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The big issue with the other Branstad veto

The big issue with the other Branstad veto

Gazette Column
Perhaps Gov. Terry Branstad doesn’t have a clear understanding of what a cliff effect is or how it hampers economic advancement. Amid the flurry of veto activity before the holiday weekend and subsequent reactions, it’s likely the governor’s refusal to grant a 5 percent increase to the federal poverty level standards associated with child care assistance wasn’t on your radar. After all, what’s more important: limiting the ability of about 200 Iowa households to increase wages or shortchanging thousands of K-12 districts? In reality, they both are clear examples of how this administration’s policies hurt the working class it espouses to protect. Campaigning in 2010, Branstad expressed concern over what’s known as the “ cliff effect ” in child care benefits. This cliff effect occurs when a working parent is offered…
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Johnson County Community ID begins next week

Johnson County Community ID begins next week

Gazette Column
Rollout of the long anticipated Johnson County Community ID begins Friday, another Midwestern first courtesy of the People’s Republic. The cards, primarily offered for people who have difficulty accessing state-issued identification, have been used in some metropolitan areas for years. Johnson County will be the first in Iowa or the Midwest to give community IDs a try. Advocates — and I count myself among them — believe the cards offer an extra measure of dignity and security. All residents, even those with a state-issued ID card or driver’s license, can get a Johnson County Community ID. The cards can be used at participating businesses for discounts or other promotions. That said, they are most useful to members of the community who could be marginalized for one reason or another —…
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No room for hate in our state

No room for hate in our state

Gazette Column
This may be what happens when history is hidden or allowed to fall into the trap of selective memory. Cedar Rapids police believe Tigani Mohamaoud could be the victim of a hate crime. The Iowa City resident has been working since 2013 to refurbish a flood-damaged home in Cedar Rapids as for his family. His latest setback to that goal arrived in the form of vandalism and graffiti death threats. “You will be killed here,” reads the text, scrawled with spray paint on interior walls. Someone doesn’t want Mohamaoud, a 2007 Muslim immigrant from Sudan, to feel welcome. The irony is the area, now known as Time Check, is also home to the oldest standing mosque in North America. Within walking distance of Mohamaoud’s property stands what’s now referred to…
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Let’s not forget the ladies

Let’s not forget the ladies

Gazette Column
Thanks to Schoolhouse Rock, I can no longer read the preamble to the Constitution. I must sing it. “We the People … in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” As a child, I was quite addicted to the various Schoolhouse Rock videos that aired on Saturday morning television. In fact, “Conjunction Junction” and “Three Is a Magic Number” can be found in my playlists. Still, it wasn’t until they were repackaged in the late 1990s that I realized some of their more subtle lessons. In the “Preamble” video there is a line…
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More than words at open mic night

More than words at open mic night

Gazette Column
It is not easy to battle inner demons, even when they block something important. What should make the process easier, however, is knowing that each time we choose to rise above our fears, we elevate those observing. This week, for instance, I was reminded of the necessity — and reward — of standing in the spotlight, heart exposed. Life is best lived out loud. The lesson came from a group of teens — participants in the Iowa Youth Writing Project, Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and Between the Lines. A few weeks ago an Iowa City reader forwarded an event announcement. The note was a single paragraph with scant context. Teens from summer writing camps would perform original pieces during an open mic night at the High Ground Cafe. I’d like…
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Keeping the ‘Faith In Iowa’

Keeping the ‘Faith In Iowa’

Gazette Column
Witosky, Hansen book offers clear view of marriage equality struggles and influence Civil rights vanguards aren’t immediately appreciated and are rarely comfortable. Iowans know this from experiences dating to the early 1800s, well before statehood. The first ruling of the Iowa Territory Supreme Court in 1838 said a slave could not be forced to return to a slave state after residing on our soil. At a time when women were considered legal property by most Americans, married and unmarried Iowa women legally owned property. And, a century before interracial marriages were nationally recognized, they were taking place in Iowa. The list goes on. From a ban on segregated schools 90 years before a similar national decision to a 1953 legislative refusal to take up a McCarthy-era demand for public employee…
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Deportee, son discuss separation on Father’s Day

Deportee, son discuss separation on Father’s Day

Gazette Column
Iowa City pastor was deported to Honduras in March The connection left a lot to be desired. But, actually, that was the point. Pastor Max Villatoro and his son, Anthony, reunited in a public setting this week to discuss their first Father’s Day apart. The Villatoro family has been separated since the man known simply as Pastor Max was arrested in Iowa City as part of a federal immigration sting and deported to Honduras in March. Father and son were brought together with the help of technology on Thursday as part of a webcast by advocacy group America’s Voice. In so many ways, it was a heartbreaking reunion to hear and watch. [caption id="attachment_1082" align="alignleft" width="300"] Pastor Max Villatoro, a former resident of Iowa City who was deported to Honduras…
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Of bullets, Bibles and bullies

Of bullets, Bibles and bullies

Gazette Column
Nothing I write can return Andrea Farrington to her family and friends. That truth rests like a chunk of lead in my stomach. It has been sitting there all week as details of the cowardly mall shooting and remembrances of the young, vibrant woman are heard and absorbed. Sure, there are lessons to be learned from this tragedy, but they are the same lessons we’ve too often been offered. When does the learning begin? Everything I’ve read and heard from Farrington’s friends in the wake of her murder indicates that the young woman followed “best practices” when dealing with an unstable person and unsolicited interactions. She avoided contact. Farrington reported uncomfortable and threatening instances — and she wasn’t the only one to do so. In short, she did what society…
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Even in death, straw poll hype continues

Even in death, straw poll hype continues

Featured, Gazette Column
Candidates, please idle your wallets. Members of the Republican State Central Committee voted Friday morning to officially end the Iowa Straw Poll, a GOP caucus staple since 1979. No doubt built on good intentions, and once worthy of the national attention it received, it’s later years brought unparalleled focus on money instead of organization. And while the autopsies now underway will include a host of details concerning the Iowa Straw Poll’s demise — i.e., Gov. Terry Branstad’s early burial plot purchase or the ongoing refusal of GOP leaders to include participants in planning for a new Boone-doggle — the terminal infection was introduced years ago. The disease was more pronounced each year as supporter excitement and campaign organization took a back seat to purchased victories. Cause of death? Let’s call…
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Time for some more ‘real talk’

Time for some more ‘real talk’

Gazette Column
Suicide rates for young black children have nearly doubled over the last two decades, even as rates for white children in the same age group have declined. That statistic is more disturbing with understanding that, historically, suicide rates in the black community have been significantly lower. In other words, this marks the first time that suicide rates among blacks of any age group have exceeded those of white counterparts. The realization was an exceptionally bitter pill for Linda Topinka, a Cedar Rapids licensed social worker who also is a founding member of the African American Family Preservation and Resource Committee. The group formed in 2006, primarily to address racial disparities in social welfare organizations and foster care, but has since expanded its focus in Linn County. She serves as the…
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