The view from stage right

The view from stage right

Gazette Column
Imagine the Iowa Straw Poll in its glory days. Now pretend that no one there really likes or trusts each other. Pump up the humidity and temperature to the consistency of a bowl of soup. Finally, multiply everything you just imagined by 100. That was the scene Wednesday as I crossed the U.S. Capitol Complex. A highly publicized Tea Party Patriots rally, led by presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and featuring former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was organized to oppose a nuclear diplomacy deal with Iran. Off the stage, a variety of issues were on display. Signs, T-shirts, hats and even lawn chairs offered messages regarding marriage, religious freedom, President Barack Obama, gun control, education, health care and assorted federal agencies. By the time the chorus of…
Read More
Pardon me for not rejoicing

Pardon me for not rejoicing

Gazette Column
Another day, another spitting match between Gov. Terry Branstad and a public employee union. The latest lawsuit was launched by AFSCME in response to Branstad’s shuttering of two of the state’s four mental health institutes. The union was joined in the Polk County filing by 20 state lawmakers. “Iowa law clearly states that the state of Iowa shall operate mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda,” said AFSCME President Danny Homan. “This was the law when the governor announced his decision to close these facilities. This was the law when the legislature passed, with bipartisan support, the funding to keep these facilities open. This was the law when he closed these two facilities. It still is the law today.” The entire situation could nearly be cut-and-pasted from the aftermath…
Read More
Our mental health system still has cracks

Our mental health system still has cracks

Gazette Column
We are not beyond stigmatizing health problems My sister-in-law, Susan, one of the strongest people I’ve ever met, couldn’t fight off a blood infection. She juggled not only my brother — a lifelong minister too often focused on lofty pursuits to be bogged down in the daily chores of living — but five children as well. We buried Susan a few weekends ago and it was, as you might expect, an emotional ceremony. At the same time Susan was in the hospital, another mother decided her life was no longer worth living. Beckie, who battled mental illness, first turned a rifle on her two adult sons before contacting a relative to say goodbye. By the time law enforcement was alerted and arrived at the rural home, all three were dead. The two…
Read More
Cohabitation of roundheels and biddies

Cohabitation of roundheels and biddies

Gazette Column
Hawkeye Martini: three measures of prune juice, one of vodka, half a measure of Metamucil Clear and Natural. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of the little blue pill. Got it? Variety, they say, is the spice of life, but I can’t be the only one having a difficult time reconciling Iowa City’s reputation as a party town with its latest distinction as top small city for successful aging. Hopefully, some entrepreneurial types soon will be cashing in on new and improved adult “party pants” and nutritional vapor. As for the fifty shades of grey’s anatomy, well, that’s actually the basis of the distinction. “With a top-notch health care system, a strong economy and low unemployment, Iowa City, home to the University of…
Read More
While you weren’t looking

While you weren’t looking

Gazette Column
Did you get distracted by Congressional Keystone XL discussions? While the U.S. Senate debated a bill approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline this week, and most major media outlets described how the outcome could impact the Louisiana runoff race for Sen. Mary Landrieu’s seat, members of the U.S. House were taking aim at the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board. House members passed H.R. 1422, the “EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2014,” which essentially invites the foxes to help protect the hen house. “… persons with substantial and relevant expertise are not excluded from the Board due to affiliation with or representation of entities that may have a potential interest in the Board’s advisory activities, so long as that interest is fully disclosed to the Administrator and the public …”…
Read More
Telemedicine case will find justice

Telemedicine case will find justice

Gazette Column
No matter our stance on controversy de jour, we can agree on the importance of an independent judiciary. No one wants to stand before a judge and wonder if his or her ruling is based on placement of a wet finger in the political winds. We understand all too well, after all, that politicians can be swayed in their mission of what’s in the best interest of society to a stance better summarized as doing right by their political party or a special interest group. The last thing we need or want is our court system to fall under political scrutiny; for each decision, verdict and sentencing to be viewed as some small battle on the path to a politically-motivated goal. This is exactly why the decision this week by…
Read More
Addressing the GOP gender gap

Addressing the GOP gender gap

Gazette Column
Labeling the GOP as the party of “old white men” reached new fervor in the wake of a report commissioned by two major Republican groups, which detailed the currently insurmountable gender gap faced by the party. The report, leaked by Politico, was the result of conversations with women across the country in the form of focus groups and polling. The bottom line? Overall, 49 percent of women view Republicans unfavorably. The contents of the report aren’t necessarily shocking. Republican strategists have known for years that women and ethnic minorities are trending away. The report sums this up, according to Politico, as Republicans “fail[ing] to speak to women in the different circumstances in which they live.” That’s a nice way of saying most women believe the GOP lacks understanding and is out…
Read More
More IJH rush jobs won’t serve Iowans or at-risk youth

More IJH rush jobs won’t serve Iowans or at-risk youth

Gazette Column
About midway through May, a moving van and trailer arrived at Toledo’s now shuttered Iowa Juvenile Home. According to the Iowa Department of Human Services, furniture, appliances (including older computers) and records were removed from the site and relocated to other state-run facilities. Area residents and former facility workers who had purchased flags in honor of loved ones or donated to the Iowa Juvenile Home Foundation to provide specialized materials for the school library, worried these items and other historical artifacts had been removed from the site. A DHS spokeswoman says while the future of these items are discussed, they remain at the Toledo facility. But the move, hit-and-miss property upkeep and near constant presence of highway patrol officers in the parking lot have done little to alleviate the worry…
Read More
Prison alternatives needed for mentally ill

Prison alternatives needed for mentally ill

Gazette Column
Saturday’s column provided a closer look at a Johnson County criminal case involving a 29-year-old man on the autism spectrum who is facing 45 years in prison for crimes related to his obsession with a former girlfriend. When the man is sentenced to prison later this month — and there is little reason to believe he will not be sent to prison — he will join the ranks of some 8,000 Iowans who live behind bars. Of those inmates, according to the latest annual report by the Department of Corrections, about 47 percent have a mental health diagnosis for a chronic condition. Within that percentage are seven other individuals who share the Johnson County man’s diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome. While the most common diagnosis among inmates is substance abuse disorders and depression, the report…
Read More