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Archive for April, 2011

One of my favorite quotes about leadership comes from Seattle-area football coach Jerry McClain who said, “The best example of leadership is leadership by example.”

 And, one of my favorite local developers of leadership is the West Des Moines Leadership Academy, where up-and-coming people in the community learn the best examples of leadership.

 The West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce is currently accepting applications for the academy’s 2011-12 session.  The academy is for people who live, work or have an interest in the West Des Moines area. It’s for people who “wish to deepen their knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing the community while developing and refining their leadership skills.”

 Class enrollment is limited to about 30 leaders, representing a cross-section of the business and professional community.

 Participants will be selected based upon leadership potential, community interest and involvement, accomplishments and ability to assume community responsibility.

Applications for the class, which begins meeting in August, are available at www.wdmleaders.org.

 Give it a try. You’ll be a better person for it – and West Des Moines will be an even better play to live, work, play and raise a family because of it, too.

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Legislative Republicans released a plan yesterday to reform property taxes. It wasn’t difficult for reporters to find critics of the plan, but I think it’s important to point out that backers of the bill have their hearts and minds in the right place. They hear taxpayers saying very clearly that they need tax relief.  They also know that a fair and competitive property tax structure is necessary for Iowa to attract and retain jobs.

 Of course, I approach the property tax issue from the perspective that cities and counties are required to provide essential services – police, fire, public works, jails, the prosecution of criminals and maintaining social services to mention just some. Taxpayers don’t just want us to do an adequate job; they expect and deserve services to be delivered well above “adequately.”

  I don’t believe any of our legislators are looking for those services to go away – or that we do a less than adequate job – but I do think they sometimes lose sight of the heavy responsibilities that cities and counties have.  As a result, they sometimes end up passing laws that have unintended consequences.

 It’s a tall order to expect legislators to reform property taxes this late into the session, especially with adjournment scheduled for Friday. A better approach would be for state officials to bring some cities and counties to the table so they can avoid the law of unintended consequences when as they put together meaningful reform for the 2012 session of the General Assembly. I realize we already have enough studies on property tax reform to erect a small two-story building, but this really is not rocket science and if there is a real desire for reform it could be done in a matter of weeks.

 You can bet that I’m going to work closely with members of Polk County’s legislative delegation to ensure that our best interests are represented and included in future legislation to make our state economy more competitive through a fairer property tax system.

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 You might have heard by now that the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to reject a proposal to provide severance pay when elected Polk County officials retire from office or are defeated. That alone was good news, but I thought you might be interested in reading what I had to say. Here’s an excerpt of my remarks:

 “I’ve been at this local government thing for quite a while.  I’ve been on the city council, been a mayor and now I’m on the board.  … I remember my first meeting as a city council member in Clive. The meeting started at seven o’clock – it was the first meeting about the Flying J Travel Center – and it lasted until 2:15 a.m. a council meeting. The whole time, residents were teeing off on the council. There was a lot of emotion and a lot of energy.

 “Since I’ve been on the board, there was the Iowa Events Center and then (the salary scandal involving the Central Iowa Employment Training Center). There was a lot of controversy, a lot of emotion around them. The common thread between those … was that they reflect what we call ‘reality’ in the real world.  There was a lot of controversy and a lot of emotion but it was part of something that really existed.  I have to say this was the first time since I’ve been doing this that we had a controversy over something that never existed, that was something that was theoretical only and lived in a pretend world only.

 “The severance pay issue never had a chance of passing with the Board of Supervisors.  It was not on the agenda.  It was not scheduled to be on the agenda.  … This was a citizens’ proposal. All five (supervisors) get proposals multiple times per week that cross our desks.  …

 “You could say this is a committee we appointed, but I’ve for a list of proposals as long as my arm from the Conservation Commission, which is another commission we appoint. They’re good proposals. There’s nothing wrong with any of them but many of them we can’t afford.  Yet, none of those is on the front page of the Register.

 “The point of it is, some of these things are just proposals and they don’t actually exist until the Board of Supervisors takes them up and this was never going to be taken up. I don’t want to put words in anybody’s mouth but I know at least two of us were surprised to even get the call from (Register reporter Jason Pulliam) that this was even being considered.

 “I ‘get’ the anger. I really do. People feel government is too big, it’s too expensive, it’s not responsive and all that. Now we have the specter that these well-paid officials are going to take more and it’s unconscionable.  I would agree, if only it were true. I can tell you it’s not true. We’re not about to do it.

 “We will continue to serve you the best we can. We’ll continue to work hard and get the best value out of the public dollar we can.  We’re not perfect but we’re not crazy either. And this proposal was crazy from day one.”

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