Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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August 21, 2015

Sullivan’s Salvos     8/25/15

In this edition:

*New Look For Salvos
*Congratulations Kris!
*Urban Legend Re: Poor Folks
*Free Speech In Schools?
*Did You Know?

         We once again have a bumper crop of apples! Anyone who is interested can email me and arrange a time to come over and pick your own.

*New Look For Salvos
         As I mentioned, Salvos is now being sent out using Mail Chimp technology. I am not much of a techie, but I am trying!

         Following my first attempt, several dozen readers complained that the font was too small. So I enlarged it. Now one reader says my font is “screaming”; another says there is too much white space as she reads it on her phone.

         Trust me – my goal is to find something that is the “Goldilocks” for all of you… not to large, not too small, but just right. I simply haven’t figured it out yet. Mail Chimp is saving me several hours of work, but it is not very intuitive.

I’ll get there – I promise. I may still need a little time. Meanwhile, please bear with me. Thanks!

*Congratulations Kris!
         Johnson County Mental Health and Disabilities Services (MH/DS) Director Kris Artley is retiring after a long career in the field, including the last 8 years in Johnson County.

         Kris has seen nothing but change since she arrived on the scene, but through it all, has maintained a focus on the people we serve. She has been questioned, bullied, ignored, and mistreated in various ways. Yet she has always stayed professional, and always gotten the job done.

There are many words I could use to describe Kris – here are just a few: intelligent, diligent, compassionate, hardworking, dedicated, thoughtful, accurate, disciplined, and trustworthy.

         Sounds like a pretty darned good employee, doesn’t it? You read it right – Kris has been a fantastic MH/DS Director!

         Congratulations, Kris, and thanks! You will be missed!

*Urban Legend Re: Poor Folks
         As you probably know, the Board of Supervisors is considering an ordinance that would raise the minimum wage in Johnson County to $10.10 by 1/1/17.

         As we discuss the pros and cons of such a measure, an anecdote keeps coming up. Some opponents of raising the wage claim that they are aware of several cases of low wage workers who got raises, then had to request fewer hours lest they lose their “welfare”.

         I heard this several times, but it never made much sense to me. In part, I believe this is because some folks lump any and all types of government assistance together as “welfare”. Obviously, there are several government programs for which a given individual might be eligible. What is often referred to as “welfare” is actually known as the Family Investment Program (FIP).

         So here is the thing: FIP does not work that way. As you earn more money, your FIP benefits are reduced. That continues until you reach the point that you earn yourself off the program.

         And FIP is not alone. Section 8 Housing vouchers work the same way. So do “food stamps”, actually known as SNAP. County General Assistance is temporary and time-limited, and would never prohibit earning more money. Same goes for most benefits for which a poor person might be eligible.

         Theoretically, the people in question could have diagnosed disabilities, in which case Medicaid eligibility COULD be affected. But Medicaid eligibility is based on resources, and allows for several types of spend downs. Besides, no one mentioned disabilities when describing the people who needed less hours.

         There is one scenario where this is a real possibility, and that is subsidized childcare. Childcare programs are not indexed, so if a mother begins to earn more money, she could lose a rather substantial benefit. Obviously, this situation needs to be remedied at the State level. Childcare should work just like SNAP – the more you earn, the less benefit you receive.

         So, I have come up with one public assistance program that could put the recipient in the scenario of requesting less hours in order to maintain the benefit. Childcare.

         According to Peter Fisher at the Iowa Policy Project, while the childcare scenario is a real problem, the numbers of folks with kids who would benefit from raising the minimum wage is far greater than those who would be negatively affected.

         It is also interesting to me that all the folks who resort to this “request less hours” anecdote could not recall that it was childcare assistance causing the problem.

         I remain convinced that a number of folks are just repeating this anecdote because it supports their worldview of poor people who do not want to work. Meanwhile, I am going to dedicate serious efforts toward getting this childcare situation fixed at the State level. Hopefully, the people who have shared this anecdote will help me to advocate for change.

         I support raising the minimum wage AND fixing our childcare programs to make things work for our low income residents.

*Free Speech In Schools?
         Candidates for the ICCSD Board recently received an email from the District that contained the following statement: “Later this week District elementary schools will host ice cream socials, and other back-to-school events will take place throughout the District. Please remember that you may not place or handout campaign materials (signs, flyers, postcards, etc.) on District property. Also, you may not stand - or set up a booth - on District property to speak to families, staff and community members about your campaign and/or the school board election during these events. This is true for all District/school activities and applies during the school day as well.”

         I’m no attorney, but I would say that is an affront to the candidate’s First Amendment Right to free speech. The schools are PUBLIC buildings – the ICCSD Board and Administration often forget that fact. How dare they tell a candidate she/he cannot campaign there?

         I really like ICCSD attorney Joe Holland. But he got this one 180 degrees wrong. Read the following from Megan Tooker at the Iowa Campaign Ethics and Disclosure Board:

“Candidates and ballot issue committees may hand out campaign literature at a public event, e.g. in the stadium at a H.S. football game, if and only if, other members of the public could do the same thing. When a school calls me about this sort of thing, I ask them whether they would let the girls scouts to sell cookies at the football game or allow other organizations to hand out materials or sell things at the event. Usually a school district says no we don’t let groups do that sort of thing at football games and so I tell them they can’t let candidates or ballot issue committees do it either.”

“Candidates and ballot issue committees may have a booth at a school carnival or similar event provided that other groups and businesses have the same opportunity. Again, this doesn’t happen very often but occasionally I have heard from school districts that allow community organizations to have tables set up at a school carnival and as long as the candidates and ballot issue committees are treated like everyone else they can have a booth.”

            Clearly candidates could do the same thing as the Girl Scouts.

         I would LOVE to see EVERY candidate ignore this unconstitutional silliness, then publicly commit to restoring free speech once elected. How about it, candidates? A little civil disobedience?

*DID YOU KNOW?  Free speech in schools has a great history in Iowa – see Tinker vs. Des Moines Schools. For more info on the First Amendment, see the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) at

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.

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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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