National monuments under fire

National monuments under fire

Featured, Gazette Column
Maybe, if the review of national monuments ordered by President Donald Trump directly targeted Effigy Mounds or the Herbert Hoover Historic Site, Iowans would be more interested. But a lack of Iowa sites isn’t reason to be complacent. If the Trump administration chooses to shrink or abolish a national monument, and earns court approval for doing so, precedent will be set, placing the fate of all national monuments in jeopardy. The reviews, being conducted primarily by the U.S. Department of the Interior and its new secretary, Ryan Zinke, are the result of an April executive order that questions the legitimacy of recent designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906. That’s the law that established the nation’s first historic preservation policy, intended to protect artifacts from would-be looters or vandals. It gives the…
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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…
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Health care failure is bipartisan

Health care failure is bipartisan

Gazette Column
“Think of it as a starter house,” former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said in 2010 of the newly minted (and already dented) Affordable Care Act. His meaning, if it isn’t clear, was that the ACA, or Obamacare, never was intended to be stagnant. It was what the Democratic majority had the political will to pass, a product of compromise and, therefore, fell short of many party members’ aspirations. Flip the partisan majority, fast forward to 2017, and the similarities are obvious. In the weeks ahead we’ll learn if Republicans have the political will to compromise. Perhaps more important, if the goal is to stabilize health care, we’ll discover if Democrats can better stomach massive renovations or full demolition. And, yes, those are the remaining options. Harkin’s starter home, too cheaply…
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Rod Blum’s town hall vetting stinks

Rod Blum’s town hall vetting stinks

Gazette Column
If you happen to have a spare cup of courage lying around, please pass it to U.S. Rep. Rod Blum. Blum has agreed to four in-person meetings at public places in Iowa’s 1st District during the May recess. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he and his staff are busy redefining “public” by instituting unnecessary roadblocks for those who want to hear from and speak directly to one of the four men who represent Iowa in the U.S. House. Those who hope to attend are required to let the Congressman’s office know ahead of time. The registration process through Eventbrite requires submission of the applicant’s full name, email address and physical address. Upon arrival, Blum’s newly activated personal Stasi will be posted at the door to demand…
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Rural health programs face September deadline

Rural health programs face September deadline

Gazette Column
No doubt you’ve heard about the Women’s March and the March for Science. Let me tell you why more than 1,000 doctors marched on Washington earlier this month. Physicians and medical students converged on Capitol Hill to advocate for continued funding of teaching health centers, which offer medical residency programs in community settings. It’s one of the programs under the umbrella of the $7.2 billion Community Health Centers Fund, slated to end Sept. 30 unless Congress takes action. The combined programs support local access to medical care for thousands of Iowans and millions of Americans. They're especially vital for rural health. Teaching health centers — one of which is located in Des Moines — provide medical residency programs in community settings. Residents are trained in family and internal medicine, pediatrics,…
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How much can your city afford?

How much can your city afford?

Gazette Column
State lawmakers are putting your city between a rock and a hard place. Either way, you’ll pay. Senate File 481, which targets so-called “sanctuary” communities, was revived this week, earning a mostly party line vote (32-15) in the Iowa Senate. If the bill becomes law, every law enforcement agency in the state will be required to honor any and all verbal or written immigration detainer requests from the federal government. Further, every agency across the state will need to develop written policies by the start of next year to detail how their local officers will take on the added responsibilities of federal immigration law. Agencies and local governments that do not fulfill these mandates will be subject to civil lawsuits that can be initiated by anyone, including federal government agencies…
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Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Gazette Blog
As much as I need to stop thinking about the Washington Post story on Social Security disability benefits reprinted in The Gazette on Sunday, I’m having trouble letting it go. As the youngest child of elderly parents — my mother went to the doctor for concerns about menopause only to discover she was pregnant with me — I grew up on Social Security dependent benefits. So, in addition to my parents’ Social Security retirement checks, our family received a little more than $200 each month earmarked for me. In order to better make ends meet, my father and mother worked odd jobs. Until bone cancer made it impossible, my mother took in sewing projects. My dad mowed lawns and did handyman or mechanic work when he could find it. During…
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Iowa HIV plan could help rural areas

Iowa HIV plan could help rural areas

Gazette Column
Comprehensive planning and data stockpiling by state officials is now a national case study on how to effectively meet the needs of rural residents with HIV. The details are part of a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Improving Health Outcomes Through Data Utilization,” which highlights six regional initiatives under the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Work by the Iowa Department of Public Health, which receives a Part B grant through the Ryan White program, is Chapter One. The prominent placement is partly because Iowa is unusual in the world of HIV/AIDS outreach and care services. That is, about a third of state residents living with HIV/AIDS aren’t in urban areas. They’re scattered throughout the state, many in distinctly rural communities. These individuals often feel stigma regarding…
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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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Last-minute public schedules benefit no one

Last-minute public schedules benefit no one

Gazette Column
Are we witnessing the final throes of the “full Grassley” era? Some readers may remember the Congressional recess in the summer of 2009. As a reporter, I covered then Congressman Bruce Braley’s town hall forums, which were overrun with concerns about the Affordable Care Act. The reports I and other journalists filed about those meetings were peppered with words like “feisty,” “lively” and “contentious,” but still fell short of conveying the level of combativeness on display. Constituents got in each other’s faces as well as those of their representatives. A few cried. Some brandished signs. Others yelled. Nearly everyone arrived with an agenda, and a willingness to fight. That was the summer when U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, speaking at a forum in Winterset, made his infamous “pull the plug on…
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