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Vote no on courthouse addition

For the third time in two years, we’re being asked to vote to raise our own property taxes to build a big, $33 million addition onto the historic courthouse.

The reason for this is that we have flat-out rejected those failed proposals back to back, with increasing opposition.

During this time, special interest tax breaks have encouraged a rash of relative “skyscrapers” and high-end shopping centers to pop up all over the county — leading to credit-score downgrades and a feeling of general anxiety in the community.

In fact, the sheriff has even acquired an armored vehicle from the Department of Defense, which was designed to blunt the impact of IEDs overseas.

Yes, it seems that those in power find themselves in “legacy mode,” where solutions to complex problems come in the form of giant, inanimate objects.

We’ve been lectured to for three years now about “safety, security, and space.” They complain about heating and air conditioning, yet they haven’t fixed it. They whine about squeaky floorboards, but they still squeak. They talk of the need for a new wheelchair ramp — but they remain without one.

They simply refuse to work within their operational budget.  

They act like the building is literally going to fall apart. I wonder if a 100-year-old building would be discarded as a shack in places such as England or France?

In fact, with all of their melodrama, I’m surprised they haven’t torched it for the insurance money.

Regarding safety, they’ve called for “TSA” style security, but the current security desk has been observed unattended.

They state that civil cases are backlogged — but they refuse to even discuss if the 1 in 6 students leaving university with a petty record, the 40 percent increase in minor drug arrests since 2007, or the fact that blacks are asked to be searched by Iowa City police 3.5 times more than whites — has any impact on that.

Well, it does.

If the local government served as good-faith actors, maybe we’d be looking at something like a $10 million off-site court and a slate of repairs.

But we’re not.

Don’t be fooled, hoodwinked, or emotionally manipulated. Vote with your mind and your pocket book — flip your ballot and vote “No new courthouse” on or before Nov. 4.

Sean Curtis is the director of Free Johnson County, a local grass-roots civil-liberties group

We need reform, not a new courthouse

The powers that be in Johnson County have brought proposal after proposal for a courthouse expansion and new jail to the voters. Those monstrous wastes of taxpayer dollars were defeated in the last three ballot initiatives, each with a more resounding message than the last — we want reform of current arrest, prosecution, and incarceration practices.

If you have not read the statistics, they are disgusting to see: Iowa is worst state in the nation when it comes to racial disparity in simple drug-possession charges. An African-American male in Johnson County is more than 7 times more likely to be arrested than a white male for the same crime, though both groups use at approximately the same rate. Rather than responding to four separate studies including those by St. Ambrose University, the ACLU, and the Coalition for Racial Justice, and countless community groups calling for an end to the racial disparity in petty marijuana-possession charges, county and local officials have doubled down on their tactics and failed policies. As we know, from experience and these public studies, such policies disproportionately affect minority groups, poor, and students.

Rewarding their willful ignorance of these real issues with a $33.4 million courthouse expansion in order to allow them to continue and expand arrest and prosecutorial power would only strengthen their commitment to the failed drug war.

Please join me and those in the community who care about equal justice under the law and vote NO on yet another foolish courthouse proposal.

Matt Evans

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