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These changes won’t improve election security

Iowa’s 2020 election was one for the record books – with 1.7 million people marking ballots.

It was an impressive turnout in Iowa – with 76 percent of Iowa’s eligible voters taking part.

There were no allegations of election fraud or polling place shenanigans in Iowa. No one suggested people from cemeteries were casting ballots in our state.

We didn’t hear claims Iowa voting machines were rigged by nefarious forces. No one suggested counterfeit ballots were sneaked into counties across Iowa.

So, this question is worth asking: Why is the Iowa Legislature fast-tracking dramatic changes in the state’s election laws that will make it more difficult for people to vote?

It’s not surprising if Iowans have whiplash

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ message for Iowans has been consistent since the coronavirus pandemic arrived a year ago:

Yes, wearing masks is important, the governor has made clear, but government should leave it to people to do right thing.

Reynolds has been under intense pressure, both for and against facial masks. Advocates for a mask mandate have said she could save countless lives and slow the spread of disease if she required masks to be worn whenever people are in public places or large groups.

But government should not dictate people’s behavior, Reynolds insists.

There are more questions than answers in Iowa

Through the years, the Iowa Legislature has chosen an official a state flower and a state bird. There’s also a state tree and even an official rock.

It may be time for lawmakers to designate an official state punctuation mark, too.

The question mark seems to be an appropriate choice – especially after the troubling news from our state in the past few weeks, news that has left many Iowans asking “why?”.

Repeat after me: Let the public know

The purpose was pretty simple when the Iowa Legislature wrote the state’s public meetings law many years ago:

Government boards are required to announce their meetings at least one day in advance, and officials must tell the public what will be discussed and voted on.

People are entitled to participate in our democracy by attending these meetings, so they can understand what the law calls “the basis and rationale” for government decisions.

If that was unclear to anyone, lawmakers added a second sentence to that declaration: “Ambiguity in the construction or application of this chapter should be resolved in favor of openness.”

Safety, transparency at the Iowa Capitol? Ahhh, no

Iowa Republican legislative leaders told reporters less than two weeks ago they were going to do all they could to preserve public access to the Iowa Capitol while keeping lawmakers, staff and the public as safe as possible from COVID-19. They are failing on both counts.

“We have to have a transparent process to the government, regardless of what party and I think we would all agree on that,” House Speaker Pat Grassley told reporters Jan. 7 at an Iowa Capital Press Association forum. “So we have to find that fine line in which we can still do that. We can still try to be as safe as we can, but also have transparency in this process.”

We don’t need a ‘leader’ like this one

I was a kid from small-town Iowa when I first laid eyes on the United States Capitol.

It was 1962. My family squeezed into our Dodge and drove to our nation’s capital for the vacation of a lifetime. It was all about history.

We walked through the White House. We climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and peered up at the statue of the great leader.

We stood in awe in the Capitol rotunda, with the massive dome soaring above us. We walked the ornate corridors and made our way into the gallery of the House of Representatives. From there, we gazed down at the representatives on the House floor, where important debates have made history.

That 11-year-old boy thought about the presidents and other leaders who walked where he was walking. That boy never imagined that someday a lawless mob of Americans, egged on by the president of the United States, of all people, would lay siege to this inspiring building.

No justification for shutting the public out

There are some high-minded legal principles written into Iowa laws and rulings by our state’s Supreme Court.

But in recent weeks, one of those sound principles has run into a few closed-minded state officials and the closed doors of government.

Some officials prefer to conduct the people’s business without being bothered with having the pesky public around.

This has occurred during the Iowa Board of Regents process for learning what students and employees at the University of Iowa hope to see in a new UI president. This has occurred as the Iowa Department of Public Health tapped into the advice of medical experts on what priorities should be established for access to the new coronavirus vaccines.

This might hurt some feelings; or what can be done to actually improve Iowa's water quality

“To be radical is to simply grasp the root of the problem. And the root is us.” - Howard Zinn, 1999.

There’s a page on my website where I post the powerpoint slides from presentations I conduct. I took a look at that page this morning, and over the last five years I have conducted 69 programs for various groups, or about one a month on average. I reckon that at about half of these I get the question, “what can be done”, this in regard to Iowa water quality and pollution generated by the corn-soybean-CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) production model.

People have been thinking about “what can be done” for a long time.

Because of industry and farmer recalcitrance and hostility toward regulation, various ideas for improving water quality have focused on either (1) enticing farmers to voluntarily adopt practices that reduce erosion and nutrient loss without major modifications to the production system or (2), promotion of concepts like increased crop diversity and improved soil health that do require substantial management changes.

I suppose you could also throw land retirement in there, but this has not been tried on any significant scale in Iowa since the 1980s.

Stop saying we all want clean water

Originally posted on Chris Jones' blog April 14, 2019

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard or read the phrase “we all want clean water."

If so, in all likelihood it came from someone of stature or someone knowledgeable about water quality issues.

Today, I had the idea to shake the Google tree and see what fruit fell to the ground when I entered the phrase “we all want clean water.”

It turns out one of our politicians has been quoted saying this so many times that I had a hard time figuring out who else had said it, so I started plucking names out of my head and attaching them to the phrase.

What resulted was an impressive list, a veritable who’s who of Iowa politics and agriculture.

‘Unemployment’ is not the same for everyone

The boss told Gus Malzahn on Sunday that he was no longer needed. His employment was ending immediately.

With that blunt conversation, Malzahn became another statistic of 2020. He took his place next to the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs this year — a year when unemployment, at times, rivaled those dreadfully dark days of the Great Depression.

But Malzahn is not in the same boat as most of the others.

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