Tomorrow (3 Jan 2018) marks a year to the day since I took the oath of office and began my term as a Johnson County Supervisor. I love my job and am very grateful to all of you for trusting me with it.
Here's a look back.
Iowa’s Governor had me thinking about Ralph Waldo Emerson this weekend.
Actually, I had been thinking of him a lot this year, usually because of something the President had tweeted, but this was the first time Governor Reynolds had elicited from me one of my favorite Emerson quotations.
In a speech at what will ostensibly become her annual political fundraiser should she have more than 18 months in office, Governor Reynolds was firing up her base. She said, “As we all know as we travel the state, the liberals are unhinged and they are out for us and we need to double down and do all we can and if you keep fighting, I’ll keep fighting,” (emphasis mine).
I don’t feel unhinged.
Cathy is a nurse, not a career politician. She offers new blood to reinvigorate the party and to listen to the people, not the patrons. As a nurse she’s seen first-hand, too many times to count, people being forced to choose between the medicine they need and feeding their kids, between their mom’s surgery and making rent. She’s seen the results, in painful human terms, of Iowa’s shameful position as 50th in the nation in mental health care access. Cathy knows universal single payer is the only workable option, as has been proven all over the world, and she won’t wait for the Feds, she’ll do it right here in Iowa.
What I seek are answers – answers that address the concerns of both farmers and environmentalists, both urban and rural. No one is going to shut down any farms. No one is going to take away any CAFOs (even if some may wish to). But it is reasonable to seek answers to the growing problems that are resulting from these practices. I hope we can do it without demonizing anyone involved.
A video posted on Facebook inspired a torrent of emails, and at least three voicemails, to flood my inbox over the weekend. It is indeed inspiring to see passionate involvement in local governance.
The 26-minute video, created by Johnson County farmer and Versaland founder Grant Schultz, details the difficulties he has had in obtaining the zoning he wants, to accomplish his vision of Farm-scale Permaculture, a farm incubator, fishing pond, farmhand cabins and rental cabins on the acreage, part of which is in the village of Morse, northeast of Iowa City. It is indeed a grand vision, one that, if realized, could offer a shining example of local, sustainable food production of the type I have advocated for for more than three decades.
Preemptively disallowing an asset as valuable and historically consistent with the use of the property – as the farm incubator could potentially be – is short-sighted and moves away from the goals of the strategic plan the entire Board approved. I will always argue in favor of more farms that grow local food for local folks, and that is why I voted as I did.
Voter fraud in Iowa, and more specifically voter impersonation, is so statistically insignificant that it is essentially non-existent. It has zero impact on the outcome of our elections. None. Nada. Zip. Bupkis.
Requiring voters to show ID at their polling place accomplishes exactly nothing to protect the integrity of the election. There is one thing it does accomplish, however: lower voter turnout, especially among minorities and the elderly. That is among the reasons why the Supreme Court blocked North Carolina’s version of the law ahead of last fall’s general election, and why it would likely do so with the Iowa proposal.
Before it comes to that, though, HF516 will raise your property taxes in order to solve a non-existent problem.
Our fight this week for what I have come to call “the Community Trust Resolution” met with a new and unexpected roadblock from the Iowa legislature, and some confusing signals from the Sheriff’s Office. Some understood one set of positions from that office, others understood something different, and hopefully all this will be ironed out in a work session on Monday, allowing us to ratify the language at the formal meeting Tuesday evening.
These caseworkers did nothing wrong. Neither did their clients. But the former are out of their jobs and the latter are in limbo with an 800 number because some distant CEO needed to pad their stock value. Can’t blame the CEO though, they were just doing what they were hired for. It’s the ones who did the hiring. And that, my friends, is Terry Branstad and the Republicans in the state legislature.
So here’s what happened. Like so many people, I was all jazzed up off the energy of the #WomensMarch last week, thrilled with my wife and many other friends who were in DC, other friends around the world standing up, and just being here in Iowa City with around 2,000 people, all of us being a part of what is undoubtedly the largest protest in human history. The next day I was looking for how to act up next. Knowing that writing to congress, especially to my own rep’s and sen’s, can be effective, I decided to get a couple friends together over a couple of pints at Iowa City Brewlab and write some postcards.
Now as you probably know I am a serial overposter on Facebook, so I created an event page there and shared it to a couple of activist sites last Sunday (Jan 22). Within a day or two over 100 people said they were coming. By Friday, the day of the event, 170 had clicked “going” and over 700 had clicked “interested.”
About 350 showed up.
This was far more than I expected, obviously, but perhaps I really should have expected that many. The Women’s March itself had been born of a simple Facebook post by a grandmother in Hawaii, and the energy in the air following the march was palpable. In any case, we generated well over 1,000 postcards to elected officials in DC and Des Moines, and got to meet each other, commiserate, protest and plan. A Facebook “group” called Postcards and Pale Ale was born which, as I type, sports a little over 450 members and growing. What follows is some lessons learned, some best practices, (a few of which may only apply to very large gatherings like this one) and some plans for moving forward.
As an active FB user I notice the responses (or lack thereof) that my posts get. In 10 years on the medium, I have never seen a response like I did on Saturday as a result of the #WomensMarch. By far the most likes, reactions, replies, reposts, etc. that I have ever received. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a chef and a politician, so I have a healthy ego, but even I know that the reason for this huge reaction has nothing to do with me. It ain’t the messenger, it’s the message.
This is a big job, and I’m going to make some mistakes.
Anytime a person applies for a new job, they know there are aspects to the job they cannot be aware of: the “known unknowns” that accompany any new venture. I knew when I announced my bid for county supervisor that there were aspects of what the county does of which I was not fully cognizant.
I wrote this guest opinion for the Press-Citizen at the peak of the Minimum Wage debate here in JoCo. With the wage about to go up to $10.10 on Jan. 1, and with the Iowa Legislature about to confuse things yet again, I thought I'd dig it back out.
Ever since I stood up at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting and said "I’m a small-business owner who favors raising the minimum wage," I’ve been getting a lot of feedback — on social networks, on the street, and in my restaurant. A lot of it was very positive, but some of it was: “How can you favor increasing your costs?” “It will force you to lay people off!” “Your taxes will go up too!”
My restaurant turns 20 years old on Monday, and a lot has changed about the food scene in Johnson County in those two decades. Eating locally was a fringe idea, not the hipster trend it became nor the mainstream mainstay it is now. All this progress needs to be protected, though, or it will vanish. That’s why two pending initiatives, revitalization of the historic “Poor Farm” and the proposed Food Enterprise Center, are important for the continued health of our foodshed.