Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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June 15, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos     6/18/13

In this edition:

*Goodbye, Harry Graves!
*NSA – Privacy Debate
*Gender Balance
*Still No Media
*Property Tax Rates
*Did You Know?

*Goodbye, Harry Graves!
         Johnson County Conservation Director Harry Graves is stepping down after a 42-year career in Conservation, 12+ of it here in Johnson County.

         I have something I like to do when all the county officials get together at the Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) meetings. While people are relaxing, with their guards down, I try to get information. It sounds sneaky, but it really isn’t so bad.

         Where I’m going with this: I have twice sat around with groups of Conservation professionals. Both times, I asked, “Who is the best? Who is the very best Conservation Director in Iowa?” Both times, there wasn’t much conversation. They all replied, “Harry Graves.”

         I think those folks were (and are) correct. Harry is the best darned Conservation Director in Iowa. That is not to say that Harry and I haven’t had our differences; we’ve had a few. But my respect for Harry runs deep. Harry Graves is passionate, intelligent, caring, dedicated, charming, funny, and deeply committed. I LOVE Harry Graves. I want Harry Graves in my foxhole.

         The foxhole reference feels apt, as Harry and I have been on the same side in several political battles. It doesn’t seem like supporting Conservation should be a fight. But it is. It ALWAYS is. And you have to prepare as though you are going into battle.

The battle of which I am most proud is the $20 million Conservation Bond that passed with 61% of the vote in 2008, part of the largest turnout election in Johnson County history.

         The bond vote didn’t just happen. Harry and I plotted and schemed for three years prior to that vote. We faced and overcame several obstacles. Once the public became aware, we knew they would embrace it. Harry knew that this was the right thing to do. But getting to that point… I could write a book. I’ll never forget it.

         I have no doubt that the Johnson County Conservation Department will continue to flourish. There is a great Board and staff on hand. Many more good things are on the way.

         Meanwhile, thank you, Harry. You were a gentleman, a scholar, and a true conservationist. In the truest conservation ethic, you left things better than you found them. Best of luck in your retirement.

*NSA – Privacy Debate
         Like many Americans, I am disappointed in the recent revelations regarding the NSA and collecting data on Americans.

On one hand, it really isn’t surprising. I recognize that the American government has spied on its own citizens dating back to the days of George Washington. None of that makes it right; I just feel that some people go too far in the righteous indignation they direct toward President Obama. Obama should not be doing this. Neither should Bush, Reagan, Eisenhower, Nixon… it is a problem regardless of the political party of the President. Always has been.

Additionally, private companies collect data on us all the time without our consent. Again, this does not make it right. But I trust Big Government more than I trust Big Business. That does not mean I want either collecting data on me, but at least with the government I get a vote.

The key point in all of this is the balance of power in government. First, there is the role of the courts. I think the government should be forced to get warrants, and I don’t think the courts should grant them automatically. Secondly, Congress does not need to approve this. Somebody needs to stand up!

         In my mind, Ed Snowden and Bradley Manning are heroes. We are punishing the messengers, when we should be punishing the NSA. This situation sucks. It makes us all feel very powerless. I hope we can make strides toward better protecting our privacy.

*Gender Balance
         A few years ago, the Iowa Legislature passed a law requiring gender balance on all city and county Boards and Commissions.

         We recently saw a report that noted only TWO Iowa counties are in full compliance with this law – Van Buren and Johnson. That makes me proud!

         This has been hard work, and it is nice to see it paying off! Congrats to Executive Assistant Andy Johnson, who has carried most of the load.

*Still No Media
         Meetings of the Board of Supervisors still go uncovered by local media. We haven’t had a newspaper reporter there in weeks.

         I don’t blame the reporters. Their beats are too big. They are overworked, underpaid, under-resourced, and not allowed to follow leads or write anything in-depth. The fault lies at the top, where the money flows.

         You can still view and/or listen to Board meetings a few different ways; just go to for details.

*Property Tax Rates
         Lots of people like to lie about property tax rates in Johnson County, claiming, “they are some of the highest in the country!”

         Bullcrap! Here are the facts – newly updated with current fiscal year data - 39 Iowa Counties have higher property tax rates than Johnson County, ranking Johnson 40 out of the 99 counties. (Source: Iowa State Association of Counties.)

         If you are a regular reader of Salvos, you know that I refuted all those arguments piece by piece last week. Interestingly, I received ZERO responses. That tells me that people either don’t care or agree. I hope it is that you agree!

         I’m going to run this every week in Salvos, just to be sure you remember it. So when somebody says otherwise, you can set them straight.

*DID YOU KNOW?  There are approximately 475 Johnson County residents currently on probation; approximately 75 more are on parole. (Source: Sixth Judicial District.)

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

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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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