Des Moines Register. March 11, 2021.

Editorial: Iowa GOP can’t get enough of voter suppression. It’s a national craze, and Congress needs to intervene

Iowa’s Republican state lawmakers have apparently won so big they’re tired of winning.

Why else would they insist on tinkering with Iowa’s election system?

It is the system that recently delivered the GOP stronger majorities in the Iowa Legislature, five out of six seats in the U.S. Congress and six Electoral College votes, in consecutive elections, for former President Donald Trump.

Yet the legislative victors insist — again this session — that voting reforms are needed.

So lawmakers quickly pushed through legislation that would shorten Iowa’s early voting period from 29 to 20 days (down from 40 days in 2016), reduce Election Day voting by an hour and create a stricter deadline for returning absentee ballots.

Signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday, the measure also prevents county auditors from setting up satellite voting sites unless petitioned to do so. It prohibits them from automatically mailing absentee ballot request forms to voters.

The goal of GOP lawmakers is obvious: Make it more difficult for Iowans to cast ballots.

That was the goal in 2017 when they rammed through an unnecessary voter ID law to supposedly respond to nonexistent fraud. It has been the goal ever since — when legislators pushed to ban satellite voting on college campuses and stood pat on keeping people once convicted of felonies disenfranchised.

But their latest voter suppression efforts seem to be driven by an orchestrated national effort by the GOP to enact new legislation to erect state-level barriers to voting. Hundreds of bills aimed at election procedures and voting access have been introduced in statehouses across the country this year.

Here in Iowa, what Republicans are doing just may backfire on them (if their work holds up; an advocacy group has already sued).

During a recent legislative hearing, speakers focused on a provision that would ban all but family members, household members or caregivers from returning someone’s ballot for them. Adams County Auditor Becky Bissell, a Republican, told of an elderly voter in her county who relies on church members to help her through the voting process and return her ballot.

“Smaller rural counties have a large elderly population who typically choose to vote absentee because of weather or health concerns. Why are we making it harder for them to vote?” she asked.

Good question. And it’s particularly odd considering rural voters tend to favor Republicans.

Who can put a stop to such state-level voter suppression shenanigans?

The U.S. Congress.

The U.S. House recently passed H.R. 1, also referred to as the For the People Act.

The bill should be pared down and modified to remove campaign finance changes. Yet much of what it contains are common-sense, critical measures to guarantee free and fair elections going forward.

The legislation requires states to offer mail-in ballots, same-day voter registration and early voting. It includes mandatory automatic voter registration and restoration of voting rights to people who complete felony sentences. It would make it more difficult for states to eliminate inactive voters from the rolls.

Top-down directives like this should be infrequent. If it was suspect for Iowa state government to usurp school districts’ choices in the past year, then H.R. 1′s meddling with states’ election rules is also suspect on its face. But Congress rightly steps in when civil rights are at stake, as it did with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and it’s time to do it again.

Further, none of those measures should even be controversial.

When the U.S. House passed H.R. 1 in 2019, the bill did not move forward in the Senate, which was then controlled by Republicans.

Now Democrats control the Senate and may consider ending the filibuster so such a bill can be approved with a Senate majority.

They should not have to do that.

Republicans, including U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, should support this legislation.

They should want to preserve the election system in Iowa that landed them their jobs in Congress. They should want to ensure their constituents can exercise their constitutional right to vote.


Dubuque Telegraph Herald. March 12, 2021.

Editorial: : Big cities known for big traffic headaches

While local officials are dismayed at the prospect of Dubuque losing its “metropolitan” standing, there are some decided advantages of being on the smaller side of big cities.

We would hate to see Dubuque lose traction in its bid to compete with larger communities for economic development over some bureaucratic semantics. Call the Key City a metropolis or micropolis, but let us compete with the big boys when it comes to landing development.

Besides, there are some areas in which Dubuque stands head and shoulders above our big city brethren and all the problems that go with that status, including slamming-headache commutes.

Employees (and employers?) might just appreciate the benefits of a micropolis over more congested areas. Time lost sitting in traffic is time away from family, from community events, and volunteer service.

In 2006, Money Magazine ranked Dubuque No. 1 in the country for the shortest commute to work, with a median travel time of 11.8 minutes. That figure had inched up to 14.5 minutes as of 2018, according to the city.

