State won’t force my daughters

State won’t force my daughters

Featured, Gazette Column
For the past several years I’ve searched for a way to get my oldest daughter to move back to Iowa, and ways to keep my younger daughter in state. Thanks to the Iowa Legislature, I’m putting those plans on hold. There’s been plenty of “progress” this session that’s contributed to my decision. A full-throated denial of local control stands out, as do limitations on workers’ rights. But the final straw came this week when lawmakers decided that if my daughters become pregnant the state can force them to continue the pregnancy and give birth. It’s a decision that sickens me to my very core, and not just theoretically. I was one of those women who learned that a very much wanted child would not survive. I had to make the…
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First in a series: Weighing the benefit of a ‘Fresh Start’

First in a series: Weighing the benefit of a ‘Fresh Start’

Featured, Gazette Column
45-year-old Linn County ministry is only of its kind in the state Hundreds of people quietly working behind the scenes on behalf of Fresh Start Ministries can’t be easily labeled. Then again, neither can those who serve as the face of the organization, or those who rely on its services. To be sure volunteers include local pastors and church members. But there are also social justice advocates and social workers. Some business leaders are part of the mix, as are elderly and other shut-ins throughout the area. Past and current members of law enforcement are present too. A few who were once recipients of the program’s outreach have come full circle and now work to help others. Many, but not all, are Christians. I first became aware of the organization…
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Vaccine bill risks health for freedom

Vaccine bill risks health for freedom

Featured, Gazette Column
A bill working its way through the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature casts public safety concerns aside, and relies on “freedom” as justification for putting children’s health at risk. On Thursday, a three-member House subcommittee approved a bill sponsored by Iowa Rep. Ken Rizer, R-Cedar Rapids. The bill inserts a “personal conviction” clause into state law regarding childhood vaccinations. If passed, no parent will be required to vaccinate children enrolled in care facilities or public schools. A news article in The Gazette noted “Republicans argued the immunization mandate violates Iowans’ religious liberties and personal freedoms.” Hogwash. Iowa Code 139A.8 addresses vaccination requirements for children enrolling in “any licensed child care center or elementary or secondary school.” It lists the various immunizations children are required to obtain before enrolling — diphtheria, whooping cough,…
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Video: Conversations from the Iowa Women’s March

Video: Conversations from the Iowa Women’s March

Featured, Gazette Blog
DES MOINES — Thousands of Iowans gathered at the State Capitol last weekend as part of the Women’s March, a movement that began as post on social media and grew into an international force. [caption id="attachment_401" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Participants in the Iowa Women's March gather on the steps of the State Capitol in Des Moines in January 21, 2017. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_402" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Thousands of Iowans filled the sidewalks and streets surrounding the State Capitol in Des Moines in January 21, 2017. It's estimated more than 25,000 people participated in the Iowa Women's March. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)[/caption] In this video, a few of those Iowans explain why they needed or wanted to be part of the demonstration. This is why they marched. This blog post and video…
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‘Sanctuary’ label or not, Iowa City right to listen to its own

‘Sanctuary’ label or not, Iowa City right to listen to its own

Featured, Gazette Column
Members of the Iowa City Council deserve praise for weathering a barrage of politically-motivated ugly comments and threats from people in surrounding areas as they explore policy questions raised by local residents. Shortly after Mayor Jim Throgmorton was prompted to include discussion about Iowa City becoming a “sanctuary city” on Tuesday night’s work session agenda, a statewide conservative advocacy and action group led by Jimmy Centers initiated a robocall. Centers, previously a part of Gov. Branstad’s administration, urged supporters to let their voice be heard by attending the work session or contacting Iowa City officials. More than 100 recipients of the call took advantage of its automatic forwarding to connect with city hall. About half that number emailed the city. “I do not want Iowa City to become a sanctuary…
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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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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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Long road ahead for Iowa political equity advocates

Long road ahead for Iowa political equity advocates

Featured, Gazette Column
The 2016 election will go down in Iowa history as a time when a record number of women sought office. It won’t, however, be remembered as one where women saw gains. While women nationally continue to absorb the loss of the presidency, Iowa women have added concerns. None of the Iowa women seeking federal office were elected — Patty Judge, Kim Weaver and Monica Vernon, all Democrats. A massive influx of Republicans to the Iowa Statehouse also took its toll on prospects for gender equity in Des Moines. [caption id="attachment_258" align="alignright" width="640"] Only six women will serve in the Iowa Senate when it convenes in January. It's a decrease of one from the current General Assembly. (Blank map source: Legislative Services Agency)[/caption] Eleven women sought election to nine seats in…
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‘Circulator’ worth Marion investment

‘Circulator’ worth Marion investment

Featured, Gazette Column
City Manager Lon Pluckhahn and Marion Economic Development Corporation President Nick Glew made the pitch to Cedar Rapids Transit: Expand public transit services farther east, across Highway 13, to the police station and 184-acre business park known as the Marion Enterprise Center. [caption id="attachment_252" align="alignleft" width="640"] A sign promoting one of the vacant lots in the Marion Enterprise Center business and industrial park stands near the intersection of Partners Ave. and N. Gateway Dr. in Marion, Iowa on Nov. 1, 2016. Municipal and economic development leaders are exploring the possibility of expanding public transit services east to encompass this area. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)[/caption] Brad DeBrower, CR Transit manager, answered that call, providing statistics and options to the Marion City Council. One clearly rose above the rest. Marion can expand access…
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Facts must drive council affordable housing vote

Facts must drive council affordable housing vote

Featured, Gazette Column
With the threat of floodwaters rescinded, members of the Cedar Rapids City Council are poised to throw off the shackles of community goodwill. Unfortunately, pesky facts about a proposed mixed-income housing project remain as sturdy as temporary flood barriers. Fact: Walking away from Commonbond Communities’ proposed 45-unit housing project along Edgewood Road means walking away from $280,000 for the sale of city-owned land and $8 million in federal tax credits awarded through a site-specific Iowa Finance Authority demonstration grant. Fact: The vast majority of the housing units — all but five which are reserved as homeless supportive housing — are market-rate or earmarked for people who earn 60-to-80 percent of the area’s median income level. [caption id="attachment_82" align="alignright" width="300"] The Tree of the Five Seasons in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Liz…
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