Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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December 20, 2013

Sullivan’s Salvos     12/24/13

In this edition:

*Merry Christmas!
*Salvos Salutes Next Week!
*1105 Project
*Chamber of Commerce
*Did You Know?

*Merry Christmas!
         Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it. I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday!

*Salvos Salutes Next Week!
         We live in a GREAT county! Why? Because of the great people that live here. Unfortunately, we rarely do enough to acknowledge these wonderful people and the wonderful things they do.

         That is why I really look forward to Salvos Salutes. It provides an opportunity to mention just a few of these cool people and the good things they do. I hope you look forward to it as well!

*1105 Project
         Hopefully all Salvos readers have heard of the 1105 Project. (See Salvos, 2/21/12.) This cooperative effort between the Crisis Center, DVIP, Free Lunch, and NAMI came about after Crisis Center Director Becci Reedus asked a couple County Supervisors for a parking easement. A few meetings later, she had land and a building valued at $600,000 for only $1.

         Now Coralville has joined the fray, with a generous donation of $10,000 per year for 5 years. It is great to see Coralville step up; I hope other municipalities will do the same. Special thanks to Coralville Councilors Mitch Gross and Jill Dodds, who led the charge.

         You can do your part as an individual donor, too! See for more information.

*Chamber of Commerce
         Because of the huge commercial tax cuts that went into effect last year, Johnson County is looking for ways to cut the budget. I have a great idea – I think we should drop our Chamber of Commerce membership.

         On a national level, the US Chamber of Commerce has become one of the most right wing, anti-tax, anti-worker organizations on the planet. Local leaders recognized this some time ago, and chose not to “affiliate” with the national group. The argument has always been that since the local Chamber of Commerce is not affiliated with the national Chamber of Commerce, we are not like them. But I fail to see any meaningful differences in the positions they are taking.

         The local Chamber is anti-tax, anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-union, anti-health care, anti-environment, and anti-poor people. Just like their big brothers in DC, they are parroting every right wing line. Heck, they even take stands that hurt businesses when ideology gets in the way!

         I can already hear the response: they will claim I am “spreading lies” about the Chamber. They need to consult one of their members that is a corporate attorney. Truth is an absolute defense for slander and libel.

         They will claim they are not anti-poor. Let’s examine the facts. The Chamber takes credit for fighting inclusionary zoning, which would lead to more affordable housing. They take credit for fighting “regulations” that would give sick leave and health insurance to low income workers. They fight an increased minimum wage. They support local union busting efforts. They want “entitlement reform”.

         Oh, but that is not all. The local Chamber takes FULL credit for last years’ commercial tax cuts, the largest in Iowa’s history. What do these commercial tax cuts mean?

         The commercial tax cuts mean people that own apartment buildings pay half the taxes they used to. Has this led to the promised reduction in rents? Of course not – just like I GUARANTEED you last year! The commercial tax cuts mean people that own mobile home courts pay half the taxes they used to. Has this led to the promised reduction in lot rents? Of course not – just like I GUARANTEED you last year! The commercial tax cuts mean people that own nursing homes pay half the taxes they used to. Has this led to the promised reduction in fees? Of course not – just like I GUARANTEED you last year!

         The commercial tax cuts have even deeper effects on the poor. Because the commercial tax cuts are negatively affecting governmental revenues, local governments have to cut programs that assist the poor. Recent examples – Iowa City just cut two housing workers. SEATS services have been cut.

The Crisis Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Free Med, Domestic Violence Intervention Program, Neighborhood Centers, UAY, and many other nonprofits now face funding cuts. Brought to you by the local Chamber of Commerce. (Ironically, I’ll bet a number of those organizations are dues-paying Chamber members.)

         So yes, the local Chamber has aligned itself squarely against the poor people of this community. This is not arguable – it is simply fact.

         I understand that the local Chamber is probably struggling to find its niche. The Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD) does a great job of economic development. The Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau does a great job with all things tourism and promotion. The Corridor Business Journal has filled the small window of opportunity open to the Chamber. (Which is a bit ironic. It is almost as if the CBJ has privatized the Chamber’s role as cheerleader for business in the community!)

There are still other reasons to oppose the direction the local Chamber has taken. Take our primary economic engine, for example. The University of Iowa drives our local economy. Nothing else comes even close. The UI is a GOVERNMENTAL institution. The UI is TAX SUPPORTED. That does not stop this Chamber. They will lobby for positions that harm our economic engine. They informally recruit and support the candidates who vote AGAINST the UI at every turn. (I wish the UI would pull their support, but that is just wishful thinking.)

Sure, the Chamber is going to reply that they do not endorse/support candidates for elective office. Right. EVERY election you can identify the “Chamber candidates”. They are typically referred to in the community as the “Chamber candidates”. They often refer to themselves as “Chamber candidates”. But they will be shocked – SHOCKED! – that I would say such a thing!

         Similarly, the local Chamber has an education committee. Why? All the policies and politicians they support vote against public education. Ask the Chamber how they feel about helping the ICEA (teacher’s union) do some lobbying for increased teacher pay. Ain’t gonna happen. Because the local Chamber has decided to become the enemy of everything that is progressive.

It did not used to be this way. The Chamber has always represented business interests, but they also represented the community in which they are located. We used to be able to find areas of agreement, and things we could work on together. Those days are gone. You now have a local version of the US Chamber of Commerce hiding behind a train. They are hurting this community, and they need to look in a mirror. They need to stop.

Despite the archconservative stances being taken by the local Chamber, I know that very few elected Democrats will publicly agree with me. This is easily explained – the Chamber staff is friendly, charming, and intelligent. They are very easy to like. In addition, the Chamber is perceived as quite powerful, and no one wants to cross them. So the odds are quite good that I’ll go this one alone. That does not mean I’m wrong.

Similarly, I guarantee you I’ll take more grief over writing this than the Chamber will for actually DOING the things I about which I write. Most people would prefer to shoot the messenger than confront the facts. Those folks simply need to think back to the old United Mine Worker’s anthem, and remember “Which Side Are You On?”

I cannot in good consciousness support an organization that is so philosophically opposed to everything I believe. If you happen to share my feelings, I hope you will join me. And let’s hope that this organization comes to its’ senses.

*DID YOU KNOW?  93% of Americans say they exchange gifts on Christmas. This occurs despite the fact that only 75% of Americans describe themselves as Christian.

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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