Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

Des Moines Register. December 12, 2019

New assistance on convicts’voting rights is great, but the governor shouldn’t stop there.A rose to Gov. Kim Reynolds for taking another step toward making it easier for felons who have served their time to regain their voting rights. And a promise that this editorial board will continue to be a thorn in the side of the GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature until it moves to end the felon voting ban once and for all.

An announcement Wednesday that the state will now complete most of the paperwork for Iowans exiting prisons is welcome and should help them regain their rights. But it’s not the correct answer to the problem, not least because of deficiencies this move does nothing to address.

A recent story by Associated Press reporter Ryan J. Foley offers a reminder of the mess created by Iowa’s practice, rare among states, of denying constitutional rights to people who have served their time for wrongdoing.

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A database of felons banned from voting includes the Des Moines Police Department. That’s right. The DMPD is among those listed in the 103,000-entry database. Also flagged as ineligible to vote and facing criminal penalties if they do: a bail bonds company, a day care center, a dead person whose name is misspelled, the Iowa Food Health Center, a gun shop and “The State of Iowa.”

The “state” apparently cannot vote due to a 2007 felony drunken driving conviction in Muscatine County.

Of course Iowa would not need to maintain this error-ridden and unreliable database if it simply restored voting rights to all Iowans who are not incarcerated. Reynolds could issue an executive order to do that, which we have recommended as a stopgap measure. A permanent change would require amending the Iowa Constitution, and the Legislature should start that process when it meets in January.

A rose to the Iowa Asian Alliancefor raising more than $1 million to fix damaged sculptures and add more diverse markers to the Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens in downtown Des Moines.

The group wants to protect the garden on the east bank of the Des Moines River from potential floods and build stronger ties to Ray’s legacy.

The five-term Republican governor advocated for the resettlement of 40,000 Southeast Asian refugees in the 1970s — a sentiment that should be shared by members of his political party today.

A rose to former Iowa congressman Berkley Bedell,who died this month at the age of 98. His passion for democracy and public service extended long beyond his time in the U.S. House of Representatives and right up until his final days.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945 and on the Spirit Lake Board of Education from 1957 to 1962.

In 1975, Iowans sent the Democrat to Congress to represent our 6th District. He served there until 1987. (Declining state population led to the elimination of the 6th District in 1992, and Iowa now has four congressional districts).

Bedell was known for using his role to fight against climate change and economic inequality, as well as advocating for youth involvement in politics. Though he had been out of office for decades, he continued to work with presidential candidates.

In the run-up to the 2016 elections, Bedell advocated for youth voter turnout on Iowa college campuses and asked young Iowans to use their power to push presidential candidates on such issues as climate and student debt.

A rose to the Iowa Department of Corrections for taking steps toward addressing racial disparities in the state’s prison system.

According to Iowa Public Radio, Director Beth Skinner said the department is collecting data related to inmate discipline, release decisions, grievances, access to treatment and inmate work assignments. The first information is expected to be released in January. An advisory group made up of community members, state agencies, faith leaders and others will review the data.

“If we see there’s a great difference between races, then we kind of look under the hood,” Skinner said. “And we see if a policy or practice is maybe causing this disparity and then if it is, we have an action plan.”

Iowa also needs an action plan (which includes a ban on racial profiling) to reduce disparities in arrests, the point where people enter the criminal justice system.

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Sioux City Journal. December 9, 2019

Cheers and Jeers

Thumbs down

The mind reels

An Economist/YouGov poll conducted from Nov. 24 to Nov. 26 showed 53 percent of Republicans surveyed believe President Donald Trump is a better leader than President Abraham Lincoln, The Hill reported on Nov. 30.

Support for President Trump? Fine. Passionate support for President Trump? Fine. Greater than the president who ended slavery and who guided and held our nation together through a civil war? Please.

Over the top

In a campaign appearance in New Hampton, Iowa, on Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden lost his cool in reaction to a comment from an audience member about his son, Hunter, and Ukraine.

“We all know Trump has been messing around in Ukraine,” the man, who identified himself as an Iowa farmer, said, according to a Politico report. “You on the other hand sent your son over there to get a job and work for a gas company and (who) had no experience in natural gas. You’re selling access to the president just like he is.”

“You’re a damn liar, man,” Biden fired back. “That’s not true. And no one has ever said that.”

The testy exchange included the audience member telling Biden he’s “too old” to be president and Biden challenging him with, “Let’s do push-ups together here, man. Let’s run. Let’s do whatever you want to do. Let’s take an IQ test.”

We suggest Biden practice a more measured response to questions and comments on the campaign trail he doesn’t like because he undoubtedly will hear more of them.

And that’s no malarkey.

Thumbs up

Strong numbers

American employers added 266,000 jobs in November — the fastest pace since 312,000 in January — and the jobless rate dropped to 3.5 percent, matching September as the lowest level since 1969, the Labor Department said Friday. Wages are up 3.1 percent from a year ago.

An annual highlight

The NAIA Volleyball National Championship returned to Sioux City’s Tyson Events Center last week. The city has been the host community for the tournament since 1998.

Through the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship each March, the NAIA Volleyball National Championship each December and, for two years, the NAIA Softball World Series, Sioux City and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics have formed a strong relationship.

Tyson officials estimated the volleyball tournament would draw some 21,000 visitors to Sioux City.

The event is an annual highlight of our local calendar and provides both direct and indirect benefits for our community.

Almost done

An 11-year plan to widen Interstate 29 to three lanes in each direction from Sergeant Bluff, through Sioux City, to the South Dakota border is nearly finished.

Motorists will encounter some finishing touches to the project in the spring and a bridge over Perry Creek damaged by fire on Oct. 30 needs repairs, but major planned construction should wrap up by the end of this month, The Journal reported last Sunday.

One of the benefits the 12-mile, $400 million reconstruction project will produce is improved Sioux City entrances and exits – a strong selling point in efforts to attract economic development.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. December 12, 2019

NEW Cooperative has stepped up again this year

Food, like twinkling lights and carefully wrapped presents, is a major component of the holiday season.

At family meals across the area, dining room tables will be just about creaking under the weight of all kinds of good things to eat. But unfortunately, not everyone can afford even a modest holiday meal.

NEW Cooperative Inc. has stepped up again to help meet that need and ensure that more area residents will have a good meal this holiday season.

The staff of the Fort Dodge based cooperative is doing that by distributing about 2,000 free hams. This year 1,200 of those hams were given to people who received a coupon from Upper Des Moines Opportunity Inc. Another 800 hams will be given to 17 food pantries in the 13 counties where NEW Cooperative facilities are located.

This is the third year that the effort, called Hams for Hunger, has been conducted.

Many of the hams were distributed in Fort Dodge Tuesday at the NEW Cooperative office on First Avenue South. City firefighters joined the cooperative employees and the staff of Upper Des Moines Opportunity Inc. to distribute the hams and direct traffic.

“In our minds, we’re in the business of producing food and it’s just a natural fit and a way to give back to some of the less fortunate people in these communities,” said NEW Cooperative General Manager Dan Dix.

”Our employees do all the work,” Dix added. ”They feel very good about doing it and seeing the reactions and some of the conversations with the people that we’re sharing the hams with is kind of priceless for some of them. Every year, we have people who tell us, ‘We wouldn’t have anything for Christmas if it wasn’t for this.”

The crew at NEW Cooperative Inc. didn’t have to do this hunger-fighting effort, and yet they did. We thank them for their dedication to their neighbors who need some help.

We also thank the staff of Upper Des Moines Opportunity Inc. for their constant work to help those who are less fortunate.

And we salute the city firefighters for doing yet again something to help their community.

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