Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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September 21, 2017

Sullivan’s Salvos     9/26/17

In this edition:

*Local Food and Agri-Tourism
*Veteran’s Appreciation Tailgater
*Did You Know?

         We have apples, and you are welcome to take all you want! The tree is in the backyard of our house at 2326 E. Court Street in Iowa City. Just bring a bucket and stop by!

         You probably heard about the recent rezoning request from Grant Schultz, who lives near Morse. Staff had urged the applicant to amend the request, but he demurred. The Planning and Zoning Commission voted it down 5-0. Again, the applicant was offered an opportunity to back out, but he refused. Last Thursday, the Board voted 5-0 to deny the rezoning. (You can listen to the meeting yourself at

         There were a lot of really cool things proposed in this application. There were also several significant problems with this application. But there was a fundamental issue at stake – the applicant doesn’t own the land! The people who do have title objected to the rezoning. That really made this pretty simple.

This had nothing to do with the rezoning, but I do want to note for posterity: I have received a fair amount of racist hate mail over the years. I have gotten a few more hate letters from Posse Comitatus and other anti-government groups. But I was called more names in the past week by Versaland supporters than I have been in my whole 13 years as a Supervisor. That had nothing to do with my decision in this case, but guys – this is NOT how you win friends and influence people! (To his credit, Mr. Schultz publicly condemned these emails.)

It was also really disappointing to me how many people I know pretty well decided to jump to conclusions without speaking to me first. Salvos readers – if you want to talk about Board business, just give me a call.

         These decisions are never made lightly. I hope folks will remember that good intentions exists on all sides.

*Local Food and Agri-Tourism
         So now begins another round of internet-based bashing of Johnson County. Now we are opposed to farms, farmers, local foods, America, apple pie, and baseball.

         It is really difficult to give small farmer what she/he wants (a 5 acre lot with a house and no rules) without creating out of control sprawl. I have been trying to find a set of solutions to this for years, but nobody wants to hear it. It is easier to just claim that I oppose local food.

         The whole thing is really getting old. I am desperately seeking people who want to solve problems rather than simply complain.

I recently finished the book “Janesville” by Amy Goldstein. It tells the story of Janesville, Wisconsin from 2008-2013; a time period during which their GM plant closed.

Janesville is the County Seat of Rock County, Wisconsin, and there are many similarities between us and them. Rock County and Johnson County are very close in population, and Iowa City is just a bit bigger than Janesville. There is a rivalry between Janesville, Beloit, and Milton that is not unlike some of the clashes we used to see between Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty. Both places have (had) Lear plants. Both places are Midwestern cities with great work ethics and great community pride.

But that is where the similarities end. Rock County was HEAVILY dependent upon manufacturing, especially GM and its’ suppliers. In a matter of just a couple of years, Janesville hemorrhaged over 10,000 manufacturing jobs – each with high pay and good benefits.

Janesville is the home of House Speaker Paul Ryan. That plays a role in this book. The election and failed recall of Scott Walker plays a role. But more importantly, the book tells the stories of the families who lost those manufacturing jobs.

The people of Rock County have fought back admirably; unemployment there is only about 5%, after once sitting at 15%. But the jobs that were lost were union jobs - $28/hour plus health insurance. The new jobs are nonunion - $12/hour with no insurance. Income inequality in Rock County has become a microcosm of the rest of the US. And the plans families once had are now changed forever.

         An interesting local angle – a regular player in the book is John Beckord, who served as President of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce before moving to Janesville. I knew John quite well, having recruited him to serve on the Board of Directors of The Arc of Johnson County.

         We have not suffered the same way as Janesville. But we can and should learn from their experiences! I strongly recommend this book!

*Veteran’s Appreciation Tailgater
         The Johnson County Veteran’s Affairs Office is holding its’ annual Veteran’s Appreciation Tailgater on Saturday, September 30 at the Kinnick Stadium Press Box. Veterans and immediate family members are invited to watch the (away) IowaMichigan State game inside historic Kinnick Stadium on 24 TVs.

         A light lunch will be served, and information on Veteran’s benefits will be available.

Free parking is available on the west side of the stadium. Doors open at 2:15. There will be an opening ceremony at 2:40.

         The event is supported by: Johnson County Commission of Veterans Affairs, along with Cedar, Henry, Jefferson, Keokuk, VanBuren, Wapello, Washington, and Wright County Veterans Affairs; Iowa City VFW Post 3949; UI Office of the Registrar, Center for Diversity & Enrichment, Military & Veterans Student Services, Veterans Associa􀆟on, and Catering; Iowa State Building and Construc􀆟on
Trades Council; Iowa Interstate Railroad, LTD; Humana; Residen􀆟al Mortgage Network—Jessica Greving; VA—Home Loans; Swisher American Legion Family; Coralville American Legion Family; Iowa City VA Medical Center; Law Office of Amy B. Kretkowski, PLC.

*DID YOU KNOW?  Apples are “self-incompatible”. This means you need at least two trees growing near each other to achieve pollination.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

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