Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to those of you that celebrate it, and Happy Holidays to the rest! May you enjoy a safe, fun, and meaningful holiday season.

2007 is coming to a close, and it is time for honoring a few select Johnson County residents with that most treasured of honors, the Salvos Salute. A few observations:

* This is the third annual set of awards, and there are always more people who deserve awards than there are awards to give. We live in a great County!

* There are some people out there that could win every year. I am trying to honor different folks, but repeat winners are not out of the question.

* Salvos Salutes do not have specific criteria, but you can bet that in general, most of the winners are courageous, advocate for peace and justice, have good ideas, speak truth to power, avoid hypocrisy, and look out for the less fortunate.

Without further ado, your 2007 Salvos Salutes go to:

Amy Correia. Iowa City Councilor Correia found herself on the losing end of a few 6-1 votes in 2007. Amy was right. It would have been easy to count noses and go along with the group, but Amy stood strong and did what she felt was right. Iowa Citians, you have a smart and courageous Councilor in Ms. Correia!

Liz Crooks. A fine mother of 3, wife, student, secretary, neighborhood and school volunteer. Not easy to balance. On top of this, Liz has spent the past few years serving as a member of the ICCSD Board of Directors. For far too long, the ICCSD Board has been composed of wealthy people ³who just want to give something back.² Liz demonstrates that one need not be wealthy to capably serve; as a matter of fact, middle-class people bring as much if not more to the table. Liz has represented the ICCSD well, and has been right far more often than she has been wrong. Contributions from folks like Liz are vital if the ICCSD is going to be everything it can be.

Adam Sullivan. The Editor of the Little Hawk newspaper recognized the racial tension at City High, and felt it deserved discussion. He was right.
Now if the adults in the situation would acknowledge the issues and start to respond in a way that doesn¹t reinforce damaging stereotypes (they are black; we require guns), we would be getting somewhere. (Adam is no relation, by the way.)

Steve Fugate. Global warming is real. Dependence upon foreign oil is bankrupting the US both financially and morally. One solution is biodiesel.
Through Flying F Biodiesel in Tiffin and the Yoderville Biodiesel Cooperative, local entrepreneur Steve Fugate has helped several Johnson County residents to kick their fossil fuel habits. Steve can help you, too ­ give him a call at 545-7022.

Bev Jones. Bev stepped down after serving an amazing 17 years as Treasurer of the Johnson County Democratic Party. This is a thankless position that requires hours of behind the scenes work. Bev is one of the smartest, kindest, most honest, most dedicated people I have ever met. She continues to do lots of good work as a very active community volunteer.

Bob Dvorsky. After winning the House, Senate, and Governor, there was real pressure on the Democratic Party to perform. The road was rocky, but the 2007 Legislative session turned out to be Iowa¹s best in 40 years.
Senator Dvorsky deserves much of the credit. Many of the same people who spent a decade complaining that Senator Dvorsky was ³too partisan² went to him with their hands out once he Chaired Appropriations. Bob was a tremendous leader - always willing to unapologetically stand up for the Democratic platform, and bringing his fellow Legislators along when that was not always easy.

North Liberty transit. Kudos to everyone who pushed this forward. The cities of Coralville and North Liberty deserve tremendous credit for this cooperative effort. Special thanks to the North Liberty citizens who took the first step and began riding!

John Watson. Retiring after several decades of service, John Watson has made Goodwill arguably the most respected nonprofit in Eastern Iowa. John has quietly and efficiently made life better for thousands of our most vulnerable residents. Many people automatically believe that everyone who works in human services is a ³special person². Having spent many years in human services, I know that this is not true. In the case of John Watson, ³special person² is an understatement.

Carol Spaziani. If there is a person I respect more in Johnson County, I do not know who it would be. Carol is the very definition of a good citizen; smart, engaged, passionate, and tenacious. Carol is one of those special people that make Johnson County great!

Ruth Becker. A posthumous award. If there is a person I have ever respected more in Johnson County, I do not know who it would be. Ruth was a real giant, and her passing diminished our whole County. I mentioned that I really value good ideas, speaking truth to power, and looking out for the less fortunate. Ruth Becker defined those qualities, and remains an inspiration to me.

Congratulations, 2007 winners of the Salvos Salutes!

