Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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May 5, 2017

Sullivan’s Salvos     5/9/17

In this edition:

*Happy Mother’s Day!
*Minimum Wage After the Fact
*Bike Month
*Did You Know?

*Happy Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 14. I know that this is a difficult day for many people, and I want to respect that. Yet I feel the need to talk about a special person in my life.

I want to wish a particularly Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom, Susan Sullivan Smith, and my wife, Melissa Fath. One is a birth mom, one is an adoptive mom – both are amazing people who have touched many lives.

         I sometimes wish people could actually see how amazing Melissa is. We’ve had over 50 foster children over the years, and she has never missed a beat once. Melissa has done all that parenting, while at the same time doing full time cancer research. She is truly incredible!

         Two years ago at this time, I was afraid I might lose her. Melissa was fighting cancer, and we did not know exactly what to expect. Thank God things went well, and this Mom-of-all-Moms is still with us today!

I hope all the moms out there have a wonderful day! You deserve it! Thanks for all you do!

*Minimum Wage After the Fact
In November of 2015, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors raised the minimum wage $.95 countywide to $8.20. It went up another $.95 on May 1, 2016 to $9.15. It went up yet another $.95 to $10.10 on January 1, 2017. Then, in late March of 2017, Republicans in the Iowa Legislature lowered the minimum wage back to $7.25.

So – Johnson County had a higher minimum for just under a year and a half. What was the impact?

For one, other counties took similar action. Polk, Linn, Wapello, and Lee Counties followed suit. And with their actions, the Republican Legislators took higher wages away from as many as 85,000 Iowa workers.

         As low-wage workers have more money to spend, consumer demand is creating jobs. Grocery stores, restaurants, repair shops, clothing stores, etc. all have more customers with more money. Businesses need to hire in order to meet demand. That means jobs. (Consumer spending makes up 70% of the US economy.) Other jurisdictions have seen increases in employment follow increases in the minimum wage; we are seeing that, too.

         Some claimed jobs would move elsewhere. This did not happen. Unemployment in Johnson County remains less than 2.5% - one of the lowest numbers in the whole country!

         Others claimed that business owners would cut back on hours. But our economy is lacking consumer demand. When workers have more income, they spend it at local businesses. Those businesses will need employees to keep up with demand. So while anything can happen at any given business, most employers have seen a need to fill more shifts, not less. This is borne out by federal wage statistics.

Some claimed prices would go up. We were already paying for low wage jobs – through our taxes. What’s more, studies do not bear out a huge jump in prices.

You probably heard the debate over a lower wage for teens. But according to the Economic Policy Institute, the average age of workers who benefitted from a higher minimum wage was thirty-five. Eighty-eight per cent were over the age of twenty.

I have heard concerns expressed for small businesses. But two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are NOT employed by small businesses. Better yet, one survey shows three out of five small business owners favor raising the minimum wage; their profits require more money in local consumers' hands. Sad to say, 50-80 percent of small businesses already fail for various reasons, even with a minimum wage that has not kept up with inflation. (Wage costs are actually lower now than in the past; in 1968 the federal minimum was $1.60 per hour, approximately $10.70 in 2013 dollars.) Factors other than labor costs seem far more significant to business success.

Some claim we need a single minimum wage for the whole state. Why? We have different sales tax rates, different property tax rates, different prices for utilities and insurance… heck, wages ALREADY vary dramatically throughout individual companies. Why is the minimum wage different?

While things might be a bit better because we raised the wage, still far too many of our citizens are in crisis. One out of every six of our kids lives in poverty. Families double up because they cannot afford the rents in Johnson County. Families routinely use food banks to get through the week. (19,000 Johnson County citizens are food insecure.) Cars go unrepaired. Kids go to school with clothes that do not fit. One small anomaly – an illness, something breaks down, etc. – and a family’s world comes crashing down. People work 2-3 jobs, yet still cannot get ahead.

Federal and state governments refused to address this crisis. So local government stepped up. Raising the minimum wage has been a good thing for the people of Johnson County. Why did the Republicans in the State Legislature take that away?

Whenever possible, I like to make decisions based upon data. The data here is clear – raising the minimum wage was good for our local economy.

*Bike Month
Every year, I would dutifully list the Bike to Work Week events in Salvos. I cannot do that any more; Bike to Work Week is now Bike to Work Month, and the events are far too numerous to list. From friends at

There is too much going on in May, National Bike Month, in Johnson County to do it in a week. The University of Iowa's spring term is over mid month, Bike to School Days and Bike Rodeos are outside of BTWW, too, and while BTWW events will continue, we plan to have events all month long with your help.

We are patterning our event planning after Pedalpalooza/Portland. You can view its website here: 

It's simple, think of an idea for a Bike Month event or program, the Pedalpalooza site is great for stimulating your thoughts! The link below takes you to the BikeIowa website, log in, enter your event, be sure to tag it to Johnson County. It will show up on our RSS feed here on this page, as well as across the globe.

As for Johnson County, our events in May:
*May 5 - Fix-A-Flat. 12 to 1 p.m. Admin Patio (rain location = Admin Bldg Betty Sass Room)
*May 16 - Commuter Breakfast 7 to 9 a.m. Admin Patio (rain location – HHS ramp)
*May 23 - How to Bus and Bike (we’ll have a city bus here for people to practice putting their bikes on and off the bus front-end rack)! 11:30 to approx 1 p.m. Admin Parking Lot.
*Plus internal One Less Car competition week of May 14.

*DID YOU KNOW?  The League of American Bicyclists recently recognized the Johnson County Downtown Campus with a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Business award. The local government campus was the only entity in Iowa to earn a Bicycle Friendly Business (BFBSM) designation in this round of awards. A total of 30 Iowa businesses have now earned BFB designations, which can range from bronze to platinum.

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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