As a concerned citizen of Clinton and chairman of the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission, I am extremely concerned about where our gas tax dollars are being spent. Ask anyone in Clinton what needs to be done in the city and the response will no doubt be "Fix our streets!"
Tuesday at the City Council meeting our administrators could propose that those dollars be used to hire three new persons to mow grass and clean ditches. Is that how you want your tax dollars spent?
Twelve years ago in Clinton, Iowa, a small group of citizens called the Iowa/Illinois Highway Partnership started a campaign to put more money into our transportation system. This campaign grew into a statewide Transportation Day every year at the Capitol. The theme for 12 years was twofold, "Fix our roads and bridges" and, secondly, make it "constitutionality protected", assuring that every dollar went for transportation. This was not an easy task as it was a grassroots effort, and we had to have a majority of the legislators and the governor on board to get this accomplished.
Now that the additional tax has become a law, some communities and counties have ask their associations that represent them if they could use the funds elsewhere. The association found a loophole, so our city management in Clinton decided to hire three people to cut grass, clean ditches and cut weeds at $77,000 per person. This is totally unacceptable, the intent of the bill was to improve our transportation system.
The other day I was driving behind Homer's Deli, a north-south street. This street doesn't need pot hole repair; it needs a new street. Folks, we have 100-plus blocks in this city that need major repair. The new money coming to the city from the Iowa DOT is about $470,000 every year; this is almost $5 million dollars in 10 years. This money will make a huge difference in our community. Each year our city borrows $2.5 million for our streets. Now we will have $470,000 given to us. We certainly can reduce the amount borrowed and save dollars for taxpayers, or we can add to the $2.5 million being borrowed and fix our streets much sooner.
Every one of us is paying this gas tax increase and every one of us should demand that the money go where it was intended to go. The organizations that represented the cities and counties said they can do other things with the money, but they knew the intent of the law was to fix our roads and bridges. These organizations did not come on board until later in the process, and not one of them brought up the Constitutional Protection Clause. I wonder why!
For all of the grassroots folks, legislators, Department of Transportation and the governor, who went forward in good faith to improve our transportation system, this unintended use of the gas tax funds is a huge disappointment. Knowing what they know now, this would not have passed. This places a huge black cloud over communities and counties that do not follow the intent of the law. Counties and communities need to think about the future and possibility of future funding needs from the state. As chairman of the Iowa Department of Transportation I have discussed this with our director, and Tuesday at our meeting in Davenport he will make a statement regarding this issue.
In today's world the mistrust of government is extremely high and integrity seems to be lacking. Hiring three employees was not the intent of the law. As a citizen of Clinton, you should call your council person and express your concern before the hiring of these three people takes place. This affects your streets. It's your money; now do something about it!
David Rose of Clinton is chairman of the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission.