Reynolds’ address offered renewed optimism

Reynolds’ address offered renewed optimism

Gazette Column
This week was for the doubters and the naysayers. This week was for those who continue to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it makes no difference when women lead. With her first Condition of the State address, Gov. Kim Reynolds proved to all Iowans why well-rounded states value and embrace the strengths and experiences of all residents. Her remarks were generally inclusionary and conciliatory. They stood in stark contrast to last year’s contentious legislative session, and in defiance of the bungled Statehouse sexual harassment scandal. “All of us in public office must ensure not only a safe workplace but serve as a model for the public and private sector,” she said. “What we do here matters. Iowans are watching. We can’t change behavior everywhere, but we have…
Read More
Senate GOP sexual harassment report is very troubling

Senate GOP sexual harassment report is very troubling

Gazette Column
It is clear why Iowa Senate Republican leaders wanted to keep an internal investigation of sexual harassment claims secret. The rosy picture they attempted to paint of a better workplace environment is shattered. Amid public outcry and at the urging of Gov. Kim Reynolds, Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix performed another 180-degree turn in this harassment saga, which began when Kirsten Anderson, the Republican Caucus communication director, won a wrongful termination lawsuit. The case was settled in September for $1.75 million — taxpayer dollars from Iowa’s general fund. The acknowledgment of guilt is all the more troublesome when paired with internal investigation findings, begrudgingly released by Dix today in the middle of the extended holiday. We now know Dix’s assertions — that the Senate is no longer is plagued by sexual harassment, and that workers do not fear reporting…
Read More
Education can boost economy

Education can boost economy

Gazette Column
Too many college students experience homelessness, food insecurity There’s a reason food banks have been established at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and more than 500 other college campuses since 2010. Student hunger. Last month researchers and policymakers met for a second annual “Real College” conference, which focused on college food and housing insecurity. They came to discuss disturbing trends outlined in a March 2017 report, “Hungry and Homeless in College,” and explore possible solutions. The report was a much more robust offering of findings first outlined in December 2015 as part of “Hungry to Learn.” Both reports are from Wisconsin Hope Lab, the nation’s only translational research lab seeking ways to make college affordable. It was founded by Sara Goldrick-Rab, currently a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University. “Since 2008,…
Read More
Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Gazette Column
Any hope that Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix is either prepared or willing to resolve ongoing sexual harassment issues at the Statehouse ended Tuesday. Dix, a Shell Rock Republican, sat down with reporters and did not directly answer questions relating to a wrongful termination lawsuit that has cost taxpayers more than $1.7 million, his own communications with the Senate Republican Caucus, findings from an ill-conceived internal investigation, reasons why a determination to hire a human resources director was nixed, or the single employment termination that came weeks after a court determined allegations of sexual harassment were true. Within a span of minutes, Dix once again repeated his court-dismissed claim that the firing of Caucus Communications Director Kirsten Anderson mere hours after she filed a formal sexual harassment complaint was…
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
Godfrey court decision good for Iowans

Godfrey court decision good for Iowans

Gazette Column
Iowa Supreme Court Justices narrowly decided last week that citizens can sue government officials who violate their rights. The 68-page decision, which addresses a portion of an employment dispute case brought by former Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Chris J. Godfrey against former Gov. Terry Branstad, Gov. Kim Reynolds and four more Branstad administration officials, was handed down June 30. It reverses a lower court decision to stall the case and, by doing so, establishes a landmark pathway for citizens to seek monetary damages from the government and government officials for violations of equal protection and due process rights within the Iowa Constitution. While many in Iowa await the outcome of the long-standing dispute between the Branstad administration and Godfrey, the Iowa Supreme Court ruling merely sends the case forward. The Justices specifically…
Read More
Resignation can’t stymie DHS probe

Resignation can’t stymie DHS probe

Gazette Column
Two of three teens the state pledged to protect were placed in homes where they were subsequently neglected and abused to death. The third fled her torturers. More than 4,000 other Iowa children are overseen by this most likely flawed system. A retirement announcement Wednesday by Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer does not absolve him of any failed obligations to these minors, living or dead. The move should spark renewed commitment to bring the truth to light. Known victims of the state system are 16-year-old Natalie Finn of West Des Moines, 18-year-old Malayia Knapp of Des Moines, and 16-year-old Sabrina Ray of Perry. [caption id="attachment_1221" align="alignleft" width="300"] Iowa DHS Director Charles Palmer speaks at a Johnson County Task Force on Aging forum at the Coralville Public Library in…
Read More
Iowa families need more than platitudes, campaign rhetoric

Iowa families need more than platitudes, campaign rhetoric

Gazette Column
Some Iowa lawmakers and elected officials gathered on the steps of the Capital this week to be disingenuous. [caption id="attachment_156" align="alignright" width="640"] The State Capitol Building in Des Moines. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)[/caption] It’s difficult to find good news in this election cycle, but this past week offered an exception. Both Democratic and Republican presidential nominees have rolled out their proposals for paid family medical leave. I’ll leave it to readers to research the ins-and-outs of the proposals by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The big news is the conversation about family medical leave is in the headlines again, and that’s due in large part to the number of women who have advocated on behalf of this issue. It’s good that we are talking, because this is an issue that’s been…
Read More
Vilsack support of Branstad water quality proposal no surprise

Vilsack support of Branstad water quality proposal no surprise

Gazette Column
Tax exemptions should be on the table The urban and rural divide is alive and thriving. The response to an appearance this week by former Iowa governor and U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack at Gov. Terry Branstad’s news conference announcing a possible extension and expansion of a penny sales tax now funneled to school infrastructure proves it. Branstad’s proposal is to extend a one-cent sales tax earmarked for school infrastructure and set to expire in 2029. The plan would keep the tax in place for 20 additional years, through 2049. While schools would continue to earn proceeds from that tax to a certain cap point, about three-quarters of future growth would be funneled to conservation efforts that help reduce farm chemical runoff and, in turn, improve Iowa’s water quality. Some…
Read More
Political training added to Iowa Renewal Project

Political training added to Iowa Renewal Project

Gazette Blog
Three 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls scheduled to appear If a national movement coming to Des Moines as part of the Iowa Renewal Project is successful, Iowans may see many more conservative pastors and church leaders on their 2016 ballots. The movement — the Men and Women of Issachar — is the brainchild of David Lane, a politically-connected religious conservative, and was named after one of the twelve tribes of Israel — specifically the tribe that sent 200 men with the ability or vision to decipher the signs of the times and direct the actions of David’s army at Hebron. “Nobody is confused that politicians are going to save America,” Lane said in January when he announced the movement, which hopes to encourage and train at least 1,000 church leaders and…
Read More