- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

The Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Nov. 6, 2015

Dubuque vote a message, not an aberration.

Voters in half of Dubuque’s wards on Tuesday sent a message so loud and so clear, it can’t help but be heard all across the city.

Challengers Luis Del Toro (Ward 2) and Jake Rios (Ward 4) didn’t merely defeat incumbents, they pummeled them.

That two little-known candidates, neither of whom has lived in the community more than 10 years, could record landslide victories over two incumbent Dubuque natives, Karla Braig and Lynn Sutton, by better than 2-to-1 margins conveys the voters’ message: Some things need to change.

Del Toro and Rios campaigned on the message that the Council needs to be more responsive to citizens, more concerned about crime, and more frugal. Obviously, that resonated with the Dubuquers motivated enough to vote. (Turnout of less than 9 percent in each of those two wards is an embarrassment.)

As they make the transition from candidates to office-holders, Del Toro and Rios will, no doubt, see how things are easier said than done. Yet, voters left no doubt that they believe the challengers, more than the incumbents, will work toward those ends.

The four Council members whose seats were not up for election this week would be wise to consider how the thrashing of two colleagues might inform their future decision-making and approach to their jobs.

Does the defeat of Braig (more than Sutton) serve as a barometer for voter unrest, or was it an aberration attributed to low voter turnout? Council members who dismiss the results as not reflecting community-wide sentiment because few voters participated do so at their own peril. These were landslides, not nail-biters. Further, they should remember that, not that long ago, they won their seats in low-turnout elections.

The loss by Sutton, seeking re-election for the first time, might be described as self-inflicted in light of her evolving statements regarding what she did and didn’t do in connection with a video of an arrest by local police. Meanwhile, Braig, who had won her three previous Council elections either unopposed or by comfortable margins, had done a solid job during her 10 years in office. But that wasn’t enough to counter voters’ demand for change.

When we refer to change, we don’t think it necessarily involves anything drastic. A little change could go a long way.

The simplest change, but one that would make significant strides toward countering the contention that city officials don’t welcome or value citizen input, is moving the public comment portion of Council meetings from the end of the agenda to the beginning. (Sutton and Braig said they were open to the change, so that issue didn’t hurt them at the polls.)

Mayor Roy Buol, who presides at Council meetings and has authority over the agenda, clearly is not enamored with that idea. But the mayor, whose seat will be on the 2017 ballot, indicates that he would consider it if four of his Council colleagues want it. So, which four will push the idea?

Some Council members and City Manager Mike Van Milligen have bristled at the criticism, in our editorials and elsewhere, that neither spending/debt nor crime made the list of the Council’s “top priorities” for 2015-17. They argue that those issues permeate all sorts of decisions and plans, and those topics didn’t need to appear on any lists. (Nonetheless, they put debt reduction on the “high priorities” list and best practices for police on the “management agenda.”)

If this is the perception-vs.-reality problem that city officials suggest it is, then the Council needs to address the perception, not dismiss critics as not grasping their reality.

With two new Council members coming on board, and with David Resnick, the Council member most likely to challenge spending, winning re-election Tuesday without opposition, expect the upcoming budget process to include more questions and resistance regarding spending and debt. Citizens shouldn’t expect a “no” vote on everything, certainly, but they do expect more scrutiny of administration’s recommendations.

Dubuque is a great community, and doing far more things right than wrong. City government deserves a healthy chunk of the credit. But not everyone is happy with everything. Del Toro and Rios have won a mandate - if one can receive a mandate from fewer than 10 percent of voters - to serve our community in this important role. They have lots to learn, and no doubt there will be some mistakes along the way.

However, they, along with the five continuing Council members, have been sent the clear signal that citizens will not accept everything “business as usual.”

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The Fort Dodge Messenger. Nov. 3, 2015

Swimming program gets some help.

Tight budgets make it difficult for important extracurricular programs to pay for all of the enhancements that would be beneficial to the young folks who participate in them. Consequently, public-spirited folks who back these endeavors sometimes come forward to help address some of the financial issues. A good example is now taking place with respect to the swimming program in Fort Dodge.

There is great momentum surrounding that program from the high school level on down. That helped motivate supporters to act on the growing excitement and upgrade the amenities. At the beginning of the school year and after an enthusiastic fundraising campaign, Fort Dodge Senior High was able to install eight new Dodger starting blocks at the pool.

