Demolition of the old Interstate 74 (Memorial) Bridge has begun after opening of the new interstate bridge in 2022.

Elections, not caucuses, should be the focus

Not that she asked, but I have some advice for Rita Hart, the new chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Yes, Hart is an experienced practitioner of politics. She was twice elected to the Iowa Senate. She was the Democrats’ lieutenant governor candidate on the ticket with Fred Hubbell in 2018. And two years ago, she came within an eyelash — six votes — of winning a seat in Congress. She also is a former teacher and still farms with her husband near the Clinton County town of Wheatland.

Normally, I would trust the judgment of someone with her credentials on what her priorities should be as the Iowa Democrats’ top state leader. But this is the Iowa Democratic Party, and too many party activists, along with civic boosters and journalists, cling to the belief that the process of choosing presidential nominees absolutely and without question must begin in Iowa.

Message from Iowa Gov. Reynolds and the state Republican Party – transparency is only for suckers

Iowa Capital Dispatch
January 23, 2023

Transparency is for suckers.

That’s the message, loud and clear, from Gov. Kim Reynolds and her Republican enablers in the Legislature.

I’d suspect that this was another, particularly idiotic manifestation of the trans-phobia that has infected Republican officeholders the past few years. But no, Reynolds and GOP lawmakers are insisting on “transparency” through various priority bills in the Legislature while keeping the public in the dark. Everybody loves transparency  – as long as it required of other people.

Reynolds’ recent interview with Amanda Rooker of KCCI-TV made that abundantly clear. Rooker asked Reynolds about the so-called “transparency” measures she is proposing for public schools. These may include ideas proposed in the past, like requiring teachers to post their lesson plans online or school libraries posting every title on their shelves.

Rooker asked if Reynolds would also seek to impose those rules on private schools that receive taxpayer funds from her education savings account proposal.

Reynolds stammered.

“Well, you know they’re held to — you know, most of this would deal with public schools, would public schools right now. So you know, they – it would just be public schools.”

That last phrase is the actual answer. Only public schools would have to post course details and library titles and whatever else the governor and GOP lawmakers can think of to demand from public schools.

Lousy choices best describes 'school choice' bill

Along the Mississippi

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says her plan to use taxpayer money to pay for private schooling gives people a choice to educate their kids where they want.

But that’s not what her plan says. Just look at the details: Only certain families with kids in public schools will get that choice.

What this plan really does is pay people who already are sending their kids to private schools.

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ address highlights private school scholarships, agency restructuring

by Robin Opsahl, Iowa Capital Dispatch
January 10, 2023

Gov. Kim Reynolds unveiled her latest private school scholarship proposal and plans for a huge restructuring of the state government Tuesday in her 2023 Condition of the State address.

Reynolds delivered her sixth address as governor to the most Republican-dominated Legislature of her time in office and one in which more than a third of the members are beginning their first terms.

“Through natural disasters, a pandemic, a nationwide recession and more, Iowa’s status as a beacon for freedom and opportunity has endured,” she said. “We’ve been recognized as the most fiscally responsible state in the country, we’re ranked in the top ten states to live in America, and we continue to be ranked the #1 state for opportunity.”

Reynolds was reelected to her second full term as Iowa governor in the 2022 election, defeating Democratic challenger Deidre DeJear.

Republicans also strengthened their trifecta control at the Iowa Statehouse, and party leaders in both chambers said they were ready to implement the governor’s agenda quickly. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said the Senate is ready to hold a subcommittee meeting on Reynolds’ education bill yet this week or early next week.

“We are ready to get to work and hopefully make this agenda into law,” Whitver said.

Class action lawsuit accuses Davenport-based Lee Enterprises, Inc. of online privacy violations

Iowa Capital Dispatch

The Iowa-based newspaper chain Lee Enterprises is facing a potential class-action lawsuit alleging it has shared readers’ personal information with Facebook in violation of federal law.

