Background & Experience Issues


I am running for Supervisor because I believe Johnson County has significant opportunities to grow sustainably and enhance our progressive policies -- and I want to be one of the leaders who moves our community toward that vision of the future.

Click on a subject you are interested in for more information.

Sustainable Growth

County Jail

Local Foods

Sensitive Areas Ordinance

Prevent Urban Sprawl

Mental Health/Developmental Disability Services

Buy Local

TIF Reform

Rural Transit and SEATS

Civility in Public Office

County Courthouse

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Safety in Buildings Open to the Public


Sustainable Growth:

Johnson County is one of the few growing counties in Iowa, which is great because it keeps us vibrant and new people make us entertain new ideas. But it also means we have to direct our growth in ways that allows us to maintain what draws people here in the first place—our amenities of recreation and rural areas near the cities. The combination of rural areas near our cities is attractive to residents of both rural areas and urban areas. Our growth has to be careful to not let urban growth take away the value that rural areas bring to the urban residents of Johnson County.

Sustainable growth also means growth within the constraints of our infrastructure of water, sewer, schools, law enforcement, fire protection, ambulance services, transportation, and labor with attractive wages. If we outgrow these elements that bring people here we are not going to attract new people to the area.

Prevent Urban Sprawl:

I am the only candidate for Supervisor who advocates for preserving farmland in the North Corridor Development Area.

The County Land Use Plan needs to be revised. The Plan lists “preservation of agricultural land” and “infill development” as the highest priorities for county residents. But the Plan allows rural residential development in the large North Corridor Development Area north of Iowa City, hugging the Iowa River between Highways 1 and 965 to the north border of the county. This area is too large for our growth needs and every development there violates the priorities stated above.

There are 1,600 residential zoned, ready to build lots in the county—800 of them in the North Corridor—so there is plenty of existing opportunity for growth in residential building. The County should shrink or eliminate the North Corridor Development Area; create new growth areas in the one-half mile around our cities; and start a moratorium on new residential rezonings, during which time the county can create a better plan for residential growth.

This revision to the Land Use Plan will truly allow the county to practice infill development which means residential building should first occur close to the boundaries of cities and villages and then move outward into rural areas. The revision will also allow the county to preserve our farms and let them be places to grow crops and not plant houses.

The Land Use Plan also encourages growth to occur in our cities. Johnson County receives only a small amount of additional tax revenue from a home built in the county than a home built in a city. Due to the increased cost of infrastructure, residential development in the county rarely pays for itself and should be approached cautiously. Johnson County gains tax dollars from every residential dwelling built in it cities. This is where growth is most desirable.

TIF Reform:

Johnson County and its school districts lose money from their budgets with each TIF put in place. The backfill money from the state is insufficient to make up for this loss. TIF reform should not only be more transparent, but include greater representation of all residents affected by each TIF district. Johnson County should work more aggressively with its cities to register its opinion on each TIF proposed. The County should work aggressively with other counties, cities, and school boards, at the state level to enact legislation that requires each government entity to gain approval from other entities before a TIF in enacted. The County should not subsidize TIFs in places they have no vote or voice.

County Courthouse:

Johnson County’s present Courthouse is a century old and is no longer adequate to meet our needs. Citizens who use the building have their safety compromised. The building does not meet accessibility standards. It compromises the safety of the public and the employees in the building.

There are not enough offices or courtrooms to match the number of employees or needs of people seeking justice. We are behind the times.

County voters now have the opportunity to vote on a bond issue to renovate the Courthouse as a project of its own. The proposal on the ballot highlights safety, accessibility, more courtrooms, and adequate work space. It has my support, but it would have been better to keep the price under $30 million.

County Jail:

After the defeat of two bond issues including the jail, it is clear that county residents do not want to build a jail at the size previously proposed.

It is best to hope that a Courthouse renovation bond issue passes, and then wait to allow the following actions to affect the jail population: continue diversion and treatment programs; address local racial disparities in the jail population; reduce pretrial detention; and exercise discretion in prosecution.

Then, Supervisors should see how these actions have affected the jail population and gauge public opinion before proposing another jail project.


Mental Health/Developmental Disability Services:

Johnson County is entering into new territory with the regional authority mandated by the state. It is already apparent that state funding will be inadequate to maintain the level of services Johnson County has traditionally provided. The County needs to work aggressively with the state legislature to ensure that state funding is increased to allow Johnson County to continue to provide its excellent services to this community.

