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.

Friday, March 23, 2018

A growing county

I often get asked what are the top three challenges facing Johnson County. My answer varies a bit in structure based on how long I am given to answer the question, but the cliff notes are grwoth, growth and growth. Johnson County is growing and our residents need and want quality services. The County and growing Cities face challenges every day about how to deliver services and infrastructure to thousands of new residents while still balancing budgets.

This is the type of challenge I thrive on. I love trying to figure out the math and studying budget numbers. I used to call myself a fiscal conservative, until the title became code word for hates government and a social safety net. I basically like to squeeze every penny out of a dollar and make sure it is being spent efficiently and effectively.

If you read this article with data on Iowa population growth, you can start to see why rural Legislators are attacking urban counties and cities. Iowa's cool, hip, innovative counties are growing. As opposed to figuring out why people want to live and play here, many would rather micromanage and try to bring us down a notch. Taking away self-governance and local control from urban counties and cities is the majority party in the Legislature and Governor's way of holding the state back.

I'm so proud to live in a County where people want to live, work and have fun. Despite growth having some growing pains, the alternative would not be as nearly as fun.

For anyone wanting to be part of the innovative, creative and fun Johnson County communities, we are building and expanding to make room for you. All are welcome in the "People's Republic of Johnson County". (The People's Republic of Johnson County is a term that right-wingers coined in Des Moines many years ago to demean our cool area. So I like to own the title as a point of honor.)

Johnson County has 14% growth.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Great affordable housing news

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors heard from the Housing Trust Fund of  Johnson County this morning that the County's investment of about $800,000 (part of the $1.9 million investment over 3 yrs) just leveraged $12.5 million in affordable housing projects for 66 units. That's a very strong return on investment in affordable housing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Raising Johnson County Minimum Wage to $10.27

One of the things I'm most proud to have been a part of was raising minimum wage in Johnson County and helping lead a statewide discussion on how a minimum wage of $7.25 is not sustainable for any worker to live on.

In 2015, I had been meeting with various people for over a year to discuss and research our County local control and the need to raise the minimum wage. Because of some meeting scheduling issues, the only time for a month that the Johnson County Board of Supervisors could discuss the issue was when I was on RAGBRAI. So that Wednesday morning, my spouse and I broke RAGBRAI camp early and peddled hard into the Aplington City Hall. I had asked to use their office to call into the Supervisors work session.

I will never forget that RAGBRAI day and the vote a few weeks later to raise the minimum wage in three jumps to $10.10 and then inflation index increases. While we were called courageous, heros and also some not so nice things, that was the easiest "controversial" vote I have ever taken and the one I knew we were changing lives of people struggling living in poverty.

Later in 2017, the Republicans in the Legislature decided to seize power and take away our local control to enforce the minimum wage ordinance. While they might have won for the moment to lower wages on thousands of hard working Iowans, I do not believe that is the end of the story.

Next Thursday, the Board of Supervisors will vote to raise minimum wage in Johnson County to $10.27 on July 1st. I'm confident that many Johnson County employers will honor this increase even if we can't make them do so at this point. I also think by raising wages at the rate of inflation, we can help those fighting to survive on minimum wage have a stronger voice. We must all challenge the Iowa Legislature and Governor to address poor wages in Iowa.

Data Driven Justice

Johnson County, Iowa City and other local law enforcement departments are working on a variety of projects around data driven justice, jail alternatives, crisis intervention and disproportionate minority contact. While the pace of some of these projects being implemented sometimes frustrate me (because we needed them years ago), I am very happy to see progress being made every day. This week a number of local law enforcement and first responders are in CIT training. This is the 4th training Johnson County has coordinated.

