Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

Previous Posts


July 20, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos     7/23/13

In this edition:

*RIP Bill Reagan
*ADA Celebration
*County Fair
*Celebration of Community
*Did You Know?

*RIP Bill Reagan
         It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to my friend Bill Reagan. Bill and I had a special bond, as we had both served as the Executive Director of the Arc of Johnson County (later the Arc of SE Iowa). Bill was rare in that he wanted my opinion as his predecessor. I can assure you – Bill did a fantastic job at The Arc! And although he clearly ran things much better than I, he always made me feel as though the successes of the organization were all mine!

         Bill dedicated his life to serving others, particularly the most vulnerable among us. Bill was a big strong man with a soft heart. His handwritten notes are legendary. Just a great person, gone far too soon. I can honestly say that I don’t know if I ever met a finer man. RIP, Bill.

*ADA Celebration
         The annual celebration of the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in Johnson County is Saturday, July 27 from 10-4 at Chauncey Swan Park in Iowa City. Join us!

*County Fair
         The Johnson County Fair runs Monday, July 22 through Thursday, July 25. I hope you get an opportunity to check it out!

         I love the way the Johnson County Ag Association manages the County Fair. I am particularly fond of the fact that there is never an entry fee, and parking is free. In many counties, you would pay $10 to park and $5/head admission, if not more. That is $30 minimum for a family of four before you have even done anything!

         The Board of Supervisors started a “tradition” two years ago of holding our weekly Thursday meeting on the main stage at the Fair. While we have yet to draw a big crowd, it has been a fun change of pace.

Yes, it is typically hot out there. But that is why they sell ice cream! So, please stop out and enjoy the Fair. You’ll be glad you did!

         I have deep concerns about what I believe to be the overuse of covenants, particularly in our cities. A bit of background:

         Covenants are legally binding agreements that impose duties and restrictions upon a property regardless of the owner. These are typically used in connection with homeowners associations.

         In the rural areas, where municipal services do not exist, homeowners associations often cover road maintenance, garbage collection, wells, and septic systems. The associations elect a Board, and the Board manages the day-to-day operations of the subdivision.

Homeowners associations and covenants make sense in this context, as there is a great deal of communal property to manage. Members typically pay membership dues, and these dues cover the cost of the services. The covenants create the legal authority for these groups to act.

There are many cases, however, where covenants stray far from the goal of managing communal property. Many homeowners associations use covenants to restrict what color a home may be painted, what construction materials can be used, and whether or not cars may be parked on the street. These “aesthetic” concerns begin to worry me. I understand why a homeowners association would include such rules, as they may well protect home values.

But how far is too far? As subdivisions spread in the early part of the 20th century, several subdivisions attempted to use covenants to keep African Americans from moving to the area. The US Supreme Court invalidated this practice in 1948, by which time much damage had already been done.

While racial discrimination is not overtly allowed, discrimination often occurs on economic grounds. Covenants are virtually unlimited in scope, and can cover any number of areas: whether or not home businesses are allowed; the length of time guests are allowed; the length of your grass; the type of holiday decorations you can display; whether or not you can park a boat in your shed; or whether you can have a shed at all!

         The idea that “a man’s home is his castle” is not really the case when covenants are involved. I happen to believe that many covenants are unnecessarily broad, and range into areas of free speech, freedom of religion, etc.

         This is particularly concerning in our cities. As I explained earlier, homeowners associations are often necessary in rural areas to manage communal resources. I see no such need in cities, where basic services are provided by the municipality. In cities, covenants seem to serve no real purpose but to discriminate against certain ideas or behaviors. Cities already have ordinances on the books; homeowners associations and their restrictive covenants are not necessary.

         Another important issue is that of enforcement. When municipalities pass ordinances, a taxpayer-supported law enforcement officer and a taxpayer-supported attorney enforce the provisions of the law. Public dollars, public services.

         But what about private covenants? There is no private police – thank goodness! This could be on the horizon, however, as some fancy gated communities in the US do utilize private security. So how do you feel about being pulled over by a private law enforcement officer? I don’t want my civil rights infringed upon EVER, but when it happens, it had better be a real cop!

         And what about situations where publicly funded law enforcement officers are asked to respond to perceived violations of private covenants? Do you want your Sheriff’s Deputies responding to a complaint that a garbage can has not been put away properly? We are beginning to get more and more calls of this nature. Personally, I do not want to see public dollars used to police private issues.

         I simply do not like the privatization of all these public functions. Counties are already pretty far down this road – out of necessity, I’m afraid. But cities? Stop this nonsense! End covenants within your city limits!

*Celebration of Community
         Johnson County held a neat event on July 1, called “A Celebration of Community Partners”. We highlighted all the nonprofits that work with Johnson County, and thanked them for their work. We served local food prepared by the Shelter House – a very cool thing! Finally, there was a nice tribute to Jim Swaim, who is leaving UAY after over 40 years.

         It was a very nice event, and the people who were there really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the odds are really good that you know nothing about it. Why? Because the Press Citizen and Gazette failed to cover it.

         I know, I know… I complain about this a lot. But the fact of the matter is, we operate on the consent of the governed. If you do not know what is going on, you cannot weigh in. If you do not weigh in, you are at our mercy. It sets up a VERY bad situation.

         The real irony is that we held the event in an attempt to publicize all this good work. It is just a shame. I feel as though I’m doing my job. Now we need the papers to do their jobs. Then you can be the judge.

*DID YOU KNOW?  The original Johnson County Fairgrounds is now the site of City High.

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!



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home