Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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September 14, 2017

Sullivan’s Salvos     9/19/17

In this edition:

*RIP, Bill Ambrisco
*Thank You, Senator Dvorsky!
*Election Results
*Richard Mentor Johnson, Part 2
*Boycotts, Protests, and More
*Did You Know?

*RIP, Bill Ambrisco
         Former Iowa City Mayor Bill Ambrisco recently passed away. I talked a lot of local politics with Bill at our neighborhood Hy Vee. We did not agree on too much politically, but Bill was a very kind and decent man who always made these talks enjoyable. Bill was also really good about focusing upon those areas in which we DID agree. I appreciate his many years of public service, as well as his numerous hours of volunteer work. RIP, Bill!

*Thank You, Senator Dvorsky!
         State Senator Bob Dvorsky announced that he is stepping down at the end of his term. I am going to write much more about this in the future, but for now I’ll keep it simple – Thanks, Bob!

         We have apples, and you are welcome to take all you want! The tree is in the backyard of our house at 2326 E. Court Street in Iowa City. Just bring a bucket and stop by!

*Election Results
Tuesday was a big election day in Johnson County! Lone Tree, Solon, Clear Creek, and the ICCSD all elected new members to their Boards, while CCA, ICCSD, and Kirkwood passed bond issues.

Turnout was a record-setting 16,700 in the ICCSD, a 23% turnout. The big item here was the Bond issue, which passed 65-35. CCA and Kirkwood also passed their respective bond referenda. In the ICCSD, Ruthina Malone, JP Claussen, and Janet Godwin were elected to 4-year terms, while Shawn Eyestone captured the 2-year seat.

         Thanks to everyone who ran, and everyone who voted!

*Richard Mentor Johnson, Part 2
         I wrote last week about Richard Mentor Johnson, the former Vice President (and some would say racist murderer) for whom Johnson County is named. I have gotten a few eye rolls, a few chuckles, and a few hate-filled rants. All par for the course.

         I have gotten some hate mail on this issue from folks who identify themselves as conservatives. It is interesting, given the passing of Bill Ambrisco. (See above.) Bill and I disagreed on all kinds of things, yet he was always warm, kind, and understanding.

         I also received a couple of interesting newspaper articles from my friend Jim Walters. One noted that the Detroit area is struggling with its’ legacy vis-à-vis Native Americans and slavery. The other talked about a naming struggle at Yosemite with the National Park Service. So I am not alone in thinking about this.

But back to the topic at hand… admit it; you didn’t know much about Mr. Johnson before this, did you? Our history is important, and the story of Mr. Johnson forces us to look at some uncomfortable realities. It is easy to mock; it is much harder to consider his life in context.

*Boycotts, Protests, and More
         There has been a lot of talk around boycotts recently. Obviously, there are many ways that people can express their opinions. One of the easiest and most effective is through their spending.

         Personally, I have been boycotting Wal Mart since the 1980s. I simply refuse to buy anything there. (In case you hadn’t noticed, my efforts have not stopped them from becoming one of the biggest companies on planet Earth.)

         I bet everyone who reads this is “boycotting” one business or another, even if you do not call it that. Perhaps you refuse to use some business because it is owned by your Ex. Maybe you got bad service somewhere and will not return. Maybe you will only buy local. There are a million different reasons, but we are very accustomed to “voting” with our pocketbooks.

You may recall the recent boycotts of Chick-Fil-A. The business and its’ founders have long been vocally anti-gay. This led to some large, nationwide boycotts of Chick-Fil-A, plus the associated “counter protests”. To complicate matters, the owner of the local Chick-Fil-A franchise has been very public with his pro-LGBTQ stance, and has funded events for local LGBTQ groups.

Even more recent is the issue of Renovation Carpentry and its’ owner, Jeff Pierce. Pierce is a racist who sells his wares at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market. Protesters stood near his booth at the Market to inform shoppers of his leanings.

Then there is my line of work! People get a very direct voice in my employment – it is called an election! I have had at least two prominent local businesspeople approach me over the years, saying, “I like you a lot, but I can’t ever take a sign or make a campaign contribution. I can’t afford to lose customers over politics.” That doesn’t upset me; I view that as people exercising their right to free speech – in this case, to say nothing.

Saying nothing doesn’t always serve a business well, however. One example is the recent student-led effort to support those businesses that support a $10.10 minimum wage. Some businesses pay $10.10, but in an attempt to “stay out of it,” do not take the signs. This actually hurts them, as many shoppers will ONLY shop at a business that displays the $10.10 sign. So by choosing not to get involved, they get hurt.

So – what do you think about all this? In my mind, it is no big change. I have ALWAYS factored these things into where I spend my money. I don’t think the Iowa City Farmer’s Market should ban a vendor because he is a White Nationalist. On the other hand, protesters have a right (and probably an obligation) to stand near his stall and let people know what he stands for. It is fighting speech with more speech.

Obviously, even free speech has limits. Those limits have been pretty well established by our courts over the years. Threats are typically illegal, and should be punished as such. There is other speech that while hateful, is not illegal. That is the stuff we need to drown out.

         Are you boycotting something? If so, what and why?

*DID YOU KNOW?  The previous record for a bond vote in the ICCSD came in 1992, when 13,139 (21.5%) voted whether or not to build Weber Elementary, along with some classrooms at Wood, West, and City. That bond received 64% of the vote. A second vote on the same ballot would have built the West High Auditorium, and the band and orchestra rooms at City High, but failed to get the 60% margin required, coming in at 56%.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

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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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