Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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February 9, 2017

Sullivan’s Salvos     2/14/17

In this edition:

*Trump’s America
*Iowa Legislature
*Spreading Salvos Love!
*Real Economic Development!
*Did You Know?

*Trump’s America
         Things have changed since the election. There is a new outrage every single day. President Trump is as bad as I feared. I feel as though I could write something in every edition of Salvos, but I am not certain anybody would want to hear it. Like many of you, I have abundant feelings of anger, insult, and indignation. I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with this new reality. Please bear with me.

*Iowa Legislature
         I had the opportunity to testify in front of the Iowa Senate Human Services Committee this week, talking about the need to change the way we fund mental health services. I certainly appreciated the opportunity, and hope it made some type of impact!

That said, for as bad as things are in DC, they may be worse in Des Moines. Again, I have abundant feelings of anger, insult, and indignation. And again, I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with this new reality. Please bear with me.

*Spreading Salvos Love!
         I have been sending Salvos out since I began as a Supervisor in January of 2005. (Actually, the first couple editions came out in December of 2004, just before I took office.)

         The newsletter was not named “Sullivan’s Salvos” at that time; that name came from my friend Charlie Funk. Meanwhile, over the past 628 weeks, subscribers have received around 590 issues of Salvos. (I have taken a few weeks off for family vacations, etc.)

I really wasn’t certain that I would be able to maintain this volume of writing. And I’d be lying if I said it was easy. But it is a bit of a labor of love.

Hopefully, folks have found it interesting. I have been intrigued by the responses. A couple dozen folks have unsubscribed in protest over one issue or another; some have returned, but not all. There are a handful of folks who offer their thoughts frequently; I really appreciate this! Two or three people actually respond at length on occasion; I feel as though I have made a couple of friends this way! Most subscribers stay subscribed, but I don’t really know if they read it or not. And that is OK.

         I have not done much to increase readership since those earliest weeks. The number of subscribers quickly grew to 500, dropped off to around 480, and has remained within about ten of that number ever since.

         Johnson County is a very transient community, and it is truly remarkable how many people come and go. Unfortunately, 50+ readers have died during this span. Many of my readers no longer subscribe because they moved away. And just as people go, new people arrive. I know there are people new to Johnson County who might be interested in subscribing. Given that, I decided to reach out a bit – hence this article.

         I ask that you please do me a favor. Forward this edition of Salvos on to a few friends. Encourage them to sign up. I’d like to add a few new readers to the mix.

         Thank you for sharing, and thank you for reading! I look forward to your feedback in the future! It has truly been a pleasure!

*Real Economic Development!
         This appeared in Salvos the last couple of years, but it bears repeating as we enter tax season.

*What if I told you we could bring in 48 full-time jobs that would pay $20 per hour?

         *What if I told you these jobs could neither be outsourced overseas nor subcontracted?

*What if I told you those jobs would be filled by hard-working low-income people, all of whom are local?

*What if I told you NO bribery (aka “tax incentives”) would be required to land these jobs?

*What if I told you there were no special workforce training programs required?

*What if I told you virtually ALL of the money earned would be spent locally?

         What would happen? Well, the Chamber of Commerce would put it in their newsletter, and the Ambassadors would do a ribbon cutting. Debi Durham would come over from Des Moines and do a big press event, and the Governor just might join her. ICAD would tweet this success to the world. Mayors would grab gold shovels and pose for a photo. You might get a visit from a US Senator. The Press Citizen and Gazette would both do front page stories. The Corridor Business Journal would write a nice editorial. The region would be hailed for its forward thinking, and folks would talk far and wide about how well we do economic development.

         So what if I told you the exact equivalent has already occurred? It has.

         Several years ago, I went to a National Association of Counties (NACo) conference and learned about a program that had started in Cook County, Illinois.

         As it turns out, a huge number of low-income workers leave money on the table when it comes to the federal income tax system, particularly the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Cook County created a series of free tax clinics to ensure this money returned to their county.

         I did some investigating, and it just so happened that Johnson County had the same problem, though obviously on a much smaller scale.

         So I pushed for Johnson County to begin a free tax help program. It struck me that we had a potential partner in the Tippe College of Business, and as luck would have it, I could not have had better timing. Dr. Joyce Berg was ready to greatly expand the work her student tax preparers would do. It was a perfect fit.

         Former Supervisor Sally Stutsman was very supportive. Amy Correia had just been hired as Johnson County’s first Social Services Director, and Amy took the ball and ran with it, including securing grants to cover all operating costs. The Tippe College, ICCSD, United Way, Iowa City Public Library, and many others have become valued partners. In recent years, current Social Services Director Lynette Jacoby has maintained and improved upon all this success.

         What are the results? The Free Tax Help Program brings over $1.9 million into the local economy every year. It goes to low-income local workers, who spend it locally. And it uses no local tax dollars.

         Remember when I said “48 full-time jobs at $20 per hour”? That adds up to a $1.9 million annual impact, less than the Free Tax Help Program. But the Free Tax Help Program is actually even better, because it serves over 1,300 Johnson County tax filers and their families!

         Economic Development can take many forms. I happen to believe the Free Tax Help program has contributed a lot of good things to the local economy. We have not had any fancy groundbreakings or ribbon cuttings, but we have accomplished something!

         The Corridor Business Journal spends a few hundred words every other issue badmouthing the Board of Supervisors; I wonder if they will honor us for this economic development? I’m not holding my breath!

         So if you know Lynette Jacoby, thank Lynette Jacoby. She has done great work! If you know Joyce Berg, thank Joyce Berg. Her students have given much more back to this community than they could ever take.

*DID YOU KNOW?  Most economic development incentives put to use in Johnson County over the past 20 years have come nowhere close to a $1.9 million annual return on investment.

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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