Transparency’s best hope: Regents lawsuit

Transparency’s best hope: Regents lawsuit

Gazette Column
Iowans are one step closer to learning how far former Board of Regent President Bruce Rastetter diverged from the University of Iowa president search process he put in place, and whether he and complicit regents will face consequences for mocking open meeting laws. The members, who constitute a majority of the board tasked with overseeing Iowa’s public universities, had to describe under oath their role in the covert recruitment in 2015 of UI President Bruce Harreld. Secret meetings — which then-Regent Katie Mulholland described as “coordinated in such a way as to avoid the requirement that they be public” — took place weeks after the regents announced a transparent search process, but only hours before Harreld made official application for the job. In addition to Mulholland, Harreld met in private with former…
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Bad teen behavior is a mirror reflecting

Bad teen behavior is a mirror reflecting

Gazette Column
Can you believe it? This and similar sentiments arrive by inbox and social media feed each time teens are caught behaving badly. And, for the record, yes, I totally believe it. The most recent national dust-up arrived courtesy of four male students at Westside High School in Anderson, S.C. The young men were participating in a football game against a neighboring school, Daniel High School. The game was part of the “Touchdown Against Cancer” series intended to fundraise on behalf of and bring more awareness to breast cancer. Ten students had each painted a letter on their chests. When they stood together, the letters spelled out, “Bump Cancer.” Four of the students — two seniors and two sophomores — rearranged themselves to spell the word “rape,” had their photo taken…
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Concert Across America remembers victims of gun violence

Concert Across America remembers victims of gun violence

Gazette Column
A national coalition of gun violence prevention artists, activists and organizations are coming together for a second annual Concert Across America. Iowa voices will rise up as part of organized events Sunday, but readers can sing out now. Last year, more than 5,200 artists performed at 350 events across 43 states to call for universal background checks and stronger laws in every state to reduce gun violence. As I write this column, more than 180 concerts across 40 states had been announced for 2017 — including the Iowa communities of Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Clinton. The events are planned for Sept. 24 because Congress designated the day for remembering murder victims. For this year’s series of events, national organizers hope individuals and groups from coast-to-coast also will take part in a world…
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When local government goes viral

When local government goes viral

Gazette Column
Johnson County officials address zoning requests throughout the year, without much fanfare. Thursday night was different. Grant Schultz, who works a 143-acre plot of land on Strawbridge Road, near the tiny village of Morse, hoped to spur agritourism and bring in more farmworkers by rezoning about half the property as AR, or agricultural residential. He made application to the county, indicating that he wanted to install about three dozen cabins on the property, in addition to a fish farm and orchard. He and county planning officials disagreed. Ultimately the county’s planning and zoning commission rendered its decision, sending the matter before supervisors with a unanimous recommendation to refuse Schultz’s rezoning request. This is when an otherwise local zoning matter drew national and international attention. [caption id="attachment_1329" align="aligncenter" width="500"] A typically…
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Suggestions go beyond Appalachia

Suggestions go beyond Appalachia

Gazette Column
Economic recommendations for Appalachia unveiled by a nonprofit and four U.S. senators this week could benefit the whole of rural America, if they garner a champion. The Appalachian region includes all of West Virginia and portions of 12 more states, spanning from upper Mississippi to lower New York. It’s generally an area that’s coping with multiple and nuanced economic and cultural issues including shifting workforce priorities and the opioid epidemic. In May the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center began work with U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), David Perdue (R-GA), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to establish a task force to develop recommendations for overcoming economic strife and isolation in four topic areas: education and workforce, entrepreneurship and job creation, energy and infrastructure, and rural health. On Wednesday the group…
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Lessons from the dinner line

Lessons from the dinner line

Gazette Column
Sometimes we make things more difficult than they need to be. I was standing in line at a restaurant this week. In front of me was a man in an automated wheelchair, a urine collection bag at his side. Behind me was a woman in her mid-30s, her young son in tow. The boy was curious about the man, and especially interested in the urine bag. He first asked about it in a normal speaking voice and, after being shushed, engaged in whispered shouts much to the astonishment and — dare I type it? — delight of bystanders. More than once a “we’ll talk about it later” was uttered. As I stood and listened to the exchange, I watched the man in the wheelchair. His eyebrows raised, and then his…
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American culture, not Congress, is changing

American culture, not Congress, is changing

Gazette Column
New cultural research shows bumpy paths forward for both dominant political parties and better explains why economics wasn’t the sole booster of Donald Trump’s rise to the White House. It also proves most Americans are right: Washington, D.C., and state legislatures are out of step with their constituents, just not for the reasons many think. The 2016 American Values Atlas, an annual survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, was released last week with some very interesting findings on America’s shifting culture. A few key points: • The share of Americans who identify as white and Christian no longer constitutes a national majority. • White Christians now make up only 43 percent of the U.S. population, a steep decline from four decades ago when the demographic was at 80 percent. •…
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Trump’s top chemical hits keep coming

Trump’s top chemical hits keep coming

Gazette Column
Between devastating hurricanes, ongoing Russia investigations and White House staffing musical chairs, it’s been difficult to track policy decisions by the Trump administration. Even so, a handful of recent chemical-related decisions stand out. Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt has shunned a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics to ban use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops. The Academy made the recommendation after peer-reviewed studies determined even minuscule amounts of the chemical can negatively impact brain development of fetuses and infants. For the past four years government scientists have studied three pesticides — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — and have produced more than 10,000 pages of evidence that these chemicals pose a risk to nearly every critically threatened or endangered species they studied, which included more than 1,800 frogs, fish,…
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Polk Democrats’ expletive-worthy choice

Polk Democrats’ expletive-worthy choice

Gazette Column
Democrats will take the stage Sept. 30 when Polk County revives the state’s long-standing steak fry tradition, but one female candidate has been asked to keep quiet. Thanks to former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a fall steak fry fundraiser has become synonymous with Democratic Party politics and is an opportunity for rising stars to expand their burgeoning celebrity status. Polk County Democrats, in reviving an event dormant for three years, are taking a page out of Harkin’s book by inviting three not-yet-household-names but promising congressional Democrats to come, be grilled and chew the fat. [caption id="attachment_1311" align="alignleft" width="300"] Marinated Flank Steak using peach juice or nectar and soy sauce on the grill. Shot in North Libery on Friday, July 14, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)[/caption] Attendees, as well as a C-SPAN…
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How place-making can help fight opioid addiction

How place-making can help fight opioid addiction

Gazette Column
Six people in Council Bluffs were taken, unresponsive, to the hospital this month, apparent victims of painkillers so powerful that first-responders have been warned about touching them, but otherwise legally and easily obtained over the internet. The culprit is a synthetic opioid called fentanyl, a substance that already has decimated communities throughout the country that are battling opioid addiction. Forensic chemist Christine Gabig with the Douglas County Forensic Services Division told The Nonpareil that many synthetic variants of fentanyl have made their way onto local streets. Because the chemical compounds differ, the substances are not “true” fentanyl, commonly used in surgical procedures, and not illegal. Such synthetic varieties can easily be purchased online without a prescription. In some instances, these potentially deadly synthetics are mixed with other illicit drugs to produce more…
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