More than words at open mic night

More than words at open mic night

Gazette Column
It is not easy to battle inner demons, even when they block something important. What should make the process easier, however, is knowing that each time we choose to rise above our fears, we elevate those observing. This week, for instance, I was reminded of the necessity — and reward — of standing in the spotlight, heart exposed. Life is best lived out loud. The lesson came from a group of teens — participants in the Iowa Youth Writing Project, Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and Between the Lines. A few weeks ago an Iowa City reader forwarded an event announcement. The note was a single paragraph with scant context. Teens from summer writing camps would perform original pieces during an open mic night at the High Ground Cafe. I’d like…
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Deportee, son discuss separation on Father’s Day

Deportee, son discuss separation on Father’s Day

Gazette Column
Iowa City pastor was deported to Honduras in March The connection left a lot to be desired. But, actually, that was the point. Pastor Max Villatoro and his son, Anthony, reunited in a public setting this week to discuss their first Father’s Day apart. The Villatoro family has been separated since the man known simply as Pastor Max was arrested in Iowa City as part of a federal immigration sting and deported to Honduras in March. Father and son were brought together with the help of technology on Thursday as part of a webcast by advocacy group America’s Voice. In so many ways, it was a heartbreaking reunion to hear and watch. [caption id="attachment_1082" align="alignleft" width="300"] Pastor Max Villatoro, a former resident of Iowa City who was deported to Honduras…
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Larger issues hidden in Chauncey’s shadow

Larger issues hidden in Chauncey’s shadow

Gazette Column
When a city or region grows, change is inevitable ­— and often painful. Iowa City’s growing pains have most recently been displayed as part of discussions on development of the northeast corner of College and Gilbert streets. On Tuesday night, I listened as a final set of residents sounded off on a proposal to rezone the property — the latest speed bump on the path to construction of the Chauncey, a 15-story, mixed-use high-rise. Nothing new emerged. Those opposed to the Chauncey development remain concerned about traffic, parking, use of taxpayer funds, affordable housing and, of course, the shadows cast by another lofty building. Proponents wrapped their comments around praise for past projects by developer Marc Moen and the need for a “vibrant downtown.” It was another opportunity for residents…
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‘Looker’ offers peek into women’s realities, seeks empowerment

‘Looker’ offers peek into women’s realities, seeks empowerment

Gazette Column
There are certain things women seem to just know. Walk with a buddy. Park under a streetlight. Pretend it’s a compliment. Never leave a drink unattended. Keys can double as makeshift weapons. Despite not being part of school curriculum or “the talk,” such knowledge spans the boundaries of political persuasion, affluency and ethnicity. It’s passed from mother to daughter, sister to sister and friend to friend. Tonight, May 9, this phenomena and more will be on display at Public Space One in Iowa City in conjunction with a community forum. “Looker” is a collaborative project by artists Taylor Yocom and KT Hawbaker-Krohn. Representatives of several area organizations will be hand for the forum, which will explore “the crevices between feminism and art, vulnerability and power.” [caption id="attachment_1134" align="alignleft" width="350"] A…
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Lack of openness led to ‘Save Iowa History’

Lack of openness led to ‘Save Iowa History’

Gazette Column
In politics, the truth is too often drowned out by perceptions, and such perceptions are driven by a lack of transparency. Like most of you, I’ve been watching the dust-up over changes at the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and especially how those changes will impact the State Historical Society of Iowa in both the Des Moines and Iowa City locations. What I’ve learned can be boiled down to perceptions. Before I began writing this column I went searching for the meeting minutes of the Iowa Arts Council and the Iowa Cultural Trust board of directors. Outside of three limited documents from 2013, the minutes were not available via the Internet. I’ve requested the documents along with their attachments from DCA staff, and fully expect that I’ll receive them. But…
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Max Villatoro closer to deportation

Max Villatoro closer to deportation

Gazette Column
An Iowa City pastor swept up in a federal initiative to arrest and expel migrant criminals from the country has been relocated to a detention facility in Louisiana, and is likely to be placed on plane later today and sent back to his birth country of Honduras. Max Villatoro, 41, was arrested by Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents on March 3. He and his wife, Gloria, founded Iglesia Torre Fuerte (First Mennonite Church) in Iowa City about five years ago. But, after entering the country illegally in 1995, the man known locally as Pastor Max had two skirmishes with the law — a drunk driving charge and aggravated misdemeanor related to the use of false documents to obtain a driver’s license in 1999. Villatoro completed probation and paid fines related…
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Max Villatoro not ‘worst of the worst’

Max Villatoro not ‘worst of the worst’

Gazette Column
Arrest of Iowa City pastor indicative of immigration enforcement woes If actions taken by the federal government are of any consequence, we should all be feeling a little more safe this week. As part of its ongoing “Operation Cross Check,” the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced the arrest of nearly 2,100 people with criminal records. The activity was part of a five-day nationwide initiative in which federal law enforcement agents targeted individuals with criminal records. “These are the worst of the worst criminals,” said Sarah Saldana, director of ICE. “These are not people we want in our neighborhoods.” ICE provided a list of four detained individuals as an example. A Jamaican living in Georgia was previously convicted on several charges including larceny and assault with a deadly weapon. A…
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Ferguson, Iowa City more different than similar

Ferguson, Iowa City more different than similar

Gazette Column
Disproportionate contact is symptom of bias, not a diagnosis When officials in Ferguson, Mo. held a news conference to respond to scathing federal allegations of racism and a public safety system driven by profit, the police chief didn’t appear and the mayor entertained no questions. That visual alone should serve as a major clue the situation in the St. Louis suburb is quite different from concerns expressed in Iowa City and other local municipalities. Still, it is difficult not to dwell on the similarities. In its investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, the U.S. Department of Justice reported disproportionate law enforcement contact with African Americans: “Data collected by the Ferguson Police Department from 2012 to 2014 shows that African Americans account for 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of…
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The caucus countdown

The caucus countdown

Gazette Column
It is probably what most people think of — or at least what most people thought of eight years ago — when they consider the Iowa caucus. A handful of people are gathered around a conference table at the local library. There are a few handouts on the table top, flanked by packages of cookies. Hopes and concerns about the future of the country are on display, but the real tension in the room centers around speculation of a presumptive Democratic nominee and how such a situation could chill certain discussions in the Hawkeye State and beyond. “A lot of people are really eager to avoid a coronation of Hillary (Clinton) or another (Ralph) Nader fiasco,” said Jeffrey Cox, who actively has been gathering signatures to persuade Sen. Bernie Sanders,…
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Bring on the Herkys to rally Iowans

Bring on the Herkys to rally Iowans

Gazette Column
If asked to list the greatest moments of community unity in our nation’s or even our state’s history, recent disasters would probably fill the top 10. It’s difficult to look beyond “Boston Strong,” the upcoming 25th anniversary of the crash of Flight 232 in Sioux City or the cleanup of the 2008 floods in Eastern Iowa when asked for examples of human collaboration. Perhaps this is because it is in those moments, when everything seems at its worst, we most need to concentrate on what’s good. We promise we will never forget the horrific incident, as well as the atmosphere of goodwill in its wake. Yet, the collective conscience is short-lived. My son, born in 2002, has no direct memory of the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings. What he…
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