Randy Evans's blog

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.

There’s too little talk about corporate welfare

Here we go again.

Many politicians and their followers are warning of the dangers of the United States drifting into socialism.

If you listen to those sounding the alarm, the culprits behind this trend are presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Party in general, and some of the party’s young lighting rods, notably Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

There’s more to being a good role model

I have been sputtering like an old pickup truck for the past three years over the sometimes outrageous, sometimes ill-informed, and often infuriating comments our president makes each day on his Twitter account.

But before readers rush to judge me too harshly for that statement, allow me to add:

It would be utterly foolish, absolutely wrong, and a perversion of what the United States is all about if the officials who operate Twitter bow to efforts by Kamala Harris, the California senator and Democratic presidential candidate, to pressure the company to shut down Donald Trump’s account.

Our founders wanted the press to shine its spotlight

Fifty-three years ago, I was a high school kid in southern Iowa who knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: I wanted to be a journalist.

The first step on that journey occurred when I walked into the offices of the Bloomfield Democrat and introduced myself to Gary Spurgeon.

Inconsistency’s quicksand snags our governor

Consistency can rise up and snare political leaders if they are not careful.

A recent example is Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is now squirming after questions were raised over whether she favors local control or state control.

The question came up this summer when Madison County officials began studying a proposal from some people living in rural areas outside of Winterset. Those residents want to restrict where wind turbines can be erected in the county.

Lawmakers should leave traffic cameras alone

There was a sobering news report a few weeks ago that did not get the attention it deserved here in Iowa.

That’s unfortunate, because the report should put to rest once and for all the shortsighted attempts by some members of the Iowa Senate to interfere with public safety.

Here was the news:

A new study by the American Automobile Association found that traffic deaths at red lights have increased nationally by 28 percent since 2012.

“The problem is drivers are distracted,” AAA spokesman Doug Shupe told CBS News. “They’re impatient and they’re reckless.”

Iowa’s caucuses need to be more inclusive

Some of my friends who are Democrats are asking Iowa party officials some very uncomfortable questions these days.

I applaud these people for standing up. Their questions go something like this:

Is the Iowa Democratic Party more concerned about keeping the Iowa caucuses first in the nation in the presidential nomination process, even if the caucus structure prevents countless Democrats from participating?

It’s wrong to ban fair visitors for speaking up

This year’s Iowa State Fair received spotlight attention from coast to coast, thanks in large measure to the presence of just about everyone with an itch to be the next United States president.

The Iowa Tourism Office could never afford all of the glowing imagery of Iowa and the fair that was sent around the globe this month – the shoulder to shoulder crowds, people enjoying corndogs and pork chops on a stick, and judges rendering decisions in all manner of contests, from cakes to cantaloupes to cattle.

Shoe-horned into this Norman Rockwell-esque portrait this year was an unfortunate incident that showed an embarrassing lack of understanding and appreciation for the important role freedom of speech plays in our state.

We can see what is important to University of Iowa

The people of Iowa have gotten a look at the University of Iowa’s priorities in recent weeks.

I doubt this was the message administrators in Iowa City intended to send.

But I don’t know how else to interpret the juxtaposition two recent news stories created.

The first came in early August when university President Bruce Harreld signed a three-year contract extension with Gary Barta, the director of athletics. The new agreement increases Barta’s guaranteed compensation to $1 million per year.

In contrast, Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is responsible for all of state government’s revenue collections and for government services that range from higher education to highways to trash collection in state parks, is paid an annual salary of $130,000.

The Hawkeye athletic teams spend more each year on adhesive tape than Reynolds receives in compensation. Indeed, it would take the state’s chief executive seven and a half years to receive as much as Barta will be paid in just one year.

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