Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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October 21, 2016

Sullivan’s Salvos     10/25/16

In this edition:

*Vote YES on Measure C!
*Civility in Politics
*Taxes in Johnson County
*Did You Know?

*Vote YES on Measure C!
         Public Measure C is on your General Election ballot. This proposal would change the City Charter by reducing the number of signatures required for initiative and referendum petitions, and putting it in compliance with the Iowa Code.

Some have expressed concerns that Measure C could “turn Iowa City into California” by creating government by referendum. This is a red herring.

California has no subject restrictions for initiatives. The Iowa City Charter limits initiatives in MOST circumstances, including State and Federal matters, taxes, budget, zoning, and much more. There is nothing to fear.

         The single biggest reason to vote for Measure C? Look at who opposes it! Measure C is opposed by same tired group of people who ran the ICCSD, Iowa City and Johnson County for the past 4 decades. All the privileged people who think they know better than you. All the people who turn a deaf ear to your concerns.

         They don’t mind a small group making decisions, so long as it is their group! Opposing this measure says, “I do not trust the people of Iowa City.” I happen to feel otherwise. The people of Iowa City will do just fine, given the opportunity.

         I have already voted YES on Measure C. I hope you will do the same!

*Civility in Politics
         I often hear people say that they want greater civility in politics. I agree. We need to be able to talk about difficult issues without interrupting, etc. It has become particularly poignant in the current Presidential campaign. People are talking about it; I just listened to former Congressman Leach speak on the topic – not once, but twice, in a two week period.

         I have been around long enough to see scores of local elected officials take office. Not one has ever run a campaign saying, “I’m going to be mean and nasty.” In fact, it is very much the opposite – everyone runs as uniter, not a divider.

         The thing is, whether or not you are viewed as “civil” comes down to two basic questions:

1.   Are you actually civil?
2.   Do you stand up for people with little power?

In some cases, the answer to #1 is simply no. And that is too bad. There are elected officials who lack civility, and it really does make it more difficult to get things done.

But in other cases, the elected official who is viewed as less civil is fighting for the powerless. And you do need to fight – the people in power never give it up willingly. I often see elected officials who go to bat for these folks tarred as not being civil.

         Here is an example… About a month ago, I put a rather innocuous post on the Johnson County Democratic Party webpage. All it said was that I urged supporters not to spend any time or money on my campaign, and instead please focus their election efforts where they are most needed. A guy who owns a local small business then accused me of limiting free speech.

         We go back and forth several times. He doesn’t like me because of the minimum wage increase. But it is no longer socially acceptable for him to oppose the increase, so he has to create a different reason to dislike me. The new reason? Civility. I am not civil.

         Never mind that it was HE who jumped on ME. The fact of the matter is, the world is full of privileged guys who get really upset when their worldview is challenged.

         I just wrote about this group. They have privilege of various types. They tend to be over 30, wealthy, straight, white, educated males with no union background. They meet almost every definition of privilege. They have been our Class Presidents since second grade, and they are used to running things. They get VERY testy when they are not in charge!

         You know what it is called when you challenge one of these guys? When you stand up for the poor, or people of color, or women, or any other disenfranchised group? You are not being civil.

         Because they think they get to set the rules. That includes any and all rules of behavior. (And the behavior itself is not bad, just to be clear. It is only viewed as “uncivil” through the lens of someone who dislikes being challenged.)

         Muhammed Ali was called uncivil. Martin Luther King, Jr. was accused of incivility. So was Gandhi. So was Susan B. Anthony. Rosa Parks. The list goes on.

Trust me – there is no world in which I get to be lumped in with those heroes. I know that personally I have not always behaved in the best way possible. It requires work sometimes, and I have at times fallen short.

         But the larger point is clear: do not be fooled!  When an elected official is accused of incivility, she/he just might be hitting the powerful where it hurts!

         The great writer Charles Dickens said it best: “The civility which money will purchase, is rarely extended to those who have none.”

         After all, the very word civility is related to civilization… the rules for the ways in which we live together. So – we have rules. Who gets to set those rules? Is it exclusively people of privilege? If so, are we really achieving civility?

         I spoke to Congressman Leach about this, thinking I might get a bit of pushback. I brought up indigenous people fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline, and African Americans protesting the killings of unarmed black men at the hands of police.

         Interestingly, he did not push back at all. Instead, he offered some words of wisdom: “Do not confuse being polite with being civil.” He then went on to point out that there are plenty of people who are politely lying to your face, or politely coercing you, or politely failing to answer your question.

         Civility is a topic that bears watching. It is lacking, and we need more of it. But it must not serve as a tool for those with privilege to shut out other voices.

*Taxes in Johnson County
         Taxes are high in Johnson County. Right? Uh, not so much. People love to hang onto the myth that Johnson County is a high tax county, but that simply is not the case.

         According to data from the Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC), Johnson County ranks:

         *33rd in General Fund tax rate. 32 counties have higher tax rates, 66 have lower.

         *49th in Rural Fund tax rate. 48 counties have higher tax rates, 50 have lower.

         *35th in Combined tax rate. 34 counties have higher tax rates, 64 have lower.

         As you can see, Johnson County does not rank particularly high when it comes to tax rates. We are actually very close to the middle of the pack when compared to the rest of the counties in Iowa.

         Next time you hear someone say our county taxes are “highest in the state”, call them on their lie. I hear it a lot, and this misinformation needs to be challenged.

*DID YOU KNOW?  In the past 25 years, there have been 6 “issues” on the ballot in Iowa City that would not have occurred in a city without a charter. There were three votes on the 21 Bar ordinance; 2 votes on the First Avenue Extension; and one vote on Public Power.

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

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