Quad-City Times. June 9, 2021.
Editorial: It’s time to step up
Unfortunately, the people of Davenport have become accustomed to gunfire. Still, the reports that early Sunday nearly 80 shots were fired downtown, destroying windows at the Figge Art Museum and the Skybridge, was a shock. It’s not that these buildings are sacrosanct, nor the area, but the volume of firepower was startling.
What’s more: This is just the latest manifestation of a problem that isn’t getting any better.
In 2020, there were 279 gunfire incidents in Davenport; that was up more than 40% over the year before. Compare that to Cedar Rapids, a larger city, where there were 163 shooting incidents in 2020.
In other words, Davenport, the state’s third largest city, experienced about 70% more gunfire incidents last year than the state’s second largest city.
The city has long recognized that gun violence is an issue here. In 2019, the city of Davenport, with much fanfare, announced a cooperative agreement with the federal government to form a partnership aimed at stemming the violence.
At the time, officials made it clear that guns and the people who illegally fire them were now the targets and would be dealt with seriously.
The message was communicated loudly, and clearly: Gun crimes would be prosecuted in federal court, and in the federal system, there is no parole.
Late last year, the city also announced a $700,000 federal grant to be used to create a crime analysis division.
Still, the violence continues; the number of lives lost mounts. Perhaps the most disheartening thing about the news conference city officials and other leaders held at the police department on Monday was this revelation: As bad as the increase was in 2020 over the year before, Police Chief Paul Sikorski said, “we’re right on track with where we were last year. So we’re not seeing a decline yet. That’s why we’re here.”
The city is taking a range of actions to combat this problem, but there will be no easy fix.
Despite the fact there was a large crowd at the scene of the shooting, authorities said they got little cooperation from people at the scene and were left pleading with the community to help out with the investigation. We would echo that call. Silence serves nobody.
It is vital that police are able to hold those who are responsible accountable.
That said, as Sikorski has long noted, we can’t just arrest our way out of this problem. We must find a way to steer people away from these influences.
We eagerly await the city’s long-promised Youth Assessment Program, and we hope that it will make a noticeable difference.
Unfortunately, it has taken too long to get to this point.
We also must recognize our community is flush with guns. Apparently, it is not hard to get them; new laws at the state level are making it even easier. It’s also discouraging to read reports, like the investigation recently from USA Today and The Trace, which said the federal ATF is too lax when it comes to penalties against gun sellers who commit serious violations.
Sikorski was right about another thing Monday; he was right that we are fortunate that police weren’t talking about the deaths of several people. The idea that nearly 80 gun shots found only glass and building material as their final destination, rather than flesh and bone, sounds to us like the kind of luck we can only count on rarely. The next time, who knows?
It was shocking to see that amount of gunfire in downtown Davenport this weekend, a place where many of us go to have fun, to listen to music or look at the river. Imagine how much more shocking it would have been if those 80 rounds had found a human target, or more than one, rather than an art museum and a pedestrian overpass.
Let’s hope that it doesn’t come to that. Let’s hope that after all the years of talking about a problem we’ve all recognized, that soon we get the results we all want.
Sioux City Journal. June 20, 2021.
Editorial: Celebrate Iowa tax cuts, but be wary of hidden costs
Lower taxes? We’ve been hearing that mantra for years. But this year, it could actually come true.
Thanks to bills signed this week by Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowans could see a decrease in state income taxes from 6.5 percent to 8.5 percent.
Additionally, funds used for mental health care services will gradually switch from counties to the state, which proponents say will lower local property taxes. When Reynolds signed the mental health funding bill, advocates saw it as a good sign. Peggy Huppert, executive director of Iowa’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the old way of funding was antiquated and “did not encourage collaboration.” The new model would relieve stress counties felt when considering property taxes for mental health.
And Republicans who control the governor’s mansion and the House and Senate say they aren’t done cutting taxes. The aim, Reynolds said, is to reduce income tax even further. Other states have eliminated it entirely, which looms as a goal.
On the surface, the changes sound great. But there are some snags.
For starters, the income tax bill contained a provision that phases out the state’s annual backfill payments to cities, counties and schools intended to make up for lost revenue when the state cut commercial and industrial property taxes in 2013.
According to the Legislative Services Agency, cities across the state will lose $52.4 million, counties will lose $29.6 million and other governmental taxing authorities will lose $10.4 million. To make up for those shortfalls, cities and counties will either have to reduce services or increase taxes.
State Democrats are worried that shifting mental health care services to the state could be subject to the whims of the annual budgeting process. “
The concern: If Iowa experiences shortfalls (or suffers another pandemic), mental health care could be among the first to suffer.
While the immediate goal is to look at further income tax reductions, state lawmakers should also consider what disappears and who might be affected. Voters may be charmed by the thought of lower state taxes but they still could be paying in the end.
Celebrate the reductions for now but be aware of hidden “fees” in the future.
Dubuque Telegraph Herald. June 27, 2021.
Editorial: Local businesses need community support
If ever there were a summer to support local businesses, this is it.
One year ago, retailers, restaurants, bars, gyms and hair salons were struggling mightily amid the pandemic. There were state rules and medical guidelines to follow that forced many establishments to shut down business as usual. Reopening meant new protocols and limited capacity. If only, those proprietors thought, we could get back to the days of crowded shops and plenty of customers.
Fast forward to today, and that wish has come true. The crowds are indeed coming back. Local residents, tired of a year with little activity, are ready to eat, drink, shop and be merry.
And yet, the cruel hand of fate has dealt businesses another blow: a worker shortage. Just when their customer base finally returns, they don’t have the staff to serve them.
Drive through any business district in the area and you’ll likely see the same thing — help wanted signs everywhere. Last year, restaurants closed dining rooms to prevent the spread of illness, and customers stayed away. This year, many of those same businesses are closing early because they don’t have the help, even though customers are coming back.
While that creates a dilemma for businesses, one they can scarcely afford, following last year, there is an antidote: people and patience.
This is a great year to explore the tri-state area. The reasons are myriad:
For starters, there are really awesome places in the tri-state area, many of which you’ve never actually been to. Have you ever climbed the Platteville “M”? Rode the rapids at Manchester’s Whitewater Park? Explored Apple River Canyon State Park? Those are a quick drive away. While you’re there, find a local restaurant or business and pay it a visit, too.
Even for the things that aren’t new to you, there’s a good chance you haven’t been there since 2019. Your favorite local theater, museum, gallery or concert venue has been hanging on, waiting for the day when enjoying arts and culture wasn’t a luxury. The time has come. Support your local arts.
How about retail therapy? Let’s face it, everyone’s wardrobe needs a little update after 2020. And all shops in town could use your business. Support them. Shop at your hometown stores.
This area has dozens of fantastic restaurants, breweries and wineries. It’s a good time to get out of the kitchen and enjoy someone else’s cooking for a change.
Spending some of your tourism dollars in your hometown will go a long way toward building to recovery. Be patient and understanding: These folks want your business — they are simply understaffed.
If we can get through the pandemic of 2020, we can get through the labor shortage of 2021. Enjoy all the tri-states has to offer this summer and support your local businesses.