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No guarantee leadership roles will produce leaders

Leadership is an elusive quality.

When we think of leaders, we often list people in leadership roles. They are the boss; they make the decisions.

But in reality, having a leadership role does not necessarily make those people true leaders. Someone once explained the distinction this way: “Actions, not words, are the ultimate results of leadership.”

There should not be a price tag to vote

Iowans take considerable pleasure in enumerating the various ways our state stands apart from the other 49 states --- beyond our endangered first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

For many years, we pointed with pride to the fact that Iowa’s high school graduation rate was tops in the United States.

We like to remind friends from other states that Iowa farmers produce more corn, hogs and eggs than farmers anywhere else.

Sports fans beamed over the University of Iowa wrestling team’s success from 1978 to 1986, when the Hawkeyes won the NCAA title a record nine consecutive times. That is a longer string of NCAA team championships than any other Division 1 university in any other sport.

But there’s another category where Iowa stands atop the 50 states, and this one should embarrass us instead of filling us with pride.

Protecting teachers who protect student rights

A bill now awaiting debate and a vote in the Iowa Senate is quite short. It adds a mere 10 lines to the Iowa Code.

But those 10 lines are an important legal statement Iowa lawmakers should adopt before they finish their work for 2020.

Senate File 2331 says employees of Iowa’s public schools shall not be dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned or in any other way retaliated against for protecting a student’s freedom of expression or for refusing to infringe on a student’s First Amendment rights.

Iowa’s compelling interest in equality for all

Members of the Iowa Legislature are in the midst of tying themselves into knots over the issue of equality, and that’s unfortunate.

The knot-tying involves what these lawmakers call “religious freedom.”

That has a patriotic ring to it. Who would disagree? Our constitutional right to freedom of religion sets the United States apart from many nations.

But when you analyze what this legislative initiative really involves, it is too reminiscent of America’s past – a past when some people regularly were subjected to discrimination when they tried to find lodging for the night, or sit at a lunch counter for a meal, or to be hired for a job.

It’s time to overhaul, or end, the caucuses

For 40+ years, Iowa has been pulling the wool over the eyes of the free world every four years.

It is time our state’s political leaders put aside their love of the national spotlight and retire the much-ballyhooed Iowa caucuses – or overhaul the process to address the obvious flaws that exist with the event.

I say that, not because some people think Iowa is the wrong location for the first stop in the process of choosing the Democrats’ and the Republicans’ nominees for president.

Remember, our imperfections don’t define us

Every one of us probably has a moment of dread from our grade school days squirreled away in the dusty recesses of our memories. Or many such moments.

For me, it was in elementary school when it was my turn to sing a solo in music class. I would have given anything to be spared from having the spotlight on me that day.

In the grand scheme of things, however, my agony quickly passed. But not every student’s moment of dread is as fleeting as mine.

A teacher has a lesson from the ER for all of us

Schools across Iowa have been dark for more than a week because of winter vacation.

But a Des Moines teacher still managed to teach a very important lesson during that time – but this lesson wasn’t aimed at the kids she normally works with. It was intended for adults.

Laura’s lesson is one more people should learn from, because the discussions in Washington, D.C., and at the Capitol in Des Moines would benefit from a wider appreciation and understanding of what she was telling us.

Horrors of Cricket Hollow Zoo expose need for reform of state, federal enforcement agencies

Viewpoint by Tracey Kuehl, of Bettendorf, one of the seven plaintiffs who filed lawsuits filed against Cricket Hollow Zoo.

When Cricket Hollow Zoo was ordered closed by a district court judge Dec. 4, it was the end of a long-running tragedy for hundreds of animals that suffered from neglect and cruelty.

But the lengthy legal battle over operation of the roadside zoo near Manchester also exposed an equally despicable condition – apathy and neglect by government agencies charged with protecting those animals from deplorable conditions and mistreatment.

Regulatory inadequacies and lax enforcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) paved the way for more than a decade of animal suffering at the zoo.

UI utility secrecy: A blow to public accountability

The Iowa Board of Regents is being asked this week to consider a complex proposal to turn the operation of the University of Iowa’s utility system over to an unnamed a business that will be paid to operate it for the next 50 years.

The business will make a cash payment of undisclosed size to the university up front in return for the privilege of managing the coal-burning power plant, water treatment plant and the infrastructure for distributing electricity, steam and water across the sprawling campus and hospital complex. In return, the business is guaranteed a 50-year stream of revenue from its one customer.

Our legacy is more than our bank accounts

I was in Dubuque last week to toast a friend who was retiring after a long and distinguished career. There was a big community reception that was attended by scores of people.

The speakers mentioned his many contributions to the company where he worked for 33 years. They commented on the awards he had received and how he had helped make Dubuque a better community.

There were congratulatory letters read from some notable Iowans – former Gov. Terry Branstad, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley and a friend, the Most Rev. William Joensen, the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines.

But it was the mention of his family – his wife, their four children, the flock of grandkids – that had the honoree dabbing at his eyes.

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