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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Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Gazette Column
Have casual conversations with Iowans and a pattern emerges of the ways the national 2016 election narrative did and did not apply to the Statehouse. Since November I’ve been quietly talking to people around Iowa. I’ve reached out to farmers and small town residents I met during research on rural communities, as well as urban dwellers I met through discussions on public transit and affordable housing. As a general rule these aren’t folks who’d be labeled as political activists. That is, they vote, but don’t shake signs outside Congressional offices or hold court with the county central committee. They live in the present, focused on taking their kids to activities, worried about their mortgage and expending energy on careers or higher education. Nearly all political nuance is lost on them.…
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GOP bills give ‘Big Gov’ a hug

GOP bills give ‘Big Gov’ a hug

Gazette Column
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice John Forrest Dillon is looking down — perhaps from atop the pillar of his namesake fountain in Davenport — reading proposals by the Republican-controlled Legislature and smiling. Justice Dillon, for readers unaware, is credited with Dillon’s Rule: “Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so may it destroy. If it may destroy, it may abridge and control. ” Dillon served on the Iowa high court from 1864 to 1869; the rule named after him is derived from two 1868 opinions. In Iowa, Dillon’s Rule was shelved in 1968, when the state constitution was amended to grant cities home rule. Additional…
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In turbulent times, Des Moines’ Roosevelt gets it right again

In turbulent times, Des Moines’ Roosevelt gets it right again

Gazette Column
Fairness isn’t owned by any political party, which sometimes trips up adults who aim to keep their political footing firmly on the side of justice. Those who often find themselves straddling divergent political views could learn a lot from Roosevelt High School in Des Moines. The school is in the news again, this time for a message from Principal Kevin Biggs. Delivered via the school intercom and shared with parents via email, the message came on the heels of President Donald Trump’s executive order to prohibit immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States at least for now. “To all of our students who are immigrants or refugees — and to their friends and classmates and teachers who are also concerned because of these recent events —…
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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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Innovate funding for better refugee, immigrant integration

Innovate funding for better refugee, immigrant integration

Gazette Column
One of the biggest hurdles facing immigrants and refugees is integration into existing communities. And while there are innovative ideas about how to ease the transition, existing funding streams are rarely flexible enough to put them into practice. Dr. Ann Valentine, executive dean of Kirkwood Community College’s Iowa City campus, says identifying needs isn’t difficult and, since several organizations and institutions are combating similar issues, collaborative programming can be a natural fit. The issue, she told residents gathered in Iowa City on Wednesday for a Johnson County discussion on assistance for refugees, is that funding for educational services exists in traditional, narrow silos. That is a growing problem, especially in Johnson County. For instance, in 2009, Kirkwood’s Iowa City campus had 37 English-as-a-Second-Language credit students. Now there are 270. Although…
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On the road to Philly: Gillian Popenuck

On the road to Philly: Gillian Popenuck

Gazette Column
Political Revolution exists beyond candidate, convention Gillian Frances Popenuck didn’t know she was being prophetic when she told Bernie Sanders, “See you in Philly.” The two met after a rally where Popenuck was chosen to introduce the candidate. “We had some time together backstage,” Popenuck said. “This was before the caucus in Iowa, so he had no idea how well he was going to do. He told me, ‘Whatever happens to me, you got to keep continuing to fight.’ And I told him, ‘I’ll see you in Philly.’ It was just one of those one-off things that you say. But he looked at me very sincerely and said, ‘Yes. You will.’” Three months later, the 30-year-old Burlington mom of two was elected during the 2nd District Convention as a delegate…
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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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Recovery slow for Congolese immigrants

Recovery slow for Congolese immigrants

Gazette Column
Caring for dead, injured depleting community's resources They had only been in the United States for a few weeks when an encounter with a patch of ice in the early morning hours of Feb. 4 changed everything. Nancy Lusemo, Serge Baketela and Mirielle Mbambi were three of nine people carpooling in a minivan and on their way to work in Tama when the vehicle lost control on the ice. They survived, which should make them the “lucky” ones, but the moniker smacks of indecency. Three were transported to area hospitals and released relatively quickly. Three others — Michka Kebeya, Platini Namputu and Dickson Mandiki — died in the four-vehicle crash. Kebeya was Lusemo’s husband. The couple and their five-year-old son had only been in Iowa about two months. All of…
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