Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

Previous Posts


April 13, 2017

Sullivan’s Salvos     4/18/17

In this edition:

*Frank and Desmond
*George W. Bush Museum
*NAMI Walk
*Did You Know?

*Frank and Desmond
         There are many benefits to living in a UNESCO City of Literature. This was painfully evident on Tuesday, April 4th, when two great writers gave talks at basically the same time about two miles apart.

         I attended the Thomas Frank event. Frank is well known for his writings on economics and politics, including the books “Pity the Billionaire” and “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” He was reading from his most recent book, “Listen Liberal”.

         A Democrat listening to Frank is like an alcoholic at an AA meeting. You are in a supportive environment, but expect to hear some very hard truths.

         In this case, Frank takes the Democratic Party to task for completely ignoring its’ traditional base – unions and low wage workers. Frank points out that the Democratic Party has drifted toward highly educated, upper middle class professionals, while ignoring the base. Frank’s prescription? It sounds a lot like Bernie Sanders: Higher union density. Higher minimum wages. Universal healthcare. More affordable housing. Free college. Things that most of the world have already embraced.

         Just across town, author Matthew Desmond spoke from his book “Evicted”, which looks at the housing crisis faced by low income Americans. His is a case study based on several people he spent time with in Milwaukee, but it could just as easily have been written about Johnson County.

         I just finished Evicted about a week before Desmond’s talk, and I have to tell you, it rang very true. It really took me back to my days as a young social worker, visiting clients in dilapidated Max Yocum rentals. The book also spends a lot of time on the lives of people living in run down apartments and mobile home courts; again, it was all too familiar.

         I think many of us are oblivious to the housing crisis we face, and how it traps people into lives of poverty. I STRONGLY recommend this book!

         Desmond is more interested in telling these poignant stories, and does not get into solutions in the same manner as Frank. But I would guess that the solutions would sound pretty similar: Higher union density. Higher minimum wages. Universal healthcare. More affordable housing. Free college. Things that most of the world have already embraced.

*George W. Bush Museum
         You may have noticed that I was away for a few days – we were in Dallas, where I was given the honor of officiating the marriage of our nephew. While in Dallas, Melissa and I took the opportunity to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

         I know – some of you are thinking, “But he was against almost everything the Bush Administration did!” That is true. But I hope Salvos readers learn some other things about me: for one, I love history! I love the fact that America honors our Presidents in this way. I have been to the Lincoln, Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush Museums. I have yet to visit Roosevelt, Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, and George H.W. Bush Museums. So I am at just over half. I really want to improve upon that!

Additionally, I honor and respect the office of the President. I actually got to meet and speak with President Bush (43) during the ’08 floods. I remember standing with Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston as we awaited the President’s arrival. I was going to ask him some tough questions on Katrina. Linda was going to ask him some tough questions on Iraq. In fact, once we were face to face, we explained the flooding situation and asked for his help. The toughest thing I said to him was when I was shaking his hand, and said, “Thanks so much for coming Mr. President. It was an honor to meet you and we appreciate your support.” So yeah, we wimped out! But it is important to respect the Office.

Now, for the museum: the building is gorgeous, as is the whole campus at SMU. It is a VERY nice area of Dallas! The museum itself is actually not very large in comparison to some of the other newer facilities. We got through the whole thing much more quickly than I anticipated.

The first thing I found interesting is that there is almost nothing about W’s childhood. I suppose this makes some sense, since almost every person on earth knows his parents. But it was a striking contrast to the Reagan and Clinton museums, which spend a lot of time with the “any little boy can grow up to be President” meme. (Yes, I said “any little boy.” Yes, I wish that was otherwise.) On the other hand, the museum acknowledges his alcoholism in a much more direct way than I would have guessed.

While his childhood is glossed over, his marriage is not! Laura Bush is more visible in this library than any other First Lady in any of the libraries I have visited. (Nancy Reagan famously orchestrated many aspects of her husband’s museum, but she is not as ubiquitous a presence.) This library is clearly a team effort!

It was interesting how little time they dedicated to the 2000 election. I suppose it is because I was Chair of the Johnson County Democratic Party at the time, but the 2000 election was unlike anything we had experienced in over 100 years! I was a bit surprised how quickly they moved on from that pivotal event. I suppose they did not want to do anything to place his legitimacy in question.

As you might imagine, much of the museum is dedicated to 9/11 and the aftermath. The 9/11 images still bring back deep emotions. I noticed a number of patrons who turned away from certain scenes. There is also much about the Iraq War. And as you might imagine, it is spun in a way with which I disagree.

I think every Presidential Museum I have ever visited had a replica of the Oval Office. But the W Museum was the first that offered visitors to come inside. You could even sit as his desk! I enjoyed getting that perspective.

There is an interactive area where you get to make the tough decisions faced by President Bush. Unfortunately, the whole thing is full of false choices.

Finally, there is a large exhibit of his artwork, primarily paintings of disabled veterans. I couldn’t help but think as I looked at some of these veterans: If Bush does not send our troops to war, this guy keeps his leg. This next guy keeps his arm. And so it goes.

My overall impression? George W. Bush is, in fact, a guy I’d like to have a beer with. I think he surrounded himself with some very bad people, which led to some real disasters during his Presidency. Frankly, I don’t think historians will view his Administration kindly.

Now I am looking forward to the opening of the Barack Obama Museum in Chicago in 2020!

*NAMI Walk
         The 2017 NAMI Walk is Saturday, May 6 at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area in Iowa City. Registration begins at 8:30, with the walk commencing at 10.

         This is an important event for an important cause. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the top advocacy group for people with mental illness and their families. The local NAMI group is strong, and has been for decades. I am always amazed by the determination they bring despite state and federal governments that actively work against their needs.

         Johnson County has been a partner in serving people with mental illnesses and their families since the County was founded in the 1830s. That has not changed. I serve as the Johnson County representative to the Mental Health Region (and have since its’ inception.) While we certainly have work to do, the commitment to serving people remains strong!

As always, I am walking with the Johnson County team. If you would like to contribute, you can visit, type in my name, and make a donation. It is that easy!

*DID YOU KNOW?  George H.W. and George W. Bush were not the first father and son to serve as President of the United States. They were preceded by John and John Quincy Adams.

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.

If you do NOT want the weekly E-mail, simply reply to this message, and type "unsubscribe" in the subject line.

If you know anyone else who might be interested, just forward this message. They can E-mail me at with "subscribe" in the subject line.

As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home