Lee publishes newspapers and other media content in 77 markets across 26 states. The company’s 10 Iowa papers include the Quad-City Times in Davenport, the Sioux City Journal, the Mason City Globe-Gazette the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier and the Muscatine Journal.

The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court, alleges that Lee’s news-media websites offer users the option of subscribing to newsletters or to newspapers that provide consumers with access to articles and video content in exchange for their personal information, including names and mailing addresses.

Pass the gravy, pretty please

It’s that time of year again. Another twelve months have gone by, and Crazy Uncle Frank once again brought his friend Captain Morgan with him to Christmas dinner, hidden in his jacket pocket.

After a few surreptitiously spiked egg nogs, Frank gets a little mean and starts talking smack about his favorite whipping boy, conservation compliance.

First, a little primer on conservation compliance.

According to USDA (1), The 1985 Farm Bill “requires producers participating in most programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to abide by certain conditions on any land owned or farmed that is highly erodible or that is considered a wetland.”

Of course, one of those programs is taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance.

On average, federal taxpayers pay 62 percent of the cost of farmers’ crop insurance premiums. Again, on average, for every $1 a farmer spends on crop insurance, he/she gets back $2.23 (2).

Large write-down of assets leaves Lee with a $6.34 million loss for fourth quarter ended September 25

Lee Enterprises – owner of the Quad City Times, Daily Dispatch/Argus and more than 70 other newspapers and online news sites – reported a $6.34 million loss for the fourth quarter ended September 25. However, the quarterly financial results were skewed into negative territory primarily by a $21 million (non-cash) write-down of company assets.

Without the write-down, Lee likely would have had positive earnings for the quarter, as opposed to the $1.09 per share loss it reported Thursday (December 8).

Iowa to dramatically cut back on restaurant inspections; plan is for once every five years

Iowa Capital Dispatch
October 12, 2022

The state of Iowa is planning to dramatically scale back the routine inspection of restaurants and other food-service establishments by making only one onsite inspection every five years.

Currently, most Iowa restaurants are subjected to at least one routine inspection every three years. They are also inspected in response to complaints or changes in ownership.

Complaint-driven and ownership-related inspections will continue. But in the absence of those issues, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals intends to visit each Iowa restaurant no more than once every five years under a set of new rules that are expected to take effect next month.

Iowa regulatory agency ignores law requiring the routine inspection of Iowa hotels

Iowa Capital Dispatch
October 10, 2022

For the past eight years, a state regulatory agency has violated a law requiring the routine inspection of Iowa’s hotels and motels.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals is required to inspect all hotels within its jurisdiction at least once every two years. Inspections are the sole process by which Iowa enforces regulations intended to protect hotel guests’ health, safety and rights as consumers.

In May, the Iowa Capital Dispatch asked the department why few hotel inspection reports were being posted to the agency’s website given the legal requirement for routine, biennial inspections at all hotels.

Emails reveal Y officials asked if Bettendorf had fitness center appraised; city says it didn't seek an independent appraisal to avoid the expense

One of the first questions YMCA of the Mississippi Valley officials asked about a possible deal to buy the Bettendorf Life Fitness Center was if the city had done a real estate appraisal to determine the market value of the 72,000-square-foot facility and its 3-acre site along Middle Road.

"No, there has not," was the email response from Bettendorf City Administrator Decker Ploehn.

That exchange occurred in mid-December 2021, according to emails obtained by Bettendorf.com under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the city. Over the ensuing nine months, the city has not sought an appraisal to determine the current market value of the facility.

Under state law, an appraisal is not required if the city conducts a public hearing on the sale of public property. That public hearing on the sale of the life fitness center for $1.4 million – the county's assessed value which has changed little over the past four years – is scheduled for the city council's Oct. 4 meeting.

City officials in response to questions about the emails obtained by bettendorf.com said using the county's assessed value saved the city from spending money on an appraisal. But by not having a real estate appraiser estimate the actual market value of property, the city could be giving away far more taxpayer dollars than the cost of an appraisal.

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