GOP lawmakers create Saturday conflict

GOP lawmakers create Saturday conflict

Gazette Blog
Some Eastern Iowans hoping to hear from both of their state legislators this Saturday will need to figure out how to be in two places at once. For decades the nonpartisan Linn County League of Women Voters has set aside one Saturday morning each month while the General Assembly is in session for a legislative forum. All area lawmakers are invited to come together, provide individual updates and answer questions from the public. That tradition will be broken this Saturday. Linn County’s Republican lawmakers — Rep. Ken Rizer, Rep. Ashley Hinson, Rep. Louis Zumbach and Sen. Dan Zumbach — have partnered with Farm Bureau to schedule a separate forum at the same date and time as the long-standing — and I cannot stress this enough — nonpartisan League forum. [caption…
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Former inmates ‘rise’ with program’s help

Former inmates ‘rise’ with program’s help

Gazette Column
Second in a series on Linn County-based Fresh Start Ministries Maridee Duggar won’t like that I started this column with her name. Yet there’s no other logical way to launch a discussion about Linn County’s RISE program. The Reintegration Initiative for Safety and Empowerment program largely was born from Duggar’s two decades of volunteerism at the Linn County Correctional Facility on behalf of Fresh Start Ministries. She understood that if former jail inmates were going to transition successfully into communities — and if communities were going to reap the benefits of the successful transitions — those communities would need to offer guidance and support. With that understanding, she began to plan. “I was just one person who had some insight based on experiences with the chaplaincy program. Many of us…
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First in a series: Weighing the benefit of a ‘Fresh Start’

First in a series: Weighing the benefit of a ‘Fresh Start’

Featured, Gazette Column
45-year-old Linn County ministry is only of its kind in the state Hundreds of people quietly working behind the scenes on behalf of Fresh Start Ministries can’t be easily labeled. Then again, neither can those who serve as the face of the organization, or those who rely on its services. To be sure volunteers include local pastors and church members. But there are also social justice advocates and social workers. Some business leaders are part of the mix, as are elderly and other shut-ins throughout the area. Past and current members of law enforcement are present too. A few who were once recipients of the program’s outreach have come full circle and now work to help others. Many, but not all, are Christians. I first became aware of the organization…
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Still a lot of work to do

Still a lot of work to do

Gazette Column
Throughout the community one question seems to dominate personal interaction: “How are you feeling?” I’ve been asked by people I see each day and those I only have occasional opportunity to speak with. Convenience store clerks, local members of the clergy, co-workers, neighbors, transit riders and drivers and community activists of all stripes are curious, some perhaps morbidly so, on my and their other neighbors’ state of mind. So, how are you feeling in these first post-election days? I am, of course, disappointed that the nation has not finally elected a woman to its highest office. I’m especially concerned by the years of misinformation and sexism that led to undeserved backlash against Hillary Clinton, and a campaign with an overall anti-women tone. More than shock at Donald Trump’s public disrespect…
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Let’s just leave ‘rape’ out of it

Let’s just leave ‘rape’ out of it

Gazette Column
A not-so-funny thing happened in the wake of the latest politically-charged dust-up between Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and his former primary opponent Joe Stutler. My colleague, Todd Dorman, offered a concise rundown of the controversy, which features Miller ordering the Cedar Rapids Police Department to arrest Stutler. Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, who supported Stutler in the primary, called out Miller’s actions as a “deplorable abuse of the legal and political process.” For anyone who has followed Linn County politics over the past few years, this is merely par for the course. Who said what, who did what and the reason behind it is shuffled around and lost in a landscape that’s too politically charged, and too focused on past transgressions and opportunities for one-upmanship. Most residents, I…
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Aim higher for Iowa’s gun safety training

Aim higher for Iowa’s gun safety training

Featured, Gazette Column
For the past five years, Iowa law has required citizens wanting a weapons permit to pay for a “safety” class that has no minimum standards. And, based on conversations with the crop of this year’s legislative candidates, no changes are on the horizon. In 2011, when Iowa became a “shall issue” state, removing nearly all discretion in weapons permitting from local law enforcement, the law required most applicants to attend safety classes. The Legislature, however, did not specify the content or curriculum of those classes or give such authority to the Iowa Department of Public Safety. [caption id="attachment_147" align="alignright" width="300"] A display of 7-round .45 caliber handguns are seen at Coliseum Gun Traders Ltd. in Uniondale, New York January 16, 2013. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)[/caption] The result is a patchwork — a…
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Trading expectations for reality in Linn County supervisor race

Trading expectations for reality in Linn County supervisor race

Gazette Column
Seems like everyone is excited about the number of women up and down the ballot. But there is one hotly contested Linn County office where no female names appear. The Gazette’s Editorial Board has been busy with candidate interviews, which are one part of our endorsement process. To date, we’ve sat down with candidates involved in nearly every contested regional race as well as the statewide races that will appear on local ballots, and have more scheduled in the coming days. These are similar meetings to those we hold throughout the year with elected officials, advocacy groups and others except that they tend to be more diverse in their scope. We aren’t gathered to discuss a single issue or learn about a specific concern. There are some things that the…
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Let’s celebrate equality in Linn County

Let’s celebrate equality in Linn County

Gazette Column
Less than 100 years ago, those who fought for women’s equality were derided as inferior, lazy, oversexed, masculine, childlike and unworthy of consideration. Even now, when a female combat veteran is the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress, and a major political party nominated its first woman for president, it is easy to forget that American women battled for 80 years to earn the right to vote. The 19th Amendment, which took a lifetime to accomplish, is now a lifetime in the past. Yet stereotypes of women as sex objects or puppets to biological and emotional whims persist. It was only four years ago, during the 2012 presidential campaign, that a national news organization announced “something may raise the chances for both presidential candidates that’s totally out of their…
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Campaign finance: How much would you pay?

Campaign finance: How much would you pay?

Gazette Column
Many Iowans lucky enough to make it through the highly competitive process of becoming a delegate to their political party’s national convention are still hard at work as they solicit money for the trip. You may have seen the pleas in your social media feeds or heard them firsthand at organizational events throughout the state. Being elected a delegate to the Republican or Democratic national convention is an expensive proposition. Not only do many would-be delegates underwrite the cost of their election campaigns, but each is responsible for taking time off work, writing checks for convention fees and paying all their own travel and lodging expenses. How much does it cost? It varies each year, depending on your political persuasion and the convention location, but always runs in the thousands.…
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Democrats bending under 2016’s reborn PUMA wave

Democrats bending under 2016’s reborn PUMA wave

Gazette Column
The only thing missing from this month’s meeting of the Linn County Democratic Central Committee were PUMA buttons. Although the acronym was officially registered as “People United Means Action,” most remember it as the more colloquial and inflammatory “Party Unity My Ass.” PUMAs were 2008 Democrats who adamantly supported Hillary Clinton, and protested Barack Obama because he “was selected by party leadership and not the people.” Some place, however, there must be a few PUMAs tipping back a pint and laughing — or alternately chewing Alka-Seltzer tablets like candy. Their spirit lives on. PUMAs saw the nomination process as “unfair and biased” and “flawed beyond belief.” Party leaders and the media, they said, were intent on making “the convention into a coronation.” So PUMAs demanded Clinton’s name be placed into…
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