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Variety by choice, not mandate

Variety by choice, not mandate

Gazette Column
Column readers, some in dismay, have been reaching out over the past few weeks while channeling Ronald Reagan. “There you go again” is how so many of the conversations have started, even if the rest of the conversation differs. “I really enjoyed your Saturday column,” one woman said. “You’ve been spending so much time on events and harder news lately that I was afraid you’d been told not to write those types of softer and more thoughtful pieces.” Another caller wanted more information on the Sunday column. “Your writing is thick — and I mean that in a very good way,” he said. “I really like it when you dive into a topic, really learn the pieces of it and spread it out for the reader. You have a knack…
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Eminent domain bill deserves fair hearing

Eminent domain bill deserves fair hearing

Gazette Column
A decade has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court decided private property could be legally seized by the government and handed to a different private property owner under the guise of “economic development.” Kelo vs. New London was met with widespread distaste, earning the public ire of Republicans and Democrats alike. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor spelled out the dangers: “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.” As public sentiment toward the decision soured, backlash within the states began. In 2006, the Iowa Legislature passed a bill to restrict the use of eminent domain for economic development. Although the bill was…
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Losing the wisdom of strangers

Losing the wisdom of strangers

Gazette Column
Since grade school, I’ve kept a notebook to document the pearls of humor and wisdom dispensed by strangers. The first entry was courtesy of my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Ronald Jones, who was quick-witted and known for liberal application of corporal punishment. Although I had long been a member of the “good kid” club, the thought of spending a full school year locked down in his classroom terrified me. There were just so many things that could happen — and not all of them my fault — that would end in an introduction to the business end of his paddle. Through a strictly followed plan of no eye contact and wallflowerdom, I made it until February, my birthday month. It was tradition for the birthday person to receive “licks” with…
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Paranormal investigation at Abbe Center? Why not?

Paranormal investigation at Abbe Center? Why not?

Gazette Column
Supervisors approved use of doomed facility with little fanfare The shuttered Linn County facility that formerly housed Abbe Center for Community Mental Health has remained useful as a training site. Last year it was used by multiple law enforcement and first responder agencies to stage an active shooter situation. Last night, a much quieter training took place. Coralville resident Greg Reisner has been a part of the Johnson County Paranormal Team since its inception in 2007. The organization is comprised of volunteers who provide their services without charge to residents and business owners throughout the Midwest. They’ve served as advocates for such activities, providing presentations about their investigation methods and the equipment they use at Eastern Iowa public libraries. Reisner also hosts an educational and entertainment show on Iowa City…
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‘Looker’ offers peek into women’s realities, seeks empowerment

‘Looker’ offers peek into women’s realities, seeks empowerment

Gazette Column
There are certain things women seem to just know. Walk with a buddy. Park under a streetlight. Pretend it’s a compliment. Never leave a drink unattended. Keys can double as makeshift weapons. Despite not being part of school curriculum or “the talk,” such knowledge spans the boundaries of political persuasion, affluency and ethnicity. It’s passed from mother to daughter, sister to sister and friend to friend. Tonight, May 9, this phenomena and more will be on display at Public Space One in Iowa City in conjunction with a community forum. “Looker” is a collaborative project by artists Taylor Yocom and KT Hawbaker-Krohn. Representatives of several area organizations will be hand for the forum, which will explore “the crevices between feminism and art, vulnerability and power.” [caption id="attachment_1134" align="alignleft" width="350"] A…
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Iowa advocates push for police oversight, accountability

Iowa advocates push for police oversight, accountability

Gazette Column
This column would have been less difficult to write earlier in the week, before Baltimore was engulfed in flames. But it wouldn’t have been as important. On the surface, Bob Babcock and Felicia Jones have few similarities. Although they both are residents of the Quad Cities, they represent different generations. Babcock leans on a wealth of hard-earned life experience, and now is of the age when the past often intersects with and gives clarity to the present. Jones still is figuring out the world, testing how she fits and what type of difference she can make. On Saturday, April 25, the two stood together at Rock Island Township Hall, a computer presentation as their backdrop, leading a small but engaged group of Quad Cities residents through possible solutions to what…
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Bird flu outbreak is a disaster

Bird flu outbreak is a disaster

Gazette Column
More than 10 million Iowa birds, mostly commercial layer hens, have been or soon will be culled in an effort to combat the spread of H5N2, an avian flu virus. And, as I was writing this, an additional 5.6 million layer hens and a yet unknown number of commercial turkeys were tagged by the Iowa Department of Agriculture as probably infected with the bird flu virus. Given Iowa’s role in egg production — one out of every five eggs consumed in the U.S. comes from Iowa — and the wide swathes of the state economy dependent on agriculture, the situation is clearly cause for the state to issue a disaster declaration. Yet. Gov. Terry Branstad has declined. (Update May 1, 3:15 p.m. — With the number of confirmed and probable…
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Cedar County historians say ‘Little House’ worth saving

Cedar County historians say ‘Little House’ worth saving

Featured, Gazette Column
Donations needed to make 1800s Little House part of historic village Adam Robinson knows, one way or another, the tiny farmhouse and smokehouse that have stood for more than 100 years just steps from the back of his family’s home south of Mechanicsville must go. He and his wife, Susan, have offered the structures to the Cedar County Historical Society, in hope the weatherworn buildings still have a purpose. Sandy Harmel, who serves as the board’s secretary and museum director, has already picked out a spot for the buildings. The little house and adjacent building are just what’s needed, she says, in the organization’s historic Prairie Village. She’ll place them just west of the 1910 Bedbug School, across the gravel lane from the oldest parish in Cedar County, and nearly…
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Carly Fiorina gives GOP an opening

Carly Fiorina gives GOP an opening

Gazette Column
Merit-based pay structures are key to lifting women up and closing leadership and pay gaps. That’s what Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, told the Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference this week. “If you focus on a pay-for-performance system— a true meritocracy where people are recognized, paid and promoted, not on how long they’ve been there, but what they produced — women will rise to the top — not because women are better than men, but because they have half the human potential,” she said. Fiorina is expected to join the 2016 fray as the Republican Party’s only female candidate. It’s good optics for a GOP that has been ostracized for statements and policies that marginalize women, even if many pundits already have written off a Fiorina candidacy. Even with her anti-abortion…
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Should Iowa have more official state symbols?

Should Iowa have more official state symbols?

Gazette Column
National average is 22; Hawkeye State has six Tennessee’s failed attempt to codify the Holy Bible as its official state book made me wonder about Iowa’s official items. Relative to other states, we have very few state symbols. One of the first acts of the General Assembly in 1847 was to adopt the state seal, which pictures a citizen soldier standing on a wheat field, surrounded by farm and industry implements, with the Mississippi River in the background. An eagle is overhead with a scroll of the state motto: “Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain.” The motto itself is not singularly official. It was the work of a three-member Iowa Senate committee, and has been incorporated into the official flag and seal. Fifty years later, the…
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