Archive for the ‘Power’ Category

Vote by mail ain’t broke – don’t fix it

June 4, 2020

By all accounts, Iowa’s June 4th primary election was a resounding success. More citizens than ever participated, and while we won’t know for maybe two weeks whether anyone who worked at the polls or went to the polls left with Covid19, an overwhelming number of voters voted by mail using Iowa’s absentee ballot process.

So why is someone floating convoluted legislation to ban the Iowa Secretary of State from again mailing out absentee ballot request forms to every active registered voter before the November general election? [See attached HF2486] Evidently, someone in the Iowa Legislature has it out for voters who took advantage of the vote-by-mail process. Or they just want to discriminate against voters like me, who are over the age of 60. The interesting fact about the voters who used the vote-by-mail process is that in 64 of Iowa’s 99 counties, Republican voters were a majority of the voters who took advantage of the absentee ballot process and voted absentee. [See attached AbsenteeCounty2020]

We are all familiar with the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I don’t know who the author(s) of the attached version of HF2486 are, but unless this is a late arriving April Fool’s Joke, they need to focus on the original intent of HF2486, which was to fix the problem they created when they required us to put the County Treasurer’s seal on our official ballots – see https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=88&ba=hf2486

Vote by mail ain’t broke. Don’t fix it. – Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

HF2486.pdf

AbsenteeCounty2020 – More Rs voted absentee than Ds in 64 counties.pdf

Press Release: US Senator Duckworth makes surprise visit to deported veterans In Mexico

November 12, 2019

Editor’s note: As a veteran and an elected official, I am disgusted by the deportations of fellow veterans who honorably served in the United States Military. My perception is that these deportations are arbitrary and capricious. If you have information to the contrary, please post it below. Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Contact: David Cruz | (818) 689-9991 | davidcruz

Nation’s Oldest & Largest Latino Civil Rights Organization Arrives with Former Army Lt. Colonel, Now U.S. Senator

Washington, DC – Domingo Garcia, National President of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) crossed the border early today and traveled to Tijuana with one of the nation’s leading Congressional advocates for veterans, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois). Their delegation also included repatriated Army Special Forces combat soldier, Miguel Perez and Carlos Luna, Council President, LULAC Green Card Veterans based in Chicago, Illinois.

“We made this important visit, unannounced for security reasons, to personally let all deported Latino veterans know that LULAC and Senator Duckworth do not forget them and we will not stop fighting until each and every one of them has been returned home to the country they defended,” said Garcia. “Americans must demand that our immigration laws be changed so that no veteran is kicked out of the U.S. after putting their lives on the line, come back with PTSD, can’t access medical care and fall into trouble. They pay their debt to society for their mistakes but then face a separate penalty because they’re not U.S. citizens and wind up getting deported. This is wrong and we must repatriate all veterans who have suffered this injustice,” he added.

The LULAC Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, chaired by Roman Palomares, is contacting the governors of each of the states where Latino veterans have been deported and asking them to consider signing acts of clemency allowing the former soldiers to return to the United States and have new immigration hearings. This is what was done by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on behalf of deported veteran, Miguel Perez who successfully obtained his citizenship on October 4, 2019.

“As I shook the hands of these deported veterans and left Tijuana, I couldn’t help but feel they’re still soldiers in a different type of combat every day because their lives are still on the line, “said Garcia. “They’re targets of the plata o plomo danger because criminals see them as potential recruits and those who refuse to join them face the very real threat of harm or even death. None of us must rest until they are safe once again,” he added.

Palomares says Veterans Day is a good opportunity for encouraging our members to consider veteran-related activities year-round. Visit a VA hospital, unfurl and proudly display an American flag, reach out to a veteran you know or simply say thank you to a military service member we might see.

“Being an American veteran isn’t about war or conflict, although we may be called upon to face that too,” says Palomares. “It is about safeguarding the peace and helping to make sure that our nation remains a country where people can live free of fear and that their families can thrive and prosper. LULAC is proud to stand with them and together, we shall continue to defend and fight for the principles upon which our nation is founded,” he concludes.

