BySuzanne Behnke / Executive Director and Editor |
IowaWatch is delighted to introduce you to our latest staff member, Marie Nalan of Drake University. Here she shares a little about herself. You’ll see her byline soon. My name is Marie Nalan, a soon-to-be professional reporter from Grand Rapids, Minn. While I grew up in Minnesota close to the Canadian border, I have family roots in both Mason City and Clinton, Iowa.
Mark Cady was right at home at the piano and was an occasional singer, too, maybe best known among family and friends for his rendition of “Easter Parade” each New Year’s Eve — a whimsical tidbit that widened the eyes of some people at his funeral last week. But it was no surprise the music at his funeral was outstanding. The voices of the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus filled Drake University’s Knapp Center during the celebration of the life of the 66-year-old chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court. Randy Evans
Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He is a former editorial page editor and assistant managing editor of The Des Moines Register.
Credibility is oh so fragile, and officials in Iowa’s largest school district dented theirs last week. Even people who don’t live in Des Moines should be troubled by what occurred, because there is a good chance, come January, the Iowa Legislature will respond in ways that could affect every other school district in the state. Here’s why:
In the Nov. 5 school election, the Des Moines school district asked voters to approve a higher property tax levy for the district’s building and equipment needs. The higher physical plant and equipment levy will bring in an additional $6.5 million a year.
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. I’m not here to defend Bernie, Elizabeth or AOC. Put me down as “highly skeptical” that a majority of us, or even a majority in Congress, want to provide everyone with government health insurance, want taxpayers to wipe out everyone’s student loan debts, or want everyone to receive a free college education.
The projected sticker price for Iowans wanting to attend a private college or university in-state will exceed $60,000 annually by 2024-25 at nine private Iowa schools and 10 the following school year in 2025-26, The Hechinger Report projected after studying tuition and cost-of-living trends for higher education institutions nationwide via Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) data. Our report includes a podcast.
While rising education costs and growth in amenities and luxury housing have played a role in pressing up the cost of attendance — also called a university’s “sticker price” — a great deal of college tuition inflation has been driven by an enrollment strategy to dole out more institutional aid to a growing number of students. The practice is also known as price-discrimination, and two Iowa educators have a study showing it can discriminate against low-income, underrepresented minorities.
Simpson students get to practice journalism of statewide impact when they report and write at IowaWatch, the nonprofit news source that covers public affairs in the Hawkeye State, shares Brian Steffen, chair of the journalism department at Simpson College. Suzanne Behnke, the executive director of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism and an adjunct instructor of Multimedia Communication at Simpson, comes on the “Speaking of Simpson” podcast this week to talk about her work with IowaWatch and how it involves student journalists with real journalism that has real impact. Listen here.
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. Randy Evans
Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He is a former editorial page editor and assistant managing editor of The Des Moines Register. Opinions are his own.
Fewer than half of the vehicles from the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s two largest law enforcement divisions were equipped to give officers the option of locking up weapons in those vehicles with designated equipment such as locking rifle racks or handgun vaults as recently as May 2019, an IowaWatch investigation revealed. Vehicles purchased since 2017 have locking devices to secure firearms beyond locking a vehicle’s door or trunk. The Department of Public Safety declined for safety reasons to provide updated numbers of vehicles with the capability. “Information regarding security and storage of weapons is a significant officer safety concern,” Catherine Lucas, general counsel of the Iowa Department of Public Safety wrote to IowaWatch in a response to a public records request in late September. Adam DeCamp, Division of Criminal Investigation special agent in charge, said a vehicle is secure when its doors are locked.
Internal firearm policy directives for the Department of Public Safety obtained by IowaWatch did not show any policy for the safe storage of handguns in an unattended vehicle.
Iowa Department of Public Safety vehicles sustained a five-year high of $849,878 worth of damage in 220 incidents in 2018, department officials said. Although only six more incidents were reported in 2018 than in 2017, the total damage reported in 2017 was worth $519,429 — $330,449 less than in 2018. The total damage for the two years combined cost $1.37 million. Lt. Rick Pierce, commander of Iowa State Patrol Fleet and Supply, said the cost of repairs may sound like a lot, but the Department of Public Safety has approximately 650 vehicles.
The most common cause of damage was “act of nature damage,” including at least 59 accidents involving deer reported in both 2017 and 2018, funding requests sent to the Executive Council of Iowa reveal. Hail was the second most common with 36 accidents reported to the council in the same time span, records examined by IowaWatch showed.