DID YOU KNOW? There are 7,000 veterans of military service in Johnson County.

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

"Sullivan's Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

December 18, 2007

I hope you are getting a chance to enjoy the Holiday season. It is easy to get so busy that we forget what the holidays are all about. We may disagree on political issues, but we should be able to agree to peace on earth and goodwill toward men (and women). Happy Holidays from me and mine to you and yours.

It was eye opening for me to go without power for a few hours this past week. I am one miserable son of a gun when I have work to do and cannot get to it! Just as it is easy to lose sight of the meanings of the holidays, it is easy to take electric power for granted! Kudos to Mid American for getting the juice back on so quickly!

I was one of several locals who had the privilege of appearing in a State Department video on the Iowa Caucuses. The video talks about the importance of Iowa in the political process, with a focus on the Hamburg Inn. It is pretty well done, and the video can be viewed in several different languages! If you are interested, here is the link:

I have been watching with interest the Downtown Market Survey undertaken by Iowa City. You may have seen some letters to the editor critical of spending $62,000 on an outside consultant. I have a few thoughts on the topic. (Imagine that!)

For starters, let's give the Council some credit for trying. Downtown Iowa City has changed quite a bit in ten years, probably not all for the better. But it isn't the fault of this or any previous Council that things have changed. I appreciate the fact that the Council recognizes the importance of and possibilities for downtown. That they were willing to do a study is a good thing.

Was the $62,000 money well spent? It is hard to say. There were two recommendations that I found quite curious. First, the idea that downtown Iowa City somehow lacks "branding." I speak to people from all over this state. I GUARANTEE you downtown Iowa City has a brand. It may not be the image we want, but downtown IC is branded. Booze, the arts, booze, books, booze, restaurants, booze, colorful people. That is downtown Iowa City to the rest of Iowa. And 90% of Iowans see downtown IC that way. Again, it may or may not be the image you like, but there is no question that downtown IC is branded. The fact that the consultants felt otherwise leads me to question their credibility.

Secondly, the consultants recommended a manager for downtown, noting, "Coral Ridge would never try to operate without a manager." I have trouble with this analogy. Coral Ridge is completely owned by General Growth. They can pick and choose where specific stores go, and they can control which tenants come and go. The mall is similar to a property manager overseeing an apartment complex. Downtown is more like my neighborhood. I do not own my neighbor's property; therefore, I cannot control what happens there. My neighbor may or may not agree with my vision. There is nothing to "manage," per se; downtown property owners either play along, or they don't.

I have long felt that one of the greatest threats faced by Iowa City is absentee property ownership. Whether it is a house, a mall, or a downtown building, local owners have a greater investment in the community, and face far more pressures to do things right. Unless Iowa City wants to begin buying downtown buildings ­ and I doubt they do ­ they will always be somewhat at the mercy of absentee owners.

Let's hope downtown Iowa City gets some helpful advice out of this process. It remains a wonderful place, and I root for it to get even better.

We have all had that sense of melancholy that comes when we realize something is gone for good. The feeling can arise from the death of a former acquaintance, an old flame who gets married, or a childhood hangout being paved over or meeting the wrecking ball.

Unfortunately, I have this same feeling regarding Hawkeye Men's Basketball. I used to live and die with the Hawks, listening to the exploits of Fred Brown, Bruce King, and Kevin Kunnert on my AM radio. A few years later, every Hawkeye game was on statewide TV, and I never missed a game.

Dad took me to a couple games at the Field House, and those are cherished memories.

Fast forward 30-35 years, and I am simply not willing to make the necessary sacrifices to follow the Hawks. I already pay $45/month for cable TV, and I'll be damned before I'll pony up for the Big Ten Network, ESPNU, and every other farce of a channel one would need to follow the Hawks. Yes, I could go back to the radio, and I sometimes do just that. But 30 years of watching on TV conditions an audience member, and makes it tough to readjust.

Secondly, I can't justify taking my kids. At $25/ticket, it would cost our family $125 just to walk in the door. Add in a $5 soda for each of us, and you are talking $150. Plus, the odd game times make a family outing difficult.

Thirdly, my life has changed. As a bachelor, the Hawks can play a much more prominent role. As the father of three, I am much more likely to watch the games of my children than I am to watch the Hawks.

