Saturday, April 14, 2018

Breakfast with Steven at Agape Cafe

Agape Cafe is celebrating its 25th year of serving, hot made to order breakfasts from 7 - 8:30 am every Wednesday of the academic calendar. It is the mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, with additional support from Trinity Episcopal Church, New Song Episcopal Church, Table to Table, and CafĂ© del Sol.
I remember when it was first getting started and have attended a number of fundraisers over the years. It really is hard to imagine that 25 years has passed, but today they honored a volunteer that has been with the Agape Cafe from the beginning. It is estimated that John Cowen has cooked over 125,000 eggs for those in need of good food.

I sat with a gentleman named Steven in the back of the room. He wore multiple layers with an outer layer of worn Carhartts. I asked what he recommended for breakfast and he rattle off a long list. We spoke about the weather and how bitterly cold it was for April. He told me he picks up cans and scrap metal for a living. He gave me advice on where to sell metal so I wouldn't be ripped off. He said the other day that one house had $13 of cans and that certainly looked like they had a good party. I asked what his best day ever was and he said it was about $50, but it was hard to transport on his bike and trailer. He said he better get going and that since it was a rotten day, he might just head back to camp.

I found myself sitting alone when my breakfast arrived and I couldn't stop thinking about Steven and how hard his life is. Steven is why I want to continue to be a Supervisor. Over the years I have been a guest at several homeless camps and have met many Stevens. Unfortunately the haves and the have nots in our community are growing further apart. We can't allow Steven to get lost in the growth and progress of this great community.

Please help Agape Cafe if you can:

Friday, April 13, 2018

Trails, did someone say a two new trails?

I am by nature an impatient person when it comes to getting things accomplished. I see a road that needs fixed, I want it done now. I see a trails plan, I'm excited to get out there and ride it. Roads, bridges and trails take a lot of planning and often involve multiple funding streams. We create five year planning documents to prepare. I'm a big supporter of planning and preparing for budget impacts from capital projects. Planning for capital needs is one of my favorite things to do in my job. Financial reports and budgets are my all-time favorite, but planning is a close second.

Ten or eleven years ago, I was appointed to serve on the Johnson County Trails Advisory Committee. I was chair of that committee until I became a Supervisor. It is safe to say that everyone has been planning the Hoover Trail for a long long time. The Solon to Ely trail section has started and we anticipate it will be a two summer project. The Mahaffey Bridge Trail had to wait a few years for the availability of the federal grants Johnson County had secured. Mahaffey Bridge trail is now under construction and should be finished this year.

These photos may not look like much, but to me they make me smile. I see recreation, nature watching, biking, hiking, exercise, tourism and a whole lot of quality of life about to happen in these areas. The County and Cities of Johnson County are really coming together on trail development and tying it all together.

I'm impatient to get out and ride these new trails.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

It is Solar Time Johnson County

Solarize Johnson County is a residential solar purchase program that will benefit local residents by using the power of bulk buying to further bring down start up costs for solar. Johnson County and partnering Cities are inviting residents to learn more about solar energy and consider investing in solar for their homes.

Johnson County, Johnson County Public Health, Johnson County Conservation, and six municipalities are teaming up with a Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization to launch this program. Cities helping host free educational events, called Solar Power Hours, include Coralville, Iowa City, North Liberty, Solon, Shueyville and West Branch. While these are the hosts of the program, all residents of Johnson County and West Branch are welcome to participate.

Solarize Johnson County will kick off on Thursday, April 26 (my brithday), at 12 pm at the Johnson County Health and Human Services Building (HHS), 855 S. Dubuque Street, Iowa City,  2nd floor.

Additional Solar Power Hours are scheduled through the summer. You can visit to learn more, see the schedule and sign up for an estimate.

Solarize Johnson County is administered by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) at no cost to the county. However, the County is investing a lot of staff time to bring residents this exciting opportunity for bulk discounts on renewable energy.

The County is currently under construction on our 6th solar array. Johnson County is also an investor in the Farmer's Electric Co-op solar gardens, to offset energy use at two rural road sheds down by Sharon Center and Frytown.

I have been a big advocate for the County using solar. The County projects, including the ones right down town, are demonstrating that solar can be a significant contributor to lowering our greenhouse gas emissions and also save the taxpayers money. Please consider asking your City, School District and others to include solar in their projects. I'm a firm believer that we can improve climate change together with a lot of small and big changes.

One of the projects I would like to see the County do is solar carports on surface parking lots. I have been advocating for this for years, but in the beginning the kits for the carports were not available. I'm told that may be changing, so I may get to see my goal accomplished soon.

While Johnson County is leading in using and advocating for solar, there is trouble on the horizon. The President is applying/threatening tariffs on solar, which is making the market unstable. Many of the Republicans in Des Moines are talking about eliminating the tax credits you could use to pay for solar on your home. All this proves to me that renewable energy is so good, that if the word gets out it threatens traditional fossil fuel based energy. So let's get the word out and start building a cleaner, better and renewable energy system.

Please visit this website for more information:

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

I've Been to the Mountain Top (and didn't see Iowa)

Tomorrow the Board of Supervisors will remember Martin Luther King, Jr. and recognize Islam Awareness Week. It seems fitting the two things will happen at the same meeting. King would have certainly been on the front lines standing with our Muslim neighbors fighting the hatred, discrimination and violence.

Today, I participated in the Veterans for Peace public readings of King's speeches. I read from "I've Been to the Mountain Top." Reading from his words out loud is a moving experience.

