Des Moines Register. April 19, 2016
Big talk, no money for illiterate third-graders.
When Gov. Terry Branstad embarked on a quest to create "world class schools" in Iowa, his staff repeatedly stressed the importance of ensuring students could read by the end of third grade. His 2011 blueprint for education reform specifically called for an end to "social promotion for third-graders who read poorly" and for providing "all third-graders who are retained the opportunity to attend a summer reading camp staffed by high-quality teachers." The 17-page proposal included supplemental readings about retention and ending social promotion.
In the end, Branstad signed legislation that does not require schools to retain illiterate third-graders. A provision in the law creating a summer reading program for struggling students was watered down. It allows numerous students to be exempted, and those who attend but make no progress can still advance to fourth grade.
Apparently early reading isn't really at the top of this governor's agenda anyway. He failed to include money for the summer program in his budget recommendations released in January. Instead he indicated he would make a special request to lawmakers later, treating early literacy like an afterthought instead of a priority.
"That extra help isn't going to happen if we don't pay for it," Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, told an editorial writer last week. "There are teachers you have to hire and pay, transportation, staffing the buildings, turning on the air conditioner. All those things cost money."
But lawmakers aren't providing the money either. The education appropriations bill moving forward in the final days of the legislative session does not include the dollars to fund summer reading programs. It does, however, delay implementation of the summer program from 2017 until 2018. Schools can seek a waiver to forgo the program for a year after that.
By 2019, those third-graders the governor was so concerned about when he unveiled his reading initiative in 2011 will be nearing the end of high school — assuming they haven't dropped out.
Of course, it would hardly be a surprise if Branstad line-item vetoed the summer school delay in the appropriations bill — thereby imposing a new unfunded mandate on schools. Also, lawmakers could delay the summer program again next legislative session. And the one after that. Iowa's elected officials have perfected the art of talking big about priorities while providing little or no funding for them. They can come together to legalize silencers for firearms, but can't find a mere $14.5 million in a state budget of more than $7 billion to help illiterate children.
They say they're short on cash, which is a bunch of baloney. The $14.5 million for summer school could have been funded three times over with the $50 million in lost revenue from Branstad's plan to cut the sales tax levied on manufacturers. Reading programs for six summers could have been funded with the $97.6 million in tax revenue the state lost when elected officials insisted on changing the state's tax code to conform with changes made at the federal level, a process known as "coupling."
While thousands of Iowa children struggle with literacy, no tax break for a business will be left behind.___
Sioux City Journal. April 20, 2016
Power of wind continues to blow across Iowa.
Announcement last week of a $3.6 billion plan by MidAmerican Energy for 1,000 more wind turbines in the state provides fresh evidence of Iowa's strength as a national leader in clean, renewable energy.
If approved by the state Utilities Board, the largest economic development project in terms of capital in Iowa history would generate an additional 2,000 megawatts of wind power. When construction was completed, MidAmerican would have more than 3,000 turbines in Iowa with a capacity to produce more than 6,000 megawatts of wind generation.
"We have a bold vision for our energy future," Bill Fehrman, MidAmerican chief executive officer and president, said in a company statement. "... Our customers want more renewable energy, and we couldn't agree more. Once the project is complete, we will generate wind energy equal to 85 percent of our annual customer sales in Iowa, bringing us within striking distance of our 100 percent renewable vision."
Governor Terry Branstad and Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham attended announcement of the project on Thursday.
"(The project) puts Iowa on track to be the first state in the nation to generate more than 40 percent of its energy needs from wind power - far ahead of any other state. Today, Iowa is the only state to have crossed the 30 percent mark," Branstad said.
As we have said before, the wind industry is, from any perspective, a winner for our state. In addition to creating jobs (according to Durham, wind energy supports 7,000 of them), it helps keep electric rates stable for utility customers, puts more money in the pockets of farmers and other rural landowners in the form of lease payments, creates export potential and increases property tax revenue.
Construction of its proposed new wind turbines would boost MidAmerican's total wind energy investment in Iowa to more than $10 billion since 2004.
We join the Branstad administration in praise for the company's commitment to the environment, its investments in the economic future of our state and its contributions to a more energy-independent nation.
Without question, the wind is blowing in the right direction in Iowa.___
Dubuque Telegraph Herald. April 24, 2016
Jobs outlook good news for Dubuque.
