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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Little, if any, local impact from Trump immigration orders

Little, if any, local impact from Trump immigration orders

Gazette Column
Immigration reforms as outlined in two of President Donald Trump’s executive orders don’t change much for American cities and counties — yet. I took a deep dive into two executive orders signed this week. The first, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, relates primarily to development and construction of a wall along the southern border. The second, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, discusses how the federal government will interact with local jurisdictions. [caption id="attachment_405" align="alignleft" width="640"] Danielle Frank holds a sign as demonstrators gather at Washington Square Park to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump in New York, U.S., January 25, 2017. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)[/caption] I read and researched both documents with eye toward how they could impact Iowa jurisdictions labeled as “sanctuaries” due to the…
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‘Sanctuary’ label or not, Iowa City right to listen to its own

‘Sanctuary’ label or not, Iowa City right to listen to its own

Featured, Gazette Column
Members of the Iowa City Council deserve praise for weathering a barrage of politically-motivated ugly comments and threats from people in surrounding areas as they explore policy questions raised by local residents. Shortly after Mayor Jim Throgmorton was prompted to include discussion about Iowa City becoming a “sanctuary city” on Tuesday night’s work session agenda, a statewide conservative advocacy and action group led by Jimmy Centers initiated a robocall. Centers, previously a part of Gov. Branstad’s administration, urged supporters to let their voice be heard by attending the work session or contacting Iowa City officials. More than 100 recipients of the call took advantage of its automatic forwarding to connect with city hall. About half that number emailed the city. “I do not want Iowa City to become a sanctuary…
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In 2016, rural areas roared

In 2016, rural areas roared

Gazette Column
While it’s possible to look back on 2016 as a single year, doing so doesn’t provide clarity. The past year was a culmination of a decades-long and ever widening urban-rural chasm. To hear the national media tell it, the big news was the presidential election. But November was merely the coup de grace, a death blow to end ongoing suffering. I began my career in journalism in the late 1980s. Those were perhaps the final heydays of community journalism — local papers, run by local families. The next decade was marked by large news corporations gobbling up smaller dailies and weeklies. Each incarnation brought more cost-effective management by new parent companies, and fewer local jobs. Local presses stood still. Circulation and ad sales were centralized. Newsrooms emptied. Vertical integration of…
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Chuck Grassley sets stage for AG Sessions

Chuck Grassley sets stage for AG Sessions

Gazette Column
First order of business, attack orgs that serve women, science As the nation prepares for its next transition of power, it appears everything old and discredited is new again. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is calling for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice to investigate four Planned Parenthood affiliates in California, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and three privately-held California medical research companies regarding their work with fetal tissues. The Judiciary Committee began its review after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released a series of highly edited video clips in 2015. The clips were presented to the public as proof Planned Parenthood profited from the illegal sale of tissues. Two of the people who created and released the video clips were…
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White House Housing Toolkit a good start

White House Housing Toolkit a good start

Gazette Column
Have outdated and onerous zoning ordinances and environmental protections stifled housing development and local economies? A new federal report says they have, contributing to issues such as income inequality, gentrification, strained safety nets, commute lengths, racial segregation and homelessness. The past few days have been nearly overwhelming. We survived (and at least partially mitigated) another historic flood, did our best to absorb this election season’s first presidential debate, and remain in mourning for the latest young life claimed by senseless gun violence. It’s little wonder a new housing report didn’t spawn big, local headlines. [caption id="attachment_150" align="alignright" width="640"] (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)[/caption] Yet this White House produced “toolkit” offers a road map not only for the housing-strapped California coast, but for Midwestern cities like Iowa City and Cedar Rapids as they…
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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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More cheesy government bailouts

More cheesy government bailouts

Gazette Column
Hoping to bolster dairy farmers once again facing steep price declines, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will spend $20 million to purchase 11 million pounds of cheese. The deal was much smaller than the $50 million requested by the American Farm Bureau Federation, or the $100 to $150 million requested by the National Milk Producers Federation, but that didn’t stop anti-tax groups from speaking out. “It’s yet another example of USDA caving to demands of an agricultural special interest wanting taxpayers to foot the bill for lower-than-desired prices,” Joshua Sewell, senior policy analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense, said. But the reality is that not all American dairy farmers have done this to themselves, and $20 million isn’t enough to stave off continued culling of family dairy farms.…
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Congress takes aim at school lunch

Congress takes aim at school lunch

Gazette Column
If Congress continues on its current path, students will be eating less healthy, and less often. Republicans in the U.S. House are advancing a bill to alter the Child Nutrition and Education Act. The changes, proposed by Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., would waive nutritional standards and raise the amount of poverty needed in a school before free meals are provided to students. The bill significantly weakens the Community Eligibility Provision that reduces administrative burdens and increases school lunch and breakfast access in high-poverty schools. Under existing law, schools can offer free meals to all students if at least 40 percent receive certain other types of government assistance. This is because when 40 percent of students are actively involved in assistance programs, an estimated two-thirds of students would qualify for free…
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HUD ex-offender housing rule a smart move

HUD ex-offender housing rule a smart move

Gazette Column
America should be a country of second chances. This should be a nation in which each individual is judged on his or her own actions and merits. We don’t need to blindly trust, but we must step away from stereotypes that keep certain segments of the population from reaching their full potential, or bouncing back from past mistakes. This week the nation took a significant step toward that a goal when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released new guidelines for housing providers. Instead of universally and automatically banning anyone with a criminal record from renting or purchasing a property, landlords must now consider each individual’s specific circumstance. Landlords of federally-subsidized housing or in the private rental market who use blanket bans of potential clients with criminal records…
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