Justice Center – Results, Politics, and Next Steps

[Source: Sullivan’s Salvos, 10 May 2013, by Rod Sullivan]

Justice Center Results

Voters in Johnson County went to the polls last Tuesday, and the Justice Center Measure failed by a margin of 54-46. (Because Iowa requires a supermajority for bond issues, 60% is required. So despite twice getting a clear majority of the public support, the issue fails.) Turnout was disappointing at 13,648 (15.2%), but much better than the last County election.

So now what? As you might imagine, there is a great deal of work to do. The problems do not go away. Where we go in terms of solutions is very up in the air.

We have tasks that continue regardless of our facilities. We must hold the people we are presented with, regardless of what public safety agency is charging them. We must serve as the prosecution arm of the State. We must attempt to provide safe space for everyone involved. Our jail faces several million dollars worth of repairs. We must maintain our commitment to jail alternatives. We must work on the issue of disproportionate minority contact in the justice system. Those issues do not go away, and much work remains.

Thanks to all who voted; by the way, we simply must find a way to get more people to the polls! Meanwhile, we will need your feedback as we proceed. Please let us know what you think!

Politics of the Justice Center

The two Justice Center campaigns have been somewhat draining. The politics of such an effort create fissures within the community, and exacerbate old divides.

Party politics gets thrown out the window. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are split on the issue. While much of the funding for the NO campaign came from people on the right, much of the NO campaigning was done by people on the left.

Unfortunately, these divides have not happened without casualties. Friendships have ended. Personally, I have felt the sting of many slings and arrows during this process. It is not fun, frankly.

It is really difficult to hear the hatred in people’s voices when they say things like, “They’re all crooks.” I don’t even know how to begin to respond to something like that. To 30% of the people, I’m too liberal. To 20%, I am a conservative tool. And neither group cares what I actually have to say; they want to create a caricature.

It is tough, because I know Lonny and Janet. These are two REALLY good people! It may sound cliché’, but these are the people you’d like to have marry your own kids. They are that good. It is hard to hear people make baseless and unwarranted criticisms of them. You may disagree with these two, but they should have earned your respect. If you do not respect them, you’d better look in the mirror!

This environment provides an excellent opportunity for the haters to hate. They can pile on, spew their bile, and be supported rather than challenged. Worse, it pits you against some people you really like and respect.

I think it is important to note that there are many Justice Center opponents that I like and respect. Nick Johnson is a person I have long admired. Caroline Dieterle has been a tireless progressive voice in this community for a long time. Karen Kubby set the bar for every elected official that followed her. Frankly, it is difficult to find myself on the opposite side of an issue from them. Those are just three of many good people holding that opinion.

Similarly, while I don’t really know Martha Hampel and Aleksey Gurtovoy, I really respect their passion. There are several things upon which we agree, and several things we don’t. But they are passionate, and walk the walk. They work hard, and they try to work with you. In addition, they seemed to fight fair for the most part. I do not dislike these folks; I tip my hat to them.

There are other opponents I dislike but respect; as well as opponents I neither like nor respect. But the same can be said of the Yes camp. The Justice Center is not the single issue in this community. I don’t choose my friends based upon their vote.

It is my hope that we can mend the divides that have arisen as a result of these referenda. We are NEVER going to find issues where 95% of the people agree. That will simply NEVER occur in Johnson County. But we CAN make an effort to understand each other. I plan on doing just that. Our community works best when we have mutual respect.

Justice Center – Next Steps

So – what are YOUR thoughts? I’m going to do an unscientific poll of Salvos readers. I do not want to hear praise of or complaints about the recent measure – it is over. What do you think we should do next, and why? Thanks in advance for your input! [Rod’s Facebook Page]

Doing the Right Thing?

I just mentioned people I respect. A big part of that respect comes from the way they stand up for the issues in which they believe. One of my biggest frustrations is elected officials who do not seem to stand for anything.

We all want our elected officials to be just like Jimmy Stewart in ”Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”. That is the way government is supposed to work, right? We want principled people taking principled stands, with no “politics” involved.

As an elected official, there is a much easier route to take. It is actually quite easy to sit back, keep your head down, and stay quiet. If asked about an issue, say that you “can see both sides”. When it comes time to vote, look serious and say that the decision was hard. Then vote, and avoid speaking about the issue again.

If an elected official behaves exactly as I described above, she will easily be reelected. She can probably serve as long as she likes. She will also be a TERRIBLE public servant!

Too many elected officials just fill a chair. Yes, the job can be very difficult. We desperately need good people, yet the rewards are few. But we cannot stop trying. We simply must get good people into elected office.

“Strong convictions precede great actions.” – James Freeman Clarke

“I would rather be a coward than brave because people hurt you when you are brave.” – E. M. Forster (1879 – 1970)

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