The changing face of rural America

The changing face of rural America

Gazette Column
Young conference attendees hope to build more inclusive communities WASHINGTON, D.C. — Asked to create a mental image of the people most likely to participate in a national rural conference, few would imagine Kendall Bilbrey. And, actually, that’s the point. Bilbrey is originally from southwest Virginia, but now calls Whitesburg, Kentucky home, and serves as the coordinator of the Stay Together Appalachian Youth (STAY) Project. The organization hopes to create an environment in which young people are empowered to stay in or near their hometowns, and seeks to amplify the voices of those who currently feel marginalized. “Growing up in Appalachia, there are people constantly putting ideas on you about what you are — for instance, that everyone living in this rural region is poor,” Bilbrey told me at the…
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People, struggles get lost in transgender hype

People, struggles get lost in transgender hype

Gazette Column
Like many readers, I observed Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out party from afar. Unlike many of you, it wasn’t the first time I or those close to me grappled with a transgender announcement. Years before orange became the new black or Jazz Jennings uploaded her first YouTube video, our family was spending time at the home of one of my husband’s co-workers. It was typical friendship fare comprised of get-togethers, food and adult beverages. The relationship was, at least for my husband and me, something relatively new. Being very different people with very different interests, we’d each cultivated friendships, but the lines between “her friends” and “his friends” were well-defined. So, spending time with this other married couple and their children was a rare opportunity for us to visit “our friends.”…
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Let’s not forget the ladies

Let’s not forget the ladies

Gazette Column
Thanks to Schoolhouse Rock, I can no longer read the preamble to the Constitution. I must sing it. “We the People … in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” As a child, I was quite addicted to the various Schoolhouse Rock videos that aired on Saturday morning television. In fact, “Conjunction Junction” and “Three Is a Magic Number” can be found in my playlists. Still, it wasn’t until they were repackaged in the late 1990s that I realized some of their more subtle lessons. In the “Preamble” video there is a line…
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Keeping the ‘Faith In Iowa’

Keeping the ‘Faith In Iowa’

Gazette Column
Witosky, Hansen book offers clear view of marriage equality struggles and influence Civil rights vanguards aren’t immediately appreciated and are rarely comfortable. Iowans know this from experiences dating to the early 1800s, well before statehood. The first ruling of the Iowa Territory Supreme Court in 1838 said a slave could not be forced to return to a slave state after residing on our soil. At a time when women were considered legal property by most Americans, married and unmarried Iowa women legally owned property. And, a century before interracial marriages were nationally recognized, they were taking place in Iowa. The list goes on. From a ban on segregated schools 90 years before a similar national decision to a 1953 legislative refusal to take up a McCarthy-era demand for public employee…
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Iowa advocates push for police oversight, accountability

Iowa advocates push for police oversight, accountability

Gazette Column
This column would have been less difficult to write earlier in the week, before Baltimore was engulfed in flames. But it wouldn’t have been as important. On the surface, Bob Babcock and Felicia Jones have few similarities. Although they both are residents of the Quad Cities, they represent different generations. Babcock leans on a wealth of hard-earned life experience, and now is of the age when the past often intersects with and gives clarity to the present. Jones still is figuring out the world, testing how she fits and what type of difference she can make. On Saturday, April 25, the two stood together at Rock Island Township Hall, a computer presentation as their backdrop, leading a small but engaged group of Quad Cities residents through possible solutions to what…
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Max Villatoro closer to deportation

Max Villatoro closer to deportation

Gazette Column
An Iowa City pastor swept up in a federal initiative to arrest and expel migrant criminals from the country has been relocated to a detention facility in Louisiana, and is likely to be placed on plane later today and sent back to his birth country of Honduras. Max Villatoro, 41, was arrested by Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents on March 3. He and his wife, Gloria, founded Iglesia Torre Fuerte (First Mennonite Church) in Iowa City about five years ago. But, after entering the country illegally in 1995, the man known locally as Pastor Max had two skirmishes with the law — a drunk driving charge and aggravated misdemeanor related to the use of false documents to obtain a driver’s license in 1999. Villatoro completed probation and paid fines related…
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Ferguson, Iowa City more different than similar

Ferguson, Iowa City more different than similar

Gazette Column
Disproportionate contact is symptom of bias, not a diagnosis When officials in Ferguson, Mo. held a news conference to respond to scathing federal allegations of racism and a public safety system driven by profit, the police chief didn’t appear and the mayor entertained no questions. That visual alone should serve as a major clue the situation in the St. Louis suburb is quite different from concerns expressed in Iowa City and other local municipalities. Still, it is difficult not to dwell on the similarities. In its investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, the U.S. Department of Justice reported disproportionate law enforcement contact with African Americans: “Data collected by the Ferguson Police Department from 2012 to 2014 shows that African Americans account for 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of…
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