Get some skin in the game

Get some skin in the game

Gazette Column
How’s cynicism working out for you? Perhaps it is ill timing that during 2014 election mega millions racing across televisions, radios, computer screens and roadsides, I’m hoping Eastern Iowans are willing to set aside cynicism and work for the betterment of all. Yet, apathy has significantly stained our communities, and hasn’t resulted in positive outcomes. In few places is this more apparent than in our justice system. In Johnson County, however, there is an organization attempting to turn the tide. But, without your help and your neighbor’s help, prospects are diminished. [caption id="attachment_1579" align="alignleft" width="500"] Opening remarks at a community discussion on racial disparities in youth systems were delivered by Sara Barron, co-chairwoman of the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee, at the Coralville Public Library on Wednesday, Oct. 15,…
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It’s not just the money, honey

It’s not just the money, honey

Gazette Column
Food and living expenses have new meaning for three Eastern Iowa state senators who recently accepted a national challenge to Live the Wage for one week. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids, Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City and Tom Courtney of Burlington agreed to try and live with only $77 of spending money. The national challenge is the product of a coalition of advocates who hope to draw attention to the issue of the federal minimum wage. A person working 40 hours per week at minimum wage has gross earnings of $290 per week. The $77 is what the advocates estimate remains after taxes ($35.06) and housing expenses ($176.48) are deducted. Facebook posts have documented the challenge for the trio, and their commentary has been what one might expect from three…
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Kick-start diversity with board

Kick-start diversity with board

Gazette Column
Much consternation has taken place over the past few years in Johnson County due to the Iowa City Schools’ facilities plan and diversity policy. Here’s a suggestion: let’s start enacting needed changes in the way board members are elected. There are 19 elementary schools in the district with one, Hoover Elementary, slated for closure following the 2018-19 school year. But the board’s seven members live within the boundaries of only five elementary schools — Lucas (2 members), Shimek (2 members), Van Allen, Weber and Wickham. Before Sally Hoelscher’s recent resignation from the Board, Lucas Elementary was only one vote shy of a majority. This leaves 14 enrollment areas without direct representation, including the three — Garner, Penn and Hills elementaries — in the outlying areas of North Liberty and Hills.…
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Time for ICCSD to get to work

Time for ICCSD to get to work

Gazette Column
The Iowa City Community School District should be feeling revitalized this week and, I hope, ready to tackle some persistent challenges. A former board member, Orville Townsend Sr., was selected from a field of nine highly interested and qualified candidates to serve a 15-month appointment to the school board. For the record, President Herbert Hoover, who supposedly applied but is not included among the nine finalists, would have received my nod except for his lack of residency in the district. Also, I doubt he’d be available for meetings. Townsend’s appointment was unanimous, a well-deserved vote of confidence for the Iowa City resident with a unique life experience that can and should serve the board well. For instance, Townsend served on the ICCSD Equity Committee and will hold firsthand insights from a…
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If you live downtown …

If you live downtown …

Gazette Column
There were several reasons, when we decided to buy, we chose the house we have now. Price, of course, is always a big consideration. Perhaps a larger bonus at that time for me — owner of an ancient, rear-wheel drive Monte Carlo and unaccustomed to Iowa winters — was that the place was walking distance to the downtown office where I worked. Obviously the prospect of slipping on the ice and breaking a hip was much less a concern two decades ago. What we didn’t fully realize, but probably should have, is that our walking-distance-to-downtown locale is a prime traffic area. Foot traffic, skateboard traffic, bicycle traffic and, of course, automobile traffic. For years we’ve dealt with a lack of parking when activities are happening in downtown. Streets have been…
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Sullivan, Botchway got it right

Sullivan, Botchway got it right

Gazette Column
While there was plenty to be learned at a Hunger Forum this week hosted by the Crisis Center of Johnson County, two of the most important thoughts elevated within the discussion were not limited to food security. Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan noted that if communities want more people to come forward and access available services, there needs to be a widespread effort not to bruise the dignity and pride of those in need. “There is a stigma associated,” he explained, and immediately received mild pushback from another panelist. While I may receive some similar pushback, let me say that I agree with Sullivan. Society cannot on one hand decry the people receiving state food assistance as incapable of making healthy food choices and, on the other hand, berate parents…
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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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