Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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December 13, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos     12/17/13

In this edition:

*ICCSD Issues
*Free Tax Help!
*Did You Know?

*ICCSD Issues
         There were several issues on recent ICCSD agendas that deserve comment. Before I start in, I’ll state the obvious: School Board positions are tough. They get zero pay to make very important and difficult decisions. And they are going to get an earful no matter what direction they choose.

         That said, we have to let our elected officials know how we feel. If you care about any of the issues I discuss here, you should write the School Board. They need your feedback in order to make those decisions in an informed manner.

         MLK Day: After several years of acknowledging the Holiday with a day off, the ICCSD decided to instead hold school and make it a “Day of Service”. This decision was met with much indignation from a number of African American (and other) families who have always recognized the Holiday at other community events.

I think the ICCSD was attempting to do a good thing here, but their results point out a huge structural problem. The ICCSD does what most bureaucracies do – the administration makes these decisions, then brings them to the Board, where they often fail to get the proper scrutiny.

Now if the ICCSD Equity Committee was functioning as it should, and if administrators and Board members spoke to a broader representation of community members – perhaps this would not have been an issue. Hopefully this will demonstrate to the Board the need to include many diverse voices in decision-making.

The thing that REALLY upsets me about this is when I hear white people comment, “Those kids were just going to play video games all day, anyway.” I find this SO insulting!

         So WHAT if they DO play video games all day? It is a HOLIDAY! Who are you to judge how they are spending the day? I know I don’t want anyone checking up to see if I gave enough thanks on Thanksgiving, or if I was Christian enough on Christmas!

Since when do we police how people spend their Holidays? Oh, right – we began when black people started enjoying MLK Day.

School IDs: The ICCSD decided to create a system that requires parents to scan an ID every time they enter a school building. This has led to many, many questions and concerns.

1. For one, you have the cost. This system costs a lot of money – is there any proof that it actually makes anyone safer? Or will this be our generations’ version of air raid drills?

         2. The ICCSD is sending mixed messages as to what information will be gathered once an ID is scanned. One group says it will only check to see if a person is a sex offender. Another says it will provide a full background check. Which is it, and why? And doesn’t either answer present problems?

         3. The ID requirements can be very onerous for immigrants, seniors, and people of color. Just as we are beginning to talk about embracing diversity in our schools, we create obstacles for a diverse population.

         4. This system causes a huge headache and inconvenience for parents who are already overly stressed. Hurry up so you can pick up Jimmy for his dental appointment – whoops! Forgot your ID!

5. The biggest issue for me is that this is going to be arbitrarily enforced. I know, I know … they assure us that EVERYONE will have her/his ID checked every time. But they won’t. That is a fact. And that is the problem.

         You’ll never convince me that the Principal’s husband is going to get his ID scanned. The Superintendent is not getting his scanned. Those Moms that volunteer every single day? They will not be scanned. This policy is going to be enforced arbitrarily, and it is going to be enforced much more frequently when you are a person of color.

         Yes, this is an accusation on my part. But it is based in history and statistics. Take a look at the ICCSD record on disproportionate minority contact. Look at how frequently black kids are cited for being “disorderly” or “insubordinate”. In charges where there is little discretion – such as assault – black kids are overrepresented, but the numbers are much lower. Look at charges where discretion is involved – such as being “disorderly” or “insubordinate”- and disproportionate contact is even more prevalent. Discretion ALWAYS means people of color get a raw deal.

         Bottom line? We just don’t need this damned ID system. It is a solution in search of a problem.

         Facilities Plan: I am glad this passed! Thanks to the 6 Board Members who voted to move our District forward!

         Fencing: I see this as very similar to the ID system. We simply cannot ensure that nothing will ever happen to any child. We can’t. And personally, I do not want our families living in fear every day, just waiting for the next abduction or school massacre. We have to live our lives.

         My kids used to go to Hoover. It is fenced alongside Court Street and First Avenue; this makes sense, as those are two very busy streets. But now the ICCSD has added another 100’ or so of fence, ruining what was once a great sledding hill. Why? Is anyone really safer because of this? Sorry, but that move was just STUPID!

         Each building has unique characteristics. Each building should have a committee of neighbors, teachers, parents, and students make recommendations to the Principal, who takes the recommendations to the ICCSD Board for approval. Let each building decide what is best for them.

Those are my thoughts. I’m sure you have others. Don’t tell me – tell the School Board! They need to hear from you!

*Free Tax Help!
         Starting in February, Johnson County will once again be offering Free Tax Help. Johnson County Social Services collaborates with the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business to provide these VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Tax Clinics. This program is one of my proudest accomplishments as a Supervisor. Here is a look at the positive results from last year alone:

We held 35 Clinics at 5 locations for 123 scheduled hours. Over 100 volunteers contributed more than 3,300 hours of volunteer time. 1,101 returns were filed; a 774% increase since 2006 (our first year) when 126 returns were filed. Tax filers through the VITA clinics received $1,382,428 in federal returns and $470,969 in Earned Income Tax Credit. That is $1.3 million right back in our local economy!

PLEASE spread the word about this fantastic program! More details will be available soon.

*DID YOU KNOW?  The large conference room in the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce offices is the “Quad Cities International Airport Conference Room”. As a guy who believes in local businesses, that has always pissed me off.

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



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