Iowans memorialized as face of opioid epidemic

Iowans memorialized as face of opioid epidemic

Gazette Column
Seven Iowa men are featured on a national map that has become a living memorial to the thousands of Americans lost to opioids. The Iowa list of victims is noticeably incomplete. From 2002 to 2014, as many as 1,239 people died from a prescription opioid overdose in Iowa, according to the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center. And, in each year since, the state has witnessed an increase in the number of people lost in opioid-related incidents. In 2016 — the year the seven men featured on the map died — there were 180 opioid-related deaths across the state. The Iowa Department of Public Health has projected 201 such deaths for 2017. The online map, developed in 2016 by ESRI engineer Jeremiah Lindemann, relies on users to add images and…
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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,…
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Transparency’s best hope: Regents lawsuit

Transparency’s best hope: Regents lawsuit

Gazette Column
Iowans are one step closer to learning how far former Board of Regent President Bruce Rastetter diverged from the University of Iowa president search process he put in place, and whether he and complicit regents will face consequences for mocking open meeting laws. The members, who constitute a majority of the board tasked with overseeing Iowa’s public universities, had to describe under oath their role in the covert recruitment in 2015 of UI President Bruce Harreld. Secret meetings — which then-Regent Katie Mulholland described as “coordinated in such a way as to avoid the requirement that they be public” — took place weeks after the regents announced a transparent search process, but only hours before Harreld made official application for the job. In addition to Mulholland, Harreld met in private with former…
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Stalking law changes need to go further

Stalking law changes need to go further

Gazette Column
Iowa Senate members took a significant step last week to improve Iowa’s lackluster stalking definition, but more should be done to align the law with technological realities. Senate File 468 passed unanimously (49-0) on March 21, and is now before the House Judiciary Committee. The bill updates the definition of criminal stalking by loosening a requirement that victims must personally fear bodily injury or death. If the bill is approved, the definition would include what would cause “what would cause a reasonable person” to feel frightened or terrorized for herself or immediate family members. In addition, electronic surveillance is explicitly noted within the statute as an action that can constitute stalking. Sen. Kevin Kinney, an Oxford Democrat and retired deputy sheriff with a wealth of experience combating human trafficking and…
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Good for Regents to explain

Good for Regents to explain

Gazette Column
Pretty soon the Iowa Board of Regents will need to explain its actions. A Polk County lawsuit by University of Iowa alumnus and former staffer Gerhild Krapf questions the methods used by certain Regents during the University of Iowa presidential search. Specifically, the suit takes aim at actions that appear to show favoritism to Bruce Harreld, the man ultimately awarded the job despite significant staff and community concerns and opposition. In the suit, Krapf says multiple private meetings afforded to Harreld — and not to other applicants — were violations of the state’s open meeting law. While there was no majority of Regents at any one meeting, she argues, the meetings were held close enough together to constitute majority attendance either in person or by proxy. [caption id="attachment_137" align="alignright" width="640"]…
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Why ’70 Acres in Chicago’ matters in Iowa

Why ’70 Acres in Chicago’ matters in Iowa

Gazette Blog
Documentary screening, discussion planned for Friday night My first introduction to Cabrini Green, a 70-acre housing complex in Chicago, came via sitcom. This was likely your introduction too, even if you didn’t recognize it. The name Cabrini Green was never used in the 1970s sitcom “Good Times,” although the housing project was featured in video during the opening and closing credits. And while some of the challenges of living in poverty within a housing project were part of the scripts, the show barely scratched the surface and provided a warped view of the real people who made a life there. “Good Times” was set in inner-city Chicago, a CBS sitcom spun off the earlier shows “Maude” and “All in the Family.” It featured two families — the Evans and Woods…
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Meanwhile, under the golden dome

Meanwhile, under the golden dome

Gazette Column
Welcome back to another year of Legislative Goodness. I’m joined by intrepid reporter Graph Stacker and political analyst Ima Payfordthiss. Anything unusual happen this week, or are lawmakers still deadlocked on school funding? Graph: There was actually movement in the K-12 funding dispute, Lynda. A Democrat-controlled Senate committee approved a 4 percent increase in state aid. As you know, the Republican-controlled House already voted to give schools an extra 2 percent in state aid. Ima: Yet splitting the difference doesn’t seem likely since the 3 percent average is above Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposed 2.45 percent increase. Graph: No one wants another appearance by the infamous veto pen. Is this another legislative session where school funding sucks up all the oxygen? Graph: Well, we’ll have to wait and see what lawmakers…
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More GOP cronyism staining UI

More GOP cronyism staining UI

Gazette Column
Some of us have friends. Some of us have friends who use their professional positions to funnel us money. Guess which kind former Republican Party of Iowa chairman Matt Strawn has. A records request to the University of Iowa by the Associated Press found $321,900 in no-bid contracts awarded to Strawn’s consulting company. Strawn, in turn, subcontracted firms led by others with GOP ties to perform at least part of the work. The contracts were managed by UI Vice President for External Relations Peter Matthes, a former Iowa Senate Republican Caucus staff director who served alongside Strawn. Strawn’s company was, for instance, hired in the spring of 2013 to conduct online and grass roots advocacy. That contract totaled $24,900 — just a hundred dollars below a threshold triggering quotes from…
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Can rural K-12 achieve the promise of NGSS?

Can rural K-12 achieve the promise of NGSS?

Gazette Column
Rural education leaders outline STEM successes, challenges IOWA CITY — Two days of meetings this week highlighted the latest national standards that will change rural K-12 education in Iowa. The Next Generation Science Standards, rolled out in 2013 and adopted by Iowa leaders this past August, are the first broad recommendations for science instruction in 20 years. Developed by a consortium of 26 states (including Iowa) and several scientist and teaching groups, they primarily switch the focus from rote memorization to hands-on learning and critical thinking. Instruction will emphasize the scientific process — analyzing data, developing models and constructing logical arguments. Advocates have touted the standards as being able to accomplish what current science instruction cannot: make students care by connecting them and lessons to their communities in very practical…
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Regent ‘anger’ raises more questions

Regent ‘anger’ raises more questions

Gazette Column
While standing by the selection of a new University of Iowa president, one member of the Board of Regents has expressed his concern that the process was flawed. Speaking Thursday at the second of a two-day meeting on the University of Iowa campus, and less than 24 hours after demonstrators publicly asked regents to resign their posts, Subhash Sahai admitted he was “pissed” when he learned about previously-undisclosed meetings between a single candidate and five other regents and search committee members. “I want the people at the university to know that we had impassioned, intentioned and rigorous debate,” Sahai said of regent deliberations. But he also admitted that at the time the selection was being debated he was unaware that some members had met privately with only one of the…
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