Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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May 29, 2015

Sullivan’s Salvos     6/2/15

In this edition:

*Iowa City Council Procedures
*Representing Iowa City
*Quality of Life Event
*THINK Before You Speak!
*Did You Know?

*Iowa City Council Procedures
         I wrote a while ago about the Charter Review process happening right now in Iowa City. The Charter Review Commission recommended some changes to the structure of Iowa City government. But nothing earth shattering. (In the interest of full disclosure, I applied to serve on the Charter Review Commission in ’94, ’04, and ’14. I have received zero votes so far. I plan on applying in ’24 as well.)

That should not deter supporters of improved governance, however. There are several other ways of doing business that need a change, and do not require a commission. Following are just a few:

         1.) Hold informal meetings immediately after formal meetings. The way things work now, informal meetings are held immediately prior to formal meetings. Informal meetings are critical – this is where city staff make their recommendations, 99% of which are followed. So under the current system, items are introduced and voted upon on the same evening. If a council member wanted to do her own research, there is no opportunity. If the public wanted to weigh in, there is no opportunity. By reversing this order, the public gets two weeks to weigh in, and the council gets two weeks to hear from folks. This CAN be done; Johnson County does it now.

         2.) Broadcast informal meetings. We already noted that these meetings are really where information is shared and decisions are made. This process SHOULD be as public as possible. So why not put it on TV for all to see? The only reason I’ve ever been given is that councilors will not want to appear uninformed, so they won’t ask questions. That may be the single worst reason I have ever been given for any policy, but there you go. Again, this CAN be done; Johnson County does it now.

         3.) Allow public discussion at informal meetings. Contrary to what council members and staff would have you believe, there is no legal prohibition on public comment at these meetings. The council can set any parameters on public comment it wishes. The council can determine the number of speakers, length of time each speaks, total comment time – it can do anything it wishes. The law allows many different approaches. You CAN allow public comment. Again, this CAN be done; Johnson County does it now.

         There is no compelling reason for the way Iowa City currently handles these matters. All three of these procedures are the classic “that is the way we’ve always done it.” That is not a good enough reason for skirting democracy.

Each of these simple changes is cheap, efficient, and friendlier toward democracy. None would require anything beyond a vote of the council.

I am hoping to introduce these ideas into the 2015 Iowa City Council election; I hope you will assist me. Let’s get every candidate to pledge to make these changes, and open up Iowa City government.

*Representing Iowa City
         I have gotten a bit of feedback from folks who get indignant that I would comment on anything related to Iowa City government. “You don’t represent Iowa City,” I was told. Obviously, I disagree with this for several reasons:

         First, I can comment because our Constitution affords me freedom of speech. Secondly, I live in Iowa City. Thirdly, even if I didn’t live there, how Iowa City operates has a big impact on my job. Fourthly, I actually DO – literally - represent “Iowa City”.

         That got me thinking, so I did some quick research. I have run for office 6 times – 3 Democratic Primaries, and 3 General Elections. I added up the Iowa City vote totals for those elections, and it totals just a touch above 85,000.

         A heavy turnout election in an Iowa City Council Election will see the winner get 5,000 votes. In other words, the Iowa City officials who think I “don’t represent Iowa City” would need to run and win 17 elections to get the same number of votes from Iowa City residents.

         So while it is true I routinely get few votes from Iowa City Council members, the rest of the people of Iowa City seem to feel differently.

*Quality of Life Event
The Johnson County Board of Supervisors cordially invites you to its third annual event: “Enhancing Quality of Life in Johnson County: A Celebration of Community Partners” Monday, June 8 at the Johnson County Health and Human Services Building. A reception with light refreshments starts at 4:30 pm with a short program at 5:00.  

Please join the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in recognizing and thanking the organizations that receive a grant of county funds. The impact those organizations make on the people of Johnson County is a significant contributor to our community’s quality of life.

Please contact Mickey Miller, grants and communications specialist, at 319-356-6000 or if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you!

*THINK Before You Speak!
         I found the following on Facebook a while ago, and I really like it. I have reposted it there, and I thought I’d share it here:

         "Remember T.H.I.N.K. before you speak. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?"

Unfortunately, lots of people I deal with do not observe these rules. I cannot control what they do, but I promise to try to do better myself.

*DID YOU KNOW?  Johnson County contributes over $1.2 million in block grants each year.

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.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

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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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