Thursday, May 31, 2018

Building a More Livable Community

Earlier tonight, Johnson County hosted a community dialogue about building a more livable community. There was a great crowd of about 50 people discussing how to continue to be the place for everyone to live and prosper.

About eleven years ago, the Board of Supervisors listened to community activists and created the Livable Community for Successful Living Policy Board. For over a decade many volunteers on the policy board and various action teams have worked to create a more livable county. They have led on many innovations, outreach and educational events. They were so ahead of the times, that the county owns the domain name

After all of these many activities and successes, now is a great time to reach out and gather more input and volunteers. We all know Johnson County is a great place to live, work, play and retire, but we can't just bask in our best of awards. We must constantly ask how we can be a more livable, more welcoming and more caring. We are hitting the road with this community dialogue, so if your group, board, etc. needs a speaker, please let us know.

Please check out this website for great resources and information. You can also sign up for the very informative newsletter:

Solar at the Ambulance and Medical Examiner Building

Johnson County's newest solar project is about to come on-line at the Ambulance and Medical Examiner Building (AME). The solar array is being built by Eagle Point solar and features two parts. The main array is on the roof and resembles the array built on top of the Health and Human Services Building. The smaller array is on the green roof creating a shade structure for outdoor meetings and space for downtime for the high stress jobs of Ambulance and Medical Examiner.

The AME building was built very energy efficient, so our preliminary numbers indicate that the solar we thought would provide 25% of the building's power needs may end up closer to 50%. This is also because the solar panels are so much more efficient in just a year later. 

I'm very proud to be part of a County leading on renewable energy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Letter to the Editor: Vote Rettig On Or Before June 5th

"We are fortunate in Johnson County to have so many excellent candidates for the various offices up for election this cycle. Sometimes it is hard to decide who deserves our vote.  I do not have that problem with the Johnson County Board of Supervisors' race this year. I am voting for Janelle Rettig because I strongly believe that actions speak louder than words. It is one thing to acknowledge and talk about those struggling to put a roof over their head or food on their table, and Janelle pushed hard to increase the minimum wage in Johnson County, and even though the state took it away, she encouraged local businesses to continue paying a higher wage, and many have. Janelle also has fought for increases in funding for social services, affordable housing, mental health, and disability services. She is conscious of the many resources in our area, and has worked tirelessly for sustainability by encouraging solar panels for county buildings, building greener roads and bridges, and adding conservation acres and trails.  She does all this while remaining fiscally responsible. She promoted a finance department that has balanced every budget while lowering overall county debt. I encourage you to join me in voting for Janelle Rettig on or before June 5 for supervisor."

— Karla Smith, North Liberty

Janelle Rettig can get things done

"Janelle Rettig and the current Board of Supervisors have accomplished so much.  They have increased funding for social services and mental health/disability services.  They have increased sustainability, conservation and trails.  They have built solar arrays.  They have invested nearly $2 million in affordable housing.  They have improved infrastructure of roads, bridges and trails.  More amazingly, they have done all of these things while balancing every budget, lowering the countywide levy, and lowering the overall county debt.
Janelle is a numbers person, and these accomplishments are in large part due to her leadership and ability to evaluate budgets, find efficiencies, and develop creative ways to finance and bond.  One of her main priorities when she first became a supervisor was to create a finance department and update financial policies.  She led the effort, and now the county routinely wins finance awards.

Janelle is a supervisor who has vision, and who can get things done.  Please join me in voting for Janelle."

Carri Fox-Rummelhart, Iowa City

Iowa City Press-Citizen: Janelle Rettig can get things done

Remembering Steven and Why Shelter House Matters

During the last year or so a number of Johnson County staff and electeds got to know a man named Steven. Steve was homeless and he hung out near the County Administration Campus regularly. He also worked a street corner.

Like many on the streets, Steve appeared to struggle with alcohol addiction and mental illness. He had a number of physical illnesses. All of that was heightened by his lack of shelter. Last fall he was in serious trouble and I, along with many others, tried to help Steve. He was so looking forward to the low barrier shelter opening and he said it would all be better when he had a place to sleep. Over the winter and this spring, he had periods of sobering and he opened up to County folks. He was described as a really pleasant guy and interesting to visit with.

