit is that by investing in our environment and our quality of life, we can actually contribute to growing our tax base by making Johnson County an even better place to live and work.

Will this fix the Iowa and Cedar Rivers, climate change, etc.?

No, but we have to start somewhere. We've seen the costs of inaction and we continue to see it every day in the local and world news. It is easy to talk about climate change, clean water and cleaner environment, more outdoors time, but is another to get started. Johnson County can lead by example and start cleaning up our part of the world. Others will follow and increase their current efforts. If we don't start somewhere, we sure won't make the world healthier by just talking. Major change starts with the first step and in this case a little investment of your own money.

Who supports this initiative?

Over 460 individuals, 12 elected officials, 24 organizations, and 19 businesses have added their names as public supporters of this initiative. Additionally, hundreds of others have taken yard signs, donated money or volunteered. The Iowa City Press Citizen and Daily Iowan have also endorsed this initiative. We welcome more individuals, elected officials, businesses and organizations to be added to the list which will be publicly advertised.

Elected Officials

Joe Bolkcom, State Senator
Amy Correia, Iowa City Council
Bob Dvorsky, State Senator
Tom Gill, Coralville City Council
Vicki Lensing, State Representative
Mary Mascher, State Representative
Kim Painter, County Recorder
Dave Parsons, Soil & Water Conservation District Commissioner
Kelley Putman, Soil & Water Conservation District Commissioner
Rod Sullivan, Board of Supervisors
Ross Wilburn, Iowa City Council
Mike Wright, Iowa City Council


1,000 Friends of Iowa
AFSCME Local 12
Backyard Abundance
City Federation of Labor
Democracy for America Johnson County Chapter
Environment Iowa
Friends of Hickory Hill Park
Friends of Iowa River Scenic Trails
Iowa Bicycle Coalition
Iowa City Area Group of the Sierra Club
Iowa Coalition of Off Road Riders
Iowa Environmental Council
Iowa Native Plant Society
Johnson County Democrats
Johnson County Green Party
Johnson County Heritage Trust
Johnson County Trail Foundation
League of Women Voters of Johnson County
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Songbird Project
UI Democrats
UI Environmental Coalition
Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City-Green Sanctuary Committee


Diary Queen on Market
Linn Street Cafe
Motley Cow
New Pioneer Food Co-op
Northside Book Market
OM +1
Prairie Lights
Radiologic Medical Services
Real Compact Discs and Records
Red Avocado
Russ' Northside Service
Rusty's Records
Simply for Giggles
Third Eye Jewelry
World of Bikes

Who opposes this initiative?

Despite our efforts to reach out to them and make a presentation the: The Johnson County Republican Party and Farm Bureau voted to oppose this initiative without allowing us to present at their meetings.

The Flip No signs are also being funded by Tom Cardella, the owner of Thomas L. Cardella & Assoc., a telemarketing business in Coralville.

We find it disheartening that environmental protection, clean water, clean air, recreation and trails has turned into a partisan issue.

Many local Republicans are individually supportive of this initiative, but the party is opposed.

What's the bottom line?

This fall, voters in Johnson County can do something on the local level that will make an impact on today--and for future generations. This could be the most important local environmental, conservation, recreation, and trails measure of our generation. It will provide money to protect our drinking water sources; the water quality of local rivers, lakes, streams; the watersheds of the Iowa and Cedar Rivers; forests to improve air quality; natural areas from development; and to provide new recreational trails. This year's terrible flooding is precisely the reason we need additional investments in conservation. When we drain wetlands, tear up prairies, and pour miles of pavement, where can the snow melt and rains go? If there is anything we should learn from recent floods, it is that we need more wetlands, green belts around waterways and creeks, and more prairies and woodlands. We need to naturally slow water runoff and allow nature to clean our water. So please flip the ballot over and vote yes.

How can I help?

When you vote this fall, please FLIP the ballot over and vote YES for clean water, clean air, conservation, recreation and trails. To find out more about this initiative, please contact us: www.landwaterfuture.org; landwaterfuture@gmail.com; 319-330-5587.

1) Vote
2) Forward this to everyone you know in Johnson County
3) Help us October 25, 26, November 1 and 2 as we conduct a countywide viability campaign waving signs and walking door to door. Can you give us 1, 2 or 3 hours any of those days between 9 am and 5 pm?
4) Contribute money to fund advertising. Our opponents have purchased $5,000 of radio ads on one station and $3,000 in newspaper ads in just the last few days. We do not have the money to compete, so any contribution is helpful.

Thank you

Citizens for Our Land, Water and Future
PO Box 5125
Coralville, IA 52241
319-330-5587 cell
Donations by mail or on-line here:


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