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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
Ferret out root causes of opioid epidemic

Ferret out root causes of opioid epidemic

Gazette Column
Locals gathered at diners and other venues, I thought, would be abuzz with news of a man who crashed into a parked semi-trailer only moments after injecting heroin. I was wrong. The crash happened one sunny afternoon in Manchester, N.H., a town I was visiting for a work-related conference. When a 33-year-old man inexplicably drove his Chevy head-on into a parked truck, an eye witness came forward to say the driver had injected heroin before the incident. Both the driver and a 26-year-old male passenger were taken to a hospital with serious injuries, and the driver later was charged with operating while using. The driver of the truck was making a delivery at a nearby business and not present when the crash occurred. I was gobsmacked by the news, both for the…
Read More
Is it too late to snip the fuse on fireworks?

Is it too late to snip the fuse on fireworks?

Gazette Column
Once you open Pandora’s box of booming missiles and colorful starbursts, it’s impossible to completely refasten the lid. But maybe we can agree it needs better hinges. Iowa’s new fireworks freedom was hastily crafted by an “alpha male” Legislature wanting to show off its muscles. Quickly signed into law by then-Gov. Terry Branstad, the law allows Iowans to buy, use and sell fireworks from June 1 through July 8 and from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3. Unlike previously discussed versions of legalization, the new rules began immediately. State law allows any Iowan above the age of 18 to purchase and light a broad array of fireworks from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. — and even later closer to the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve holidays — within the…
Read More
Can Iowa maintain high rank?

Can Iowa maintain high rank?

Gazette Column
Boosted by past policy decisions, Iowa has become a leader in child economic well-being. according to one national study. But the Hawkeye State is beginning to lag on children’s health. Iowa is among the top five states in the 2017 Kids Count Data Book, compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The study ranks states based on 16 indicators in four areas — health, education, economic well-being and family and community. The group says these are key factors in determining a child’s ability to thrive. Nationally, Iowa ranks third among states in economic well-being. It’s also among the top 10 for education (sixth), health (seventh) and family and community (eighth). The Hawkeye State’s composite ranking is fifth in the nation, following New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Minnesota. [caption id="attachment_1234" align="alignleft" width="640"]…
Read More
Wrongful birth suits get Iowa court nod

Wrongful birth suits get Iowa court nod

Gazette Column
Physicians who don’t inform pregnant women and their partners of fetal anomalies can be sued, the Iowa Supreme Court decided this month. These “wrongful birth” cases involve pregnancies in which physicians or other medical professionals have access to test results, not disclosed to parents, indicating the child will face severe disabilities. For instance, in the case before the Iowa Court, parents Pamela and Jeremy Plowman say their prenatal doctors failed to inform them of abnormalities discovered during an ultrasound. Instead they were led to believe “everything was fine” with the pregnancy, and recommended follow-up testing was never completed. Severe cognitive defects were diagnosed after their son was born. His medical condition requires lifelong oversight and intervention. Now six years old, their son does not speak or walk, and he is…
Read More
Partisan messaging won’t help rural Iowa

Partisan messaging won’t help rural Iowa

Featured, Gazette Column
Maybe I set too high a bar for former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge’s initiative to engage rural Iowa voters. The first news release from the organization, Focus on Rural America, arrived Tuesday afternoon. It contained a summary of the group’s revelations following a series of focus groups with rural Iowans who switched their presidential vote from Democrat Barack Obama in 2012 to Republican Donald Trump in 2016. None of the findings are earth shattering. • Both Obama and Trump were considered agents of change, candidates the broke the status quo. • Messaging by the Hillary Clinton campaign was described as murky; the Trump campaign messaging was clear. • Democrats generally were perceived as focusing too heavily on entitlements and social programs, which voters translated into a lack of interest for…
Read More