Iowa Culture app needs our help

Iowa Culture app needs our help

Featured, Gazette Column
As a lover of historical markers and roadside oddities, I gleefully downloaded the new Iowa Culture app, but quickly learned what was and wasn’t included. The app itself is terrific and, at least for those of us with iPhones, it performs beautifully. Users can see a multitude of interesting sites around their current location, even placing those sites on a map and using GPS to route directly to a selection. There are options to filter results by type, many with photos and brief descriptions. Navigating the Iowa Culture app is easy and intuitive for anyone tacitly familiar with such things. No section of the state has been neglected. State officials boasted during official launch at the Iowa State Fair that more than 3,500 sites are a part of the database.…
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Immigration forum will target ugly rhetoric

Immigration forum will target ugly rhetoric

Gazette Column
Young people with handmade signs and women wearing ankle tracking devices surrounded several members of Congress to relay their real-life horror stories. Congress did nothing. The women and young people were what was left following a massive 2008 immigration raid at a Postville meatpacking plant. They were destitute, relying on a local churches for food and other necessities. Husbands, fathers and brothers were either awaiting deportation, or had already been deported. Nearly all were also handed a criminal conviction, ensuring they would no longer have the option of entering the country legally. [caption id="attachment_1035" align="alignleft" width="300"] A marcher wears an ankle monitoring device during an immigration reform march through the streets of Postville on Sunday, July 27, 2008. The women fitted with the ankle devices wore them for roughly 19…
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The big issue with the other Branstad veto

The big issue with the other Branstad veto

Gazette Column
Perhaps Gov. Terry Branstad doesn’t have a clear understanding of what a cliff effect is or how it hampers economic advancement. Amid the flurry of veto activity before the holiday weekend and subsequent reactions, it’s likely the governor’s refusal to grant a 5 percent increase to the federal poverty level standards associated with child care assistance wasn’t on your radar. After all, what’s more important: limiting the ability of about 200 Iowa households to increase wages or shortchanging thousands of K-12 districts? In reality, they both are clear examples of how this administration’s policies hurt the working class it espouses to protect. Campaigning in 2010, Branstad expressed concern over what’s known as the “ cliff effect ” in child care benefits. This cliff effect occurs when a working parent is offered…
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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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Keeping the ‘Faith In Iowa’

Keeping the ‘Faith In Iowa’

Gazette Column
Witosky, Hansen book offers clear view of marriage equality struggles and influence Civil rights vanguards aren’t immediately appreciated and are rarely comfortable. Iowans know this from experiences dating to the early 1800s, well before statehood. The first ruling of the Iowa Territory Supreme Court in 1838 said a slave could not be forced to return to a slave state after residing on our soil. At a time when women were considered legal property by most Americans, married and unmarried Iowa women legally owned property. And, a century before interracial marriages were nationally recognized, they were taking place in Iowa. The list goes on. From a ban on segregated schools 90 years before a similar national decision to a 1953 legislative refusal to take up a McCarthy-era demand for public employee…
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Even in death, straw poll hype continues

Even in death, straw poll hype continues

Featured, Gazette Column
Candidates, please idle your wallets. Members of the Republican State Central Committee voted Friday morning to officially end the Iowa Straw Poll, a GOP caucus staple since 1979. No doubt built on good intentions, and once worthy of the national attention it received, it’s later years brought unparalleled focus on money instead of organization. And while the autopsies now underway will include a host of details concerning the Iowa Straw Poll’s demise — i.e., Gov. Terry Branstad’s early burial plot purchase or the ongoing refusal of GOP leaders to include participants in planning for a new Boone-doggle — the terminal infection was introduced years ago. The disease was more pronounced each year as supporter excitement and campaign organization took a back seat to purchased victories. Cause of death? Let’s call…
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Offer youth another perspective of success

Offer youth another perspective of success

Gazette Column
Back roads have always been my friends, offering equal helpings of calm and clarity via a car window. I turn on two-lane highways and gravel roads in the same way an alcoholic turns to a bottle, unable or unwilling to resist the siren call of a few moments of peace and possibility. The answers I seek may lie just around the next corner or just over the rise and, even if they don’t, I’ll still have a few moments before more unanswered questions arrive. During one such binge a few weeks ago, as I passed through Maquoketa, my breath caught on rolling hills of farmland bathed in amber evening light. Unable to continue, I pulled to the shoulder to contemplate the Grant Wood reproduction etched by the setting sun. Honestly,…
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Eminent domain bill deserves fair hearing

Eminent domain bill deserves fair hearing

Gazette Column
A decade has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court decided private property could be legally seized by the government and handed to a different private property owner under the guise of “economic development.” Kelo vs. New London was met with widespread distaste, earning the public ire of Republicans and Democrats alike. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor spelled out the dangers: “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.” As public sentiment toward the decision soured, backlash within the states began. In 2006, the Iowa Legislature passed a bill to restrict the use of eminent domain for economic development. Although the bill was…
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Bird flu outbreak is a disaster

Bird flu outbreak is a disaster

Gazette Column
More than 10 million Iowa birds, mostly commercial layer hens, have been or soon will be culled in an effort to combat the spread of H5N2, an avian flu virus. And, as I was writing this, an additional 5.6 million layer hens and a yet unknown number of commercial turkeys were tagged by the Iowa Department of Agriculture as probably infected with the bird flu virus. Given Iowa’s role in egg production — one out of every five eggs consumed in the U.S. comes from Iowa — and the wide swathes of the state economy dependent on agriculture, the situation is clearly cause for the state to issue a disaster declaration. Yet. Gov. Terry Branstad has declined. (Update May 1, 3:15 p.m. — With the number of confirmed and probable…
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Cedar County historians say ‘Little House’ worth saving

Cedar County historians say ‘Little House’ worth saving

Featured, Gazette Column
Donations needed to make 1800s Little House part of historic village Adam Robinson knows, one way or another, the tiny farmhouse and smokehouse that have stood for more than 100 years just steps from the back of his family’s home south of Mechanicsville must go. He and his wife, Susan, have offered the structures to the Cedar County Historical Society, in hope the weatherworn buildings still have a purpose. Sandy Harmel, who serves as the board’s secretary and museum director, has already picked out a spot for the buildings. The little house and adjacent building are just what’s needed, she says, in the organization’s historic Prairie Village. She’ll place them just west of the 1910 Bedbug School, across the gravel lane from the oldest parish in Cedar County, and nearly…
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