Finally, and not insignificantly, Steve Alford and Pierre Pierce soured me to a greater degree than I ever thought possible. I quit caring during that era, and I have been slow to come back around. I don't know if I can ever forgive them for what they did to the Hawks.

We never quite know what the future holds. I hope to be fully back in the Hawkeye fold someday. Ironically, just before sending this, I had the opportunity to meet the Lickliters. My spirits have improved; they seem to be very nice folks. Go Hawks!

Watch your inbox next week for the third annual edition of Salvos Salutes! There is no red carpet or after party, but these awards are PRESTIGIOUS!

DID YOU KNOW? 50% of Iowa's farmland is expected to change hands in the next ten years. 25% of Iowa's farmland is owned by people 70 and older. (Source: ISU.)

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

"Sullivan's Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!


December 11, 2007

The Johnson County Council of Governments (JCCOG) is the local entity that oversees much of the transportation funding in Johnson County. JCCOG recently discussed the establishment of a Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).

I have long advocated for the establishment of an MTA, and at the JCCOG meeting, I voted to form a committee to consider the scope of an independent feasibility study.

People think of different things when they think of an MTA. My vision is simply answering some questions: Do the four separate transit systems (SEATS, IC Transit, Coralville Transit, and Cambus) provide the best service on the planet? Do they provide the most comprehensive service on the planet? Do they operate more efficiently than any other systems on the planet? If the answer to any of these questions is "no," then we have room for improvement.

I lack the expertise to answer these questions. I would be curious to see how a qualified, disinterested third party would answer those questions.

That is why I support a study.

It is hard to imagine that services can be expanded without increasing the amount of money coming into the system. A transit study will undoubtedly show that we have greater needs than resources. That really doesn't change anything ­ there are tough decisions to be made now, and there would be tough decisions to be made if an MTA existed.

We may find that our current system needs no improvements. We may get some valuable recommendations. We may hear that we need to scrap everything and start fresh. I do not have a preconceived notion of how we are doing. I do not have a preconceived notion as to how an MTA might be organized. We may have 4 separate systems under one MTA; we may have one. It may deal with cars, bikes, vanpools, busses, and rail; it may deal only with buses.

Again, I do not have a preconceived notion as to how it would look. The committee will decide the scope of any study.

I do, however, have a preconceived notion as to how governments ought to serve their citizens. I do expect us as elected officials to search for the best possible service at the lowest possible cost. It seems crazy to me that anyone would oppose a study.

The most recent edition of the Sunday Des Moines Register talks about efforts to bring people to rural Iowa. Rural areas claim to want educated people working at good-paying jobs. Having just attended the Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) meeting in Des Moines, I have my doubts.

A big topic of conversation at ISAC was Public Health redesign. A bit of
background: most states now have some type of accreditation for public health departments. These states have core service standards that must be met. Most experts see this as a positive for public health, and see it as the future of public health.

Iowa has been looking into these types of changes (hence redesign), and the proposals were discussed at ISAC. Unfortunately, ISAC has been openly hostile to the proposed redesign.

It was so disappointing to hear my fellow Supervisors poo-poo public health as too expensive. These folks protested that restaurants need no inspections; wells and septic systems need no inspections; infectious disease planning is a waste of time; public health clinics are "socialized medicine;" people running public health departments do not need degrees; and preventing animal confinement buildings and lagoons from being right next to creeks is too restrictive.

Rural Supervisors ­ you will reap what you sow. Why would people want to move to an area where public health is an afterthought? Why move to a place where college degrees are not valued? If a given county is unable to meet the standards, they are free to cooperate with neighboring counties. This has been the case locally, as Johnson County has handled food inspections in Washington County for quite some time.

I support public health redesign efforts. Every Iowan deserves basic public health services. I hope more Iowans will come to see this.

Below is a link to a great article by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone:

While America obsessed about Brittany's shaved head, Bush offered a budget that offers $32.7 billion in tax cuts to the Wal-Mart family alone, while cutting $28 billion from Medicaid.

Bad news for fuel efficiency in Iowa: the two top-selling vehicles in Iowa are the Chevy Silverado (8,000 new vehicles last year) and Ford F Series (5,800). The Toyota Camry is third at only 2,700, just above the Dodge Ram (2,200).

