Plans for potential pipeline problems should be public

Plans for potential pipeline problems should be public

Gazette Column
Last week, Todd Stamm, vice president of the company that would operate the proposed Bakken oil pipeline, told Iowa Utilities Board members that threat assessments were created in relation to spill scenarios. According to a Des Moines Register report, those assessments include information about the scope and breadth of potential leaks. “It is just not information that I would suggest is information that you would want to be public as far as the physical location of where that location might be,” Stamm said in answer to why such information should be kept confidential. The proposed pipeline, under review by the Iowa Utilities Board for approval and eminent domain use, would carry about 450,000 barrels of crude oil each day from North Dakota to a distribution center in Illinois. The route…
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Moving beyond projects to philosophy

Moving beyond projects to philosophy

Gazette Column
Since returning from the National Rural Assembly I’ve been reaching out to small town leaders and advocates with a question: “Why does so little of the federal grant money set aside for creative placemaking flow into Iowa?” The National Endowment for the Arts set up the Our Town grant program for creative placemaking and began issuing grants in 2011. Since that time, only two Iowa applications have been successful. Of all the money issued by the NEA for this purpose, less than 1 percent has flowed into Iowa communities. Responses to my question have been as varied as the backgrounds and experiences of the people I’ve asked. Some feel the national application process favors states on the coasts. Others lament a lack of the local partnerships required for such grants.…
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Can rural K-12 achieve the promise of NGSS?

Can rural K-12 achieve the promise of NGSS?

Gazette Column
Rural education leaders outline STEM successes, challenges IOWA CITY — Two days of meetings this week highlighted the latest national standards that will change rural K-12 education in Iowa. The Next Generation Science Standards, rolled out in 2013 and adopted by Iowa leaders this past August, are the first broad recommendations for science instruction in 20 years. Developed by a consortium of 26 states (including Iowa) and several scientist and teaching groups, they primarily switch the focus from rote memorization to hands-on learning and critical thinking. Instruction will emphasize the scientific process — analyzing data, developing models and constructing logical arguments. Advocates have touted the standards as being able to accomplish what current science instruction cannot: make students care by connecting them and lessons to their communities in very practical…
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Regent ‘anger’ raises more questions

Regent ‘anger’ raises more questions

Gazette Column
While standing by the selection of a new University of Iowa president, one member of the Board of Regents has expressed his concern that the process was flawed. Speaking Thursday at the second of a two-day meeting on the University of Iowa campus, and less than 24 hours after demonstrators publicly asked regents to resign their posts, Subhash Sahai admitted he was “pissed” when he learned about previously-undisclosed meetings between a single candidate and five other regents and search committee members. “I want the people at the university to know that we had impassioned, intentioned and rigorous debate,” Sahai said of regent deliberations. But he also admitted that at the time the selection was being debated he was unaware that some members had met privately with only one of the…
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An order to do what lawmakers will not

An order to do what lawmakers will not

Gazette Column
After three years of battling unwilling lawmakers, Gov. Terry Branstad took another executive order plunge Monday. The order — the 86th issued by Branstad — establishes the Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention through the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Violence Prevention. Branstad was clear on why he acted alone. “We’re not waiting for the Legislature,” he said. He might as well have singled out House Republicans, who were responsible for stalling the latest proposal. Some lawmakers objected to schools not being required to notify a victim’s parents, if school leaders believed the circumstances also would place the victim at odds with parents, perhaps opening the door to more harm. The exception specifically was carved out for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students but would not necessarily be limited to…
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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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