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…
Read More
Parenting a freethinker made easier

Parenting a freethinker made easier

Gazette Column
Two decades ago, as our family reeled from a full-term stillbirth, I grappled with ways to help our then 6-year-old daughter work through the grief of losing an infant brother. I searched for resources to offer reassurance and comfort, but there were scant few on the topic of death. And none I could find on stillbirth. So, we muddled forward with our own words. Was I saying the right things? Were there “right things” to be said? About a decade later, when a different daughter’s best friend died unexpectedly, I was given a book, “Parenting Beyond Belief,” edited by Dale McGowan. Suddenly I had a compass to help guide my child through grief, and advice on many other thorny topics. McGowan later co-authored a practical, companion book and, this past year,…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
Get more creative in protesting

Get more creative in protesting

Gazette Column
If those opposing a certain political candidate or personality didn’t line up on sidewalks shaking signs and screaming chants, how could they still be seen and heard? Various forms of that question have arrived in my inbox over the past week, responses to a comment I made at the June 29 Pints and Politics event. When asked about protesters during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Cedar Rapids, I lamented that Iowans against Trump and/or the current GOP agenda weren’t more “creative” and “constructive” in voicing their displeasure. “If we don’t choose to take a stand directly outside or near the venue,” a reader said, “it will appear to the media and the rest of our community that there is no resistance. It will be presented as if all Iowans…
Read More
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
AAUW: Remarks as prepared for delivery

AAUW: Remarks as prepared for delivery

Speeches
I'm honored to be standing before a room filled with women whom I have long admired for their intelligence, generosity and resilience. And, yes, I know that I'm supposed to come up front and re-introduce myself, give those of you who don't know me a better understanding of what this event's organizers have gotten you into. ... I promise I will get to that in a minute. First, I need to make a confession. This speech is the latest of many I've written for tonight. I penned the first one months ago, the day after I agreed to speak. That was January, before the theme of this event was chosen, and days before the presidential inauguration. When I came back to those pages, I found them to be passionate -- oh my,…
Read More
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…
Read More
Cedar Rapids women discuss why they’ll march

Cedar Rapids women discuss why they’ll march

Gazette Column
Trio will be among thousands participating in Women's March on Washington Calling these three Cedar Rapids women who will be part of the Women’s March on Washington “precious snowflakes” is a waste of time. The “snowflake” moniker, derived from the 1996 novel “Fight Club” and typically used to describe college students perceived as over-protected and too easily offended, was widely co-opted by supporters of President-elect Donald Trump to describe and dismiss those who showed somber emotions or actively demonstrated in the wake of the presidential election. It’s been so frequently used on social media in connection to the women marching on Jan. 21 that it’s effectively shorthand for demonstration participants. But when I asked Marilyn Davenport, Denise Mineck and Velga Easker what they would say to those that attempt to…
Read More