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Minorities, especially, should cast a local ballot

Minorities, especially, should cast a local ballot

Gazette Column
There’s no doubt that a mere handful of votes can change the outcome of a city election, but there is even more at stake for Iowa’s underrepresented minority communities. Study voter turnout for any length of time and you’ll find political scientists who argue that increased engagement doesn’t provide significantly different election outcomes. But a look at the data behind such assertions shows their correlations are linked to the outcomes of national elections. About 62 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the 2008 presidential election. In 2010, about 41 percent voted in congressional races and, in 2012, about 58 percent participated in the presidential election. The 2014 midterm elections in Iowa garnered a high turnout of 53.3 percent, a number praised by state officials. Yet, nationally, only about…
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Political training added to Iowa Renewal Project

Political training added to Iowa Renewal Project

Gazette Blog
Three 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls scheduled to appear If a national movement coming to Des Moines as part of the Iowa Renewal Project is successful, Iowans may see many more conservative pastors and church leaders on their 2016 ballots. The movement — the Men and Women of Issachar — is the brainchild of David Lane, a politically-connected religious conservative, and was named after one of the twelve tribes of Israel — specifically the tribe that sent 200 men with the ability or vision to decipher the signs of the times and direct the actions of David’s army at Hebron. “Nobody is confused that politicians are going to save America,” Lane said in January when he announced the movement, which hopes to encourage and train at least 1,000 church leaders and…
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Can rural K-12 achieve the promise of NGSS?

Can rural K-12 achieve the promise of NGSS?

Gazette Column
Rural education leaders outline STEM successes, challenges IOWA CITY — Two days of meetings this week highlighted the latest national standards that will change rural K-12 education in Iowa. The Next Generation Science Standards, rolled out in 2013 and adopted by Iowa leaders this past August, are the first broad recommendations for science instruction in 20 years. Developed by a consortium of 26 states (including Iowa) and several scientist and teaching groups, they primarily switch the focus from rote memorization to hands-on learning and critical thinking. Instruction will emphasize the scientific process — analyzing data, developing models and constructing logical arguments. Advocates have touted the standards as being able to accomplish what current science instruction cannot: make students care by connecting them and lessons to their communities in very practical…
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Regent ‘anger’ raises more questions

Regent ‘anger’ raises more questions

Gazette Column
While standing by the selection of a new University of Iowa president, one member of the Board of Regents has expressed his concern that the process was flawed. Speaking Thursday at the second of a two-day meeting on the University of Iowa campus, and less than 24 hours after demonstrators publicly asked regents to resign their posts, Subhash Sahai admitted he was “pissed” when he learned about previously-undisclosed meetings between a single candidate and five other regents and search committee members. “I want the people at the university to know that we had impassioned, intentioned and rigorous debate,” Sahai said of regent deliberations. But he also admitted that at the time the selection was being debated he was unaware that some members had met privately with only one of the…
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Yes, Paul Ryan, let’s talk about parental leave

Yes, Paul Ryan, let’s talk about parental leave

Gazette Column
Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan says he’ll consider running for Speaker of the U.S. House, but only if there are guarantees he can still have time for his family. Too bad other American workers don’t have the option of being as blunt. Ryan is a 45-year-old, married father of three children. He travels home nearly every weekend to be with his family. “I cannot and will not give up my family time,” Ryan said this week, alluding to the often grueling fundraising schedule that is placed on those serving as speaker. He also demanded that all facets of the party unify behind his candidacy, and provided a Friday deadline for caucus votes of support. Members of the U.S. House were in session for 153 days in 2012, 128 days in 2010,…
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Smart to refocus on homeland

Smart to refocus on homeland

Gazette Column
Attitudes shifted that day in 1995 when I stood before the miserable, exposed interior of the federal building in Oklahoma City. This year marked the 20th anniversary of that terrorist attack, perpetrated by Americans. Few realize, however, that it was not the first time Americans plotted to bomb the OKC federal building. James Ellison, founder of the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord (CSA), came to OKC in 1983 with white supremacist Richard Wayne Snell to case the building. Snell wanted to target the government due to a tax dispute. Ellison’s sketches and plans could have served as a first draft for the 1995 attack since they called for a vehicle packed with explosives to be parked in front of the building and remotely detonated. Snell was on death…
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Branstad’s political cronyism experiment failed

Branstad’s political cronyism experiment failed

Gazette Column
Let’s be very clear: This isn’t about J. Bruce Harreld. It also isn’t about the University of Iowa. Once, while describing a public relations transgression by UI officials, I wrote, “What a slice of rancid baloney.” How could I have known that one day Gov. Terry Branstad would serve an entire loaf? Branstad, who continues to keep the Iowa Judicial Branch busy sorting out the legalities of his administration’s unilateral decisions to close state-run facilities, has suddenly decided he does, in fact, have limits. I know. Coulda knocked me over with a feather. And, as much as I’d like to view the admission as the start of some sparkly new bipartisan magical mystery tour, Branstad’s proclaimed limits don’t exist. At the end of September, UI faculty members called for the…
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Placemaking: Seeking our place to belong

Placemaking: Seeking our place to belong

Gazette Column
Pause for a moment and consider your community or neighborhood. Do you thrive there? Are you attached to it? Do you belong? Those are questions I’ve contemplated since returning from the National Rural Assembly, where I took part in placemaking discussions. While talks there focused on creative planning for rural spaces, I was offered a more urban perspective this week at a Cedar Rapids forum, hosted by the Employee Resource Group Consortium. The event, a diversity forum, featured Katherine Loflin, an internationally known placemaking expert. And, since we’ve been interviewing city council candidates, I’ve been able to add some hyperlocal thoughts to the placemaking mix too. Placemaking involves personal attachment to a place, and strategic leveraging of those attachments. For example, increasing or driving attachment to build shared wealth. [caption…
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An order to do what lawmakers will not

An order to do what lawmakers will not

Gazette Column
After three years of battling unwilling lawmakers, Gov. Terry Branstad took another executive order plunge Monday. The order — the 86th issued by Branstad — establishes the Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention through the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Violence Prevention. Branstad was clear on why he acted alone. “We’re not waiting for the Legislature,” he said. He might as well have singled out House Republicans, who were responsible for stalling the latest proposal. Some lawmakers objected to schools not being required to notify a victim’s parents, if school leaders believed the circumstances also would place the victim at odds with parents, perhaps opening the door to more harm. The exception specifically was carved out for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students but would not necessarily be limited to…
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Weren’t we discussing fetal tissue?

Weren’t we discussing fetal tissue?

Gazette Column
How did we move from supposed outrage about undercover videos regarding the use of fetal tissue in medical research, to proposed legislation and Congressional hearings to discredit and defund a single women’s health care organization? In 1993, an overwhelming majority of Congress, including the Iowans serving there, agreed using fetal tissue for research was acceptable, and established a law by which organizations like hospitals and abortion clinics could be reimbursed for associated costs. It wasn’t the first time ethics surrounding use of spontaneously or electively aborted fetuses for such purposes was discussed. The conversation has been ongoing since the early 1930s, but reached a fevered pitch after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe decision. In the 1950s, fetal kidney tissue was used to create the first polio vaccine, leading to a…
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