Just in case you need a reminder about why the Dubuque area is a great place to live, consider recent news about the local economy:
. For two straight months, Dubuque has added jobs at a higher percentage than any of Iowa's other metro areas.
. Employment in Dubuque County topped 60,000 jobs in March. That's 1,100 more jobs than in March of 2015.
. Dubuque-based insurance broker Cottingham & Butler plans to add 90 local jobs in the next three years and expand into the Roshek Building.
How much does all that matter? Well, voters in presidential primaries and caucuses across the country keep saying that jobs and the economy are still their top concerns. These statistics show how Dubuque is on solid ground while parts of the country are still trying to find their footing in this recovering economy.
A good part of Dubuque's success stems from reinvestment in the community by existing companies. At the top of that list this year is Cottingham & Butler. With the addition of 90 more jobs, Cottingham & Butler's Dubuque workforce would be between 625 and 640 employees. Just last year, the company announced it would add another 90 jobs over a three-year period, and most of those positions have already been filled. This is a company that could operate from anywhere in the world, but its leadership has chosen to stay and grow in Dubuque.
Likewise, Honkamp Krueger & Co., P.C., a certified public accountant and business consulting firm, has added 67 jobs in the past three years and more growth could be on the way.
Heartland Financial USA Inc. also added 37 employees in the past 18 months. More than 100 are now stationed on the third floor of the Roshek Building.
Meanwhile, Cottingham & Butler staffers will fill another floor of Roshek. That's great comfort to citizens, knowing that IBM, the principal employer in that building, has cut staff in recent months. Such is the ebb and flow of economic development. Just as we can't view every setback as a death knell, we can't relax and coast after every success. Keeping an economy humming means a full-court press, and Greater Dubuque Development Corp. has led that charge.
Earlier this year, a contributor to Forbes.com put Dubuque on a list of "The Best Cities to Climb the Economic Ladder." Using research from economist Raj Chetty, the three-community "short list" of upwardly mobile cities included Washington, D.C.; San Jose, Calif.; and Dubuque, Iowa.
A positive mention like that — and Dubuque has had many — might not seem significant, but it speaks to the buzz that good things are happening in Dubuque.
A round of applause for local economic development officials, business leaders and the tri-state area workforce. Together, these partners have kept Dubuque playing a strong economic game.___
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. April 19, 2016
Body cam can be an objective witness.
We didn't think it would take very long for a local situation to crop up that would support the use of body cameras by our law enforcement officers.
Recent review of body camera footage has cleared a Cedar Falls police officer of making inappropriate comments to a woman as police prepared to search her home in a drug investigation in January.
The woman claimed the officer made her keep the door open when she entered a bathroom to put on a bra and told her he had to watch. The officer was posted at her home while other officers prepared to obtain a search warrant for the property, according to Cedar Falls Public Safety Director Jeff Olson.
As reported in Thursday's Courier, the camera started recording before the officer approached the woman, and it continued recording to the point when she was arrested on drug paraphernalia and child endangerment charges and taken to the police station, according to records.
Her complaint was filed about 10 days after the search Jan. 10. While investigating the claim, officials reviewed footage from the officer's body camera. That footage showed the woman retrieving a bra, entering the bathroom, closing the door and leaving a short time later.
"At no time during the contact is the (woman) unclothed in the officer's view, and the officer is never inappropriate in his conduct," a police lieutenant who investigated the complaint wrote in court records.
We had no problem going on record in support of equipping our local officers with body cams numerous times over the past few years. They are becoming increasingly necessary to make a more clear-cut determination in difficult-to-decipher and sensitive situations. They can help protect citizens from misconduct. They also can protect our police officers from false claims. In many cases they will present an unbiased report - avoiding reliance upon widely varying statements from witnesses who may or may not have their own agendas.
It's the same reasoning behind dashboard cameras being employed by police departments across the nation. The use of body cams simply extends that reach.
As we all know, interest in body cameras grew significantly after conflicting witness accounts to a police officer's fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. What exactly transpired remained unclear and people across the country simply made assumptions - many based on their own allegiances.
Body cameras can help us get to the truth in more situations, and that's exactly what we need. This recent case in Cedar Falls is strong testament to the use of body cams by local law enforcement.___