Evans: The wacky extremes with ‘two sideisms’

The requirements for becoming a teacher were always straightforward: Earn a college degree in education, take enough classes in your area of specialty, practice your teaching skills for a semester as a student teacher. Politicians have added a new skill this year in some states: Be a mind reader. That’s what teachers in a Texas school district concluded recently after receiving guidance for how to comply with a law passed this summer by the Texas Legislature and signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The law, known as H.B. 3979, restricts how topics like race, sex, diversity and discrimination are taught and discussed by Texas public school employees and in textbooks and other course materials teachers use. A companion bill, S.B. 3, discourages teachers from addressing current events in their social studies classes.

Parkersburg grits through pandemic

PARKERSBURG, Iowa – After a killer tornado in 2008 and the murder of a beloved community leader a year later, many folks in Parkersburg felt they could take just about any punch thrown at them. Then came the coronavirus pandemic. It claimed lives and took a bite at businesses. But as was the case with those prior tragedies, the people of Parkersburg weren’t about to be defined by this latest challenge. Instead they defined themselves by what they would do to overcome — support one another.

Iowa towns that are thriving, bucking trend of rural decline

A handful of small Iowa towns with 5,000 or fewer people and not part of a larger metro area bucked the trend in the 2020 census and grew their populations. These towns grew populations at a time when the 2020 census showed Iowa’s urban population growing to 64% of the state’s 3.16 million people. The share of urban dwellers in Iowa was near 61% in both 2010 and 2000, 58% in 1990, and 57% in 1980. With support from the Solutions Journalism Network

A four-month IowaWatch investigation that included visits to 58 towns of 5,000 or fewer people turned up examples of growing rural communities. One of those growing in population isn’t even incorporated, but counted, none the less, by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Political divisions mingle with Bloomfield’s push for vitality

BLOOMFIELD, Iowa – A lot of people were paying attention to Bloomfield, in southern Iowa, a few years ago. “Bloomfield sets sustainable design example for Iowa,” a Jan. 1, 2016, Des Moines Register headline read above a story about a new solar power project to supplement the power Bloomfield’s municipal utility buys from Southern Iowa Electric. 

With support from the Solutions Journalism Network

“Governor Reynolds, Lt. Governor Gregg Celebrate Bloomfield’s New Solar Project,” the Iowa Department of Economic Development and Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office titled an Aug. 1, 2018, news release. “Bloomfield has demonstrated exactly the type of innovative and forward thinking we hoped to foster when we released the Iowa Energy Plan in December 2016,” Reynolds said in that release.

Evans: The Amish have some lessons for us

The man who answered the door at a farm house west of Bloomfield one afternoon in the early 1970s was an imposing figure, even without that thick beard on his chin.Gideon Yutzy was a member of the Old Order Amish religion. He was the patriarch of a family that moved into the countryside west of my hometown several months earlier.That was 50 years ago. The arrival of the Yutzys began an Amish settlement that has grown to about 1,800 people today, making Davis County one of the largest enclaves of Amish in Iowa.I was there at Yutzy’s front door to interview him. I wanted to ask about the legal issues surrounding attempts by state and local governments in the Midwest to force Amish children to be educated beyond the eighth grade.In 1965, the issue boiled over near Hazleton in Buchanan County. A front-page photo in The Des Moines Register showed the nation what happened when government officials arrived at a one-room Amish school and tried to take the children to a public school.Little Amish boys and girls scattered like rabbits into a cornfield.

Woodbury County counting on $15M in COVID relief funds for new $65M jail

Woodbury County plans to rely on $15.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief to build a $65 million jail complex near Sioux City. 

The project has been in the works since 2016, and county voters passed a $50 million dollar bond referendum last year to cover the costs of the new complex. But then the price tag shot up – a result of pandemic-related inflation on building materials. 

The supervisors voted unanimously on June 8, 2021, to use federal pandemic relief money on the higher-priced project. “If that wasn’t coming, I don’t know what we would be doing,” said Woodbury County Supervisor Matthew Ung at a June 1, 2021 meeting.  

The American Rescue Plan Act is a $1.9 trillion federal aid package passed in March to provide direct relief to Americans affected by the pandemic and to bolster the U.S. economy. Could a county use grants through that plan to build an 110,000-square-foot regional jail project? 

The answer, so far, is maybe, according to state leaders and a national expert IowaWatch interviewed for this story. If the answer is no, taxpayers could be on the hook for the $15.6 million. 

Dennis Butler, Woodbury County’s finance director, said he was working with Governor Kim Reynolds’ policy advisor, Joel Anderson, to use the funding.

Evans: Governor is right that we need more transparency

Gov. Kim Reynolds talked last week about the importance of government leaders keeping other government officials looped in as decisions are made and events unfold. The governor was more correct than she probably intended. I will get to that shortly. But first, here is some important background on the governor’s statement — because she and I see eye to eye on this, at least as it relates to the issue that provoked her displeasure with federal officials. Reynolds was talking about the federal government’s secret chartered flight with migrant children from California that landed in Des Moines in the middle of the night on April 22.

Where, oh where, are today’s Bob Rays?

It’s hard for those of us of a certain vintage to realize it has been 39 years since Robert Ray was Iowa’s governor. In spite of the passage of so much time, his name was on the minds of many people last week. What triggered the Bob Ray memories was Gov. Kim Reynolds’ interview with WHO Radio on Thursday. Reynolds was asked about the thousands of children, mostly from Central America, who are showing up this year at our border with Mexico without their parents. They arrive hoping to be allowed to live in the United States with relatives or sponsors, freeing them from the deadly violence and the grip of poverty so common where they came from.