Recommit to support veterans

Recommit to support veterans

Gazette Column
Parades, free meals and organized ceremonies took place Friday as Iowans observed Veterans Day. That leaves this day, the actual date of Veterans Day, open for personal reflection and recommitment to those who wore the boots. Since 1775, nearly 1.4 million military members have died in war and conflicts. More than 40 million men and women have served in the armed forces during war; millions more during peacetime. Men and women have served on bases and in conflicts around the globe, including in Afghanistan for the past 16 years. They’ve served regardless of current events or political sentiment — although all returning have been subject to the whims of a society shaped by these factors. Within that context, the pomp and circumstance of Veterans Day is important and inadequate. Pausing…
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Iowa misses opportunity to curb teenage risky behavior

Iowa misses opportunity to curb teenage risky behavior

Gazette Column
DES MOINES — Sex educators who gathered here last week for an annual conference have reason to be concerned. Iowa’s family planning landscape has changed, making it more difficult for teens to get needed information and services. The Legislature’s decision last spring to forgo federal family planning money in favor of a state-run program that excludes health care organizations that offer abortion services provided a small window for officials to write rules and implement the system. Even now, three months after the system was supposed to be in place, questions remain. The new process is time-consuming, requiring those hoping to access services to first apply at the nearest Department of Human Services or Title X office and wait for approval. A significant portion of providers listed on the department’s website…
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Iowa must raise the bar for immigrant families

Iowa must raise the bar for immigrant families

Gazette Column
A new national report makes clear that children of color and children living in immigrant families face persistent challenges that Iowa and other states aren’t adequately addressing. The report, “2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children,” was released last week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It details how such challenges are creating opportunity gaps, especially for African-American and Latino children in Iowa. “Iowans are used to seeing their state appear high in national rankings. But the reality is that Iowa’s environment for children — for children in every racial and ethnic group — is at best in the middle of the pack,” said Anne Discher, interim executive director of the Child and Family Policy Center, which supports the Casey Foundation’s Kids Count initiative in Iowa. “For…
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DHS director sends mixed messages on juvenile justice

DHS director sends mixed messages on juvenile justice

Gazette Column
Amid allegations of mistreatment at the Boys State Training School in Eldora, Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven says there’s no need for changes. But that’s not the opinion he expressed a few months ago. Disability Rights Iowa, a federally mandated and funded protection and advocacy group, released a report last week detailing concerns with the school, including improper use of seclusion and restraints and a lack of behavior health treatments. The school was established and is run by the state to provide treatment and rehabilitation services to boys, ages 12 to 18, who are found by juvenile courts to be delinquent. More often than not, these are male juveniles who have committed multiple, lower-level crimes, but the facility also houses teens convicted of violent acts. Capacity of the facility is…
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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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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…
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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…
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Is it too late to snip the fuse on fireworks?

Is it too late to snip the fuse on fireworks?

Gazette Column
Once you open Pandora’s box of booming missiles and colorful starbursts, it’s impossible to completely refasten the lid. But maybe we can agree it needs better hinges. Iowa’s new fireworks freedom was hastily crafted by an “alpha male” Legislature wanting to show off its muscles. Quickly signed into law by then-Gov. Terry Branstad, the law allows Iowans to buy, use and sell fireworks from June 1 through July 8 and from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3. Unlike previously discussed versions of legalization, the new rules began immediately. State law allows any Iowan above the age of 18 to purchase and light a broad array of fireworks from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. — and even later closer to the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve holidays — within the…
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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…
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Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Gazette Column
News that health care advocates had been dreading came Thursday: Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will shutter a third of it’s Iowa clinics. Locations in Bettendorf, Sioux City, Burlington and Keokuk will close at the end of June. Only one of those locations offered abortion services, and it will continue to provide those procedures until the building is sold. Soon to be lost is what more than 70 percent of Iowans supported — access to family planning services like contraceptives, prenatal vitamins and cancer or other disease screenings. More than 14,000 Iowans utilized the clinics now slated for closure. Planned Parenthood clinics statewide serve nearly half of residents who use publicly-funded family planning services. Looking only at the four counties impacted by the closures, Planned Parenthood clinics served, at a…
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