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Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 1, 2014 at 9:00 am •  Published: December 1, 2014

Iowa's prison population has experienced sharp spikes and drops in the past decade, in large part because of short-term changes in prison admissions compared with early releases by the Board of Parole. But the long-term trend is worrisome. Prison populations were flat from 1925 to 1975, when they started a steady upward trajectory.

After a brief period of stability, the line is projected to shoot upward toward 2025. That is unless the Legislature, the governor and other state officials begin to make serious changes in criminal sentencing policy. The status quo will not do. The alternative will be very expensive to both the state budget and to human beings caught up in the criminal justice system.


Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Nov. 27, 2014.

Deere Tractor & Engine Museum a welcome addition to downtown

Area residents who have lived in the Cedar Valley for any significant amount of time know well the huge impact John Deere has had on this area.

So we can all be proud of the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum that will open Tuesday. The company announced the opening date earlier this week. This particular component has long been mentioned as part of the ongoing Cedar Valley TechWorks project — the $50 million endeavor on Deere's former Westfield Avenue facilities.

There is no debate about the economic importance of this major employer.

The company is closing in on the century mark here, having a presence in the Cedar Valley since 1918 when Deere purchased the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company and built that enterprise into the world's largest tractor manufacturing complex.

"Tractors and engines have been and continue to be important to John Deere's success," said Dawn Hendershot, project manager. "We are pleased to share the history of these products as part of our overall story as a technology leader and quality manufacturer."

The 27,000-square-foot facility will feature 19 tractors from different eras, including nine the company owns and 10 that belong to collectors. The museum focuses on the history of tractor and engine design and manufacturing at John Deere, particularly in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area.

Also featured are seven engines and about 25 "hands-on" interactive exhibits. The museum includes 15,000 square feet of space dedicated to galleries, as well as a 100-seat theater and an 1,800-square-foot retail store.

"It does exactly what we intended it to do, as far as highlighting the authentic site and showcasing what the community and employees have been involved in, as far as tractor manufacturing and development on this site," Hendershot said. "It tells a great story about how tractors came to be and the employee and community involvement. We feel really proud of it and that it does meet expectations.

"Throughout its history, John Deere has remained focused on the success of customers whose work is linked to the land," Henderson added. "For 177 years, Deere has endured various economic cycles, and this museum is a tribute to the resilience of John Deere employees and customers to weather both the good times and the bad."

The Dec. 2 opening is a "soft opening," with a grand opening event to be scheduled for the spring.

The vitality of Waterloo and the Cedar Valley has long been tied to this major manufacturer and employer. The new John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum will be an interesting and appropriate addition to the area.


Quad-City Times. Nov. 29, 2014.

Iowa pushes alcohol consumption even higher

While Iowa dabbles in the marijuana debate, we're reminded once again the state is not an impartial observer. The same state so wary about the ramifications of marijuana reform continues to pocket record profits from alcohol.

That's the substance another government agency, the Department of Public Safety, calls.

— The 2nd leading cause of all traffic accidents, after speed.

— Responsible for 18 percent of all Iowa fatal crashes.

— The key factor in 10,000 Iowa drunken driving arrests each year.

Iowa's alcohol branch of government just announced another record year. Sales were up 3 percent to $263.5 million. Those sales from the state liquor monopoly, along with taxes on competitively marketed beer and wine, generated $119 million for the state's general fund.

In this context, we struggle to comprehend Iowa's skittish approach to marijuana. The governor's Office of Drug Policy, the state Pharmacy Board and the legislature seem consumed by fears of possible medical marijuana abuse. Yet state warehouses, trucks and drivers heap hard alcohol upon Iowans with nary a care, content to live with the arrests, accidents and deaths singularly attributable to this state-managed substance.

Those satisfied with the status quo — including Gov. Terry Branstad — say state distribution increases accountability and profitability. If so, wouldn't those state-run safeguards be appropriate for marijuana, a substance that unlike hard liquor has verifiable medical benefits?

Branstad and others have told us the culture of alcohol consumption is much different than marijuana. Of course it is. The alcohol culture was created, enforced and sustained by state government.

Unlike other states that tax and regulate privately distributed liquor, Iowa has chosen to retain its government-run exclusive distribution of hard alcohol, while fostering competition among beer and wine distributors. It's a hypocrisy that defies any measure of logic.

It makes sense only if revenue is the primary criteria.

Yet revenue and tax prospects never enter into Iowa's marijuana debate. The governor and lawmakers raise specters of drug-addled lawlessness while maintaining a full-out war on marijuana that has failed to reduce consumption or availability. Iowa maintains a screwy system of identifying and seizing marijuana assets for one reason: To find more marijuana assets to seize.

The state-alcohol monopoly yields millions for schools, roads and other big-ticket items, while offering a comparable pittance for treatment.

So Iowa celebrates another record alcohol sales year, the result of government workers' success in increasing alcohol consumption on a county-by-county basis.