Randy Evans's blog

We honored Cameron and remembered Gov. Ray

Sue and I were in Washington, Iowa, last month. The purpose for our trip was a high school graduation.

It was a special occasion because the people we joined with in honoring young Cameron, the newly minted Washington High School grad, have been our friends for almost 44 years.

It is important to know that while family and friends gathered to celebrate this milestone in the young man’s life, there was one noteworthy person close to the family’s heart who was there in spirit, because he truly made this wonderful day possible.

That person was the late Robert Ray, Iowa’s former governor, who died in 2018. He is a revered figure in the lives of Cameron’s extended family and in the lives of thousands of immigrant families.

Millions of reasons why outside scrutiny is important

When FBI agents led a Dixon, Ill., official out of city hall in handcuffs and the charges against her became public, the most often asked question was “How.”

How did City Comptroller Rita Crundwell manage to embezzle an astounding $54 million from the northwest Illinois community of 15,700 people before she was finally detected?

How did city officials and an outside CPA auditing firm fail to get even a whiff of her brazen scheme for the 22 years she robbed the city treasury?

Crundwell was arrested in 2012. Her case is old news now. But Iowans should have more than idle curiosity in her crime.

Hers is a textbook case of why it is important to have independent outside auditors and investigators with the legal tools and the expertise to dig into potential “paper” crimes or misconduct involving government employees.

This is why anxiety about secrecy led us into court

In 2017, the Iowa Legislature responded to concerns from Gov. Terry Branstad and amended Iowa law to ensure when government employees are forced out of their jobs the reasons must be made public and not shrouded in secrecy.

The goal was commendable. The governor was right. People deserve to be told “why.” It is called public accountability.

Since then, the transparency promised six years ago has diminished.

Keeping Iowa in the dark is not acceptable

If you watch the Iowa Legislature in action, there are some truisms you see time and again.

Such as: Each political party is in favor of transparency and accountability — until they gain the majority. Then those politicians see many reasons why transparency and accountability are problematic.

Another: If you don’t know where you are going, any path will get you there.

And then there is today’s truism: Don’t ask a question if you are afraid of the answer.

For the Republican majority in the Iowa Senate, the answer they do not want to hear is what the scientific data show about the pollution of Iowa lakes, rivers and streams with nitrates and phosphorus, two contaminants that come primarily from agricultural runoff. They do not want to know whether the problem is getting better or getting worse.

With parents’ rights, Iowa giveth and taketh away

The Iowa Legislature and Governor Kim Reynolds cannot seem to make up their minds whether they support parental rights or are against Mom and Dad being the decision-makers when it comes to their children’s well-being.

Trying to analyze Republican officials’ views on parental rights is challenging. Baseball’s infield fly rule is simpler.

In 2021, the Republican majorities in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate passed legislation to prohibit schools from requiring students to wear facial masks in the classroom to fend off Covid. The governor quickly signed the new law, offering this explanation: “Iowa is putting parents back in control of their children’s education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions.”

Is it right to treat big whales differently?

On a late summer afternoon in Bloomfield 40 years ago, the people of Iowa learned about an unofficial government principle we have seen repeated in recent weeks.

Although this has played out in various ways through the years, it ultimately comes down to the same concept: If your problem is large enough, government will step in and lend you a helping hand. But if government decides yours is not a big problem, you probably will have to fend for yourself.

And we wonder why many Americans are disenchanted with government and its sense of fairness these days.

Iowa out of step on access to police video

Every few months, someone is killed or injured by police somewhere in the United States under circumstances that lead to inevitable questions about what exactly occurred.

Typically, answers come when video from the law officers’ squad car cameras or their uniform cameras is made public. Each time this occurs, there are two inescapable conclusions:

First, police in most states realize it is their obligation to release this video. They know that public faith and respect for law officers will suffer if citizens and journalists are prevented from viewing the footage, especially when an incident results in death or injury, most notably when the person was not armed.

And second, each time such video is released somewhere in the United States, it becomes obvious Iowa is out of step with most other states — because in Iowa, law enforcement agencies and government attorneys insist the video must forever remain off-limits because it is part of a confidential investigative file.

This insistence on secrecy harms public trust and respect for Iowa law enforcement.

A rural school teaches lessons on governing

By Randy Evans

There is an interesting study in contrasts playing out right now in Iowa.

One example comes from the Davis County School District in Bloomfield. It is the 96th-largest of Iowa’s 328 public districts, with an enrollment of 1,150 students.

The other example comes from the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The Davis County school board is wrestling with an incredibly difficult decision — whether to hold classes four days a week instead of the traditional five-day-a-week schedule.

The decision-making process has been marked by ongoing public information over the past five months. There has been lots of opportunity for people to ask questions about what is best for the Davis County schools and Davis County kids.

The process is geared both for learning what people in the district want and for helping the community become comfortable with the decision the school board eventually makes.

On the other hand, the solid Republican majorities in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate, with a Republican in the governor’s office, seem more interested in gaining legislative victories and less interested in following a process that builds confidence and acceptance among Iowans whose opinions differ from the Republicans.

Governor supports a different indoctrination

A recent public opinion poll found that three-quarters of Americans want members of Congress to end their bickering and begin compromising more with their colleagues from the other party.

The poll was conducted across the United States by Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion for National Public Radio and the PBS News Hour.

If such a poll were conducted in Iowa, it’s my hunch the pollsters would find people here have similar views of the inability, or unwillingness, of senators and representatives in Washington to engage in the thoughtful give-and-take art of lawmaking.

It is also my hunch that Iowans are at a similar point with respect to the Legislature’s recent string of proposed laws that target our 327 public school districts.

That hunch jelled even before Gov. Kim Reynolds signaled last week where she may be headed next in her quest to transform public schools. Her new goal should bother freedom-loving moms and dads and others who understand what our Founding Fathers wanted when they established the United States — you know, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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.


Subscribe to RSS - Randy Evans's blog
Go to top