DID YOU KNOW? In 1980, Iowa had just over 1000 car dealerships. It has 380 today.

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

"Sullivan's Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!


December 4, 2007

Time to take a look at yet another Johnson County Department. This time we will discuss the Medical Examiner (ME).

The State of Iowa uses an appointed physician ME system. The ME's primary role is to determine an accurate cause and manner of death.

The Chief Medical Examiner (CME) is appointed to a two-year term by the Board of Supervisors.

Doctor Steven Scheckel is the current CME in Johnson County. The CME appoints deputy MEs and they function as the ME in his absence. The CME and deputies are full time practicing physicians. They rotate being on-call to provide 24/7 coverage.

ME investigators (ME-Is) are hired by the Board of Supervisors and must also be approved by the Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner. The use of ME-Is is common in Iowa. ME-Is serve under the supervision of the CME to perform death investigations. ME-Is gather information and evidence as well as make preliminary determinations as to cause and manner of death.

Johnson County has had over 300 cases investigated this year, a number that continues to rise annually. Interestingly, Johnson County has the second most deaths in Iowa, following only Polk County. This is due to several factors, but primarily the presence of Iowa's only Level One Trauma Center at the UI. Add in UIHC, Mercy, the VA, Oakdale prison, two interstate highways, and Iowa's 4th largest population, and you can see why so many deaths occur in Johnson County.

State law requires that the host county investigate deaths, regardless of where the deceased was from. Johnson County can then bill the person's home county, if the person was an Iowan; if the person was from another state or country, Johnson County is stuck with the bill.

The work of the ME office goes beyond investigations. In many cases, the ME helps grieving loved ones, assists law enforcement, works with insurance companies, makes arrangements with funeral homes, and much more.

Johnson County hired a Medical Examiner Administrator in 2005 to handle all the associated work. Mike Hensch is the Medical Examiner Administrator, and Johnson County is lucky to have an individual with Mike's combination of skills and experience. Mike has served as a ME-I, been a State Trooper, and has pastoral training. Under Mike¹s leadership, Johnson County has become the model office in the State of Iowa.

For more info on the Medical Examiner's Office, see the Johnson County website at

I get E-mails on occasion from readers who say something to this effect: "I understand your deeply held beliefs that society has a responsibility to care for the less fortunate. But personal responsibility plays a part, does it not?" You know who you are, Margaret! :)

I think that readers would be surprised if they knew how frequently we preach the mantra of personal responsibility around our house. As foster parents, we frequently house young people who have been dealt bad hands.

Through no fault of their own, they are placed in bad situations.

We are constantly explaining that, "regardless of what has happened to you, you control your own future." We wish we could go back and change the past for these kids, but we can't. We need to focus on the present and future, and any successes there are up to them.

So, fans of personal responsibility - we are not so different, you and I.

More people taking greater personal responsibility in more circumstances would certainly be a good thing!

The Second Annual John's Sleep Out will be held Saturday, December 8 in the field at the corner of Southgate Ave. and Waterfront Dr. in Iowa City.

On any given night, hundreds of Iowans (including many children) sleep outside, in cars, and in other places unfit for human habitation. Johnson County lacks adequate shelter space; just last week, I drove 6 people to St. Thomas More because there was no room for them at Shelter House. Other folks are doing the same thing every night, all winter. John's Sleep Out is an attempt to call attention to this shameful situation.

The event features campfires, entertainment, and a soup supper for $5.

Drop by to eat, or really commit and camp all night! Campers are urged to spend the night, and to get friends to sponsor their stay. Boxes will be at the site to allow for the donation of blankets. All proceeds go to the Homeless Children's Trust.

For more info, contact Al Axeen at 337-5765 or Chrissy Canganelli at 338-5416.

This is interesting - have you ever wondered who are the biggest polluters in Johnson County? Have you ever wondered how polluted Johnson County is compared to other places in the US? That data and more is available at Green Media Toolshed:

I'll admit, I cannot vouch for the data. But it bears further review. Check it out for yourself.

DID YOU KNOW? Tourism generated $264 million dollars for the Johnson County economy in 2006, including over $2.4 million in Hotel/Motel taxes.

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

"Sullivan's Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

If you know anyone else who might be interested, just forward this message.
They can E-mail me at with "subscribe" in the subject line.

As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!