Why do we have inspectors general?

October 15, 2019
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL

America is in a full-blown constitutional crisis for one reason: The fox has mostly been left in charge of the henhouse. These days, virtually any attempt at assigning responsibility and accountability at the president’s feet — however factually and legally legitimate — is met with howls of outrage. Of course, this construct gets it all wrong. The American revolutionaries fought and died for independent self-governance — not so they could crown an American king.

After Watergate, lawmakers realized that transparency and accountability in government are vital to a functioning democracy. Congress passed the Inspector General Act of 1978. Under the original statute, President Jimmy Carter appointed 12 inspectors general (IGs).  Click to continue reading….

 

Top secret: How many of our deceased were cremated?

January 30, 2018

How many cremation permits were signed by the Linn County Medical Examiner (ME) from 1/1/2017 – 12/31/2017? According to not one, but two assistant county attorneys, I have no legal remedy to find out.

Forget about Iowa’s Open Records laws (Code of Iowa Chapter 22) – medical examiner records are confidential public records. And forget about my power to audit – Code of Iowa section 331.502(41) – the fees the medical examiner receives for signing cremation permits have never been deposited into a county fund or account so there is no county fund or account to audit. This reminds of that greasy pig contest my 4-H club held in the 70s.

Earlier this month, I blogged about How much do cremation permits cost taxpayers? I wanted to know how much revenue is generated by the ME for signing cremation permits since the County’s taxpayers are ultimately paying this death tax. It seemed like a simple question. Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors had little interest in knowing the answer.

I did not let it go.

Last week, I sent an open records request to our medical examiner – see attached. Today, I received a reply from an assistant county attorney – see attached. And now that I have reviewed a cremation permit form, I realize I don’t need and I don’t want all of the data on the form. But the ME could redact everything on the form except for the name of the decedent and a date, and I could count the number of signed permits to determine the fees he earned. Or at the very least, the ME could give me a notarized statement as to the number of cremation permits he signed in 2017.

Or the Board of Supervisors could order the ME to disclose the number of cremation permits he signed … or threaten to cancel his contract if he didn’t disclose the numbers. What are the odds of that happening?

So are the taxpayers of Linn County paying their ME $30K, $70K, or $100K per year for him to sign cremation permits? How many Linn County residents are being cremated per year? The answers to those questions are top secret until someone in a position of power asks them … and discloses the facts. And that’s not me. Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Response from assistant county attorney on 1-26-2018 re Public records request for copies of signed cremation permits.pdf

Public records request to Dr Linder – ME dated 1-23-2018.pdf

$15K per acre and other tidbits from the CAFR

December 18, 2017

On 12/15/2017, Linn County’s Director of Finance published the County’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ending 6/30/2017 – see attachment. As expected, it’s all good news and our AAA bond rating is intact.

I am not an accountant so when I look at this report, I look at it as your Auditor and as a taxpayer. Here are some tidbits I found:

1> Page 3 – The terms of eight of our ten county officers will expire at the end of 2018. Starting on 1/2/2019, we will only have three county supervisors.

2> Page 4 – Three of the departments in the County are governed by autonomous, independent commissions or boards (appointed by the Supervisors).

3> Page 5 – Our outside auditor only audited what we, the County, gave them to audit and their report is based on what we gave them to audit.

4> Page 19 – The Board of Supervisors purchased 485 acres of property aka the Dows property for $7.2M or $14,845 per acre. In my opinion, they entered into the business of speculating on land and paid too much for this land.

5> Page 20 – In FY2017, the County’s bond debt increased from $18.435M to $24.470M.

6> Page 20 – In FY18, the County’s revenue from property taxes will increase by $3.495M or 5.5% based upon the County’s current levy rate of $6.14 per thousand dollars of taxable value. The Board of Supervisors discussed lowering the levy rate last year, but declined to lower it. Looks like they will have an opportunity to lower the levy in an election year so I am betting they will lower it in 2018. The Board was able to maintain the $6.14 rate for several years due to three factors: an increase in property valuation (Thank You taxpayers for continuing to add value to your properties), a decrease in the rollback percentage that increases the portion of your property that is taxed (set by the State of Iowa), and increased assessments on your property (due to an increase in the market value of your properties determined by the County and Cedar Rapids assessors).

