#Road2Philly: Yes, I’ll be celebrating

#Road2Philly: Yes, I’ll be celebrating

Gazette Column
Being an observer to Hillary Clinton’s expected presidential nomination means a lot to me. Here’s why. At one of our recent Pints & Politics events, I was discussing how, beyond the political horserace and never-ending public policy debate, being at a convention where, presumably, a major American political party would nominate a women as president for the first time in history was significant, when Iowa Public Radio host Ben Keiffer interrupted to ask if felt the same about Joni Ernst breaking Iowa’s congressional glass ceiling. The question caught me off guard, not because I couldn’t answer it, but because I hold a great deal of respect for Ben as well as for James Q. Lynch and Todd Dorman, who share the Pints & Politics stage with me. I needed a…
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On the road to Philly: Michelle Magyar

On the road to Philly: Michelle Magyar

Gazette Column
Attending DNC brings Iowa business owner full circle Davenport business woman Michelle Magyar grew up in a row house on Philadelphia’s south side. Most days that piece of personal history isn’t a big factor in her life. Eastern Iowa — home to friends and family, her Hawkeye alma mater and the recently expanded and highly successful family business she manages — is where her heart is. Through community organizing efforts that led to the founding of Citizens United for Responsible Vision, Magyar has made an indelible mark on this community. The group co-led by Magyar not only successfully defeated a $48 million bond proposal, but also sued the city and won and flipped the whole of local government with a slate of candidates. The actions brought about change she believes…
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On the road to Philly: Pasquale Luz

On the road to Philly: Pasquale Luz

Gazette Column
One man proudly representing generations of immigrants Family photos tell the story of just how many of Pasquale Luz’s 24 years have been spent in politics as well as how important it has been for his family, descendants of immigrants, to let their voices be heard. Currently a resident of Dubuque, Luz grew up in Chicago where his mother, grandmothers and aunt were very involved with the National Organization for Women. “As far as I can remember, I’ve always been involved and attending political rallies,” Luz said. “My mom has a picture of us marching on Washington, D.C. before I could actually march. I was carried along the route.” When he was older, Luz worked on political campaigns and for the local Democratic Party going door-to-door and making phone calls.…
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Grassley’s gamble isn’t paying off

Grassley’s gamble isn’t paying off

Gazette Column
Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator is holding firm on his promise to not vet any Supreme Court nominee offered by the White House, but the gambit isn’t producing political returns. News on Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court split on a critical immigration case wasn’t welcomed by the Obama administration. The tie effectively continues a lower court’s decision to halt President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (DAPA), which, in the interest of preserving families, prohibited deportation of the undocumented parents of legal resident children. It was a legal defeat, although a much lesser one than was expected before the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. And, it is quite possible that it wouldn’t have been a defeat at all if Obama’s replacement choice, Merrick…
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Democrats bending under 2016’s reborn PUMA wave

Democrats bending under 2016’s reborn PUMA wave

Gazette Column
The only thing missing from this month’s meeting of the Linn County Democratic Central Committee were PUMA buttons. Although the acronym was officially registered as “People United Means Action,” most remember it as the more colloquial and inflammatory “Party Unity My Ass.” PUMAs were 2008 Democrats who adamantly supported Hillary Clinton, and protested Barack Obama because he “was selected by party leadership and not the people.” Some place, however, there must be a few PUMAs tipping back a pint and laughing — or alternately chewing Alka-Seltzer tablets like candy. Their spirit lives on. PUMAs saw the nomination process as “unfair and biased” and “flawed beyond belief.” Party leaders and the media, they said, were intent on making “the convention into a coronation.” So PUMAs demanded Clinton’s name be placed into…
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Party platform influence is poor concession

Party platform influence is poor concession

Gazette Column
Word is that Democratic officials are hoping to heal the rift between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters. It’s a good goal, even if the action behind the intent points to a questionable start. An agreement allowed Sanders to select five people to serve on the party’s platform committee at the national convention in Philadelphia this July, which is roughly one-third of total membership. Clinton selected six including committee leadership, giving her campaign a controlling interest, and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who leads the Democratic National Committee, named the remaining four. This is a deviation. Previously and typically the DNC head names the entire slate, presumably with the blessing of the presumptive or actual presidential nominee. Since Sanders and his supporters have worried their policy proposals, especially those in…
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Time for Iowa Democrats to clean house

Time for Iowa Democrats to clean house

Gazette Column
Nearly two years ago Iowa Republicans made changes to protect the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Iowa Democrats must now do the same. Republican corrections were a public and painful affair. Following 2012 caucus tally mishaps, members of the “liberty movement” staged and executed a plan that had 22 of Iowa’s 28 national delegates supporting Ron Paul as the GOP nominee. Paul supporters also took key state roles, claiming seven of 18 seats on the Republican State Central Committee, under the leadership of movement member A.J. Spiker. Infighting began. Some potential presidential candidates were wary of the party’s ability to provide a level playing field. Within two years Spiker and his allies were removed. The party rebuilt trust and pulled the caucuses back from the brink of political irrelevance. Let’s hope, four years…
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2016 Iowa caucus is no rural friend

2016 Iowa caucus is no rural friend

Gazette Column
Thank goodness it’s nearly time to pitch the hay bales back in the barn. Presidential candidates — declared and exploring — have been milling about Iowa for more than a year. They’ve tucked celebrities and national figures into their suitcases, unpacking them alongside talking points in cities and towns from Rock Rapids to Keosauqua. They’ve posed on our farms, sat at our kitchen tables and strolled the midway at the fair. But, with the exception of ethanol, few bothered to discuss agriculture, much less ongoing and worsening challenges in rural communities. To be fair, school transportation budgets, child poverty, broadband access, land values, post office closures, food safety, water quality, workforce challenges and the like aren’t sexy topics. They are nuanced and difficult. Threats of carpet-bombing or promises of wall…
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A ‘rock star’ caucus won’t serve rural America

A ‘rock star’ caucus won’t serve rural America

Gazette Column
If rumors are believed, this is the day Iowa Democrats have either been wanting or dreading: Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her entry into the 2016 presidential contest. The past few weeks have seen the official entry of Republicans Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, also to mixed emotions from the GOP faithful. Unfortunately, my concerns following the 2008 and 2012 contests are growing. I’m not convinced the new normal of Iowa caucus life as a string of mega-events, requiring tickets for entry and little time for truly critical audience participation allow for an adequate airing or thoughtful discussion on the complex issues surrounding rural communities. Campaign stops and events surged to unprecedented proportions in the 2008 contests. During his first trip into Iowa following a 2007 announcement, for instance,…
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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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