A bee enjoys nectar from a purple hyssop plant.

Facts disprove claim Iowa school choice a success

by Rob Sand, Auditor, State of Iowa

Common sense says we can’t judge an outcome before a program begins, but I wasn’t surprised to read a guest essay in the Sept. 3 Des Moines Register proclaiming that “it’s safe to say we were wrong” if we thought Iowa’s new vouchers program would harm our public schools.

I wasn’t surprised because common sense has never been part of the push for vouchers in Iowa.

Here, instead of political talking points, are actual facts about the program’s rules and structure.

Fiddling while we burn: We know what to do about climate change but who will do it?

by Art Cullen, Iowa Capital Dispatch
August 25, 2023

Here we sit sweating it out under a heat dome. It’s supposed to get hot in an Iowa summer, but like this? One heat dome after another. Then a shower just in the nick of time. They say it’s a sign of climate change — that seasonal extremes like a hot August day become more extreme, and linger.

Storm Lake was in a water emergency during RAGBRAI last month. City wells stressed by drought and thirst failed. They got fixed for the time being, but our water system is limping along in need of more improvement than we can afford. Our drinking water sources, underground aquifers, are in decline from increased pumping for humans, livestock and ethanol.

If you don’t think that we are burning up the planet, look around: Maui got toasted as people jumped into the ocean to flee the fire. LA does not get hurricanes, but now it does. Entire towns in Canada are evacuating from wildfires. The smoke gags the Midwest.

If you’re trying to grow wheat or run cattle near the Panhandle, good luck, pardner.

If climate change is not a thing, then what is all this?

Seizure of 131 dogs from Riverside puppy mill prompts Coralville legislator to call for action

by Iowa Capital Dispatch
August 29, 2023

Last week’s seizure of 131 dogs at a rural Iowa breeding operation has prompted one state lawmaker to call for changes in the way the state oversees puppy mills, dog breeders and brokers.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, wrote to Gov. Kim Reynolds this week asking for her cooperation in holding unscrupulous breeders accountable.

In his letter, Jacoby wrote, “It’s time for us to work together to fix this problem. I look forward to a strong and immediate bipartisan effort to end this wrong. It is as simple as inspection and enforcement. We need to stop unscrupulous puppy mill owners by strengthening the laws that govern commercial breeders, increase inspections, and penalize those who violate the law.”

Jacoby’s letter to the governor comes one week after the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship inspected Sunset Valley Farm, a commercial dog-breeding operation in the town of Riverside.

Des Moines Register caucus poll shows ‘hands off’ approach to Trump isn’t working for rival candidates

by Iowa Capital Dispatch
August 21, 2023

The latest Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll of the Iowa caucus race, published Monday, was a blowout. Former President Donald Trump holds more than a 2-to-1 lead over his closest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Operating cost reductions, digital revenue growth boost Lee Enterprises' net income in third quarter

A 15 percent increase in digital revenue plus a 15 percent decrease in operating expenses led to a $2.1-million profit for Lee Enterprises, Inc. in the third quarter ended June 25.

Lee, headquartered in Davenport, owns more than 70 newspapers and online news sites including the Quad City Times and Daily Dispatch/Argus.

Privacy lawsuit against Lee Enterprises will proceed

by Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capital Dispatch
July 31, 2023

A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit alleging an Iowa newspaper publisher violated customers’ privacy rights through information sharing with Facebook.

The Iowa-based newspaper chain Lee Enterprises is facing a potential class-action lawsuit alleging it has shared readers’ personal information, including the videos they watch on Lee websites, with Facebook in violation of federal law.

Developer wants to convert old library building along Grant Street into neighborhood bar

The old city library at 2211 Grant Street, Bettendorf, would be converted into a bar under a development plan to go before the planning and zoning commission Wednesday (June 21).

The developer, EPH LLC, has already obtained a variance from the city's board of adjustment for an outdoor patio with alcohol service (outdoor music on the patio is prohibited until adjacent properties are no longer of residential use).

Who cut your pork chop, Governor DeSantis?

by Art Cullen, Iowa Capital Dispatch
May 30, 2023

Ron DeSantis was railing on about illegal immigration while grilling pork chops at the annual picnic May 13 in deep-red Sioux Center hosted by Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull. The crowd cheered him on, knowing full well that immigrants cut the chops and work the dairy barns around Northwest Iowa.

It’s an open secret that the livestock economy vitally depends on immigrants, mainly from Latin America, to put cheap pork on your grill and cheese in your larder. Everybody knows we couldn’t get by without them. Yet we cheer on the most strident anti-immigrant outrage.

What gives? Do they resent that corporations have taken over pork and dairy production? Because they scarcely could exist without immigrants. Help-wanted signs are everywhere. You hear it all the time: We just can’t find help. The Legislature wants you to prove work for welfare with a 2.8% state unemployment rate. It just loosened up child labor laws, too.

In rural food processing hubs like Sioux Center or Storm Lake, it takes someone bent on the American Dream to scoop manure or work in the blood-drying room. Tyson pays $21.50 to start at the Storm Lake pork plant and cannot keep the roster full. How would you like to load turkeys on a truck at 2 a.m. when the sleet whips sideways and that squawking feathery rage is coming right at you?

Yet we clap when someone talks about keeping Venezuelans, Cubans, Salvadorans, Hondurans and Mexicans out.

Donald Trump made fear-mongering over foreigners his theme, and won Iowa handily despite the fact that it is a land full of folks descended from Germans, Dutch, Norwegians and Swedes.

University researcher says senators sought to silence him by threatening stream monitoring funds

by Jared Strong, Iowa Capital Dispatch
May 3, 2023

A researcher at the University of Iowa says two Republican senators pressed the university to halt his blog — which included unflattering critiques of the state’s agricultural practices and water quality — by insinuating that university funding was at risk, according to the researcher.

Chris Jones, a research engineer for the university’s Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research, said he agreed with his superiors to cease his writings on the university’s website. He had anticipated some sort of threat from lawmakers who disagree with him, and he was nearing retirement anyway. His last blog post published April 2.

Jones alleges the threat came from Sens. Dan Zumbach of Ryan and Tom Shipley of Nodaway. Zumbach denied the allegation. Shipley did not respond to requests for comment.

Iowa Supreme Court says open records lawsuit against Governor Reynolds should proceed

by Jared Strong, Iowa Capital Dispatch
April 14, 2023

A lawsuit by three journalists who allege Gov. Kim Reynolds violated the state’s Open Records Law should continue in district court to determine whether her responses to their requests were timely, the Iowa Supreme Court decided Friday.

The suit was filed in late 2021 by the journalists of three organizations — including Iowa Capital Dispatch — after the governor’s office had failed to respond for up to 18 months to their records requests. The office provided the records less than three weeks after the lawsuit was filed.

“The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously determined that Gov. Kim Reynolds cannot violate Iowa’s Open Records Law by failing to respond to journalists’ public information requests,” said Thomas Story, an attorney for the ACLU of Iowa, which filed the suit on behalf of Iowa Capital Dispatch and the other plaintiffs

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