Steven died over the weekend, possibly from exposure to the extreme heat. Steven is why we need the Shelter House FUSE program and a permanent location for a low barrier shelter. The lack of a home, made everything about Steve's life worse. In the end he died alone and in the elements. We can do better.

Thanks to the Johnson County staff that reached out to Steven and helped him during his last year. He knew we cared about him. RIP Steven.

I know we can make this a safer, healthier and more welcoming place for everyone. One of the agencies that is a key to this dream is Shelter House. My spouse and I are regular supporters of Shelter House and now we will put our bicycles to good use supporting the mission of Shelter House. Please consider contributing to this great cause.

If you want to join us in riding, join us on Team All In.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Supervisor Candidate Forums

Candidate Forum
(Sponsored by the Johnson County League of Women Voters.)
Environmental Forum
(Sponsored by Environmental Advocates, 100 Grannies, Backyard Abundance, Climate Advocates, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Iowa City Area Group of the Sierra Club.) 
Social Justice Issues Forum 
(Sponsored by the Iowa City Federation of Labor and the Coalition for Racial Justice.)
Task Force on Aging Forum 
(Sponsored by the Johnson County Task Force on Aging.)

CCI Candidate Surveys

Iowa Citizens for Community Involvement asked the candidates for Johnson County Supervisor to fill out a survey. The responses are below.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Solon Fire Department Fundraising for a New Station

My spouse and I are regulars at the Solon Fire Department Pancake Breakfast. Today Mom joined us. My Father was a volunteer fire fighter his entire adult life, so volunteer fire departments hold a special place in my heart.

Solon Fire has a large response area and the area is growing. They are planning on building a new fire station. You can learn more about the Solon Fire Dapartment and their new station fundraising here:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mary Abboud Letter to Editor

Thanks do Mary Abboud for her kind letter to the editor:

I'm voting for Janelle Rettig in the Democratic Primary for Johnson County Supervisor because she is wicked smart. I have served on a board for juvenile justice with Janelle, and over the years I have seen how she approaches issues. She never stops thinking, questioning and coming up with new ideas. She is not afraid to ask hard questions, and to make others really think through their thoughts and stances. She challenges people to be at their best.

Deep thinkers with caring hearts are sometimes rare, so when we have one let's keep her in office. Vote Janelle Rettig on or before June 5.
— Mary Abboud, Iowa City 

Mary Larew's Letter to the Editor

Thanks to Mary Larew for her very kind support:

I am voting for Janelle Rettig for Johnson County Supervisor because she cares. She is constantly donating money, volunteering her time and energy, and advocating for people in need.  She and her family have volunteered for over a decade for projects I help organize.  I know I can count on Janelle to help with the Homeless Children's Trust, the Back to School Backpack event and also at the annual Homeless Children's Trust Christmas Party.  Janelle believes government has a role in helping people, which is demonstrated in her advocacy for funding for affordable housing, shelters and poverty programs. Janelle will help with any and all duties with a smile.

Janelle also has a strong record of support for unions and working people. She helped raise the minimum wage and create the Community ID program. She has been endorsed by Iowa City Federation of Labor. Re-electing Janelle keeps this strong voice in place working for us.
— Mary L. Larew, Iowa City

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Early Voting by Date

May 23   (Wednesday)
Johnson County Auditor’s Office   7:45am – 5:30pm     (913 S Dubuque St, Iowa City)

May 24   (Thursday)
Johnson County Auditor’s Office   7:45am – 5:30pm    

May 25   (Friday)
Johnson County Auditor’s Office   7:45am – 5:30pm    

May 28   (Monday)
Memorial Day.  No voting.  Picnic time.

May 29   (Tuesday)
Johnson County Auditor’s Office   7:45am – 5:30pm    
Coralville Public Library   2:00pm – 6:00pm   (1405 5th St, Coralville)

May 30   (Wednesday)
Johnson County Auditor’s Office   7:45am – 5:30pm    
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics   10:00am – 4:00pm    (200 Hawkins Dr, Iowa City)  
Coralville Public Library   2:00pm – 6:00pm  

May 31    (Thursday)
Johnson County Auditor’s Office    7:45am – 5:30pm    
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics      10:00am – 4:00pm     
Coralville Public Library    2:00pm - 6:00pm

