Forget The “Socialism” Labels, Let’s Stick To Policies

If you had your ear cupped just right and were listening closely Sunday afternoon, you might have heard my head explode. The pressure inside the old noggin has been building for months, thanks to what can be called politics as usual in Washington, D.C., and Des Moines. So, my friends and relatives were not surprised by what occurred about 2 o’clock Sunday. My cranium could not contain the buildup any longer when I read that U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes of California was fuming about his visit to a restaurant in that state. The waitress asked the congressman if he wanted […]

Iowa Needs Sunshine – On Police Videos

Sunshine Week will be observed across the nation next week. The week shines a spotlight on the important role open government and citizen accountability play in our democracy. Open meetings and open records are the tools that enable the public to know what their government is doing, or not doing, in the name of the people. In Iowa, the sunshine next week will be obscured by clouds — at least when it comes to citizen access to videos recorded by law officers on their squad car cameras and body cameras during incidents in which police shoot someone or when officers […]

Tax Breaks For Amazon, Punishments For Struggling Iowans

Last week’s news put furrows in my brow. As I ruminated on the headlines and details in the news accounts, I came away convinced something is out of whack somewhere. One of the reports was that Amazon, the online retailing behemoth, cancelled plans to build a corporate headquarters in New York City. The company had said 25,000 employees eventually would work there. Amazon’s decision came after persistent criticism from some New York politicians and community activists about the amount of incentives the state of New York and the city government were going to give the company — $3 billion, with […]

State Help Shouldn’t Overlook Our Small Towns

Community leaders always prefer to see the glass as half full instead of dwelling on trends and policies beyond their control that could easily produce anxiety — or ulcers. I had a friend for many years who fit that description. I would call him an optimistic realist. I’m sure he had opportunities to follow a career path that would have taken him to a large city, just as I did. Instead, he chose to work and expend his leadership energy in a smaller town with fewer people than some neighborhoods in Des Moines have. He never wore blinders, however. He closely […]

Kim Reynolds Reverses Course From Branstad Voting Rights Stance

Faithful readers of this space know I have not been shy about disagreeing with Gov. Kim Reynolds’ positions on a variety of issues. But I am here today not to criticize our governor but to praise her — for her courage that is both political and personal. Politically, Reynolds risks offending some of her staunch supporters with the proposal she made last month to amend the Iowa Constitution to automatically reinstate felons’ right to vote after they finish their prison terms and complete parole or probation. There is political risk for Reynolds because her mentor, Terry Branstad, the longest-serving governor […]

More Politics Is Not What Iowa Courts Need

Harold Hill, that smooth-talking con artist in “The Music Man,” persuaded gullible Iowans that “ya got trouble, my friend, right here in River City.” He arrived in town to sell band instruments and band uniforms to parents who didn’t know they wanted or needed them. But his first task was to sell parents on the notion that a band was the way to keep their kids from hanging out at the pool hall. Today, the Harold Hills working our state are not concerned about pool halls or bands. But they are again trying to gin up public anxiety about a […]

Making Laws Shouldn’t Be About Legislators’ Convenience

One of the biggest contrasts in public access to state and local governments in Iowa came into focus last week, and Iowans should be concerned by what occurred. A bit of context: Iowans have long had the right to sit in on almost every meeting of state government policy-making and governing boards and on meetings of their local school board, city council and county board of supervisors. That law requires a board or council to post the agenda for its meeting at least 24 hours before the meeting. This notice requirement exists to give the public time to offer their […]

You Don’t Solve Problems By Taking Hostages

I’m not sure you can get Republicans and Democrats to agree on many things these days — not even on motherhood and apple pie. Some people believe a wall along the border with Mexico is a national security priority and is necessary to stop the movement of migrants into the United States. Others think the $5 billion at the center of the border wall dispute could be better spent on additional border agents, more drones and sophisticated new security technology. Each of us has an opinion in this debate. But we all should be able to agree on this one […]

Who’s Wasting Your Tax Dollars? And Who’s Watching?

During most of my career at the Des Moines Register, all purchases for the news staff and all expense reimbursement claims went through the newsroom’s business manager. Through the years, there was turnover in the job. But two people held the job for much of that time, and they had one common trait: They examined each purchase and each expense form as if the money were being paid out of their own bank account, not from the company’s. Judging from news reports in recent weeks, there are government entities in Iowa that need clones of Vern and Marsha to look […]

Iowa Judge Prohibits Journalists From Reporting Simple Facts

On the morning of Aug. 31, shortly after 8:30, a 12-year-old boy pulled out a gun in his seventh-grade classroom in Eldridge, a community just north of Davenport. In an instant, he directed his classmates to get on the floor and then pointed the gun at his teacher’s face and squeezed the trigger. Blessedly, he did not take the gun’s safety off. The gun did not fire. But there was a bullet in the firing chamber and 11 others were in the gun’s ammunition magazine. The quick-thinking teacher got the gun away before the boy could try again. Her actions […]