Please see this interesting article about data driven justice featuring Iowa City Officer David Schwindt.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Rettig Has More She Wants to Accomplish; Will Run for Re-election

Rettig Has More She Wants to Accomplish; Will Run for Re-election
IOWA CITY.   Johnson County Supervisor Janelle Rettig will run for re-election to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.
“I am proud of my role in the accomplishments of the Board of Supervisors while I have been in office.  We have built six solar projects, increased programs and funding for mental health/disability services and for those living in poverty.  We have improved our infrastructure by building roads, bridges, trails and paved shoulders, and we have invested in affordable housing — all while creating a finance department, balancing every budget, and lowering the overall County debt,” said Rettig.
“In addition, we have increased sustainability, raised the minimum wage, and implemented a Community ID system.  However, there is so much more I want to accomplish.  I want to create a center for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) and continue jail alternative programming; redevelop County property downtown to include substantial affordable housing; reduce County greenhouse gas emissions, improve sustainability, fight for clean air and water, and so much more.” 
“In the past eight years, I have worked every day to reflect the progressive values of the people of Johnson County.  None of this happens in a vacuum.  It takes leadership, innovation, vision, determination, teamwork and sometimes courage.  I am a strong Supervisor who never stops thinking and learning.  I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves and try new things, and I never stop trying to make our County a better, healthier and more welcoming community for all.”
Rettig is a graduate of Knox College.  She has lived in Iowa City for over twenty eight years, with her spouse, Robin Butler.  They are involved with numerous non-profits, are activists, avid bicyclists, and ride a Harley.  They are also kept busy with their very energetic Border Collie, CJ.
For more information, see   You can reach Janelle at 319-330-0916, or at

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Johnson County and Affordable Housing

In 1992, I attended my first Iowa City area affordable housing forum when I was working at the Congressional Office. My spouse, Robin Butler, has worked at the Iowa City Housing Authority for almost 18 years. It is safe to say, we have attended hundreds of housing events and forums. Robin is actually a walking data computer on local housing facts such as fair market rent on a 1 bedroom ($694) or how many people are on the Section 8 waiting list (over 19,000). They are just now pulling people that live in the area that applied in December of 2015.

I am passionate about the need for affordable and safe housing for everyone in Johnson County.  The County has helped fund the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County since it started, but funding had always been stable. Two years ago during budget discussions, I advocated for the County to put serious money into affordable housing in order to make a measurable difference. Rev. Bob Welsh was there during the Board of Supervisors discussions and argued we should go higher. He was right and we did it with unanimous and enthusiastic support.

The first two years that extra funding was $600,000 per year. This year I suggested an inflation increase so in FY 19 it will be $630,000. Simultaneously, Iowa City has redirected and budgeted funds and is moving on many fronts to encourage and require mixes of housing that include affordable and workforce housing.

There are many projects developing and agencies like the Housing Trust, Housing Fellowship, Shelter House, Habitat for Humanity are taking on a lot of exciting projects. All this is much needed and long overdue in a County that is growing, where land prices are high and the cost of living is the highest in Iowa. I believe we need to raise the minimum wage, fight for living wages, combat hunger and create safe, accessible and affordable housing.

This afternoon, Robin and I attended the League of Women Voters Sunday Speaker Series featuring affordable housing. The speakers were Tracy Hightshoe, Crissy Canganelli and Casey Cook. They were filled with a lot of good news about projects, data and plans.
Here are some random factoids:

- Land prices are as high as $50 per square feet.

- Our area has had rental vacancy rates as low as below 1% and it is currently about 4.4%. A healthy balance is between 5-6%.

- In 2017 we added 1,567 new rental beds (1,049 were at the new UI dorm)

- In 2018 we are expected to add 2,288 net new beds.

- In 2019 we are expected to add 709 net new beds.

- All of that could mean vacancy rates of 8-9%.

- When vacancy rates are at or above 8% it creates a renters market and concessions can occur that could lower rental costs 10-15%.

We also learned a lot about Iowa City's plans and the very exciting Shelter House project breaking ground next month.

Thanks to the League of Women Voters for an informative afternoon. I have been a LWV member for a few decades. Membership is open to everyone, regardless of gender.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Bicycling and Remembering Jean Martin

Yesterday, my spouse and I went on a short bicycle ride. It was great to get the legs stretched out a bit and visit the beautiful Trueblood Recreation Area. We stopped by the Jean Martin memorial shelter to remember an old friend.

Jean Martin was a glass ceiling breaker, a union leader, an environmentalist, a feminist, our friend and my campaign treasurer. We stopped by her memorial shelter to feel a bit closer to her as this campaign starts.

