Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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February 14, 2014

Sullivan’s Salvos     2/18/14

In this edition:

*City Fed Chili Supper
*Arc Chili Supper
*Voting In Schools, Part 2
*County Budget
*Legislative Forums
*Did You Know?

*City Fed Chili Supper
The Iowa City Federation of Labor is holding its annual Chili Supper and awards on Thursday, February 20 at 6 pm at the new City Fed office, 940 S Gilbert Court in Iowa City.

I love the City Fed Chili Supper. I only wish it was still opposite the Chamber of Commerce banquet. Then elected officials would really have to follow the lead of the old labor song, pick an event, and answer the question “Which Side Are You On?”

Please bring a side dish to share. Questions: Call Joe Marron at 319-400-6391.

*Arc Chili Supper
In case you did not get your chili fix with the Labor folks, The ARC of Southeast Iowa Chili Supper is Friday, February 21 from 5-7pm at River Community Church in Iowa City.

The cost is $10 adults; for more info, see:

*Voting In Schools, Part 2
         I am thrilled by the amount of feedback I received on the topic of voting in our schools. EVERY person who responded agreed that the schools should remain as polling places.

         So what do we do now? Even though there is no official proposal in front of the ICCSD Board, we must not wait until a bad proposal is on the table. We MUST write them and let them know how we feel!

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an easy way to e-mail the whole Board from their website. But the e-mail addresses can be determined from the site -

         Please write them! This issue is critical to our democracy!

*County Budget
         The public hearing for the FY15 Johnson County budget is Tuesday, February 25th at 6pm in the Boardroom at the County Administration Building.

         This has been an interesting budget year… we find ourselves looking to the future, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The Iowa Legislature has hamstrung local governments to such a degree that it is not a matter of “if”, but “when”.

         In the meantime, we are scrambling to get projects completed before we lose the ability to do them at all. Repairs to the jail, a rebuilt Mehaffey Bridge and Mehaffey Bridge Road, finishing 520th Street, and a new building to replace the fire damaged Secondary Roads Building are a few of the highlights.

         The Conservation Board is using almost $1.5 million of the $20 million approved by voters in 2008. There are very few new positions authorized, and all union employees are in the final year of 6 separate three-year contracts. Cuts to social services – while threatened – were not realized.

         Johnson County maintains a very strong Aa2 bond rating, and is projected to end the year with a healthy fund balance. Tax rates in Johnson County rank right in the middle among Iowa’s counties. All this despite the fact that TIFs in the County make almost a BILLION dollars off limits to County taxation.

         Meanwhile, the budget process itself is very interesting. The budget is actually a series of hundreds of smaller decisions. Some are 5-0 votes; others are 3-2. Every Supervisor has things they want to fund that are not funded; every Supervisor has things they would prefer not to fund that get in. Hundreds of decisions – you win some, you lose some. The bottom line is, each Supervisor has had ample opportunity for input.

A few years ago, two Supervisors abruptly voted against the budget without warning. Had one more Sup done so, the budget would have failed to pass, and the budget would have reverted to the previous year’s totals. This would have truly been a disaster! It would have ended up costing us millions over several years just to undo the damage.

         Ever since then, we make a point of discussing it. Several times each budget season, we say aloud, “Is there anything in here that would cause any of you to vote against the budget?” If the answer is yes, we will attempt to negotiate on that point to arrive at a 5-0 vote.

         I liken it to playing pickup basketball where you call your own fouls. There is always that guy who calls a foul every time he misses a shot. He drives you crazy, but the rules are “respect the call”. If you get to the point where you cannot “respect the call”, the game ends.

         So, there are compromises in this budget I dislike. But I am trying to “respect the call”. There are also areas (such as maintaining the level of human services funding) where I got what I wanted. You win some, you lose some.

That is how the sausage is made. Want to learn more? Attend the public hearing on the 25th, visit our website at, or give me a call. It is your budget; I urge you to take an interest.

*Legislative Forums
         Now that the Iowa Legislature is in session, Legislative forums are held the final Saturday of each month. The League of Women Voters holds its longstanding series at 9 am on those Saturdays. The Chamber of Commerce holds theirs at 8 am those same days.

         I have two major gripes with the existing system. First, some background. Johnson County is represented by three Senators – Democrats Bob Dvorsky and Joe Bolkcom, and Republican Sandy Greiner. Johnson County is represented by 5 members of the House of Representatives – Democrats Mary Mascher, Vicki Lensing, Dave Jacoby, and Sally Stutsman, and Republican Bobby Kauffman.

         All typically attend the Chamber event. Then Senator Greiner and Representative Kauffman leave Johnson County. They refuse to attend the League events. So their Johnson County constituents never get an opportunity to speak with them, unless they happen to be Chamber members.

         First, I cannot believe how rude the GOP folks are toward the League and its’ members. I think the League should make a much bigger deal out of the disrespectful way they are treated. The League should be especially interested in spreading the word to women who live in Washington, Keokuk, and Cedar Counties. Women in those counties should be aware of the low regard in which female organizations are held by these two elected officials.

         While Representative Kauffman’s father also chose to purposefully snub the League of Women Voters, not ALL Republicans have always done so. Former GOP Senator David Miller was a regular attendee when he represented southern Johnson County.

         I rarely agreed with Senator Miller on anything, but he will always have my respect for showing up and addressing his constituents. He was far too right wing for my tastes, but he was a stand up guy.

         I sincerely hope Senator Greiner and Representative Kauffman will put an end to this childishness.

         My second gripe is with the Chamber events. These forums are only open to Chamber members. Why? Why should our elected officials do private sessions with a private membership organization? Why do this for the Chamber and not other local groups? Why doesn’t Rotary get a members-only meeting? Or Farm Bureau? Or Labor unions? What has this group done to merit special access that the rest of the public lacks? Should elected officials really hold regular meetings with only those who can pay for the privilege?

         In the interest of full disclosure, I am no fan of the direction the local Chamber has taken. They have the exact same agenda as the Koch Brothers, and the Chamber is hurting – yes, HURTING – the people in this community who need help. The Chamber’s actions have turned me into a vocal Chamber critic, and I’ve been pretty clear about that. But this has nothing to do with the fact that the local Chamber hates the poor. This is about unequal access to government.

         I think our elected officials should demand that the Chamber open their forums to the public. If not, our elected officials should not participate. Period. These sessions should be public. The people deserve nothing less.

*DID YOU KNOW?  The Iowa City Federation of Labor (City Fed) is the local chapter of the AFL-CIO.

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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