An open letter to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors

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A child competes in goat tying. — Unparalleled Suffering Photography/contributed photo

Dear Supervisors,

I wanted to share some thoughts about the meeting on Jan. 7. It seems clear that the Johnson County Agricultural Association has ignored your requests for them to do more of their own fundraising. This has been happening for several years. Per your discussion, you agreed that you have been enabling them. I would ask you to consider reducing the funding this year. That might get their attention.

They were given $103,000 in 2017 and I believe asked for more in 2018, but you did not raise it. This did not change their behavior, as they asked for $110,000 for 2019, and most of you felt their application did not show justification for that increase.

You also said that they only require a one-time membership fee of $25. It could easily be an annual fee and raise nearly $10,000 for the association. For example, the annual fee for Bur Oak Land Trust is $40. If the Johnson County Ag Association asked that fee of their 350 members, they could raise about $14,000 a year.

You might consider a block grant of $93,000 to the Ag Association this year. I think that might be a catalyst for change. It should not be that much of a shock, because you have been asking them for years to participate in fundraising.

It sounds like you will put in writing a condition that admission and parking to the Johnson County Fair will be free. You considered adding a condition that specified no kids’ rodeo, then you mentioned maybe just saying that they would not be allowed to spend the money on the kids’ rodeo or promote the rodeo with the money.

My question is, why would you tell them they could not use the money for the kids’ rodeo, but allow the grant money to be used to make admission and parking at the fair free? You are essentially acknowleding there is something negative about the kids’ rodeo, but are endorsing and promoting the fair, and the kids’ rodeo is part of the fair. Isn’t that a mixed message? I really believe it would be more simple and clear to just make a condition that they could not have a kids’ rodeo as part of the fair.

They could instead have a bike rodeo (or some other event). This would fit in with the Jingle Cross Cyclo-Cross Festival that they host every year, and would be an event that everyone could be proud of. It would fit our community values, and I think it could attract a more diverse group of kids. I bet some of the bike shops would be happy to help with ideas and maybe even volunteer.

The kids’ rodeo is actually a fairly recent addition to the fair. Brenda Christner, the fairgrounds business manager, said she thought it started four or five years ago. I tried to do some research and it looked to me like it might have started in 2011. They could easily replace it with a bike rodeo. They wouldn’t even have to say they are ending the rodeo, just modifying it. Here is a link with some event ideas.

I really think this would be a vast improvement. Please consider these ideas as your discussions continue. Thank you.

Lynn Gallagher, Solon

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