Thursday, September 03, 2009

September Johnson County Dems

September Johnson County Dems

7 PM and greetings from the Coralville Library where we Johnson County Dems are meeting this month. Not our usual spot but we have to mix it up once in a while.

Elected officials are few and far this month: Lonny Pulkrabek. We have city council candidate Dan Tallon as well. (UPDATE: Now Mary Mascher too)

Don't forget the Harkin Steak Fry with him, Al Franken. Sunday, September 13th, Warren County Fairgrounds, Indianola.

The JC Dems BBQ is Saturday Oct. 24 in Hills. Congressman Dave will be there, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause will be there (Ed Flaherty suggests this is the first in a series of Goodbye Grassley parties), other speakers TBA. 2 to 6 pm, sneak out early to catch the Hawks 5 PM kickoff.

The IDP's Jefferson-Jackson is not yet scheduled. Some grumbling about a potential conflict... but that's a given every year. Let's say a state party gets, say, Joe Biden on October 24. They're not going to say "Sorry, Mr. Vice President, there's a schedule conflict with a local event."

A nice pat on our own backs for the Curt Hanson win, which is getting a lot of attention in the national blogosphere.

The JCDems website is new and improved.

Sheriff Lonny is Our Featured Speaker. We're getting a jail update: FY09 prisoner transport costs about $1 million. "The jail dominates the conversation, and that's what I know, but the courthouse also has some serious space issues that need to be corrected." Such as lack of privacy for attorney-client discussion, space for judges, document storage (the floor is sagging from the weight of the documents) and retrieval. "I believe the best solution is a justice center with an addiion to the current courthouse." Says most prefer a downtown location. One common entrance for screening. "Having it all under one room improves the efficiency of the sheriff's office while we're moving people back and forth."

"But something came up with the Press-Citizen building. I was not included in the initial discussion." "The P-C is such a unique building that it could easily be converted into a jail and sheriff's office." Lonny says the jail studies have been good but the courthouse study not so much. "They didn't address the existing courthouse and I don't think anyone has fathomed not using the existing courthouse."

So now architect is comparing costs between the downtown option and the PC option. "Splitting the jail and courthouse is efficiency-wise, not good. I don't think it's the best option but $13 million is a lot of money and the transport costs may not be equal to that 13 million."

"I don't think we can have a plan for a bond referendum in late 2010. And we're still not out of this recession. We may be ready in 2011. I don't think anyone in the room will raise my hand and say 'please raise my taxes $500 a year.'"

Committee starting to do more work on outreach.

Q and A. Current jail is 92 beds (proposals are 250 to 350) It was designed for 46 and then they double-bumked. "There are many programs I could do and I have volunteers ready to do it but we don't have space." Average load is 150-170.

What about the block north of the jail? Lonny: University doesn't want to give it up.

What about the slope west of the courthouse? Lonny: That'll be looked at along with the post office parking lot and the P-C. "But keep in mind our beautful courthouse would be surrounded on three sides." Sheriff says Mental health diversion is going well. "Jails and prisons are the largest mental health care providers. Some of the people we have in our jail are severely mentally ill but no one else wants to deal with them, and it's sad." Also touts substance abuse assessment. "it gets people out of jail and keeps them from getting re-arrested."

How many are there because of drugs, and would it help to legalize or decriminalize marijuana? "I don't believe in decriminalizing, but I want the legislature to create another level of charges for smaller amounts." Simple misdemeanor for first offense small amount (vs. serious misdemeanor.) "Janet Lyness doesn't disagree with me on that as strongly as our former county attorney did." "Meth is by far absolutely the worst drug that has come to man."

Long long discussion of meeting schedules. We settle on September 24 for the "October" meeting.

We vote to love us the public option. And a moment of silence for Ted.

Council candidate Dan Tallon: "Hawkeyes fight with their Tallons." Guard member last three years, third year student. "I want to be a student friendly voice but I want to be more than that." "I pay more tha my mother's mortgage for half the rent on my apartment." Wants more open information on rental properties as condition of permits. Also interested in disability transportation and public safety issues.

Mascher: thanks everyone who helped Curt Hanson. "That was an enormous win." Early vote did it. Hanson on marriage: "he supported the right for people to vote on whether they wanted a constitutional convention." (Which of course happens automatically in 2010.) Also plugs Sarah Swisher for school board. "She really is concerned about the equity issues in our district."

With that, we're adjourned.

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