June 1    (Friday)
Johnson County Auditor’s Office    7:45am – 5:30pm    
Coralville Public Library    2:00pm – 6:00pm  
Iowa City Public Library   2:30pm - 6:30pm    (123 S Linn St)

June 2    (Saturday)
Johnson County Auditor’s Office    8:00am – 5:00pm
Coralville Public Library   10:00am - 4:00pm
Iowa City Public Library   11:00am – 5:00pm
June 3   (Sunday)
Johnson County Auditor’s Office   Noon-5:00pm

June 4   (Monday)
Johnson County Auditor’s Office    7:45am – 5:30pm

June 5   (Tuesday)   Election Day!
Voting at your regular polling place   7:00am – 9:00pm

For more information see the Johnson County Auditor's web site:

Inside Out Recovery

Last weekend, I took my Mom and Robin to the Inside Out Reentry fundraiser. Two Bit Maniac was the lead off entertainment and we also really love that band, so it was extra fun to attend.

Inside Out is a relatively new non-profit that helps people returning from incarceration. It is so difficult for people with a record to re-enter society in a safe and healthy way. It is hard to get housing, a job, support and mentoring. Inside Out helps with all that and more. Many people that have served their time have trouble getting work and it all goes downhill from there. Recidivism is terrible for society, victims and even the perpetrator. With mentoring, job training and housing, recidivism can be dramatically reduced.

Johnson County has given Inside Out Recovery several block grants. Those grants make up about 25-30% of their modest budget, but they need more support to continue this vital work.

Please find more information at their website:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Iowa City Federation of Labor Endorsement

Thanks to the City Federation of Labor for their kind endorsement of my re-election. I'm so happy to have labor's endorsement again.

The Iowa City Federation of Labor is proud to endorse Janelle Rettig for re-election to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in the Democratic Primary Election June 5th.

Federation delegates, from over a dozen different unions representing thousands of workers in our community, voted unanimously to endorse Rettig based on her track record of real success in making Johnson County a better place for all working people.

Rettig has been a true champion for worker-led initiatives to raise the minimum wage, ensure worker safety and fair standards on county-funded construction projects, and establish the ground-breaking Johnson County Community ID program. Moreover, Rettig consistently seeks input from residents across the socio-economic spectrum, ensuring that highly paid professionals, low-wage workers, students, the unemployed, and everyone in between has a voice and a seat at the table in local government decisions that affect all members of our diverse community.

A vote for Rettig in the June 5th primary is a vote for a strong local economy that works for all. - Greg Hearns, President, Iowa City Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Standing up for those in need.

This afternoon at our final Johnson County Supervisors forum, we were asked a question that went something like this: there are times to show political leadership and there are times that it can be divisive and be like poking the bear. The question went on to give examples as minimum wage and sanctuary cities. Should Johnson County stop poking the bear?

I can't stop thinking about this question. First and foremost, there are no sanctuary cities or counties in Iowa. Johnson County's official position is that County employees will not participate in ICE raids and will not hold people without a warrant. The days of informal detention taking away someone's civil liberties just because a good old boy at ICE asked should be over. County employees have important and full-time jobs. It is not their role to enforce federal immigration laws.
Raising minimum wage in Johnson County helped thousands of residents living in poverty. It raises household income and had no measurable negative impact on local business, the economy or unemployment. While the County can't enforce our ordinance, many local workers have demanded the higher wage and many employers are honoring the $10.10 minimum. This was by far the most rewarding "controversial" vote I have ever made.
People in positions of power should use their power and voice to help people in need. I will never stop speaking up for low wage workers, people living in poverty and immigrants. I believe to do otherwise would be unconscionable.  

If the sleeping bear is mad at me, then I guess it is time for a political fight. I'm sick of politicians dividing us based on income, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. We all need to stand up and make our voices heard in public settings and most importantly at the ballot box.  I've studied archeology enough to know that every single American comes from an ancestry that didn't start in the US. I know that our DNA is much more alike and from common ancestors, than we appear today. We need to embrace what makes us different and what makes us the same.