King not only stood for racial justice, he also stood for economic justice. Fifty years after his murder, it seems we are facing the same challenges. In 2018, most people keep their racial discrimination a little less public than we saw in the 1960s. But it is still there and dominates many injustices in our society.

Yesterday, the Iowa House passed a anti-immigrant, racial profiling bill. Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of the Iowa marriage equality ruling. It felt like whiplash celebrating one part of social justice and watching them tearing down another. Today the Iowa Senate passed the same bill.

I've spent some time watching the Iowa Legislature the past two days and feeling a growing sadness about the direction and place our state is in. But, on the other hand, I have been highly encouraged by the Flip It Iowa events to take back the Iowa House. Flip It Iowa holds house parties in blue districts and raises money for good candidates that can win in other parts of Iowa.  There are a number of Flip It events coming up. Please consider getting involved.

I know we can make this a more caring place.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT)

Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) had their Spring Concert fundraiser tonight at The Mill. They work across Iowa with land owners to preserve farm land for food production.

From the SILT website:
"The Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) launched in early 2015 to help save and protect the best of the family farm – small, diverse, clean farms that feed Iowans. We are dedicated to permanently protecting land to grow healthy food for generations to come."

In three years, SILT has preserved five farms totalling about 400 acres. Tonight
Suzan Erem and Paul Durrenberger announced they were donating their 62 acre farm near Morse to SILT. Soon some farmers will be producing good nutritious food on these acres.

Iowa has some of the richest soil in the world, yet we barely produce any of the food we consume. Iowa also has the most changed landscape in the country and some of the worst water. I have a Raygun shirt and sticker that says "America Needs Clean Water." Now Raygun has created a shirt for SILT that says "Silt is my favorite dirty word." These two shirts go hand in hand. Silt is wonderful on farms, but terrible in our water. Small changes in the food we eat, sustainable agriculture and erosion control will add up if we support and demand change.

You can learn more about SILT here:

Monday, March 26, 2018

#electionsmatter Flip It Iowa

Robin and I attended our second Flip It Iowa event. This was hosted by Janet Lyness and was for Jennifer Konfirst. Jennifer is running in the Des Moines area and is making so much progress, the powerful Republican currently in the seat decided to move to a more friendly district. Unfortunately, Jennifer was down with the flu, but her father pitch hit for her. Mike Glover was a longtime journalist that covered the Statehouse for AP.

If you haven't heard about Flip It, now is a great time. These are the kind of grassroots things happening in the #resistance across our country. A group of east side Iowa Citians have been calling and writing GOP electeds for the past year and were getting more and more frustrated. They figured out a lot of other people felt the same way, so they did their research and learned that it is completely possible to win back the Iowa House. They are throwing house parties around Johnson County for targeted House candidates. They are bringing in tons of new people and raising $2,000 or 3,000 at every event. This money is vital to close House races. The Flip It movement is spreading to other parts of Iowa.

Please consider getting involved, hosting and attending events. They already have four more lined up in Johnson County. When we all give $25 to targeted candidates, we can change outcomes and make this a more caring state.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

#NeverAgain #MarchforOurLives #BlueWave

Today was County Convention Day for Democrats in Iowa. We also had a big blizzard come through our area. All this was happening during the #MarchforOurLives events around the Country and World.

The Johnson County Democrats had 241 people brave the blizzard to make it to a rural high school, Liberty High, that didn't have plowed parking lots. There was a lot of #bluewave energy at Convention. It was an honor to be allowed to address the convention and ask for their votes.

I left the convention for a bit to drive back to Iowa City for the March for Our Lives. The young people of Johnson County had hundreds of people join them. I would estimate the crowd at around 1,000. There was so much passion, determination and energy during the march and rally. They certainly have given me hope. I feel good that these kids know that voting is the way to win.

My spouse, Robin Butler, and I got stuck leaving convention and getting back, both in the Liberty High parking lot. The roads were passable and I thank all the public employees out there working hard to get the roads open.  I'm reminded that all those that disparage public and union workers still get clear roads, ambulances, fire and police.

After the County Convention, I watched some of the young people speaking across the country and was torn between cheering them and crying about how badly we adults have failed them when they are not safe at school, church, a movie, a bar or a concert.

Then I clicked on a link to the Facebook page of Steve King of Iowa. He had posted some memes making fun of the kids that survived the shootings. I read a few other NRA nutty comments and was starting to get irritated. In Robin's normal wisdom, she said they must be scared of these young people.

All that brings me to remembering Jeanne Torrens. Jeanne was a friend from the League of Women Voters. She believed in social justice and civil rights. She was very active in her faith and the state and national conferences. Jeanne was dying of cancer and I hadn't talked to her in a while. This was around 20 years ago and I was discouraged by the pace of gaining LGBT civil rights in Iowa. Jeanne called and asked me to come for a visit. While I was there, she said she had something to say to me. She said that I should be encouraged by how mean and vocal people were towards LGBT civil rights. Her voice was quiet and I said I'm sorry, I think I misunderstood you. She said no you did not, the louder they are and the more intolerant they become means you are winning. If they weren't afraid of you, they would be ignoring you.

I've been an activist basically since birth. I have watched and been a part of many movements. Jeanne was and is absolutely right, if the other side is attacking you and getting louder, then you are winning.  If they aren't afraid of you winning they simply ignore you.

To all the young people and their allies that marched today, I salute you. You (we) have the attention of the Country and the NRA is afraid of you. You know how to win. Demand action and vote anyone out that doesn't fight to make it happen.