I'm struggling a bit with wasteful spending of the conservation bond iniataive and my thoughts about campaigning in this climate. Jean was involved in both passing the bond iniataive and the election of me eight years ago. I miss Jean and it felt refreshing to spend a little time remembering her.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Johnson County and Iowa Do Not Need More CAFOs;

I have supported increased site control over CAFOs, local control and a moratorium on CAFOs. Iowa does not need 45,700 more confined animal feeding operations. We need to elect legislators that care more about our health, air quality, water quality and quality of life than they do about out-of-state corporate ag.

I've been told that the farm bureau and corporate ag supporters are going to be involved in the Johnson County Democrats primary for Supervisor.  I hope people will follow the money in this election. All #electionsmatter, including local elections.

Thursday, March 8, 2018


I attended the NAMI Walk kick-off event today. My spouse and I are regulars on the NAMI Walk. We missed last year and I had to look up the reason why. We were riding our bicycles for cancer research in the QC Tour de Brew with my Mom and our friend Marla. The year before, the NAMI Walk may have been the most wet ever. Even the dog wondered what we were doing walking at Trueblood in a torrential downpour. The joke is it always rains on the NAMI Walk day, although last year was a beautiful day, so they may need a new joke.

The NAMI Walk is important on many fronts. It raises money for programming, education, groups and R Place. It also is important for the community to show of support for those living with mental illness. The walk is a collective lifting of the stigma often implied or associated with mental illness.

Today at the kickoff, a few people told their stories of dealing with mental illness/depression/anxiety. There were tears shed as the stories hit home with others in the room.

We walk and donate to the NAMI Walk for many reasons, but one reason is we do it because others may not be able to on any given day. Cancer or mental health are both illnesses and our society needs to treat them the same in funding, compassion and research.

Please consider joining the Johnson County Team JC Lift the Stigma or donating to my page. Every $1 helps and is important.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Night of 1,000 Dinners

Robin and I attended the Night of 1,000 Dinners fundraiser for a school at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. There were five people that spoke on a panel that spent 5-10 years at the camp. The camp was established in 1969, in 2014 it was the home of 60,000 people.

Thanks to the United Nations Association Johnson County Chapter for  a inspiring evening.

Site Visit to the 1901 Courthouse

The Board of Supervisors had a site visit with County Attorney Janet Lyness this afternoon. We explored all the offices and courtrooms of the 1901 County Courthouse. Thank you to Janet and everyone that works in the courthouse for putting up with us traipsing through.

We are working on a long range plan for courthouse renovations. Last year we remodeled a courtroom on the 3rd floor and I think it is safe to say it was a roaring success and people are anxious to keep going. I also spent a bit of time post site visit with facilities and Sheriff Deputies talking about the secure entrance and security.

I love the historic courthouse and would love to work in a historic building. I went to high school in a castle and college in the only remaining site of a Lincoln-Douglas debate, so it is in my blood. Historic buildings have to be treated with great care when remodeling and updating technology. This beautiful building was built for a population about 1/6 of where we are today, so all the remodeling in the world won't create the ultimate space needed. Figuring out a plan will take a lot of listening, vision and leadership.

Here are some photos:

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

I love reading days

Reading, learning, studying and thinking are all part of my work. This was in the mail today. Add in a few newspapers and a bunch of on-line stuff and I am in heaven.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Johnson County Aging Specialist

The senior population of Johnson County is growing and accessing services is not always clear or easy. About nine years ago, Johnson County was approached by senior advocates that encouraged the Supervisors to create a Livable Community committee. Johnson County received an innovation award in 2009 for the Livable Community initiative.

I am serving on the Livable Community board for my second time. Each month, we talk about issues people aging are facing trying to age in place or in obtaining services. The Livable Community Resource Guide and quarterly newsletter are great resources to learn more about what is available and what is happening. You can find these at:

Even with all these wonderful volunteers in Livable Community, it became clear that people need so more. The Supervisors talked about the issue and authorized the hiring of an Aging Specialist. To understand a bit more about the job and the needs, please read this article:

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Joint Meeting with Lone Tree

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors regularly holds joint meetings around the County with the cities. The next one is Monday in Lone Tree.  All are welcome to join us.