After the forum, Robin and I ran up to the Federal Building in Cedar Rapids to speak out against the ICE Raid in Mount Pleasant and the fear gripping the immigrant community. I grew up in a small town where migrant workers had a rich history working the fields, tomato factories, building railroads and on the river. I have always known that this country was founded and built by immigrants. We need to stand with the Dreamers in DACA, we need meaningful immigration reform and we need a path to citizenship. We need to stop taking advantage of immigrant labor and turning our backs on them when their families are torn apart. What happened in Postville ten years ago and Mount Pleasant last week is shameful and unamerican.

If I am poking the bear, then so be it. The people filled with hate and discrimination have been in charge too long. I'm proud to speak up for those working low wage jobs and for immigrants.

A great tool: JC Property Information Viewer11

Years ago, Johnson County invested in a GIS Poperty Information Viewer system. County and City staffs, planners, developers, realtors and many others use the PIV regularly.
The desk top version is a little more versatile, but the mobile platform has become more agile each year. 

I keep a link to the mobile version on my phone home screen and I use this regularly when talking to constituents. When they ask a question, being able to see what they are talking about is invaluable.

The new 2017 aerials are now available. Please enjoy exploring this valuable tool. I warn you that your first time, you may need to limit yourself as it is addictive.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Mobile Food Pantries (an initiative of Johnson County)

I worked at the Crisis Center mobile food pantry this afternoon at Breckenridge. The Antelope Lending Library was also there. This happens monthly at Breckenridge and various other areas that are food deserts.

A few years back, the County convened a Hunger Task Force to explore areas of concern and to propose solutions. One of the findings was areas that had no or little access to food. These are called food deserts. We have areas in the urban area and around at mobile home parks where accessing food, even food pantries, is difficult. The County issued grants to begin to address these and more hunger issues. The Crisis Center created a new program for mobile food pantry to address this need.

I'm told they have about 15 families that regularly use the mobile pantry at Breckenridge. You can donate to the Crisis Center for this project and similar needs. They always need a variety of food, household items and fruit and produce. It isn't just about food, for example one little girl was excited to get a new toothbrush.

The families also seemed to really enjoy being able to get books from Antelope Lending Library. I saw several bags of books coming and going.

The County will be hosting a Poverty Summit later this fall to further discuss hunger and other issues of poverty.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Early Voting Starts Monday, May 7th

Early voting for the June Primary starts Monday at 7:45 am. I would greatly appreciate your vote in the Democratic primary for Johnson County Supervisor.

There are two locations to vote on Monday, May 7:

7:45 am - 5:30 at the Johnson County Administration Building

12-4 at the Iowa City Public Library

All the early voting opportunities can be found here:

Let's not open the door to more CAFOs while welcoming local foods farmers

I believe Johnson County should be involved in encouraging, promoting and developing the local foods market and farmers. I also believe the people of Johnson County do not want to become home to more and more confined animal feeding operations (CAFO).

In Iowa, agriculture land has an exemption to local building codes and inspections. It is called by some as ag exempt. For example, someone owning 40 or more acres of land in Johnson County can build a home and buildings regardless of local ordinances, zoning, permits and inspections, as long as it is for agricultural purposes. The 40 acre rule is the only control the County has to limit sprawl to certain areas and limit CAFOs from appearing on small tracks of land.

Some have said that we should just eliminate the 40 acre ag exempt rule. My concern has been in our efforts to promote local foods we do not open the door to sprawl taking away precious high quality farm ground or open up Johnson County to more CAFOs. We could be helping some local foods farmers get started and also open the County up to corporate agriculture. It is all possible to open a door to sprawl of non-farmers and force all farmers to compete for land with estate builders. In our growing county, the developer will always win this competition over land.

We must move very carefully and think through every decision for these unintended consequences. I have played devil's advocate on this issue a great deal. I'm very afraid that some with good intentions will make a mistake we will regret for a long time.

A few weeks ago, at the League of Women Voters Supervisor Candidates Forum, I mentioned some new ideas I have to encourage local foods farmers and not open the door to development in the wrong areas or CAFOs. My ideas include land banking and low or interest free loans. I believe the County could acquire land or give out potentially forgiveableloans for qualifying local food production.

This is a very challenging issue and the landmines are huge. I hope that people are willing to spend the necessary time researching and exploring solutions and not rely on quick solutions that will be detrimental to all of Johnson County for a long time.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

#Dogs4Rettig #Kids4Rettig

I welcome support from everyone. Early Voting starts on Monday. Please get out and vote, because #electionsmatter .