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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Dutchman cares for overseas grave of Iowa WWII soldier

Dutchman cares for overseas grave of Iowa WWII soldier

Gazette Column
Local genealogists connect European caretaker with soldier's descendant Just when a prolonged and extreme political season seemed to signal an end of civility, an unassuming man in the Netherlands has renewed my faith in humanity. Pat Wilkinson, head of research for the Genealogical Society of Linn County, received an odd message from Western Europe about a year ago. “At our research library, we are frequently called upon to track backward in time — from a person living today to their ancestors,” Wilkinson explained. “But it is not often we are called track someone forward in time, and find living descendants.” [caption id="attachment_781" align="alignright" width="300"] Netherlands resident Robby Prinsen decorates the grave of Cedar Rapids native and World War II veteran Robert A. Hasley at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in…
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Calling all CR Transit riders

Calling all CR Transit riders

Gazette Column
When was the last time you took a ride on a city bus? If you are like the city council and school board candidates I’ve asked, the answer is “not lately,” “ahhh,” or “can’t remember.” Regular riders often fall into two categories: those who are most passionate and those who are most needy. About five years ago, with a wrecked vehicle and no steady job, I had a toe in each bucket, and decided our family could manage with only one car. My husband would drive to work, and I’d ride the bus. The plan was nearly ditched the first day when I needed to visit Linn County offices, then located at Westdale Mall. After seeing the children off to school, I walked to the closest bus stop from our…
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Consider multi-generational county space

Consider multi-generational county space

Gazette Column
Planning for a potential new public health building, Linn County has an opportunity to turn a good idea into a great one. If approved, the new facility would be located at 1019 Seventh St SE, the former Options site, and would probably require a levy, currently estimated at 6 cents per $1,000 evaluation. Area seniors, displaced and scattered since the 2008 flood claimed the Witwer Center, advocated Wednesday for the inclusion of a permanent centralized senior center. Since Cedar Rapids is the largest city in Iowa without such a hub and more than a third of all county residents are over the age of 50, the proposal and investment make sense. Supervisors also appear receptive to the idea, requesting more specific space needs as quickly as possible. Those who spoke…
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Learning from our history of finding scapegoats

Learning from our history of finding scapegoats

Gazette Column
Sadness, fear and confusion. Those are the three emotions woven throughout conversations I had in the wake of a 2008 immigration raid in Postville. For nearly the same reasons, these emotions also surrounded the Muslim residents taking part in a community demonstration last weekend. The alignment is understandable, if regrettable. [caption id="attachment_913" align="aligncenter" width="640"] People of many faiths gathered on May's Island on Saturday, Dec. 19, in a show of support for Muslims and other immigrants, who have recently been targeted in political rhetoric. The solidarity demonstration was organized by the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)[/caption] Some Postville Hispanics were spared the felonious identity theft convictions faced by 389 male workers — a prosecution strategy that the U.S. Supreme Court later found lacking. Instead of being bustled…
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DNR: How do we reduce booze issues?

DNR: How do we reduce booze issues?

Gazette Column
As Johnson County residents hoping to visit the Lake Macbride beach area learned this past July, it takes only a few to ruin things for everyone. After two large fights resulted in arrests for public intoxication and assault, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources chose to close the beach area early — 6 p.m. instead of 10:30 p.m. — effectively preventing many working families from enjoying the water during one of the hottest stretches of the summer. Park Ranger Gwen Prentice pointed to several incidents of rowdy activity at the time that she suspected were fueled by alcohol consumption. Although no news-making fights happened at Palo beach in Linn County, it also was closed early to curtail problems involving alcohol. Across the state — despite awareness campaigns and a beverage…
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Time for some more ‘real talk’

Time for some more ‘real talk’

Gazette Column
Suicide rates for young black children have nearly doubled over the last two decades, even as rates for white children in the same age group have declined. That statistic is more disturbing with understanding that, historically, suicide rates in the black community have been significantly lower. In other words, this marks the first time that suicide rates among blacks of any age group have exceeded those of white counterparts. The realization was an exceptionally bitter pill for Linda Topinka, a Cedar Rapids licensed social worker who also is a founding member of the African American Family Preservation and Resource Committee. The group formed in 2006, primarily to address racial disparities in social welfare organizations and foster care, but has since expanded its focus in Linn County. She serves as the…
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