Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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October 31, 2009

Sullivan’s Salvos 11/3/09

Congratulations to Janelle Rettig, who was recently appointed as the newest Johnson County Supervisor. As you are undoubtedly aware, there was a large, diverse, outstanding pool of applicants. Thanks to every individual who chose to throw a hat into the ring. I respect people who put their name on the line and do more than just talk.

I look forward to working with Janelle, and promise to help her get up to speed in every way possible.

The issue of geography came up briefly in the County Supervisor appointment. I do not believe geography matters nearly as much as people think.

One recent high-profile example - Supervisor Harney lives in Newport Township, yet disagreed with the vast majority of Newport residents over the road.

Personally, I recently voted to vacate a road that is home to one of my friends, very near where I grew up. That was not fun, but I felt I needed to ignore the geography.

Geography is but one thing that binds people together. Despite the immigration of the past two decades, we remain a small community in many ways. Frankly, most elections are won because of who your Mom and Dad are/were. There are old friendships to take into account. Every election has issues of gender, race, religion, occupation, education, political party, and income level, just to name a few.

These issues aren't usually well publicized, but it is clear that many farmers vote for farmers, many UI folks vote for UI folks, many Catholics vote for Catholics, and so forth. This does not even take into account the actual issues of the day - public safety, roads, social services, taxes, and the like. Does geography matter? Yes, but not nearly as much as people think.

This leads to the issue of Supervisor districts. Linn and Washington Counties recently adopted a district system, where the county is divided into 5 districts and only the people in that district vote for that Supervisor. Sups must live in the district they represent. I have several issues with a district system.

First, as I pointed out, geography is often less important than people realize. (See my arguments above.)

Secondly, we have a system of one person, one vote. Iowa City, with 70,000 residents, will always have more voters than Oxford, with 700. Law would not allow a district to be gerrymandered in such a way to guarantee a Supervisor from Oxford. If we had districts, each would contain about 27,000 residents. A district that included Oxford, Tiffin, Swisher, Shueyville, and lots of rural residents would still only amount to 7,000 people. Even if you added North Liberty to the mix, the district would be 10,000 people short. So the idea that you are going to get an Oxford-based Supervisor is still slim.

The best bet for someone wanting a Sup from Oxford is to find a good candidate in Oxford, work with her on issues, and urge her to run. Good candidates CAN win regardless of where they live; it is difficult to win BECAUSE of where you live.

Thirdly, districts actually eliminate good candidates. It is entirely possible that the two best candidates live next door to each other. Why eliminate one from holding office? If it was a job interview and you were determined to hire the two best people, you wouldn’t even look at where they lived.

Fourthly, districts add inefficiency to government by creating a patronage system. If Swisher gets a road repair one year, Lone Tree will get one the next, whether it is needed or not. Because rather than looking out for the best interests of the entire county, you have created a system that rewards “bringing home the bacon.”

Fifthly, districts eliminate some of the representative nature of government. All 5 Sups vote on ordinances, the budget, and everything else. If a Sup is going to spend my tax dollars, I want to have a say by being able to vote for or against her. And the Rural Fund makes up only $3 million of the $84 million dollar county budget.

Finally, I dislike identity politics. I frequently hear, “We need a couple farmers on the Board.” I understand the reasoning, but I disagree. Look at all the flaws in this argument:

1. Not all farmers think alike, and not all farmers will vote alike. And who defines which people are “really” farmers?

2. Johnson County has about 4,000 on-farm residents. (That amounts to 3% of overall county residents, and a little less than one in 5 rural residents.) Johnson County has many more teachers than farmers; why don’t we need a teacher on the Board?

3. In continuing the identity politics, Johnson County is home to 4,300 Latinos; 6,000 African Americans; 13,000 people with disabilities; 6,000 gays and lesbians; 19,000 seniors; 25,000 people with Master’s Degrees or higher. Must we ensure that each of these groups is represented? If so, how do we accomplish this on a 5 person Board?

4. What does it mean “to be represented?” While not African American, I am sensitive to issues of race through having three African American children. While not a farmer, I grew up on a farm, and we still have several in the family. While I do not have a disability, I used to work at The Arc. Each Supervisor could go on similarly as to why she/he represents everyone well.

I hope that Johnson County never heads down the ill-conceived path of Supervisor districts.

The Homeless Children's Trust will hold its first annual fundraiser on Saturday, November 7 at 7:30pm at Old Brick. Kevin B F Burt and Kol Shira will be performing. Terrence Neuzil will MC and Chef Mickey's will be providing gourmet desserts.

The Homeless Children's Trust provides homeless children back to school supplies, socks and underwear in August, and holds a holiday party providing each child with gifts, snacks, games, and fun. The Homeless Children's Trust also provides emergency funds such as prescriptions, shoes, and outer clothing throughout the year.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at HACAP, 2007 Waterfront Drive, Iowa City, HACAP at 2441 10th St., Coralville, or at AFSCME, 1700 South First Avenue, Suite 19, Iowa City. Any questions call Mary Larew at 338-1212 or 337-2264.

Government is GOOD! How do I know? Because the Earned Income Tax Credit provides a great incentive for low-income workers to keep working and stay off the dole. The key word here is “earned”.

Ronald Reagan, not a fan of many government programs, was a huge supporter of this program. And the results speak for themselves. Brought to you by your GOVERNMENT!

DID YOU KNOW? An average acre of farmland in east central Iowa (including Johnson County) goes for $4743. (Source: ISU Extension.)

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.

If you do NOT want the weekly E-mail, simply reply to this message, and type "unsubscribe" in the subject line.

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!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Empty Sullivan claim: "Ronald Reagan was a huge supporter of this program (EITC).

Note the lack of a supporting reference for this claim.

Show us Rod, where Reagan was a HUGE supporter. Did he sign a bill continuing the program? Yes. Does that mean he was a HUGE supporter? No.

EITC was created in 1975, passed by a Democrat controlled Congress and signed into law by President Ford.

The program needs reform.

Not only is the EITC program expensive, it is rife with fraud. In 1994, former Senator and Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen stated: "By the time we release the 1996 budget – early next year – we will develop measures to deny the Earned Income Tax Credit to illegal aliens. The IRS estimates that over 150,000 illegal aliens claimed the EITC this year for last year’s taxes." A February 2002 IRS study reported that in the 1999 tax year approximately $9 billion or 30 percent of the 1999 tax year EITC should not have been paid. Fraud is so rampant in the EITC program that President Bush proposed in his fiscal year 2004 budget a $100,000 million appropriation for additional staff to police the EITC program.

November 6, 2009 at 6:19 PM  

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