Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 28, 2014 at 9:01 am •  Published: July 28, 2014
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Telegraph Herald. July 27, 2014.

Branstad's nix of solar grant disappointing

"I think the state of Iowa has the potential to be the leader of renewable energy."

That was Gov. Terry Branstad in 2011. Branstad said he believed alternative energy development could be the key to bringing to fruition two of the governor's main goals: Bringing 200,000 jobs to Iowa by 2016 and increasing family income by 25 percent.

Then in 2012, Branstad signed bipartisan legislation supporting key solar energy technologies. The legislation created tax incentives for research and development in the area of solar photovoltaics, or solar PV, and solar thermal technologies like solar hot water — both clean and reliable forms of energy that match well with Iowa's energy needs.

In the fall of 2013, the Iowa Economic Development Authority was excited to announce its energy office had landed a $1 million three-year solar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. "Iowa should be at the front of the pack" in solar energy, the governor declared.

Then sometime this spring, Branstad's enthusiasm for solar energy wilted. The Branstad administration surrendered the $1 million grant.

What explanation did the governor give at the time for rejecting a million dollars to help achieve the goals he had been talking about for years?

None. In fact, until journalists with the Associated Press requested emails on the subject under the open records law, no one in the Branstad administration even acknowledged the grant had been sent back to Washington.

Development Authority Director Debi Durham, with the support of Branstad, approved the decision to terminate the grant on April 8.

Guess what April 9 was?

That's right, it was Iowa Solar Day, an annual event sponsored by Iowa's Solar Energy Trade Association celebrating the state's progress implementing solar technology. Branstad told the solar advocates gathered at the Statehouse, "I see tremendous potential for growth in solar energy as I do in other renewable energy in our state." He didn't mention the fact that his administration had just sent back a $1 million grant supporting that effort. That might not have gone over too well with the Solar Energy Trade Association.

It doesn't go over well with the people of Iowa, either. Branstad's reputation has been that of a straight-shooter, but he missed the mark here. First of all, the state really should be working on expanding alternative energy sources. When the state turns down money to help that effort, it looks like the governor is just paying lip service to renewable energy advocates while secretly placating the big utilities. The emails obtained by AP reveal just that — a chilly response from the Iowa Utility Association was the precursor to rejecting the grant.

The secrecy is even more troubling. Branstad typically can be counted on to "own" his opinions and explain his actions, whether or not people agree with him. That didn't happen here.

This grant would have been a perfect fit for the city of Dubuque. With all the city has done to position itself as a sustainability leader, Dubuque was a natural to be a pilot site to expand solar installation. City staffers were ready to work with the state.

Rejecting the grant was troubling on a couple of levels. The state missed an opportunity to reduce burdensome costs and regulations that prevent Iowa residents from adopting solar — that's what the grant was to have been dedicated to. And the whole incident reflects poorly on Branstad. Most Iowans have come to trust Branstad, even if they disagree with him. The governor will have to learn to deal with flak from Iowa's largest utilities if he's really going to make good on his bid to increase alternative energy sources.

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Sioux City Journal. July 27, 2014.

U.S. must secure border, whatever it takes

Arguably, no more important, pressing domestic issue exists today than the crisis on America's border with Mexico.

In fact, Gallup said the percentage of Americans citing immigration as the nation's number-one issue surged to 17 percent this month, up from 5 percent in June, to its highest percentage since 2006. Immigration ranked ahead of dissatisfaction with government, the general economy, unemployment/jobs and health care.

The legal, social, economic, security and humanitarian implications of continued illegal immigration and the virtual tidal wave of Central American children pouring across our nation's southern border can't be overstated.

As America continues its struggle to answer the question of what to do about illegal immigrants and migrant children who already have entered the country, a greater sense of urgency must be applied to improved border security.

In other words, before we can treat the wounds effectively, we first must stop the bleeding.

Whatever it takes.

Today.

A growing number of Americans agree.

A CNN/ORC International survey released on Thursday showed 51 percent of Americans believe forming a plan to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants should be the main focus of immigration policy. Forty-five percent said the top priority should be developing a plan to allow undocumented immigrants who have jobs to become legal residents. That's a "notable shift" from February when Americans said legal status was more important than border security, 54 to 41 percent, CNN said.

Some important steps have been taken to improve border security in recent years, such as increased manpower within the Border Patrol, but they aren't sufficient. Each day the southern border remains porous, border-related problems grow larger.

What should be done?

We support any and all steps to seal the border tight, including more fence, more surveillance technology, even more Border Patrol agents, and, yes, a temporary mobilization of National Guard troops ordered by President Obama. Congress also should revisit the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 under which nearly 60,000 Central American children have arrived on our doorstep since last fall. The federal government should seek to partner with state governments on the problem, not simply leave frustrated governors like Rick Perry of Texas to take action on their own. The U.S. should strengthen border dialogue with Mexico and Central American nations (a meeting held Friday at the White House between President Obama and the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador was a positive step).

Simply put, the flow of illegal immigrants and migrant children into the U.S. can't and shouldn't be allowed to continue. The federal government must send the strongest signals possible, including to individual states and foreign governments, of the seriousness with which it views this issue.

Prospects for action anytime soon look dim, we acknowledge.

Members of Congress will take the entire month of August off. President Obama, who spent most of last week on a fund-raising trip to California, is counting down the days to his own vacation on Martha's Vineyard.

"Unfortunately, it looks like we're on track to do absolutely nothing," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said earlier this week.

Contributing to fading prospects for action on border security is the fact this is an election year. Even though border security shouldn't be a partisan issue and both Democrats and Republicans should be alarmed at where this current path eventually might lead, the realities of politics appear to be getting in the way.

Still, we can hope.

Enough talk, enough pushing this issue off to another day. Border security needs to become priority number one - not simply in Austin, Texas, but from the White House to the Capitol in Washington.

Does tighter border security answer questions related to the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants or the tens of thousands of Central American children already here? No.