Contrast that to Chicago, where this week, its Eisenhower Expressway was named the most congested road in the entire country. In 2020, the stretch between Tri-State and the Jane Byrne Interchange saw 41 hours of delays, down from 56 hours in 2019, according to the INRIX Global Traffic report. The same study named Chicago third (behind New York and Philadelphia) for most time stuck in traffic. Drivers each lost some 86 hours last year just sitting in traffic.

And that was during a pandemic when traffic was down more than 20%.

Don’t write off the advantages of smaller cities. Less time in traffic is a bonus for everyone.

Here we go again. This weekend marks the biannual changing-of-the-clocks ritual known as daylight saving time. Why do we do this, again?

Sure, we’ve all had more on our minds in 2020-2021 than getting Congress to abolish daylight saving time (or permanently stick with it). But once we get out of raging pandemic/volatile economy mode, how about we move on to ending this weird clock-changing thing?

New studies suggest that beyond being a change without much positive impact, messing with our sleep cycles is a downright bad idea.

Daylight saving time is, after all, something of a myth. There really isn’t any saving of daylight. We just move the time of day a little bit so we might enjoy more time outdoors before sunset. Which, if you like that, would be a vote for springing forward and then never falling back again the first Sunday of November.

It would be one thing if there were economic or energy savings in daylight saving time. But there is none. In 2005, before daylight saving time was extended by three weeks to save more of whatever it is we’re supposed to be saving, the Department of Energy released a detailed report.

Department of Energy officials noted that, while people use less energy (household lights) when there’s evening daylight, exactly the same amount of daylight was pulled from the morning, requiring more household lighting then. Imagine that.

Even worse, daylight saving time isn’t a zero sum game.

The impact can be seen in all sorts of circumstances, and the effects are always detrimental — largely related to the disruption in the sleep cycle. The concerns raised are so great, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine last month called for ending the practice of moving clocks forward and back.

Once we get past the treachery of COVID-19 and its ripple effects, let’s shut down this ineffective ritual and stop changing the clocks.

Following the turbulence of 2020, things keep looking up at Dubuque Regional Airport.

After temporarily halting all flights last fall, American Airlines reinstated one of the flights at the beginning of the year. Beginning this spring, the arrivals and departures will double with a second Dubuque-to-Chicago flight returning five days per week.

As of April 2, the new flight will arrive at Dubuque Regional Airport at 10:13 a.m. and depart at 10:47 a.m. on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That’s an encouraging sign that the aviation industry is inching closer to normalcy and that Dubuque’s air service might be able to pick up where it left off before the pandemic

That’s great news for local business and pleasure travelers alike.

As the clouds of COVID-19 lift, and local residents begin to make plans to travel once again, consider using Dubuque Regional Airport. You won’t find a more accessible and convenient airport — there’s even free parking. And more flight options will make choosing to fly Dubuque even easier.


Fort Dodge Messenger. March 10, 2021.

Editorial: Support for child care center is necessary. Webster County doesn’t have enough spaces for kids that need care

To experts in the field, Webster County is a child care desert. This desert has nothing to do with sand, however.

Just as a desert is an open and empty space, Webster County is open and empty when it comes to available positions in programs for children who need care while their parents are at work.

The latest figures from the group Linking Families and Communities are stark. The group has found that there are 1,743 spaces in child care programs in Webster County. That actually sounds impressive until you learn that there are 4,673 kids in the county who need child care.

A child care desert has been defined as a place where there are three or more children for every space in a child care program. Webster County fits that description.

That’s why it is a good thing that the City Council is moving to support Childcare Discovery Center as it seeks to build a new facility.

Childcare Discovery Center has been located for decades in a strip mall at 2329 First Ave. S. The site was bought last year by Nestle Purina PetCare, which has a plant immediately to the south. Faced with the necessity of having to move, David and Tammy McNeil, the owners of the business, have picked a site near 14th Avenue North and 32nd Street as the location for a new 16,400 square foot building.

To support that effort, the council is now working through a process that will enable it to use tax increment financing to reimburse the business for up to $600,000 of the costs of constructing the new building.

To be clear, the city will not be handing the business a check for $600,000. Instead, that amount will be gradually paid out over a number of years after the new facility is completed.

Webster County is already short of child care opportunities. If Childcare Discovery Center could not relocate and continue in business, the resulting shortage of child care spaces would be catastrophic to both local families and the economy.

That is why it is vital for the city government to provide whatever help it can for this project.