Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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November 22, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos     11/26/13

In this edition:

*RIP Dennis Ryan
*Save PATV!
*Zoning/Land Use Plan
*A Tale Of Two Counties
*Did You Know?

         Happy Thanksgiving to all Salvos readers! I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday!

         I have many things for which I am thankful. Family, friends, health, relative wealth… I am a pretty lucky guy! One thing that I do not acknowledge enough, however, is the Salvos audience! I really appreciate the fact that you take the time to hear what I have to say. It is humbling, and I truly am honored to have this soapbox.

         So thanks for reading, and have a great holiday!

*RIP Dennis Ryan 
Johnson County is well-known for colorful characters. We recently lost one of those characters in Dennis Ryan. Dennis was a labor stalwart, a peace activist, and a firm believer in equality and economic justice. He never gave me any passes when it came to being progressive - not once!

More than any person I know, Dennis was always "fighting the man." Even small issues that caused most of us to roll our eyes - those were the fights Dennis accepted with glee. Just try to tell him how often he needs to mow his lawn!

My Dad once told me about Dennis nominating himself for Union President, then arguing with the bylaws committee - basically pissing off everyone in the room. After winning that argument, he lost the election - the only vote he got was his own. But that was Dennis; proving a point was worth it.

But despite his willingness to fight a fight, Dennis was funny and pleasant. He was always willing to lend a hand to friends and strangers alike.

RIP, Dennis.

*Save PATV!
         Mediacom would like to eliminate PATV. The Iowa City Council needs to be encouraged to fight for this valuable community asset! For more info, see:

*Zoning/Land Use Plan
         Remember how I told you that our Land Use Plan was going to be challenged? Remember how I asked you to show up if the Land Use Plan was important to you?

         Yeah. Well, nobody showed up. Including the media. Typical. The Gazette now does economic development instead of news, and the Press Citizen doesn’t even do that. Neither has regularly covered the Supervisors in a few years.

Luckily, three Supervisors held firm. Thanks to Supervisors Neuzil and Rettig for doing the right thing. Shame on all of you who claim this is important, but cannot get your hands dirty. Where were all the people who have complained about Newport Road? Where was ANYONE?

         Folks, you WILL get exactly the government you deserve! This is why you get crappy laws! We just dodged a bullet by a 3-2 vote. We might not be so lucky next time. We all need to do a better job of being engaged citizens!

*A Tale Of Two Counties
         I frequently write about issues of wealth and poverty. Thanksgiving offers me the opportunity to do this to an even greater extent.

         The country as a whole is becoming more and more unequal. The same phenomenon is taking place in Johnson County. It really is a “Tale of Two Counties”, with a small but growing wealthy population, a shrinking middle class, and a huge and growing population of poor people. This is not hyperbole – it is fact. There are all kinds of statistics backing this up.

         Some people honestly believe this is good. Social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest. Free markets. Invisible Hand. Call it what you want; we can see the results. I happen to believe these results are unacceptable. I also believe that a proper role of government is to help regulate in areas where the unregulated results are unacceptable. In my mind, our economic results are unacceptable.

Last year, Ohio Senator Rob Portman changed his view on same sex marriage after his own son came out as gay. I heard a few comedians remark, “Too bad his son didn’t come out as poor.” Not sure who first said this, but I love it! We need an awakening!

         So, what governmental interventions do I suggest? Most of the best anti-poverty programs are federal. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, school lunches, Section 8 housing and many other federal programs are proven to be effective anti-poverty measures. Sure, each of these programs has had its problems, but the successes number in the hundreds of millions! The national media likes to pretend these programs do not work. Nothing could be further from the truth. We should support these programs – not just their maintenance, but their expansion.

         There are also things can and should be done at the local level. One that I have mentioned frequently is inclusionary zoning. Developers do NOT build affordable housing without being forced to do so; local governments should simply require it. Done. It is that easy, and it would really help poor people.

         We are working on the FY15 Johnson County budget. Some time in January, there will come a day where we see what county government will cost the owner of a $100,000 property. And once we see this amount, the Board will begin to cut programs and services.

         It happens the same way every year. Supervisors will want to prove their fiscal bona fides, and make indignant comments such as, “How much more can people afford?” It is all great theater.

Yet we will be discussing $3 per $100,000 assessed value. $3. And believe me, much of that $3 will be cut. So the owner of a million dollar house will not have to spend that extra $30. And we Supervisors will pat ourselves on the back and talk about how frugal we are.

         But few people ask about what was cut. Who is not helped? What service was cut? What position was not funded? What agency cut back on staff?

         Yes, we have a Tale of Two Counties. We are living it. If you are reading this, you are likely one of the fortunate people. This is a great time of year for you to count your blessings. Trust me – many folks in Johnson County do not share in your good fortune.

*DID YOU KNOW?  Most Iowa Counties now have some sort of zoning. Washington County rescinded zoning last year.

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.


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