Goodbye, Sunshine

Goodbye, Sunshine

Gazette Column
Hillary Clinton, CR Schools provide murky bookends Few times in history has a time period devoted to awareness of a cause been bookended by two high-profile examples. Yet, that is exactly the case for this year’s Sunshine Week observance. Hillary Clinton’s private email server provided a kickoff gift to the 2015 observance that was simultaneously welcomed (for its ability to raise awareness) and abhorred (for its overt distain of the basic principle of open government). And, even as that national debate raged, Eastern Iowa residents were provided a close-up example of a public body operating in darkness. On Wednesday, the Cedar Rapids Community School District announced Brad Buck, currently the director of the Iowa Department of Education, as its next superintendent. The announcement followed a three-month, closed door search and…
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All about that race (no trouble)

All about that race (no trouble)

Gazette Column
Decades ago, when our family came to Iowa, I found the Hawkeye State uncomfortable. Not only did our oldest daughter and I have twangy southern accents that had people asking us to repeat slowly drawled words and phrases — “High-Ah-Wah-Tha, Eye-Oh-Wah” was, in retrospect, one of the more accent-challenged place names for our first home — but it was strange to suddenly be surrounded mostly by people who outwardly looked a great deal like me. Growing up, I don’t remember any calls for diversity. But that’s probably because my hometown was an imperfect mix of cultures and skin tones. The situation was, of course, not to everyone’s liking. There were residents there, just as there are here, who chose to judge others on appearance. Fortunately, my family, led by my…
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Pew research important in diversity issue

Pew research important in diversity issue

Gazette Column
From an anecdotal standpoint, this is something many already felt. The Pew Research Center has released a new “Local News in a Digital Age” report based on their findings in three U.S. media markets — Denver, Colo., Macon, Ga. and Sioux City. While the entire report is worth the time you’ll spend with it, and perhaps even more compelling due to the Iowa connection, the section on diversity bolsters many ongoing local discussions as well as initiatives by advocacy organizations. Late last month, I published a column detailing inaugural diversity discussions in North Liberty. It was during the meeting that Chad Simmons, executive director of Diversity Focus, discussed what communities need in order to thrive. Specifically, he lamented a lack of local outlets for news and information that reach minority…
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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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