Women’s equality, a work in progress

Women’s equality, a work in progress

Gazette Column
Linn County equality coalition adding five to list of Women of the Year Women across the nation will come together this month. They’ll recognize each other, applaud successes and resolve — as so many demonstration signs have more bluntly stated — to continue to fight for equality. Such celebration is an annual event in Linn County and other parts of Iowa, held each Aug. 26 in connection with Women’s Equality Day. That was the day 97 years ago when the 19th Amendment was certified, the culmination of an 80-year battle for women’s suffrage. The fight for the vote was marked, as I’m prone to highlight each year, with derision of the women seeking equality. Editorial boards from coast to coast issued dire warnings of chaos if women were welcomed into…
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National monuments under fire

National monuments under fire

Featured, Gazette Column
Maybe, if the review of national monuments ordered by President Donald Trump directly targeted Effigy Mounds or the Herbert Hoover Historic Site, Iowans would be more interested. But a lack of Iowa sites isn’t reason to be complacent. If the Trump administration chooses to shrink or abolish a national monument, and earns court approval for doing so, precedent will be set, placing the fate of all national monuments in jeopardy. The reviews, being conducted primarily by the U.S. Department of the Interior and its new secretary, Ryan Zinke, are the result of an April executive order that questions the legitimacy of recent designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906. That’s the law that established the nation’s first historic preservation policy, intended to protect artifacts from would-be looters or vandals. It gives the…
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Statewide conversation on affordable, supportive housing begins

Statewide conversation on affordable, supportive housing begins

Gazette Column
Spotlight reveals challenges within the Creative Corridor DUBUQUE — Every county in Iowa lacks a sufficient number of affordable housing units, which, in turn, contributes to the prevalence of homelessness most apparent in the state’s population centers. Although intensity varies, this lack of housing is a statewide challenge that affects the ability of communities to attract business and sustain a workforce, the need for taxpayer-funded safety net programs and overall health and well-being. So, this week, the Iowa Finance Authority launched the first of three statewide conversations on housing with a specific focus on the overwhelming need for supported living arrangements. “What we’ve learned from recent experiences in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City,” explained Carolann Jensen, chief programs officer with the IFA, “is that the push for housing, especially supportive…
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Temper home-school response

Temper home-school response

Gazette Column
The latest Iowa Poll shows state residents are reacting to recent deaths and abuses within the foster care system with more scrutiny of state home-school laws. Such sentiments are partially misplaced. There have been two high-profile deaths among youth adopted out of the Iowa foster care system, and a third first-person account of how one young women fled her abusers. In nearly all such cases, home schooling has played a significant role by allowing abusive parents to further hide their actions and neglect. It’s largely in reaction to these horrific cases that participants in a recent Iowa Poll responded with skepticism of all Iowans who chose to home-school: • 46 percent think families with foster children should be required to send children to an educational facility (not be allowed to home-school) • 67 percent…
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How far has culture of sexism at Iowa Statehouse spread?

How far has culture of sexism at Iowa Statehouse spread?

Gazette Column
Been thinking there must be some deeply rooted cultural phenomenon that led Iowa lawmakers to propose — and, unfortunately, pass — bills that negatively impact women? Turns out, you’re right. A recent court case, brought by a former Iowa Senate Republican Caucus staffer, reveals the ugly details of sexual harassment at the Capitol complex in Des Moines. Charges by Kirsten Anderson, who was the communications director for the GOP caucus for five years, were confirmed in court testimony by other staffers, some of whom continue to work in the harassing and juvenile environment. One described an incident from more than 20 years ago, when she came back from lunch only to discover her computer’s screen saver had been changed to a topless woman jumping on a trampoline to the tune…
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Health care failure is bipartisan

Health care failure is bipartisan

Gazette Column
“Think of it as a starter house,” former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said in 2010 of the newly minted (and already dented) Affordable Care Act. His meaning, if it isn’t clear, was that the ACA, or Obamacare, never was intended to be stagnant. It was what the Democratic majority had the political will to pass, a product of compromise and, therefore, fell short of many party members’ aspirations. Flip the partisan majority, fast forward to 2017, and the similarities are obvious. In the weeks ahead we’ll learn if Republicans have the political will to compromise. Perhaps more important, if the goal is to stabilize health care, we’ll discover if Democrats can better stomach massive renovations or full demolition. And, yes, those are the remaining options. Harkin’s starter home, too cheaply…
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Does Cedar Rapids need to address panhandling?

Does Cedar Rapids need to address panhandling?

Gazette Column
With an eye toward the city of Cedar Rapids’ latest ordinance intended to curtail roadside panhandling, I took to social media and the streets Thursday with my writing hand extended. “Does the city need to do something about panhandling?” I asked friends and strangers alike. “And, if so, what?” My very non-scientific survey revealed that most — roughly 90 percent of the more than 100 people who engaged with me — don’t believe panhandling is a problem in Cedar Rapids. Several of these individuals spoke of panhandling situations in larger cities, where they’d been aggressively pursued by panhandlers on sidewalks or had received some unwanted service from a roadside panhandler, such as windshield cleaning. Those are not experiences they’ve had in Cedar Rapids and, more simply, they don’t see the…
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Bucking against serenity

Bucking against serenity

Gazette Column
My Mom displayed a copy of the Serenity Prayer prominently in our home. A Reader’s Digest Condensed Book turned religious knickknack, the volume had been glued open, sprayed gold and hodged-podged with fancy text of the prayer and related graphics. The book was partnered with a gold stand, and I remember the duo gracing several surfaces — a dresser top, a bookcase and the console television. I’m not sure how my Mom came to own it or what, if any, sentimental value she attached it. The latter is probably a good thing. Although the book is now tucked away somewhere in my house, I’d be hard-pressed to find it. Still, the prayer — “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things…
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Act now for net neutrality

Act now for net neutrality

Gazette Column
Following the major win for net neutrality in 2015, many may have thought it was a moot issue. It isn’t, and we all need to act this week to protect and preserve an open internet. The new Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai, has announced plans to reverse rules that protect free speech on the internet. Ending these rules would allow internet providers — like Comcast or Verizon, which is Pai’s former employer — to control what you see, do and say online. This isn’t just about the behind-the-scenes technical stuff or how the internet works. It’s about my and your freedom, about making sure already underserved populations, including low-income or rural areas, aren’t left behind. The FCC is accepting comments on these proposed rollbacks until July 17. The voices of everyday…
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Ferret out root causes of opioid epidemic

Ferret out root causes of opioid epidemic

Gazette Column
Locals gathered at diners and other venues, I thought, would be abuzz with news of a man who crashed into a parked semi-trailer only moments after injecting heroin. I was wrong. The crash happened one sunny afternoon in Manchester, N.H., a town I was visiting for a work-related conference. When a 33-year-old man inexplicably drove his Chevy head-on into a parked truck, an eye witness came forward to say the driver had injected heroin before the incident. Both the driver and a 26-year-old male passenger were taken to a hospital with serious injuries, and the driver later was charged with operating while using. The driver of the truck was making a delivery at a nearby business and not present when the crash occurred. I was gobsmacked by the news, both for the…
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