The project was a collaborative effort spearheaded by Tracy Hartley, Fort Dodge Swim Club board president, Joel Greathouse, Dodger boys head coach, and Mike Peterson, former girls coach. Contributors included the Fort Dodge Swim Club, Friends of Fort Dodge Swimming - a trust administered by Murray Stanley, a former Dodger swimmer - the Fort Dodge Senior High Athletic Booster Club, Drs. Don and Mary Lou Woodhouse, and Tom and Joan Tibbitts. The Fort Dodge Community School District paid for four of the blocks, using PPEL funds.

The Messenger applauds these efforts. It sets an example of community support that we hope others will emulate.

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The Quad City Times. Nov. 6, 2015

Hipshots: Birdies, Royals and Dickens.

Birdies for Charity racks up another win

We just can’t stop being amazed at the incredible things the Birdies for Charity program does for the Quad-Cities. This giving program tied to the John Deere Classic golf tournament raised a record $8,734,679 this year. These funds were distributed to almost 500 nonprofits that chose to participate in the program by soliciting donor pledges from supporters. On top of the pledges collected, the charities received a 10 percent bonus thanks to tournament-related events. The impact of this charitable giving is incalculable. It shows up in public radio programming, assistance with activities and facilities for youth and seniors, in library services and church programs. It’s an innovative way to raise funds, and thanks to the JDC, the Birdies for Charity program and the generosity of Quad-Citians, it works its magic throughout the community.

At the top of the baseball world

Amid the massive sea of blue this week celebrating the Kansas City Royals’ World Series championship was a touch of Maroon - as in Moline Maroons. Our congratulations go to Royals general manager Dayton Moore, a 1985 graduate of Moline High School who made his early mark on baseball diamonds in the Quad-Cities. One of the many video clips of Tuesday’s championship celebration shows Moore praising the Royals’ fans: “Way to go, KC! Thank you for your faithfulness. Thanks for believing in us.” Moore’s rise to the top of the baseball world has been paved with hard work and persistence. His time in the spotlight is well-deserved.

A script only Dickens could love

Alas, poor citizens of Illinois, the lovely Capitol dome in Springfield is in danger of looking dark and forlorn during the coming holiday season. The office of Secretary of State Jesse White issued a statement saying that it plans to abandon the 50-year tradition of stringing strands of lights from the Capitol this year because the $7,300 it would cost to decorate the dome is an unnecessary cost during the current budget impasse. But, hark, some news posted late Thursday on the website of The State Journal-Register in Springfield indicated a crowdfunding effort on GoFundMe.com is afoot to raise the money. Stay tuned. As of noon Friday, $805 had been raised.

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The Sioux City Journal. Nov. 6, 2015.

Grassley records remarkable achievement.

In our nation’s history, nearly 2,000 men and women have served in the United States Senate. Only 17 of them (and only three of them serving today, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Patrick Leahy of Vermont) have cast more votes than Iowa Republican Charles Grassley. No senator serving today has gone as long as Grassley without missing a vote. Our state’s senior senator has cast 7,474 consecutive votes.

It is, indeed, an extraordinary record.

On Tuesday, colleagues from both sides of the political aisle praised Grassley for casting his 12,000th vote as a senator. The milestone vote came on Friday during discussion in the Senate about the federal budget.

“When I cast a vote, I’m bringing the benefit of every comment, question and criticism heard from Iowans to the vote,” Grassley said during brief remarks on the Senate floor. “With 12,000 votes, I think of the many conversations and pieces of correspondence behind those votes. Whether I’m meeting with Iowans in the Hart Building in Washington or at the University of Northern Iowa volleyball matches near my farm in New Hartford, the time people take to visit with me is time well-spent for me and I hope they consider it time well-spent for them.”

This quote speaks volumes about Grassley’s commitment to genuine public service.

Despite having served in Congress for 40 years (six years in the House and nearly 35 years in the Senate), Grassley today is much the same public servant he was when he first arrived in the nation’s capital. He’s an honest man of integrity who reflects the values of his state and stays connected to the needs of constituents and the issues important to them. He visits each of Iowa’s 99 counties every year.

In 2010, The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C., named Grassley the hardest-working member of Congress based on a survey of lawmakers, aides and others. We sense no diminution of energy in the 82-year-old Grassley, who next year will seek a seventh six-year Senate term.

We offer Grassley (who probably celebrated his 12,000th Senate vote with a three-mile, 5:30 a.m. run the next morning) our congratulations on a remarkable achievement.

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