7> Page 114 – On 6/30/2008, the County’s general obligation (GO) bond debt was $1.2M; on 6/30/2009, GO debt was zero ($0.00); and on 6/30/2017, GO debt was $23.980M. Every man, woman, and child residing in the County is now responsible for $105.05 of the County’s outstanding GO bond debt.

8> Page 118 – Per person personal income is reported to be $45,483; however, the US Census Bureau indicates the County’s median household income, which includes all adults and any child 15 years of age or older, is $60,989 with 10% of our population living in poverty.

9> Page 125 – On 6/30/2008, the County employed the equivalent of 825 full-time employees (FTE). As of 6/30/2017, the County employed 739 FTEs. Over those last ten fiscal years, Linn County Community Services lost the most employees, i.e., 89 employees. The Child Support Recovery Unit was eliminated along with its 22 employees. The Sheriff added 16 employees, Public Health added 9 employees, and Conservation added 4 employees. The Auditor’s Office reduced its FTEs from 18 to 17.

The CAFR is 136 pages long. In addition to the CAFR, the 2017 Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) was inserted into today’s (12/18/2017) Gazette. Certainly, there are other tidbits that may peak your interest, but the preceding are some of the tidbits I found. Enjoy! – Joel D. Miller (NP) – Linn County Auditor

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report FY17.pdf

Vote buying, campaigning, or official business?

September 15, 2017

At least one locally elected official has a hard time differentiating when he is performing his official duties versus campaigning. He cannot seem to keep his roles or his wardrobe straight.

I have seen a similar occurrence on Facebook, e.g., is that comment that a county supervisor just made a campaign comment or an official comment? If the comment was posted between 8am and 5pm, and they are Linn County elected officials, i.e., full-time elected officials, then the only comments they should be making are official comments.

So imagine my surprise when I received my Linn Newsletter this week and saw Supervisor Chairperson Brent Oleson on the front page presenting an oversized $20,000.oo Linn County check to the Good Ole Boys. And then realized he was wearing his Re-Elect Oleson Supervisor t-shirt. Come on Brent! Do you have any ethics?

And even if wearing campaign clothes is legal while giving away 20,000 tax dollars, why do you have to mix campaigning with official business? Don’t you remember me confronting you about wearing your campaign clothes to official Board of Supervisors meetings? Why did you think it was OK to present an oversized Linn County check wearing your campaign t-shirt?

Brent, there is something wrong with your What’s Right versus What’s Wrong meter. And you need to fix it! This photo of you presenting $20,000.oo makes it appear that you are buying votes. And that makes every elected official in Iowa look bad. -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor
20170915111348225.pdf

$103K per year for 3 hours per week

June 16, 2017

OK, that headline is not fair. But the purpose of a headline is to get you to read the story. And the story here is about whether the Linn County Board of Supervisors (BOS) needs to meet three times per week.

From time to time over my past ten years as Auditor, I have asked the BOS to consider scheduling less public meetings. I usually bring it up when they complain about the cost of publishing their meeting minutes in the County’s four official newspapers. Why does the BOS need to meet three times per week? Maybe they could get their public work done in two meetings per week? And in some weeks, they could get their work done in one meeting per week. In fact, in one week earlier this year, they had one meeting via telephone that lasted five (5) minutes.

If you review the attachment, you will see that the BOS met publicly an average of just over three hours per week over the first 24 weeks of 2017. That tells me that they could get their work done in one meeting per week the majority of the time. Now, I am not advocating for less meetings because I want the BOS to work less, but preparing, holding, and reporting on three meetings per week takes up more staff time per week than meeting once per week. And it would likely reduce the length of the meeting minutes published in the newspapers.

