Des Moines Register. May 26, 2021.
Editorial: The GOP uses its unchecked power to make life better for a precious few in Iowa. How long will we put up with it?
The best thing the GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature did this session was call it quits.
The last fall of the gavel, on May 19, was immediately followed by Republican lawmakers and Gov. Kim Reynolds patting themselves and one another on the back.
There were news releases about protecting life, praise about furthering a conservative agenda and reflection about striking deals to resolve the internecine disagreements in the party’s big majorities in each chamber.
The Republican Party has a stranglehold on Iowa. Indeed, it seems intent on strangling the state into something unpalatable to brilliant scientists, people of color and, most recently, parents of children who won’t be able to be safely vaccinated against COVID-19 for months.
This is not your grandfather’s GOP. This is not your father’s GOP. It does not remotely resemble the party with anti-slavery origins. It is not the refugee-welcoming party of former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray. It is not the party of George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism.
Votes cast by legislators this session show the GOP in Iowa today is against democracy and public education and is dismissive of science that infringes on its policy preferences. It latches onto and runs with kooky ideas floated by national party operatives and right-wing special interests and calls them progress.
But Iowans do not need to accept the GOP rhetoric about supposed legislative successes. We can look past the lipstick and see the pigs.
How do we do that?
Take an objective look at what the representatives you elected did this session and ask yourself one question: How will my daily life be better now?
Because state lawmakers and governors can improve the lives of Iowans in ways as diverse as cleaning up the environment, funding public education, attracting new workers and expanding health insurance. Yet the current crop of leaders is not interested in those kinds of things. They concentrated, again, on lowering some taxes, for some people, while leaving unspent gobs of money supposedly set aside for tough times and cutting promised funding for local government budgets.
Short version: Under their watch, your life probably isn’t going to improve one iota.
Moving Iowa a step closer to outlawing abortion doesn’t raise wages or increase access to child care. Ensuring landlords can reject tenants who use housing vouchers will not help anyone pay a bill or secure a cancer treatment.
Sure, now you can buy a handgun without a permit. So can your unstable neighbor. So can your daughter’s abusive boyfriend.
Instead of protecting our waterways and our loved ones in nursing homes, lawmakers made it a priority to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits and drivers who run over protesters. Maybe your college-age son will be one of those protesters.
Thanks to this GOP, it will be a crime not to pull over for unmarked police cars. How do you know if an unmarked car is being driven by a law enforcement officer or a rapist?
And while it briefly seemed as though Iowa was tiptoeing toward progress on racial equality after protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd, the majority party instead took a giant step backward this legislative session. It refused to ban racial profiling by law enforcement. It refused to require tracking data from police stops so Iowa can assess who is being pulled over. Yet it did muster the will to raise penalties for protest-related offenses.
If you were among the Iowans who voted for Republicans because you thought they would value local control and less intrusive government, you got snookered.
The GOP has bent over backward to ensure government is your biggest brother. It seeks to dictate individual reproductive decisions of women and has stripped cities of the ability to set policies on wages, housing and fireworks. It has sought to micromanage what doctors say to patients and dictated what educators can teach students about racial injustice. After more than 6,000 Iowans were killed by a deadly virus, it prohibited schools from requiring students to wear masks. We don’t know what infectious diseases may circulate in the future that mask wearing could help combat.
Even though Iowa’s existing election system worked well for Republicans by landing them in power, they felt compelled to make it even harder for Iowans to vote. New legislation shortens the early voting period, closes polls earlier and limits who can return a voter’s absentee ballot.
There are a few bad ideas the GOP didn’t manage to ram through. They didn’t cut unemployment benefits or use the law to further marginalize transgender athletes or funnel public money into “education savings accounts” for students attending private schools.
But there’s always next year.
And if Iowans don’t stop this madness by kicking the extremists out of office, there will be the year after that, too. And the one after that.
Dubuque Telegraph Herald. May 28, 2021.
Editorial: New Dubuque public schools advisory board gives students a seat at table
A new committee assembled to advise leaders in the Dubuque Community School District brings to the table the most important stakeholders of all — the students.
