Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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October 30, 2015

Sullivan’s Salvos     11/3/15

In this edition:

*Happy Birthday Rachel!
*Human Rights Awards
*The Rich Get Incentives. The Poor Get Rules.
*The Price We Pay
*Did You Know?

         Most of you will be getting this just before Election Day. It is not enough that you vote. You need to convince a couple additional people to vote. The fate of your city hangs in the balance!

         In all seriousness, this is the most important election in my memory. Please urge everyone you know to vote!

*Happy Birthday Rachel!
My oldest daughter Rachel turns 24 on November 6th. Rachel has always been fun to be around; her smile can light up a room. I am proud of the fact that she is maturing and really starting to figure things out.

         Happy Birthday, Honey! I love you!

*Human Rights Awards
         Iowa City has a long tradition of recognizing achievements in human rights. The annual Human Rights Awards were given earlier this week to:
Raquishia Harrington, Charlie Eastham, Sally Scott, Stephanie Van Housen, Eli Shepherd, and posthumously to Heather Shank.

         I know all of these people. They are all great, and all deserving. (Heck, 3 have been honored with Salvos Salutes!) Congratulations, all!

*The Rich Get Incentives. The Poor Get Sanctions.
         Federal, state, and local governments spend a great deal of time attempting to influence individual behavior. My Libertarian friends think that is a terrible thing. While I agree with them in some cases, I think it makes sense in many others.

         Government exists to allow us to do collectively what we cannot do alone. To accomplish these collective actions, we need the public to buy in to certain behaviors.

         Locally, there is a huge need for affordable housing, especially for our poorer residents. The affected players in this scenario include wealthy landlords and poor renters. The difference in the way we try to influence the behaviors of these two groups is striking.

         When talking about wealthy landlords, we always hear, “They will not do anything different without incentives.” OK… then why don’t we apply incentives when it comes to poor people? If incentives are the only things that work for the rich, shouldn’t they work for the poor?

         When policymakers address the poor, the line is always, “We need sanctions for noncompliance.” OK… then why don’t we apply sanctions when it comes to rich people? If sanctions are the only things that work for the poor, shouldn’t they work for the rich?

         Carrots and sticks. Inclusionary zoning has been discussed in Iowa City since the early 90s, if not before. The City Council is STILL waiting, 25 years later, for the private sector to improve things without resorting to a stick. And things have gotten progressively worse. Council after council has failed to improve things, because they refuse to use sticks.

         Compare this to a couple fights between young African Americans. Seven weeks after these fights, Iowa City has a curfew in place. No carrots were ever discussed. Straight to sticks, in just 7 weeks. By my calculations, developers were given 175 TIMES as much time (and counting) as the young African Americans in our community. The rich get incentives. The poor get rules.

         It is all pretty simple… rich people and poor people play by different rules. And that is not just at the federal level – I mean locally!

*The Price We Pay
         In a great meeting of the minds, I recently found myself in a conversation with Iowa City Councilor Rick Dobyns and Iowa City gadfly Yale Cohn. (Yes, the three of us are an interesting group.)

         We spoke about a lot of things, but the most interesting part of the discussion was when the topic turned to the price we pay to live in the city we love.

         You can “pay the price” in many, many ways. Some people like the fact that Iowa City is beautiful. How do we “pay the price” for this? Well, the City employs some folks who clean and maintain public areas. So we pay through our taxes. There are hundreds of people who volunteer and contribute to Project Green. So we pay through volunteering our time and talents. There are community norms, in some cases enforced by code, but in some cases enforced simply by the pressure to “fit in” to the neighborhood. So we pay through our own sweat equity.

         The common theme is that a beautiful Iowa City does not just happen. If you want a beautiful city, you have to pay a price. You may pay it in different ways. You may complain about the cost. And yes, there will always be a group of people who do not pay their fair share. But this is the price we pay.

If we choose not to pay this price – and many cities do – the city will NOT be beautiful. Because it doesn’t just happen. There are no free lunches.

         Another example we got into was new and used bookstores. Iowa City has a bounty of excellent new and used bookstores. We all felt this was one of the things that make Iowa City great.

         But new and used bookstores do not come free. There is a price we must pay if we want these places to exist. I know you can probably find a used book online cheaper than at a local retailer. I know you can get that new book delivered right to your house. You want to do that, fine. But understand – you are NOT paying the price required to keep local bookstores in business. If you like local bookstores, you must be prepared to pay the price. (I for one, feel the little bit extra I might expend is a very small price to pay for these amenities.)

         What kind of city… what kind of world – do you want to live in? It can be yours – if you are willing to pay the price!

*DID YOU KNOW?  In 1933, Johnson County voters went to the polls to weigh in on the Ratification of 21st Amendment to United States Constitution. (Otherwise known as the repeal of 18th Amendment – Prohibition.) The Yes votes carried the day, 5918 (70.5%) to 2475 No votes (29.5%).

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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