Des Moines Register. Feb. 7, 2021.

Editorial: Inexplicable and irresponsible: Iowa governor lifts mask mandate while 180,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine are unused

Gov. Kim Reynolds waited until thousands of Iowans had died to impose a state mask mandate in November. It was late and filled with exemptions, but at least it sent a message: Masks are important to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The message she sent by lifting the mandate on Super Bowl Sunday: Masks aren’t all that important.

The inexplicable and irresponsible move flies in the face of advice from every credible public health expert in the country. Masks work to reduce virus transmission and save lives. Some experts are recommending people wear two masks as more contagious virus variants circulate.

Why would Reynolds lift the requirement and other mitigation measures now?

That’s hard to understand.

Did she not realize that lifting the order would prompt national criticism, which she quickly received?

Was she trying to get on the same super-spreading page as GOP lawmakers who refuse to require masks at the Iowa Capitol?

Does she not understand that her mandate, weak though it was, likely encouraged more mask wearing, which may be what’s helping reduce the number of new coronavirus cases and curb hospitalizations? In other words, let’s give Reynolds credit for finally initiating the mask mandate. But that progress could be stymied now.

Does she not recognize the likelihood of new conflicts in businesses, schools and other places that retain their mask requirements when people challenge the rules because “the governor says we don’t need masks”? Or the certainty that employees with no choice but to go to work will face a higher risk of getting sick when mask use decreases?

We have to speculate about her thinking because Reynolds didn’t mention a shift in mitigation strategy at her news conference less than 30 hours before announcing her intent to lift the order. Instead, Reynolds filibustered away more than three-quarters of the 32-minute briefing with remarks on Iowa’s economic recovery (as though the virus’s economic harm were in the rear-view mirror) and shoulder shrugs about the unavailability of vaccines.

On Friday, the same day Reynolds said she was lifting her limited mask mandate and other mitigation measures, the Iowa Department of Public Health recorded another 34 COVID-19 deaths. More than 5,100 Iowans have died so far.

Masks are one of the things that help prevent deaths. So are vaccines. How is Iowa doing on getting shots into the arms of Iowans?

Not well.

During the news conference, Reynolds blamed the federal government for not allocating enough doses of vaccine to Iowa. Yet we’re lagging in using many of the doses we have received.

As of data reported by midday Sunday, Iowa had administered 64% of the doses delivered to us. Minnesota had administered 77% of its doses; South Dakota, 82%. Illinois and Wisconsin also had all administered a higher percentage than Iowa.

This state has received about 510,000 doses but administered about 328,000. That means there are about 182,000 doses of vaccine, a number that has grown day after day, sitting in freezers or refrigerators (and hopefully being properly stored).

What is the governor’s plan for increasing the pace of vaccination?

She has neither publicly asked the federal government to bring in the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver shots nor announced efforts to organize needed mass vaccination sites.

Instead, she is seeking a private contractor to create a centralized system to help Iowans schedule appointments for shots. Where was this idea six months ago and how would that help at this stage?

Counties, pharmacies and health providers created their own scheduling systems weeks ago. Is a contractor going to “take over” the operations of private entities, including Hy-Vees, Medicaps and UnityPoint offices?

Reynolds is urging Iowans to be patient, which is fair.

But patience requires confidence the governor has a plan for vaccinations and is trying to keep people safe and alive until we all can get shots. It’s increasingly difficult to have that confidence.


Iowa City Press-Citizen. Feb. 7, 2021.

Editorial: The GOP, including Grassley and Ernst, cannot acknowledge the Capitol riot and not vote to convict Trump

It is hard to argue that former President Donald Trump did not commit impeachable offenses during the months between President Biden’s election and his inauguration. The former president blatantly lied that the election was stolen. He tried everything in his power — and some things that weren’t in his power — to overturn the results. He employed negative rhetoric over and over, inciting his supporters with lies and misinformation that led to the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.

And yet Republicans in D.C., Iowa and across the nation continue to support Trump over and over again, putting their self-interests and party over love of country. To add more insult to injury, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with Trump on Jan. 28 at Mar-A-Lago. Our Republican leadership is not supporting the Constitution and embracing democracy. In fact, they are doing the exact opposite.

This is NOT about Democrats versus Republicans — and it shouldn’t be. It is about accountability — or the lack of if. It is about the rule of law, and it is about truth. It is about democracy and about unity. And there can be no unity without accountability. There can be no unity without truth-telling. It is time for Iowans to stand up and demand our leaders take the side of democracy, facts and truth.

On Jan. 13, U.S. Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Ashley Hinson and Randy Feenstra refused to vote for the Article of Impeachment that would hold Trump accountable for his actions. On Jan. 26, U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley voted to dismiss those articles based on questionable and unsubstantiated legal analysis. At no time did any of our leaders condemn Trump’s actions, even though most admitted that he bore some responsibility for what happened on Jan. 6.