For the past several months, a group of high school students has met with district leadership to hash out steps they can take to shape Dubuque Community Schools’ future. The Student Equity Advisory Committee has been meeting this school year with Superintendent Stan Rheingans to put forth initiatives they would like to see the district tackle. Those ideas can then be incorporated into the district’s priorities for the next school year.
The arrangement has a positive impact in two ways. Students get a voice in helping guide the direction of local schools. And schools and educators will benefit from having student-driven initiatives and buy-in.
Another positive: This group of students is pulled from Dubuque Senior and Hempstead high schools and the Alternative Learning Center and represents a spectrum of different ethnicities, genders and sexual identities so as many groups as possible are represented.
These are voices that have sometimes not been heard, and this blend is sure to have positive long-term impacts on Dubuque schools.
One of the coolest amenities Dubuque has added in the last two decades is the miles of biking and walking trails that now connect the city from the West Side to the Point and beyond.
Another connecter would provide a needed link in the North End trail systems of the upper and lower Bee Branch. Plans call for a concrete trail to be completed later this year that would extend through box culverts underneath the railroad tracks near Garfield Avenue and the upper Bee Branch Creek. The project also includes installation of trail lighting and a security camera system.
Continued work and improvements on Dubuque’s trail system for bicyclists and pedestrians is a great investment for the community. Trails are a key amenity, providing recreation as well as an additional transportation mode. As the community seeks to attract and keep young workers and their families, support for projects that showcase Dubuque and the great outdoors makes sense.
With changes in voter registration and election laws in Iowa and across the country, concerns about voter suppression are on the rise.
All the more reason to encourage young people to develop a lifelong habit of civic responsibility beginning as soon as they are eligible to vote. Extra credit goes to two area schools recognized with a statewide award in Iowa for getting students registered.
Clayton Ridge High School in Guttenberg and Marquette Catholic High School in Bellevue were among 22 Iowa to qualify for the 2021 Carrie Chapman Catt Award, presented to schools that register at least 90% of eligible students to vote, according to a press release from Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.
It’s great to see new efforts made to promote the importance of voter registration. Even though it’s not a national election year, newly minted young voters won’t have long to wait to cast their first ballots. November brings city and school board elections to fill seats on the boards that will help shape the future of our communities and schools. What better place for young voters to have a voice than beginning with their own schools and hometowns?
Here’s hoping more schools follow the lead of Clayton Ridge and Marquette and get out the vote among 18-year-olds.
Fort Dodge Messenger. May 26, 2021.
Editorial: Youth lead the way on anti-litter project
Fort Dodge young people have taken the lead in a unique project to keep the downtown area clean and free of litter.
Industrial technology students at Fort Dodge Senior High School have made 26 metal trash receptacles that are now starting to appear on downtown sidewalks.
A total of 22 of them will be placed around downtown, with four held in reserve in case one of the others gets ruined.
Those containers will soon be decorated with artwork created by students in kindergarten through fifth grade. All of that artwork will reflect the theme of Pick It Up Fort Dodge.
The panels bearing the artwork haven’t been placed on the containers yet. That is expected to happen on June 19, during an event being planned to honor the young artists.
The whole Pick It Up Fort Dodge initiative got started in December 2018 when the city received a $10,000 Arts Build Communities grant from the Iowa Arts Council. The fact that local leaders applied for the grant at all shows out-of-the- box thinking. After all, how many communities turn to artists and designers when confronted with a litter problem?
While the adults applied for the grant and developed the Pick it Up Fort Dodge concept, it is the youths who made it happen.
Students in the industrial technology class got some real world experience in skills like welding while manufacturing the containers. They can take pride in their craftsmanship, which is on full display to everyone moving about downtown.
The younger kids entered an art contest to decorate the containers. A total of 36 entries were received and 26 designs were picked. Those young artists will undoubtedly be excited and happy every time that they see their artwork downtown.
All of the young people involved in this project have made a valuable contribution to our community. Thanks to their hard work and creativity, the rest of us have no excuse for dropping litter on the ground downtown.