Rural Transit and SEATS:

Johnson County should insist that cities pay their fair share of the SEATS program since it is a federally mandated service. I would like to see the SEATS program expand its service to rural Johnson County. I also support passenger rail service to Johnson County and would work to get the Governor and Iowa Legislature to provide the matching funds to facilitate the Chicago to Iowa City to Omaha service.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy:

Johnson County has made a good start in this area, but its momentum needs to continue. All existing County buildings can be retrofitted for greater energy efficiency and use of renewables like geothermal and solar, and all future buildings can be built with greater energy efficiency and use of renewables. It costs roughly 5% more to build a green building but that increased cost is normally paid for in less than 5 years with energy savings. Leaders must have the vision to look ahead more than one budget year.

Local Foods

The County has taken some first steps to encourage local food production and sales in the county, but it can do more. My first two proposals are:

1. Open the County Farm off Melrose Avenue to small produce farms to incubate beginning farmers.

2. Modernize our ordinances to allow small produce farms to raise and market local foods.

Buy Local:

I support the county’s policy of buying local. Using local Johnson County vendors keeps more money in the county and that money gets circulated many times. Using distant vendors means losing that capital to other counties and states.

Civility in Public Office

Mike will bring back civility to the Board of Supervisors. His professional manner with the public will be a welcome relief from recent rudeness by some Board members.

Some members of the Board of Supervisors have been rude to citizens in public meetings and in private. When citizens express a point of view that some Supervisors disagree with, citizens are berated in combative responses from some members of the Board. These intimidating actions make citizens reluctant to speak to the Board or to engage in public dialogue about issues.

Mike knows that elected officials need to treat citizens with respect and calmly hear their criticism and welcome their ideas in discussion about issues.

Safety in Buildings Open to the Public

The Board of Supervisors has recently adopted two troubling ordinances that exempt builders from complying with the previously adopted building codes for commercial buildings that are open to the public (The International Building Code is the standard adopted by the County).  I believe the county has an obligation to enforce the code uniformly and that the public has a reasonable expectation of safety when entering commercial facilities.
Specifically, the Board adopted a Multiple Special Events Ordinance that exempts the commercial buildings used for Special Events from complying with the International Building Code and instead allows the owner to pay someone to "say the building is safe for its intended use".    
The ordinance allowed the Board of Adjustment to issue a permit for Multiple Special Events without requiring a sprinkler system in an 8,000 square foot building that had previously burned to the ground.  After a complaint was filed with the State Fire Marshal, the Marshal intervened and mandated that a sprinkler system be installed in that building. Anyone who hosts Multiple Special Events would be able to avoid code compliance under this ordinance.
In 2013, the Supervisors passed a Country Inns Ordinance that allows rural business owners to open hotels on their property that comply only with Residential Building Standards, not the IBC, even though up to 25 people would be sleeping overnight in a refurbished barn. The IBC is the appropriate code by which to measure commercial structures.   Residential Building Standards are meant for private family homes of usually less than 10 people. Allowing a standard less than the IBC compromises the safety of customers.
The Board states they want to encourage rural economic development by loosening regulations on business owners.  But lowering building standards is unfair to competitors and endangers customers. Johnson County adopted the IBC and should apply it uniformly. We can encourage rural economic development, but do it in ways that are fair and safe.

Sensitive Areas Ordinance

The Sensitive Areas Ordinance that Johnson County adopted in 2007 is woefully inadequate. It purports to “protect and preserve” sensitive areas. It does neither. It does not preserve the sensitive areas; it does not prevent building on sensitive areas; it does not mandate on site mitigation.

It is better titled “Document and Destroy.”

It gives a builder the option to document the sensitive areas—woodlands, wetlands, slopes, etc.—on their property; create a mitigation plan; pay for restoration of a distant off site property; and then destroy the sensitive areas on the property to make way for development.

A tougher Sensitive Areas Ordinance that actually protects the Sensitive Areas would enhance the environment of Johnson County, preserve its beauty, and, in the end, make the property more economically valuable. The short-sighted determination to develop property at such a high cost is counter-productive to maintaining the natural beauty and diversity that makes this a great place to live. Johnson County should revise the Ordinance to protect some Sensitive Areas and mandate some on site mitigation.