Concert Across America remembers victims of gun violence

Concert Across America remembers victims of gun violence

Gazette Column
A national coalition of gun violence prevention artists, activists and organizations are coming together for a second annual Concert Across America. Iowa voices will rise up as part of organized events Sunday, but readers can sing out now. Last year, more than 5,200 artists performed at 350 events across 43 states to call for universal background checks and stronger laws in every state to reduce gun violence. As I write this column, more than 180 concerts across 40 states had been announced for 2017 — including the Iowa communities of Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Clinton. The events are planned for Sept. 24 because Congress designated the day for remembering murder victims. For this year’s series of events, national organizers hope individuals and groups from coast-to-coast also will take part in a world…
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Polk Democrats’ expletive-worthy choice

Polk Democrats’ expletive-worthy choice

Gazette Column
Democrats will take the stage Sept. 30 when Polk County revives the state’s long-standing steak fry tradition, but one female candidate has been asked to keep quiet. Thanks to former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a fall steak fry fundraiser has become synonymous with Democratic Party politics and is an opportunity for rising stars to expand their burgeoning celebrity status. Polk County Democrats, in reviving an event dormant for three years, are taking a page out of Harkin’s book by inviting three not-yet-household-names but promising congressional Democrats to come, be grilled and chew the fat. [caption id="attachment_1311" align="alignleft" width="300"] Marinated Flank Steak using peach juice or nectar and soy sauce on the grill. Shot in North Libery on Friday, July 14, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)[/caption] Attendees, as well as a C-SPAN…
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How place-making can help fight opioid addiction

How place-making can help fight opioid addiction

Gazette Column
Six people in Council Bluffs were taken, unresponsive, to the hospital this month, apparent victims of painkillers so powerful that first-responders have been warned about touching them, but otherwise legally and easily obtained over the internet. The culprit is a synthetic opioid called fentanyl, a substance that already has decimated communities throughout the country that are battling opioid addiction. Forensic chemist Christine Gabig with the Douglas County Forensic Services Division told The Nonpareil that many synthetic variants of fentanyl have made their way onto local streets. Because the chemical compounds differ, the substances are not “true” fentanyl, commonly used in surgical procedures, and not illegal. Such synthetic varieties can easily be purchased online without a prescription. In some instances, these potentially deadly synthetics are mixed with other illicit drugs to produce more…
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At Wing Ding, Democrats still are grappling

At Wing Ding, Democrats still are grappling

Gazette Column
CLEAR LAKE — Each year the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding lives up to its unusual and playful name by being slightly unorthodox. Last year, for instance, attendees twittered nervously as organizers literally mowed down defaced photographs of Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley that had been mounted in AstroTurf. While that bit of political humor missed the mark, other attempts, usually in the form of skits, have been more successful. This year’s offering was a much subdued two-man scripted exchange. (“Just got diagnosed with T.I.A.D. That sounds serious. What is it? Trump-Induced Anxiety Disorder.”) There were some moan-worthy puns, and one-liners tame enough to share with the grandkids. And, as it turns out, organizers didn’t need to push the envelope on this evening billed as an introduction to the party’s “Rising…
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DHS director sends mixed messages on juvenile justice

DHS director sends mixed messages on juvenile justice

Gazette Column
Amid allegations of mistreatment at the Boys State Training School in Eldora, Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven says there’s no need for changes. But that’s not the opinion he expressed a few months ago. Disability Rights Iowa, a federally mandated and funded protection and advocacy group, released a report last week detailing concerns with the school, including improper use of seclusion and restraints and a lack of behavior health treatments. The school was established and is run by the state to provide treatment and rehabilitation services to boys, ages 12 to 18, who are found by juvenile courts to be delinquent. More often than not, these are male juveniles who have committed multiple, lower-level crimes, but the facility also houses teens convicted of violent acts. Capacity of the facility is…
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Women’s equality, a work in progress

Women’s equality, a work in progress

Gazette Column
Linn County equality coalition adding five to list of Women of the Year Women across the nation will come together this month. They’ll recognize each other, applaud successes and resolve — as so many demonstration signs have more bluntly stated — to continue to fight for equality. Such celebration is an annual event in Linn County and other parts of Iowa, held each Aug. 26 in connection with Women’s Equality Day. That was the day 97 years ago when the 19th Amendment was certified, the culmination of an 80-year battle for women’s suffrage. The fight for the vote was marked, as I’m prone to highlight each year, with derision of the women seeking equality. Editorial boards from coast to coast issued dire warnings of chaos if women were welcomed into…
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Statewide conversation on affordable, supportive housing begins

Statewide conversation on affordable, supportive housing begins

Gazette Column
Spotlight reveals challenges within the Creative Corridor DUBUQUE — Every county in Iowa lacks a sufficient number of affordable housing units, which, in turn, contributes to the prevalence of homelessness most apparent in the state’s population centers. Although intensity varies, this lack of housing is a statewide challenge that affects the ability of communities to attract business and sustain a workforce, the need for taxpayer-funded safety net programs and overall health and well-being. So, this week, the Iowa Finance Authority launched the first of three statewide conversations on housing with a specific focus on the overwhelming need for supported living arrangements. “What we’ve learned from recent experiences in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City,” explained Carolann Jensen, chief programs officer with the IFA, “is that the push for housing, especially supportive…
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Temper home-school response

Temper home-school response

Gazette Column
The latest Iowa Poll shows state residents are reacting to recent deaths and abuses within the foster care system with more scrutiny of state home-school laws. Such sentiments are partially misplaced. There have been two high-profile deaths among youth adopted out of the Iowa foster care system, and a third first-person account of how one young women fled her abusers. In nearly all such cases, home schooling has played a significant role by allowing abusive parents to further hide their actions and neglect. It’s largely in reaction to these horrific cases that participants in a recent Iowa Poll responded with skepticism of all Iowans who chose to home-school: • 46 percent think families with foster children should be required to send children to an educational facility (not be allowed to home-school) • 67 percent…
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How far has culture of sexism at Iowa Statehouse spread?

How far has culture of sexism at Iowa Statehouse spread?

Gazette Column
Been thinking there must be some deeply rooted cultural phenomenon that led Iowa lawmakers to propose — and, unfortunately, pass — bills that negatively impact women? Turns out, you’re right. A recent court case, brought by a former Iowa Senate Republican Caucus staffer, reveals the ugly details of sexual harassment at the Capitol complex in Des Moines. Charges by Kirsten Anderson, who was the communications director for the GOP caucus for five years, were confirmed in court testimony by other staffers, some of whom continue to work in the harassing and juvenile environment. One described an incident from more than 20 years ago, when she came back from lunch only to discover her computer’s screen saver had been changed to a topless woman jumping on a trampoline to the tune…
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Does Cedar Rapids need to address panhandling?

Does Cedar Rapids need to address panhandling?

Gazette Column
With an eye toward the city of Cedar Rapids’ latest ordinance intended to curtail roadside panhandling, I took to social media and the streets Thursday with my writing hand extended. “Does the city need to do something about panhandling?” I asked friends and strangers alike. “And, if so, what?” My very non-scientific survey revealed that most — roughly 90 percent of the more than 100 people who engaged with me — don’t believe panhandling is a problem in Cedar Rapids. Several of these individuals spoke of panhandling situations in larger cities, where they’d been aggressively pursued by panhandlers on sidewalks or had received some unwanted service from a roadside panhandler, such as windshield cleaning. Those are not experiences they’ve had in Cedar Rapids and, more simply, they don’t see the…
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