Friday, March 07, 2008

Voting for Our Great-Grandchildren

March 7, 2008, 8:25 a.m.

This morning there's a lot more at stake on the forthcoming November 4, 2008, election day -- less than eight months from now -- than there was yesterday morning.

No, I'm not talking about the three senators, Obama, McCain and Clinton.

I'm talking about something that is going to have a lot longer-lasting impact on eastern Iowans than the good (or harm) caused by a one or two-term U.S. president.

Yesterday morning the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pursue the preparation of a ballot proposition that would authorize a $20 million bond issue to be used for the acquisition of additional land for natural resource preservation.

To pass, it will require not just a 50% approval, but a 60% approval.

So that means that those who care about what they will be leaving their great-grandchildren have very little time to get organized and begin the process of community education and dialog regarding what's at stake.

Fortunately, that process has begun.

Here are links to this morning's [March 7] stories about yesterday's Board action, and early stirrings of organized support: Rachel Gallegos, "Supes OK $20 million bond issue," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 7, 2008, p. A3; Gregg Hennigan, "Johnson sends $20 million bond to voters; Funds would be used to buy undeveloped land for preservation," The Gazette, March 7, 2008, p. B1.

In a recent Press-Citizen op ed column I wrote:

Is it too late? Is our land already too expensive to save?

That was the question confronting some New York legislators in 1853. New York City's population had nearly quadrupled since 1821. It was a terrible time to buy land with prices at an all-time high. The 700 acres they wanted would cost $5 million -- then an extraordinary amount of public money. But in a triumph of foresight over political fear they did it. Today we call it "Central Park," and this gem of Manhattan has increased 100,000 times in value to something over $500 billion -- a half-trillion dollars!

The opportunities confronting Johnson and Linn Counties today are no less politically challenging --and potentially rewarding.
Nicholas Johnson, "Preserving for Our Grandchildren," Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 20, 2008, p. A13, reproduced in the blog entry, Nicholas Johnson, "Greenbelts for Grandchildren," February 15/20, 2008.

In an age in which corporate progress is measured in quarterly profit statements and daily stock prices, and members of Congress are forced to focus on re-elections never more than two years into the future, it's difficult to get folks to think 20 or 50 years ahead -- never mind feeling concern for the generations living 150 years from now (such as those New Yorkers now benefiting from the political courage of the New York legislators who gambled $5 million on what has become today's $500 billion Central Park).

But it's that kind of forward thinking that has given us our system of National Parks and Forests, and the few state, county and city parks we have in Iowa. It's those kinds of selfless efforts that benefit today's Britishers, living in a country in which 12% of the land is devoted to "Greenbelts" surrounding the major cities.

To learn more about these issues and opportunities, to find links to the resources provided by dozens of organizations and agencies, excerpts from the local media stories about preservation of our natural resources, news regarding the proposed bond issue, and background information about the Greenbelt movement, we've created the GO IOWA! (for "Great Outdoors of Iowa") Web site for you:

Check it out!

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