Iowa’s leaders must acknowledge that President Biden won a free and fair election. Our state leaders need to be honest with themselves because it is an unequivocal fact that there is no evidence of fraud or illegal activity that would have changed the results. They must do so without contradictory statements, such as calling for a bipartisan commission to examine election integrity to “ferret out any illegal votes” while disingenuously claiming it is to learn from hypothetical irregularities during the election.

If they are truly concerned about free and fair elections, they should call for a bipartisan commission to examine draconian rules making it difficult for Americans to vote. They should pass the election security and reform bill introduced by the House last year that languished in Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard. Both of these issues are a greater threat to free and fair elections than the small number of fraudulent and illegal votes that are cast in all elections.

But let’s talk directly to our senators — they will make history during the impeachment trial; it is up to them what kind of history they want to make. Our question for them is: What do they want their legacy to be?

Sen. Ernst: Either Trump is out of the White House and so it doesn’t matter whether you vote to impeach him or you don’t want to tell voters in 2023/2024 who they can vote for, but it can’t be both. Do you believe Trump honored his role as President of the United States? Do you think Trump honored his sworn duty to uphold our constitution?

Sen. Grassley: Your legacy in politics is not necessarily about all that you did — it’s often about the last thing you did. Are you okay with how Trump turned the highest office in our country into his own personal den of iniquity? Dismissal or acquittal is just the first step in his run for the office again, this time fully emboldened and convinced that he is above the law — and such an action would ensure America’s future will never be the same.

The goal is for the House impeachment team to prosecute the case so fully and forcefully that our senators will have no choice but to convict. But if their actions so far are any indication, they have already made up their minds.

If we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that the Republican Party of today is not the party of Lincoln and all that it’s stood for, historically. Republican leaders in D.C. have become lackeys to Trump and dishonored their oaths to honor the Constitution and keep our nation safe from enemies domestic or foreign. Many Iowans, regardless of party, believe our democracy is worth saving and that we need leaders at the helm with the courage and fortitude to protect it.


Quad-City Times. Feb. 4, 2021.

Editorial: Vote ‘yes’ for our schools

In a little less than a month, voters in three Scott County school districts will go to the polls to vote on what is called a “revenue purpose statement.”

Perhaps you’ve never heard of such a thing. That’s understandable. They aren’t page-turners.

To be blunt, a revenue purpose statement is a lengthy, fairly broad, outline of how school districts intend to use the money they get from the one-cent sales tax technically known as the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education fund, or SAVE.

The referendum, to be held on March 2, isn’t asking that voters approve a new tax or increase the existing one. No, this tax has been around for more than 20 years. It was approved in 1999 and reaffirmed in 2008; and it will remain in place no matter what voters do March 2.

The benefit of approving these statements, however, is this: These school districts will be able to borrow against future revenues and better plan as they make investments in schools and technology.

In this election, it’s the people in the Bettendorf, North Scott and Pleasant Valley school districts who will be voting on separate revenue purpose statements. A majority voting in favor is required for passage.

Davenport has decided to take up the matter next year.

To us, this is an easy call. We urge voters in these districts to turn out and support education; to cast their ballots in favor of these revenue purpose statements.

In truth, the statements look much the same as the ones that are already in place.

The reason we’re even having the referendum is this: Two years ago the Iowa Legislature voted to continue the one-cent sales tax until 2051. It had been set to expire at the end of 2029. But school districts and others across the state lobbied lawmakers to act early to extend it, arguing that doing so would create more certainty.

As a consequence, it is now necessary to extend these revenue purpose statements, which are currently slated to expire in about 10 years, so that they align with the legislative changes. School district officials say that extending these statements will allow them to borrow against future revenues past 2031.

These are important sources of funding.

In Bettendorf, it amounts to about $4 million per year. The North Scott School District gets about $3 million annually, and the Pleasant Valley School District receives about $5 million per year.

The money from the sales tax has been spent over the years on dozens of projects that have improved the spaces where the county’s schoolchildren are educated. In the Pleasant Valley district, a recent example is the new $18 million Forest Grove Elementary school; in Bettendorf, the money paid for a $7 million upgrade to the HVAC system at the high school two years ago. At North Scott, the SAVE funding has gone to additions and remodels at a number of facilities.

In each of these districts, the fruits of these resources are felt by thousands of students.

If the revenue purpose statement is defeated or is allowed to expire, the districts would have to spend the proceeds on reducing debt service and other property tax levies that pay for maintenance and other needs. However, we’re told if this were to occur, all it would do is delay the inevitable; sooner or later, districts would have to go to the public to seek funding to keep their infrastructure up to date.

We believe that for the past 20-plus years, the districts in Scott County have wisely used these funds to meet the growing and changing needs of their students; the money has gone toward providing not only physical space but expanded opportunities for our young people to learn, recreate, explore and prepare for their futures.

Voting ‘yes’ on these statements would say to future generations that we are preparing to provide them with the same opportunities.

Iowa’s heritage is bound up in the belief that its commitment to education makes the state special. It’s been that way for as long as we can remember. Voters can reaffirm this belief on March 2. Vote ‘yes’ on these revenue purpose statements.