Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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January 17, 2010

Sullivan’s Salvos 1/12/10

Monday marks the celebration of the birthday of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior. Like so many holidays, folks often forget to take a moment to recall the reason behind the day off.

I urge everyone to do some reading on the life of MLK. I felt as though I knew a lot about him, then read a new book. I continue to learn fascinating things about this amazing man! He deserves this honor, and we should take some time to consider his contributions.

In keeping with the MLK theme, the University of Iowa is once again hosting a Celebration of Human Rights, with a whole week full of events.

The Opening Celebration will be Monday, January 18 at 6 PM in the 2nd Floor Ballroom of the IMU. The evening includes performances by Voices of Soul, Charism, The Quire, and Idiris Goodwin, and a keynote address from State Representative Wayne Ford.

For a complete schedule of events, see

Johnson County residents have an important election coming up on January 19. In my opinion, this election is a referendum on the role of government in our lives. That should not be taken lightly.

I strongly encourage you to learn everything you can about the two candidates, and come to your own decision. Me? I enthusiastically support Supervisor Janelle Rettig. The reasons are many, but it boils down to this: are we in this together or not?

Please do not skip this election. Your voice is important. It is an unusual date for an election, but please get out and vote.

Do not forget, there are plenty of early voting opportunities! For a complete list, see the Johnson County Auditor’s website at:

I find it amusing when I hear that Johnson County has “one party rule” or that there is a “Democratic Party Machine” that secretly runs things. I laugh when I hear us referred to by David Yepsen as the “People’s Republic of Johnson County”.

Like any persistent myth, there is a kernel of truth there. Other than a Republican Sheriff during the 80s, local partisan offices have been filled exclusively by Democrats since 1960. But what does that mean? What are the actual results? Is this a Socialist heaven?

The Democratic Party in Johnson County is a pretty big tent. It has always had a large conservative wing, and it still does. Many folks from this wing have served as County Supervisors. And THEY have not agreed on all the issues, either!

Furthermore, what does it mean to be a “conservative” Democrat? How about someone who is against abortion rights but pro-labor and pro-gay rights? (I know many people who fit that bill.) What about someone who is an anti-labor, anti-gay, pro-health care environmentalist? (I know several folks like that, too.) Every one of us would like to be in charge of the Official Litmus Test of our respective parties. But the fact remains… there is no litmus test.

Let’s look at any number of so-called Democratic Party issues, and see where the Johnson County Board of Supervisors falls:

Environmental Issues: Boards of the 50s through the mid-90s did not pay much attention to environmental issues. A few specific individuals notwithstanding, these Boards were extremely pro-development. And they were ALL Democrats. Is this some Socialist machine at work?

Labor Issues: Ask any local Labor activist how they feel about the relationship with the Board. Labor is traditionally dissatisfied with the contracts they get with Johnson County. Union Building Trades feel they do not get a fair hearing when it comes to building projects. The relationship is far from cozy. It used to be worse! And the Sups during this 50-year period were ALL Democrats. Is this some Socialist machine at work?

Civil Rights Issues: There have probably only been two or three two-year windows in 50 years where a majority of the Board supported gay marriage. I would stand by the argument that there have NEVER been all 5 Supervisors in favor. And they were ALL Democrats. Is this a Socialist machine at work?

Economic Justice: The Board has consistently preferred sales taxes to property taxes, despite a Party Platform that states the contrary. In 50 years, there have been less than four Supervisors who have spoken out against sales taxes. Scores preferred them. And they were ALL Democrats. Is this a Socialist machine at work?

Those are only a few issues. Given the choice between lower taxes and more human services, lower taxes have usually carried the day. Issues like choice and war rarely come up at the local level, but it is safe to say that most past Boards have agreed more closely with the Republican party line. And they were ALL Democrats. Is this a Socialist machine at work?

50 years of Democrats at the County level have not delivered a Socialist Disneyland. Similarly, the so-called “liberal” Iowa City Council has only had 4-5 two-year periods in 50 years where there was a truly progressive majority. Same thing in Coralville.

I am not arguing that the governments of the past 50 years have been particularly good or bad. There has been a lot of both in 50 years. There have been really good folks of all political stripes; there have been others we could have done without. The point is simply to bust the myth – the Johnson County Board of Supervisors has traditionally not been a far-left leaning body. A simple check of the facts backs that up.

DID YOU KNOW? Johnson County was created on December 21, 1837 by the legislature of the Wisconsin Territory. The county was carved out of territory formerly in Dubuque County, and was not initially provided with a civil government, instead being governed by Cedar County officials.

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.

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



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