Iowa Republicans blinded by abortion

Iowa Republicans blinded by abortion

Gazette Column
However shortsighted, expensive and harmful the resulting policies may be, Iowa Republicans remain obsessed with abortion. Last legislative session, they chose to scrap the Iowa Family Planning Network waiver, primarily funded by the federal government, and replace it with a new program funded solely by the state. That initiative, now known as the Family Planning Program, took effect July 1. Both programs provide men and women of childbearing age who do not qualify for Medicaid a cost-effective way of accessing reproductive health services including contraception, exams, screenings and testing. The Iowa switch wasn’t proposed because the original program was riddled with fraud or otherwise ineffective. In May 2016, the University of Iowa Public Policy Center concluded that more than 80,000 women had used the Iowa Family Planning Network waiver since…
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Education is aim of ‘Know Your Neighbor’ religion series

Education is aim of ‘Know Your Neighbor’ religion series

Gazette Column
Can three community discussions on religion improve life in Cedar Rapids? Organizers hope so. “Hans Kung has a great quote about there being no peace without the great religions coming together. So, we need to start at that level,” Charles Crawley, president of the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County, said. The council worked with the Cedar Rapids Public Library for a series of three “Know Your Neighbor” events. Crawley says the idea was to work with the library on its mission to improve literacy by offering information that specifically addresses religious literacy and fosters community understanding. [caption id="attachment_1815" align="alignleft" width="400"] The first Know Your Neighbor religious discussion took place Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, before an overflow crowd at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. It was organized by the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County.[/caption]…
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Not too late to join the work of the SET Task Force

Not too late to join the work of the SET Task Force

Gazette Column
Many sparks needed to ignite a fire of change Members of the Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Task Force held their first comprehensive public meeting Thursday night since releasing their final report and recommendations last February, and an important perspective was missing — yours. The SET Task Force, as it is called, was formed in the fall of 2015, a collaborative and community effort endorsed by the Cedar Rapids Community School District, city and county. Cedar Rapids and the metro area was reeling at that time due to a variety of violent crimes, in particular a rash of “shots fired” incidents. But it was the shooting death of Aaron Richardson, a 15-year-old, by Robert Humbles, a then 14-year-old, near Redmond Park in September 2015 that ultimately coalesced political will and led…
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Time to stop the Chicago blame game

Time to stop the Chicago blame game

Featured, Gazette Column
There’s a persistent rumbling of how Chicago transplants are to blame for just about every negative trend in Eastern Iowa. Perhaps you’ve heard it? The lack of affordable housing in our communities, as well as the strain on local social services organizations, according to the rumbles, is because people from Chicago are moving here and jumping to the front of the line. Incidents of violence are skyrocketing, they say, because Chicago transplants are bringing gang activity, guns and illicit drugs with them. Even if violence and mayhem isn’t the intent, there’s a cultural divide between small city Iowa and big city Illinois that’s impossible to cross. And, perhaps worst of all, the rumbles single out people from Chicago’s south side as instigators of neighborhood corruption, which is too often a…
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Parenting a freethinker made easier

Parenting a freethinker made easier

Gazette Column
Two decades ago, as our family reeled from a full-term stillbirth, I grappled with ways to help our then 6-year-old daughter work through the grief of losing an infant brother. I searched for resources to offer reassurance and comfort, but there were scant few on the topic of death. And none I could find on stillbirth. So, we muddled forward with our own words. Was I saying the right things? Were there “right things” to be said? About a decade later, when a different daughter’s best friend died unexpectedly, I was given a book, “Parenting Beyond Belief,” edited by Dale McGowan. Suddenly I had a compass to help guide my child through grief, and advice on many other thorny topics. McGowan later co-authored a practical, companion book and, this past year,…
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Equality coalition names five Women of the Year

Equality coalition names five Women of the Year

Gazette Column
More than 130 local women have been honored over the years in conjunction with Women's Equality Day Women and men will gather Saturday night, on Women’s Equality Day, to add five more women to the ranks of those named Women of the Year. The women, nominated by friends and co-workers, were chosen because of their commitment to improve the lives of area girls and women. Their names will be added to a list of more than 130 who have been honored by the Women’s Equality Coalition of Linn County over the past four decades. Women recognized in 2017 are: [caption id="attachment_1303" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Those chosen as 2017 Women of the Year by the Women's Equality Coalition of Linn County are (beginning top left) Denise Bridges, Barbara Chadwick, Charrisse Cox, Monica Brown Challenger and Eden…
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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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Affordable housing tour offers necessary spotlight

Affordable housing tour offers necessary spotlight

Gazette Column
Work on a project for months, put your heart and soul into it and, even so, you’ll be hard-pressed to pick it out of the pack. This is the lesson lost to those who skipped the Cedar Rapids Metro Affordable Housing Bus Tour last Thursday. “I think we’re coming up on it now,” Jeff Capps, executive director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, said from the front of the bus, holding onto the back of a front seat while bending and swiveling to peer out the windows. “Pretty sure we’re getting close now,” Renie Neuberger, Affordable Housing Network director of real estate development, said later in the drive while striking a similar pose. “It will be on your right. It’s painted green,” directed Ron Ziegler, executive director of Hope Community…
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Atheist, humanist invocations planned at Iowa Statehouse

Atheist, humanist invocations planned at Iowa Statehouse

Gazette Column
This month the Iowa Statehouse moves closer to its “people’s house” nickname when first an atheist, and then a humanist, offer invocations from the well of the House chamber. The General Assembly has a long-standing tradition of invocations, which are brief meditations or prayers. It’s become routine for lawmakers to invite people from around the state to offer these morning speeches, marking a solemn beginning to the legislative work day. Throughout the years, a variety of religious and community leaders have spoken. Christian denominations hold the lion’s share of these appearances, but legislators also have heard from Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams, and one Wiccan priestess. And now two secularists will join their ranks. This Wednesday, Manchester native and atheist Justin Scott will lead the ceremony. Then on April 17, Roxanne…
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‘AMP’ing up possibilities for success after lockup

‘AMP’ing up possibilities for success after lockup

Gazette Column
Third in a series on Linn County-based Fresh Start Ministries Communities have a good reason to invest and engage in the jail transition process: The majority of those in our jails are residents of the local community who will soon return home. Yet many in Linn County, as well as counties throughout the state, view jails and inmates solely as the purview of the criminal justice system and not an issue the larger community need address. Too many times the past is held against those who have paid for their crimes, creating additional struggles for those who hope to re-enter neighborhoods and move forward. Volunteers trained as mentors through a program under the umbrella of Linn County-based Fresh Start Ministries are aiming to turn the tide by offering themselves and…
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