Affordable housing tour offers necessary spotlight

Affordable housing tour offers necessary spotlight

Gazette Column
Work on a project for months, put your heart and soul into it and, even so, you’ll be hard-pressed to pick it out of the pack. This is the lesson lost to those who skipped the Cedar Rapids Metro Affordable Housing Bus Tour last Thursday. “I think we’re coming up on it now,” Jeff Capps, executive director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, said from the front of the bus, holding onto the back of a front seat while bending and swiveling to peer out the windows. “Pretty sure we’re getting close now,” Renie Neuberger, Affordable Housing Network director of real estate development, said later in the drive while striking a similar pose. “It will be on your right. It’s painted green,” directed Ron Ziegler, executive director of Hope Community…
Read More
CR Transit changes nearly here

CR Transit changes nearly here

Gazette Column
Proposed changes to CR Transit passed their first public hearing hurdle this week. The upcoming changes are a result of recommendations from the 2016 Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) transit study, as well as current fiscal reality. In short, most transit riders will see improvements, but not a much wanted broader expansion of service. What’s included? Glad you asked. • Alternative Transfer Locations (aka Mini-Hubs) — Riders are going to see more crossover of routes, which will allow transfers to more easily take place outside of the ground transportation center in downtown Cedar Rapids. These will be located at Lindale and Westdale malls, and at the east and west side Wal-Mart stores. • Circulators — Looping routes will be implemented for Marion (Route 20) and the northeast side/Hiawatha (Route 30), making…
Read More
Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Gazette Column
News that health care advocates had been dreading came Thursday: Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will shutter a third of it’s Iowa clinics. Locations in Bettendorf, Sioux City, Burlington and Keokuk will close at the end of June. Only one of those locations offered abortion services, and it will continue to provide those procedures until the building is sold. Soon to be lost is what more than 70 percent of Iowans supported — access to family planning services like contraceptives, prenatal vitamins and cancer or other disease screenings. More than 14,000 Iowans utilized the clinics now slated for closure. Planned Parenthood clinics statewide serve nearly half of residents who use publicly-funded family planning services. Looking only at the four counties impacted by the closures, Planned Parenthood clinics served, at a…
Read More
Keep it honest, take it personally

Keep it honest, take it personally

Gazette Column
Dubuque letter writer Barbara Rank struck a chord, according to a Washington Post headline. I have another assessment: Rank took it personally. Rank attended the Dubuque town hall event hosted by U.S. Rep. Rod Blum. She heard her Congressman say it was time to end some “crazy” Affordable Care Act regulations, “such as a 62-year-old male having to have pregnancy insurance.” The following day, as she walked through her community, she thought about that statement and other past controversies surrounding how taxpayer funds are used. Then, she penned a short, authentic response to Blum that she submitted as a letter to the editor. “I ask, why should I have to pay for a bridge I don’t cross, a sidewalk I don’t walk on, a library book I don’t read? Why…
Read More
A Mother’s Day question: Do we really value moms?

A Mother’s Day question: Do we really value moms?

Gazette Column
This year many Iowans and Americans will splurge on Mother’s Day gifts. Consumers told the National Retail Federation that their spending will be high — an average $186.39 per mom, which is a roughly $15 increase from last year. If shoppers do what they plan, the nation will experience record-breaking sales for Mother’s Day. Nationwide, spending is expected to reach $23.6 billion. According to the NRF survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, consumers plan to spend $5 billion on jewelry, $4.2 billion on special outings, $2.6 billion on flowers, $2.5 billion on gift cards, $2.1 billion on clothing, $2 billion on consumer electronics and $1.9 billion on personal services like spa visits. “Consumers are planning to open up their wallets a little bit more to celebrate the women with…
Read More
Oklahoma provides template for pipeline protest backlash

Oklahoma provides template for pipeline protest backlash

Gazette Column
Dakota Access Pipeline protests have sparked changes to the Oklahoma criminal trespass code. The measures could become boilerplate bills for other jurisdictions. The Oklahoma bill, signed into law this week and immediately effective, mandates steep fines and jail time for those convicted of trespassing at “critical infrastructure facilities” with intent to hinder operations. Such facilities include pipelines, chemical plants, railways, oil refineries and other industrial locations, reports Dale Denwalt of The Oklahoman. Those who trespass, regardless of intent, face at least a $1,000 fine. (The law doesn’t set an upper limit.) If intent to disrupt is found, the trespasser faces a $10,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Those found guilty of “damaging, vandalizing, defacing or tampering” while trespassing face $100,000 in fines and up to 10 years…
Read More
Iowans ‘growing bolder’ in fight against senior hunger

Iowans ‘growing bolder’ in fight against senior hunger

Gazette Column
Are Iowans doing enough or the right things to help older residents get the nutritious and affordable food they need to thrive? That’s the question participants at the Growing Bolder Hunger Summit this week hope to answer. It’s an important question for all states, but especially for Iowa. About 16 percent of the state’s residents are age 65 or older. Population projections show an increase to 20 percent by 2050, meaning one out of every five residents will be over 65. The percentages are more pronounced in rural counties, where overall population has been declining. Monona County in western Iowa, for example, now has more residents over the age of 65 than it does residents under that age. Those who study state population trends believe the majority of counties —…
Read More
Rod Blum’s town hall vetting stinks

Rod Blum’s town hall vetting stinks

Gazette Column
If you happen to have a spare cup of courage lying around, please pass it to U.S. Rep. Rod Blum. Blum has agreed to four in-person meetings at public places in Iowa’s 1st District during the May recess. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he and his staff are busy redefining “public” by instituting unnecessary roadblocks for those who want to hear from and speak directly to one of the four men who represent Iowa in the U.S. House. Those who hope to attend are required to let the Congressman’s office know ahead of time. The registration process through Eventbrite requires submission of the applicant’s full name, email address and physical address. Upon arrival, Blum’s newly activated personal Stasi will be posted at the door to demand…
Read More
Rural health programs face September deadline

Rural health programs face September deadline

Gazette Column
No doubt you’ve heard about the Women’s March and the March for Science. Let me tell you why more than 1,000 doctors marched on Washington earlier this month. Physicians and medical students converged on Capitol Hill to advocate for continued funding of teaching health centers, which offer medical residency programs in community settings. It’s one of the programs under the umbrella of the $7.2 billion Community Health Centers Fund, slated to end Sept. 30 unless Congress takes action. The combined programs support local access to medical care for thousands of Iowans and millions of Americans. They're especially vital for rural health. Teaching health centers — one of which is located in Des Moines — provide medical residency programs in community settings. Residents are trained in family and internal medicine, pediatrics,…
Read More
Index: Iowa needs better crisis plans

Index: Iowa needs better crisis plans

Gazette Column
The new National Health Security Preparedness Index is out, and Iowans continue to lag behind in plans for the state’s most vulnerable. Across most of the 139 measures used to compile the index, Iowans fare well with rankings at or slightly above the national average. Iowa gets an overall score of 7 out of 10 — the same score it’s had for the past three years. But while Iowa has stagnated, other states have improved. The 7 that placed Iowa above the pack in 2014, now puts it in the middle. Drilling further down, it’s apparent that there is one section in particular where Iowans are lagging behind. Index authors labeled it as “Community Planning and Engagement Coordination,” which includes actions taken to develop and maintain supportive relationships among government…
Read More