Under the watchful eye of the ‘misfits’

Under the watchful eye of the ‘misfits’

Featured, Gazette Column
Replicas of the residents of the mythical Island of the Misfit Toys have graced a windowsill my home office for more than a decade. This year I feel especially aware of what they represent. I discovered the tiny statues shortly after moving to Iowa, shortly after I admitted to myself that I’d never felt more out of sync with the world around me. Readers who aren’t familiar with the Misfit Toys should click over to YouTube and search for clips from the 1964 stop motion holiday classic “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Since the hourlong special has been replayed during the holiday season each year since that time (with one major change, which we’ll get to in a minute), the film could very well be on your television this Christmas Day.…
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Wishing for less fear, more words

Wishing for less fear, more words

Gazette Column
Before your turkey leftovers can be turned into sandwiches and soup, the war of words begins. The cashier that wishes you a hearty “Happy holidays!” is a front-line soldier, as much in need of a fox hole as the bell ringer shouting “merry Christmas!” The supposed War on Christmas is the center of the dispute, forcing acquaintances to decide what, if anything, is appropriate to say. By wishing neighbors a happy holiday, we’re removing Christ from the celebration. By inserting Christmas, we’re making a religious assumption. [caption id="attachment_344" align="alignleft" width="640"] A poinsettia flower decorates a table. (Crystal LoGiudice/The Gazette)[/caption] What I’ve noticed this year — and maybe you’ve noticed it too — is that fewer people seem willing to cross the battleground. Instead of warm wishes, however contrived, people in…
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Chuck Grassley sets stage for AG Sessions

Chuck Grassley sets stage for AG Sessions

Gazette Column
First order of business, attack orgs that serve women, science As the nation prepares for its next transition of power, it appears everything old and discredited is new again. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is calling for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice to investigate four Planned Parenthood affiliates in California, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and three privately-held California medical research companies regarding their work with fetal tissues. The Judiciary Committee began its review after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released a series of highly edited video clips in 2015. The clips were presented to the public as proof Planned Parenthood profited from the illegal sale of tissues. Two of the people who created and released the video clips were…
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Iowa lawmakers’ top priority is moot point

Iowa lawmakers’ top priority is moot point

Gazette Column
Instead of tackling a host of thorny issues before the state, lawmakers are poised to offer a solution to a non-existent problem when they convene in January. Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, and House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights, told the Des Moines-based Westside Conservative Club this week that when they convene the 2017 session on Jan. 9 lawmakers will push through unnecessary laws that will require Iowans to present state-issued identification in order to cast their ballots. And while I understand that Voter ID has been a GOP goal for some time, I’ve yet to understand why. Voting is a fundamental right, not a privilege. As such, it is protected by more constitutional amendments than any other right Americans enjoy. It is especially a mystery to…
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Rural Iowans eager to engage art in their communities

Rural Iowans eager to engage art in their communities

Featured, Gazette Column
Cold temperatures and snow showers didn’t keep rural community leaders off the roads Thursday. Opportunities to learn firsthand about grant funds linking art projects and revitalization don’t happen every day. About 100 people, at least half from smaller communities, traveled to Iowa City for the last of four Iowa meetings hosted by ArtPlace America. a New York-based organization that issues grant money through the National Creative Placemaking Fund. [caption id="attachment_335" align="alignright" width="640"] Cat Nelson, facility manager at the Washington Community Center, and Kadie Dennison, development and marketing manager at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, were among the roughly 100 people who traveled to Iowa City to learn more about grant money that helps infuse the arts in community development projects. ArtPlace America hosted the Iowa City meeting on Dec.…
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Leadership is more than words

Leadership is more than words

Gazette Column
More ideas on how Cedar Rapids can attract and sustain affordable and supportive housing were introduced Wednesday, but it remains to be seen if any attracted a champion. Local groups affiliated with a five-year federal demonstration project, Partners United for Supportive Housing in Cedar Rapids (PUSH-CR), gathered other agencies to produce the Cedar Rapids Supportive Housing Forum. And, to the organizers’ credit, several key local players were present to hear from leaders in the field, local and national. Deb De Santis, president and CEO of New York-based Corporation for Supportive Housing, provided the keynote by outlining the benefits of housing that includes wrap-around support services and some of the innovative ways communities around the country are rethinking the problem of homelessness and funding projects. “People talk about the immediate cost…
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Jobs and housing go hand-in-hand

Jobs and housing go hand-in-hand

Gazette Column
Two news items caught my eye last week — one a human interest piece, the other a business announcement. Yet at their heart, they pointed to the same need. Gazette business reporter George C. Ford detailed plans by an Alliant Energy subsidiary to launch a 1,300-acre mega commercial and industrial park near The Eastern Iowa Airport. The development, made possible by an agreement to sell family farm lands, would benefit from the state’s first certified super park development, also nearby and being developed by the airport, and a first-of-its-kind freight and logistics hub planned by the Iowa Department of Transportation. The mega park known as Big Cedar, the transportation hub and complementary super park received praise from state officials, who dubbed the projects as critical economic drivers for the region…
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Learn how to put art to work

Learn how to put art to work

Gazette Column
People want to live in communities that make them feel connected to one another, neighborhoods and towns that are diverse, vibrant and inviting. If Iowans can cultivate and nurture those types of spaces, cultural and economic stability will follow. It’s what community leaders instinctively understand, but sometimes have difficulty initiating. Development of inviting and welcoming spaces can’t be accomplished by one group working alone. It needs the voices and shared vision of local residents, government leaders, business owners and the nonprofit sector. Four gatherings will take place next week that can help build the understanding and collaboration necessary for these types of community changes and enhancements. Just as important, attendees will learn what it takes to compete for a pool of project funding through the National Creative Placemaking Fund. The…
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