Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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July 28, 2012

Sullivan’s Salvos 7/31/12 In this edition: *More Drought! *Homeless Children’s Trust *Bad Board Behavior? *The “Worthy” Poor? *Swisher Fun Days *Did You Know? *More Drought! Unfortunately, our hot and dry weather rolls on. Locally, we are in the midst of our worst drought since 1988. Nationally, nothing on this scale has occurred since 1956. We have already witnessed the devastating effects of the drought in the Western US, with wildfires claiming lives and property at unprecedented rates. Closer to home, crops are being ruined, and small farmers are under pressure. The 2012 growing season is basically lost; now the concerns turn to low groundwater levels. Food prices will certainly rise, probably sooner rather than later. Many poor people will struggle with outrageously high utility bills. Ag Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is pushing to address these issues in the Farm Bill, but so far responses to his suggestions have been lukewarm. I fear that these conditions are yet another manifestation of climate change. I really hope world and national leaders get serious about this issue before it is too late! I simply fail to understand what further evidence is necessary to get them to act! *Homeless Children’s Trust It is time for the annual Back to School Collection for the Homeless Children's Trust! The Homeless Children's Trust is a part of HACAP (Hawkeye Area Community Action Program) and this is the 22nd anniversary of the project here in Johnson County. The Trust provides little red schoolhouses at fourteen local sites where we ask for donations from the community. All items are then sorted and packed in backpacks for the children in need according to age and school. Volunteers are needed to help assemble the backpacks on Friday, August 10th at 1:00 pm at the HACAP Family Service Center at 367 Southgate Ave. in Iowa City. My kids and I do this every year, and it is a rewarding experience! (Unfortunately, we cannot help this year.) We typically provide around 130 backpacks; the children in need are designated by counselors from HACAP, MECCA, DVIP and the Shelter House. The program covers children from kindergarten through high school. The children are always happy to have all the necessary supplies when school starts. Please spread the word about this wonderful program and our need for donations as well as volunteers. Any questions please call Mary Larew at 337-2264 (evenings) or 338-1212 (days). *Bad Board Behavior? I have heard from a few members of the public recently who feel that the Board of Supervisors has been exhibiting some bad behavior. I think I can probably guess some of the incidents to which these folks are referring. As a matter of fact, I am likely involved in a couple of these incidents. Look, I am not proud of Board meetings that get loud or rowdy. I would like to set a good example. But civility is low on the list of bad behaviors about which our citizens should be concerned. How about failing to recuse yourself from a vote that would personally make you money? Is that bad behavior? Is it illegal? What about voting against the adopted Land Use Plan in order to give an exception to a campaign donor? Is that bad behavior? Is it illegal? How about voting for/against items based solely upon who is in the audience? Is that bad behavior? How about saying you will laugh at the prospect of poor people whose trailers fail inspections? Is that bad behavior? Let’s go one more step. Suppose you call out another Supervisor on a behavior listed above. Is that bad behavior? (I would argue that saying/doing nothing is bad behavior!) I’ll take passion for issues over don’t-know-or-care civility any day. Hopefully, many of you feel the same way. Meanwhile, I hope we can work through the issues of the day without raised voices. *The “Worthy” Poor? Interestingly, I have been in a few discussions recently about begging. It must be contagious! Here are my thoughts: I believe begging is free speech, and therefore protected by the First Amendment. There are already laws that protect people from harassment and intimidation. Panhandlers were already prohibited from physically stopping (or even touching) others. I think Iowa City’s anti-panhandling law is clearly unconstitutional. It would be nice to see the ACLU of Iowa take on a real First Amendment challenge, and sue over this ordinance! Though I firmly believe it should be legal, I rarely ever give to panhandlers. I try to give generously to charities; I prefer knowing that my contributions to the poor were used thoughtfully. One interesting phenomenon in my recent discussions is the value judgments folks like to assign. I got a lot of comments like, “They can afford cigarettes!” and “Look how nice his shoes are!” I understand where this comes from. We all want our charitable contributions to be used wisely. Our society honors hard work, and people who give to a panhandler only to see that person buy booze feel lied to and used. You may note, however, that Jesus, Mohammed, Budha, and others are unanimous in asking us to share what we have. They are also unanimous in warning us not to judge others. Look, I get it. I occasionally see folks panhandling and wish they made different choices. But rather than spend a lot of time and effort judging them, I prefer to focus my efforts on helping those folks who are “playing by the rules” if you will. Does this make me guilty of “judging” others? Probably so. We all have work to do when it comes to accepting others. *Swisher Fun Days It is Fun Days in Swisher August 4 & 5! For a complete list of all the weekend’s events, see: *DID YOU KNOW? Johnson County averages about 38 inches of precipitation per year. We are about ten inches low at this point. (Source: NOAA.) 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! ---Rod


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