Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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August 22, 2014

Sullivan’s Salvos     8/26/14

In this edition:

*Labor Day
*Labor Day Picnic
*Sutliff Street Dance
*Did You Know?

*Labor Day
Happy Labor Day next Monday! I love Labor Day. Every Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day we set aside time to recall the folks whose service has given us our freedom. I have long felt we need to treat Labor Day in a similar fashion.

Please take a moment this Labor Day to remember the people who fought (and often died) to give us child labor laws, 40 hour weeks, weekends, overtime, vacations, the minimum wage, sick leave, parental leave, OSHA, employment nondiscrimination, pensions, Social Security, health insurance, and so much more.

Do not be fooled! These benefits were not GIVEN to workers by benevolent corporations! They were earned by workers who sacrificed! It is a shame that so many average Joes have chosen to support our corporate masters versus supporting those whose efforts really benefit the masses.

Unions continue to provide the best protections working people can have. I feel as though I have accomplished some good things as a member of the Board of Supervisors. One of the accomplishments of which I am most proud is starting an employee appreciation lunch every year the week of Labor Day. Johnson County employees deserve much more, but this is one extra opportunity to say thank you.

Trust me – the average person has nothing to fear from unions. We all benefit when folks have safe and healthy workplaces. We all benefit when workers get adequate rest. We all benefit when workers receive good training. We all benefit when folks earn a living wage and have health insurance. Unions help improve the quality of life for all of us.

One example of a way in which unions benefit everyone: much is made of the automobile industry expanding into the southern US. While these are not union plants, workers still have good wages and benefits. Some see this as an indictment of unions. It is precisely the opposite.

Do not think for a minute that these companies pay $22 per hour because they WANT to. They would be much happier to pay $4 per hour. And, when China’s workforce improves in quality to the point that they can do automotive work, the companies will move there.

Understand – large corporations exist for one reason, and that is to earn a profit. If the laws allowed slavery, some companies would use it. Because it is cheaper.

So why do they pay $22 in the southern US? Because of the threat of the United Auto Workers (UAW). If the wages or benefits ever sink too low, UAW could unionize those workers. The car companies don’t want that, so they pay the lowest possible acceptable wage.

See? The UAW does not represent the workers at those plants. But they have driven up the wages and benefits for the workers there all the same.

I am proud to be a member of Local 716 of the American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the Iowa City Federation of Labor. Happy Labor Day!

*Labor Day Picnic
The Iowa City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, will host its annual Labor Day picnic on Monday, September 1, starting at noon at Upper City Park, shelter 2. Burgers, brats, veggie options and beverages provided. Please bring a dish to share. Political speeches and a good time guaranteed. Free to all Friends of Labor.

*Sutliff Street Dance
The Sutliff Bridge Authority is holding its 30th Annual Street Dance fundraiser on Sunday, August 31 in beautiful downtown Sutliff.

Gates open at 12:00 noon - $5 donation requested. Music by Between Monsters from 1-5 pm. Food provided by the Johnson County Pork Producers. Limited beverages provided by Baxa’s Sutliff Store and Tavern. No coolers please.

You may have heard that law enforcement agencies in Johnson County are now in possession of an MRAP (Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected) truck. The 58,000-pound, six-wheeled vehicle was built for the military. With recent military disengagements, MRAP vehicles are being made surplus. While many are being scrapped, others are being made available through a federal program to local law enforcement agencies.

There has been a public stir around this vehicle, and I understand why. I wish they had never accepted the vehicle. I think it is a bad idea on at least two counts. But first…

A disclaimer – it is not easy to be a cop. You are charged with protecting and serving everyone – including the real assholes. These officers are our friends and family members. They are public employees – most are union employees. They deserve our respect, and they deserve to be safe when doing their jobs.

There are always a few who behave badly in a group situation, whether you have a group of 100 protesters or 100 law enforcement officers. Those “bad apples” can cause a lot of trouble for both groups.

In addition, the citizenry of the US is more heavily armed than the militaries of most countries. How can we continue to urge all citizens to “arm up” and not expect law enforcement to do the same?

The problem is, every interaction a citizen has with a police officer puts the citizen’s civil rights on the line. If an officer wants to find a reason to take that citizens liberty (and sometimes life) that officer can find a reason. That is why the job is SO important, and why we must make certain that officers understand the gravity of their positions. It is also why law enforcement must be accountable to voters (like the Sheriff) as opposed to insulated from those they serve (like Police Chiefs). But trust me, I get it  - the job is important and not easy!

As for the reasons I am concerned…

First, and most importantly, I am concerned about the militarization of our local police forces. Look no further than Ferguson, Missouri to see how things can devolve. I am afraid that having this unit available will lead to using it at inappropriate times. As the old saying goes, when you have a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

I can understand why a unit might need to be dressed out in military gear. Active shooters, hostage situations… I see the value. Unfortunately, agencies are tending toward using this equipment for routine drug investigations, serving warrants, and other routine tasks. This simply increases the chance of conflict.

Secondly, I am concerned about future financial impacts. There could (probably will) be costs for storage, repair, etc. I just don’t see any reason to have the MRAP in the first place, so why take on those costs?

Sheriff Pulkrabek has pointed out that no local tax dollars were used in this process; the transportation, painting and equipping was all forfeiture money from the Johnson County Drug Task Force. While that partially addresses my second concern, it fails to recognize that the forfeiture money could have been spent in other areas (such as training) that might have been a better use of funds.

God forbid, but it has also been pointed out that there may be situations where a bomb-proof vehicle could come in handy. Thank goodness that has not happened. It should be noted that some of the same folks who are complaining about the equipment feel Johnson County should have a plan in case of a bomb threat. What is that plan? What equipment should they use? How would you suggest law enforcement approach the situation? I still don’t want the MRAP – but this stance seems hypocritical to me.

The Supervisors were not consulted on this deal – nor are they required to be. But in the future, it might make sense to ask us what we think. Preferably ahead of time.

I am all for the public speaking out on this issue. But the Board of Supervisors did not authorize the funding, nor can we take it away. A Supervisors meeting on the topic would amount to little more than political grandstanding.

Should the Sheriff hear about it? Absolutely! But I see no benefit to the Supervisors organizing a public roasting of the Sheriff. That is simply showboating. If you want to complain to his office, you should by all means do so.

But let me be clear – we have an EXCELLENT Sheriff! Lonny is a very good human being who cares about people. We are extremely lucky to have him in office. That does not mean he and I will never disagree; we disagree here. We have disagreed in the past. We’ll disagree in the future. But I am not interested in trying to show him up. He deserves better.

In addition, the Sheriff’s Office is but one of 5 local law enforcement agencies that combined on the vehicle. Whatever displeasure one might have should also be directed in equal parts toward North Liberty, Coralville and Iowa City as well as EMA and the University of Iowa’s Public Safety Department.

I do not like the purchase of the MRAP. I think it was a bad idea. But I am not sure a public flogging of the Sheriff helps in any way.

*DID YOU KNOW?  The first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade on September 5, 1882, in New York City, probably organized by Peter J. McGuire, a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary. By 1893, more than half the states were observing a "Labor Day" on one day or another, and a bill to establish a federal holiday was passed by Congress in 1894. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

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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