As for the individual BOS members attendance records, they range from a low of 76% attendance to a high of 89% attendance for the first 24 weeks of 2017. Seems like their attendance could be higher if the members cooperated with each other and scheduled their official meetings around vacations and other county business. The BOS’s three meetings per week ritual seems to be carved in stone … except when it’s not. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

BOS Attendance week ending 6-16-2017.xlsx

New Deputy Treasurer hired

May 26, 2017

Over the last year, Linn County’s elected officials have appointed replacement deputy elected officials in the Auditor’s Office, the Recorder’s Office, and now the Treasurer’s Office. The “new guard” is getting ready to takeover. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

From: Gonzalez, Sharon
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2017 10:36 AM
To: !!Everyone – Countywide
Subject: Deputy Treasurer position

I would like to take this opportunity to announce that I have filled my vacant deputy position from within the department. The position has been offered and accepted by Rebecca McDonald. Rebecca will start her new position as Deputy Treasurer, Office Manager on June 7th.

Thank you,

Sharon Gonzalez – Linn County Treasurer / 319-892-5515 / sharon.gonzalez@linncounty.org / www.iowataxandtags.org

NEWS RELEASE: Linn County Temporary Redistricting Commission Appointed

May 17, 2017

Linn County Temporary Redistricting Commission Appointed

LINN COUNTY, IA – May 17, 2017 – A five-member temporary redistricting commission was appointed this week by the Linn County Board of Supervisors. Iowa code instructs the Board of Supervisors to establish the Commission by May 15, 2017 following the November 2016 election where Linn County voters voted to reduce the membership of the Linn County Board of Supervisors from five to three.

According to Iowa code, the members of the Board of Supervisors in the majority party appoint the majority number of commission members, while the Board minority party member(s) appoints the minority number of commission members.

The temporary redistricting commission members are:

Ray Dochterman

Cindy Golding

Sarah Halbrook

Dave Mahachek

Nate Willems

Linn County is currently represented by Board of Supervisor districts under “Plan 3”. According to Iowa code, new supervisor districts must be designated by December 15, 2017, unless a valid petition is filed by June 1, 2017 requesting a special election on the representation plan.

All three supervisor seats will be on the ballot during the general election in November 2018. The three member Board of Supervisors will take office January 2, 2019.

For more information, contact:  Barbara Schmitz – Executive Assistant to the Board of Supervisors – 319-892-5101 – barbara.schmitz@linncounty.org

 

County going from 5 to 3 supervisor districts in 2019

May 13, 2017

Looks like the Linn County Board of Supervisors is going to begin the task of dividing the County into three equally populated districts – see item in bold red below. I thought we would have a special election to pick a supervisor representation plan in August, but the June 1st deadline for the petitioners to submit a petition is fast approaching and I have not seen any signature gathering occurring.

Why appoint a Temporary County Redistricting Commission now? The June 2018 primary election is a "short" thirteen months away and the incumbent supervisors (and others including yours truly) are going to want to know who is included in the district they will potentially be representing. Which supervisors will become immediate competitors and which will enjoy no obvious competition will be decided by a few lines on a map?

I anticipate lots of competition and a vigorous public debate in the three 2018 supervisor races. After all, our county supervisors are paid over $100K per year with great benefits and a pension for a position that seems to be treated as a part-time job by one or more supervisors. And since no candidate will have the advantage of a straight party ballot, we might even see a few independents nominated by petition on the ballot. Heck, maybe an independent will get elected?

Hopefully, the public debate will focus on county policy, county operations, and county services and NOT on assassinating each other’s character. As we have seen on the national stage, character assassination is the norm when the facts are scarce.

Have you thought about running for county supervisor? Or public office? It is not too late to consider a run for school board or city office yet this year. And it is not too early to consider running for office in 2018 as I have already talked to candidates campaigning for the 2018 election.

About fifty thousand (50,000) adults in Linn County did not vote in the November 2016 general election. That fact reinforces my conclusion that the problem with our democracy is not that too many people are involved; on the contrary, not enough people are involved. -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

5-15 Board of Supervisors Agenda.pdf


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