Randy Evans's blog

Governor is correct: More transparency needed

Gov. Kim Reynolds talked last week about the importance of government leaders keeping other government officials looped in as decisions are made and events unfold.

The governor was more correct than she probably intended. I will get to that shortly.

But first, here is some important background on the governor’s statement — because she and I see eye to eye on this, at least as it relates to the issue that provoked her displeasure with federal officials.

Americans deserve answers, not more politics

Plenty of stray thoughts have been swirling through my noggin lately. Thoughts like:

What would Americans and members of Congress think today if the federal government decided against creating the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John Kennedy?

What would we think today if the House and Senate two decades ago rejected an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the aborted airliner attack on either the White House or Capitol?

The population problem Iowa should discuss

Through the years, the Iowa Legislature is the place where Iowans gather to debate the biggest issues and challenges facing our state. It has been this way for 175 years.

The 2021 session is days from adjournment, but there has been precious little time spent discussing one of the thorniest problems confronting this state in decades or looking for solutions.

The issue is the quality of our water.

Our lakes, streams and rivers are so polluted with agricultural runoff that experts urge people, for health reasons, to not swim in many lakes and to avoid eating fish caught in certain rivers.

Where oh where are today’s Bob Rays?

It’s hard for those of us of a certain vintage to realize it has been 39 years since Robert Ray was Iowa’s governor.

In spite of the passage of so much time, his name was on the minds of many people last week.

What triggered the Bob Ray memories was Gov. Kim Reynolds’ interview with WHO Radio on Thursday.

Reynolds was asked about the thousands of children, mostly from Central America, who are showing up this year at our border with Mexico without their parents. They arrive hoping to be allowed to live in the United States with relatives or sponsors, freeing them from the deadly violence and the grip of poverty so common where they came from.

Iowans deserve a governor, not a ruler

The Iowa Supreme Court chamber is a magnificent venue for the seven justices who referee the thorniest legal questions in our state.

The courtroom seats a few dozen spectators. Last week, it’s a shame there weren’t thousands of people listening to the justices’ questions and the lawyers’ responses in the appeal of Christopher Godfrey’s lawsuit against former Gov. Terry Branstad.

There is much riding on the decision the Supreme Court will make this spring. The stakes go beyond the district court jury verdict that taxpayers must pay the former Iowa workers compensation commissioner $1.5 million in damages for Branstad’s decision in 2011 to cut his salary by one-third.

That occurred, according to the lawyers for the two sides, either because Godfrey is gay and because a handful of Branstad business supporters disliked Godfrey’s decisions in cases involving workers hurt on the job, or because the governor was merely exercising his administrative discretion as the state’s chief executive.

There’s more at stake than new road signs

Tucked away among hundreds of bills being considered this year by the Iowa Legislature is one people might have quickly embraced in a different era.

But times have changed. It has been 38 years since Robert Ray left the governor’s office. State government today is far messier than it was back then.

Compounding the reaction to Senate File 404 has been the social and political upheaval in Iowa in recent years – enough to bring out pundits with their potshots.

The seemingly innocuous piece of legislation appropriates $350,000 for the Iowa Department of Transportation to replace the 68 “Welcome” signs along Iowa’s borders. The bill also contains a requirement that the new signs incorporate what it calls a “different and distinct” design and message for travelers.

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.”

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