Donald Trump puts the ‘bully’ in bully pulpit

Donald Trump puts the ‘bully’ in bully pulpit

Gazette Column
The Trump administration has rescinded Obama-era guidance for public schools that promoted use of bathrooms based on student gender identity. In a joint letter, officials within the justice and education departments rejected the previous administration’s position that non-discrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. Under Title IX, schools that receive federal funding are not allowed to discriminate against students on the basis of sex. Obama justice and education departments, as well as numerous civil rights watchdogs, said long-standing Title IX protections encompassed gender identity. [caption id="attachment_497" align="alignleft" width="300"] A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access is seen in the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)[/caption] And while the…
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GOP bills give ‘Big Gov’ a hug

GOP bills give ‘Big Gov’ a hug

Gazette Column
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice John Forrest Dillon is looking down — perhaps from atop the pillar of his namesake fountain in Davenport — reading proposals by the Republican-controlled Legislature and smiling. Justice Dillon, for readers unaware, is credited with Dillon’s Rule: “Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so may it destroy. If it may destroy, it may abridge and control. ” Dillon served on the Iowa high court from 1864 to 1869; the rule named after him is derived from two 1868 opinions. In Iowa, Dillon’s Rule was shelved in 1968, when the state constitution was amended to grant cities home rule. Additional…
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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…
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Still a lot of work to do

Still a lot of work to do

Gazette Column
Throughout the community one question seems to dominate personal interaction: “How are you feeling?” I’ve been asked by people I see each day and those I only have occasional opportunity to speak with. Convenience store clerks, local members of the clergy, co-workers, neighbors, transit riders and drivers and community activists of all stripes are curious, some perhaps morbidly so, on my and their other neighbors’ state of mind. So, how are you feeling in these first post-election days? I am, of course, disappointed that the nation has not finally elected a woman to its highest office. I’m especially concerned by the years of misinformation and sexism that led to undeserved backlash against Hillary Clinton, and a campaign with an overall anti-women tone. More than shock at Donald Trump’s public disrespect…
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Iowa families need more than platitudes, campaign rhetoric

Iowa families need more than platitudes, campaign rhetoric

Gazette Column
Some Iowa lawmakers and elected officials gathered on the steps of the Capital this week to be disingenuous. [caption id="attachment_156" align="alignright" width="640"] The State Capitol Building in Des Moines. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)[/caption] It’s difficult to find good news in this election cycle, but this past week offered an exception. Both Democratic and Republican presidential nominees have rolled out their proposals for paid family medical leave. I’ll leave it to readers to research the ins-and-outs of the proposals by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The big news is the conversation about family medical leave is in the headlines again, and that’s due in large part to the number of women who have advocated on behalf of this issue. It’s good that we are talking, because this is an issue that’s been…
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Viola Gibson’s legacy lives through us

Viola Gibson’s legacy lives through us

Gazette Column
Visiting Oak Hill Cemetery was necessary this week so that my daughter and I could pay respects to one of the newest inductees into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. Four Iowa women will join the Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Des Moines next weekend. Only one is from the Cedar Rapids area and, unfortunately for us all, she died in 1989. Nonetheless, because of her work on civil rights and passion to make this a more equitable community, Viola Gibson remains a nearly household name. My husband is a local, a graduate of Kennedy High School (Go Cougars!), but I didn’t meet him and move into Iowa in time to know Viola Gibson personally. It wasn’t until 2000 or 2001, when the Cedar Rapids Community School District…
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DeCosters’ jail sentences justified

DeCosters’ jail sentences justified

Gazette Column
If you believe a massive 2010 Salmonella outbreak linked to Iowa eggs was the result of a few rogue workers, you haven’t been paying attention. Executives behind the outbreak — Austin “Jack” DeCoster, owner of Quality Egg, and his son, Peter, chief operating officer — received more bad news this week. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled executives can be sentenced to prison when their companies violate federal food-safety laws. It couldn’t have happened to two more deserving executives. The DeCosters pleaded guilty last year to violating the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. Both Jack and Peter were sentenced to serve three months in prison and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine. The outbreak is believed to have sickened tens of thousands, and led to the…
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Justice reform? Don’t forget public defenders

Justice reform? Don’t forget public defenders

Gazette Column
Lost in U.S. Supreme Court finger-pointing debacles this week was a legal anniversary that reminds us justice is a process. On March 18, 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court declared the right to counsel fundamental to fairness. That decision, Gideon v. Wainwright, led to the establishment of public defense systems across the nation. The case involved a homeless Florida man, Clarence Gideon. He’d been accused of breaking into a pool hall, and insisted he couldn’t afford an attorney. Florida law at the time required court-appointed representation only for the indigent who faced capital charges. It was Gideon’s post-conviction appeal that made it’s way before the Supreme Court and ultimately broadened 14th Amendment Due Process to include state felony defendants unable to pay for legal assistance. After the decision, Gideon was provided…
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Marion should maintain housing discrimination high ground

Marion should maintain housing discrimination high ground

Gazette Column
There are economic advantages to keeping municipal ordinances aligned throughout a metropolitan area, but such benefits should never outweigh protections against discrimination. Area landlords, speaking during a public comment period at the March 3 Marion City Council meeting, advocated for eliminating a piece of the rules governing the community’s relatively new Civil Rights Commission. It’s a battle the same landlords fought and won five years ago in Cedar Rapids, and it appears that past success is a key reason for wanting changes to the four-year-old Marion rules. Garry Grimm, a Cedar Rapids resident and landlord in both Cedar Rapids and Marion, told council members that there’s a difference in how he promotes properties and screens prospective tenants in the two communities. “For Cedar Rapids properties, if they call and ask…
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Weren’t we discussing fetal tissue?

Weren’t we discussing fetal tissue?

Gazette Column
How did we move from supposed outrage about undercover videos regarding the use of fetal tissue in medical research, to proposed legislation and Congressional hearings to discredit and defund a single women’s health care organization? In 1993, an overwhelming majority of Congress, including the Iowans serving there, agreed using fetal tissue for research was acceptable, and established a law by which organizations like hospitals and abortion clinics could be reimbursed for associated costs. It wasn’t the first time ethics surrounding use of spontaneously or electively aborted fetuses for such purposes was discussed. The conversation has been ongoing since the early 1930s, but reached a fevered pitch after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe decision. In the 1950s, fetal kidney tissue was used to create the first polio vaccine, leading to a…
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