Iowa officials stymie public information requests during pandemic

COVID-19 has Iowans wanting more information from federal, state and local governments to guide life-or-death decisions raised by the unprecedented pandemic. Is it safe to go to the store? Do masks prevent spread of the virus? Should my kids go to school in the fall? At a time when Iowans need accurate and complete information, some state agencies, including the Governor’s Office, are ignoring questions from reporters, refusing to do interviews and stalling on public records requests – sometimes for months, Iowa journalists said.

Evans: State Fair meeting was an affront to open government

The decision last week to cancel the Iowa State Fair was a reminder of the seriousness of coronavirus and the consequences of many people’s anxiety about returning to activities that normally are an important part of Iowa life. But the State Fair’s decision also illuminated an embarrassing disconnect from the norms of government transparency and accountability in our state. I have attended government meetings for 50 years – from small-town city councils and school boards, to state boards and commissions. I have never seen or heard about a more outrageous abuse of the principle of open government than the State Fair Board exhibited last week. Randy Evans
STRAY THOUGHTS
Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

Podcast: Iowa Legislative Session Adds Flood Relief To Budget Deliberations

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in the latest IowaWatch Connection radio report and podcast that Iowa needs to streamline the process for getting flood relief to portions of the state pounded with spring flooding. The process will include coming up with funds in Iowa to provide flood relief, matching at some level federal aid that eventually comes into the state, Reynolds said in the weekend radio report. On Monday, Reynolds announced a $15 million legislative funding package the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and her request that the Iowa Legislature approve about $10 million for fiscal 2020. The money next fiscal year would fund housing tax credits for flood-stricken areas of the state. Reynolds also signed an executive order that creates a flood advisory board to coordinate the state’s flood recovery and rebuilding effort.