Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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March 6, 2015

Sullivan’s Salvos     3/10/15

In this edition:

*Prairie Preview
*Gas Tax
*Foster Care
*Did You Know?

*Prairie Preview
         The Burr Oak Land Trust presents the 32nd annual Prairie Preview Thursday, March 12 at the Celebration Farm off Highway 1 north of Iowa City.

         Doors open for registration and exhibits at 6:30. Biology Professor Jim Kessler will provide the keynote on “The Importance of Native Prairie” at 7:30 PM.

         For more information or to become a sponsor, please contact Tammy Wright at 338-7030 or

         I love this event, so I’m sorry to say that I’ll have to miss it this year. (I’ll be attending the Iowa State Association of Counties meeting in Des Moines.) I hope all the attendees have a great time and learn a lot!

*Gas Tax
         Iowa just raised its gas tax by ten cents to 31 cents, effective March 1. This is the first increase in the tax since 1989. Iowa’s tax rate on gas was quite low, ranking number 36 in the nation.

We will talk about the politics in a moment. First, let’s lay out some more facts. A recent industry report cited federal data showing 27 percent of Iowa's major urban roads and highways have pavement in poor condition, while 13 percent of rural roads are in poor condition. In addition, the research noted more than a quarter of the state's bridges are rated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

The tax will raise an additional $200 million or so, all of it constitutionally protected for roads only. In Johnson County, our share will be around $800,000 annually. To give you a sense of how far that goes, $800k would build two small bridges, or pave just under a mile of road.

So you are not going to see lots of big projects because of this. It really only keeps our heads above water. But that is OK. Several cities and counties were in jeopardy of falling so far behind that things would get dangerous. This should keep that from happening.

For a person who drives 15,000 miles a year in a vehicle that gets 25 miles per gallon, the higher fuel tax would cost an additional $60 annually, or an average of $5 a month. About 25% would be paid by non-Iowans just driving through.

         As for the politics – they were interesting, to say the least. The GOP was tugged in different directions; road builders and the Farm Bureau wanted the tax, while anti-tax groups did not. Democrats wanted the increase, but forced Republicans to come up with at least 50% support before they would act.

         When businesses are asked what is most important to them, infrastructure polls number two, just behind workforce. It is the second MOST important factor. Taxes fall much further down the list, barely in the top ten. Businesses must have good roads and bridges to succeed. Period. Our economy depends upon this.

What I find scary is the work that was required to get done something so basic. As I just noted, our economy depends upon good infrastructure. Yet only about half the Republicans in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate could be convinced to vote for it. The MOST important factor for businesses, and it can only get half the necessary votes. Scary.

         I appreciate the reasonable GOP members who helped to get this done. Speaker Paulson, Representative Byrnes, and Senator Kapuchian, in particular, put the needs of Iowa ahead of politics in this case.

*Foster Care
         I have mentioned foster care previously in Salvos. As you may recall, Melissa and I have been foster parents for 17 years. During that time, we have had just over 40 children in our home. Some stayed only a few hours; 3 kids we adopted. All in all, it has definitely been the best thing we have ever done.

Melissa and I recently provided respite care for another foster family. We kept a 2 year old and 7 month old for about 10 days. During this stint, I began questioning my continued commitment to serving as a foster parent.

I know the need is there; that is not even a question. And I want to do my part. Foster Care numbers are actually down – nearing an all-time low. While Iowa had about 8,000 kids in care just 7-8 years ago, the numbers now are around 5,000. The problem is, the number of foster families has also dropped.

In fairness, I should mention a story that happened this week. While picking the kids up at daycare, classmates of the oldest child started yelling, “Is that your Grandpa?” I certainly felt like it!

Fact is, I’m getting old. (Melissa is still up to the task. I’m just not as helpful as I used to be.) I think it is time for the next generation of foster parents to step up.

Are you that person? Is your son or daughter that person? Your neighbor? Iowa is in desperate need. I strongly encourage you to check it out!

For more information, contact Iowa KidsNet at

I recently shared this story on a cousin's Facebook page, and I thought it might be good to share it more widely. As our schools try to decide what to do about bullying, I remember my own story like it was yesterday.

When I was in kindergarten, a high school boy took a small toy from me on the school bus. (Oh, yes, I remember who he was. I spent years thinking about what I'd do to him if I ever got the chance. But I'm not going to embarrass him here.) I was the oldest in my family, so I had no one to turn to. I told my mom, who called his mom. The next day, he took something else from me. He pushed me around, and there was nothing I could do. I had just turned 5, and he was 16, maybe 17.

I was really upset, and I'm not sure what would have happened next, but thank God a neighbor kid named Randy Alger stood up for me. (He was my friend's older brother.) Randy was in about 8th grade, but he was big, and he pushed the other boy against the side of the bus and said, "What the hell do you think you are doing? Pick on someone your own size!"

The high school boy never bothered me again, and Randy Alger became my hero! (It didn't hurt that he was a pudgy kid, and so was I!) But I have often wondered what would have happened to me if Randy hadn't intervened. I still remember how helpless I felt, even though it was 45 years ago!

If there is a moral to my story, it is to intervene. Don't let that stuff go on. And don't assume the person being bullied can fight back.

*DID YOU KNOW?  Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying every year.

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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