- Associated Press - Monday, December 14, 2015

The Des Moines Register. Dec. 10, 2015

Ads are smear campaign against Stowe.

It’s time for the Iowa Partnership for Clean Water to consider a name change that more accurately reflects its true mission. For example: The Iowa Partnership for the Malicious Persecution of Public Servants.

The partnership was formed last spring after the Des Moines Water Works sued Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties, alleging their drainage districts are largely responsible for Raccoon River pollution that’s costing central Iowa residents millions in clean-up costs.

The partnership is a nonprofit organization with the stated goal of broadening public understanding of agriculture. In reality, the partnership is the designated attack dog of the Iowa Farm Bureau, which is the partnership’s general counsel, registered agent, place of business and financial backer.

So far, the partnership has spent more than half a million dollars on a public relations effort that initially, at least, tried to sway public opinion on the issues of agriculture and water quality.

Now, however, the partnership is engaged something entirely different: a poisonous campaign to publicly smear the man who runs the Water Works: Bill Stowe.

In television ads now running throughout central Iowa, Stowe is seen in carefully doctored footage - grainy, shadowy, slow-motion images converted to black and white for no other reason than to stir anxiety - while ominous-sounding music plays in the background. The narrator gravely intones: “He’s wasting hundreds of thousands on an outrageous lawsuit targeting farmers. Now Stowe is using legal tricks to keep public documents from those trying to find actual solutions. While Stowe hides, farmers and communities continue to collaborate on water solutions that work. Learn more at ‘WhatIsBillHiding.com.”

Go to WhatIsBillHiding.com and you’re simply re-directed to the partnership’s website, which, it must be emphasized, includes no information at all on what Bill is or isn’t hiding. No matter. The partnership’s goal is not to inform the public, but to portray the head of the Water Works as Public Enemy No. 1. The ad does everything but place a 4-year-old Bill Stowe on the grassy knoll.

The “What Is Bill Hiding?” spot is scheduled to run in the Des Moines area through the holidays, according to FCC filings, at a cost of more than $161,470. That will bring the total amount spent on partnership television ads, statewide, to more than $560,000.

That’s about 14 times the estimated cost of records the partnership wants the Water Works to turn over in response to a document request. The $40,000 fee - which is for a trove of records dating back to 1974 - is less than what the partnership will spend with just one Iowa TV station this month.

Stowe, it should be remembered, is not an elected official, but a hired public servant. Understandably, he is not taking the ad in stride.

“I’m appalled,” he says. “In a world of dangerous escalation of violence against persons, this is ‘a call to arms’ that endangers me, my family and friends. It makes me sick to my stomach.”

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the partnership’s unseemly attack, look to the partnership’s illustrious board of directors: Des Moines City Councilwoman Christine Hensley; Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett; former lieutenant governor Patty Judge; and Plymouth County Supervisor Don Kass. All four have served in elective office, and all four know just how divisive and destructive this type of advertising really is.

When asked about the ad, Hensley says: “My only comment is that it is factual. Facts are facts and tell the story. Many of the headlines (shown in the ad) are from the Register.”

Yes, they are. But the juxtaposition of those particular headlines with the partnership’s grim, scripted narration creates the false impression that Stowe is a public menace. It’s character assassination masquerading as public education. The fiction of “public education” is necessary partly because the state and Internal Revenue Service don’t grant nonprofit status to organizations dedicated to solely to misinforming the public and destroying people’s reputations.

At least the ad makes clear the partnership’s true agenda. After all, you can’t bankroll this sort of attack while simultaneously claiming that you want only to foster cooperation, “bring together active voices” and forge “collaborative efforts” to improve water quality. That dog won’t hunt, as the saying goes.

Of course, the people who run the partnership aren’t likely to back off, let alone apologize for their actions. That means the public can probably count on more attacks from the partnership that do nothing to enlighten, educate or inform. The best anyone can do is ignore them.


The Quad City Times. Dec. 12, 2015

Long-range plan important for road projects.

We all stand to gain from having a five-year federal transportation plan in place.

By “we,” that’s anyone who drives on state and federal highways, rides public transportation, crosses the Mississippi River on one of our area bridges, bikes or walks on a recreational trail, uses passenger rail service or wonders just how much more truck traffic roads can bear.

Area planners are heralding last week’s signing of a multiyear program both for the potential it means for funding parts of the Interstate 74 corridor expansion as well as the ability to continue to look ahead at future needs for the Quad-City region.

And by future, transportation planners mean far into the future.

“We are required to think at least 30 years in advance for long-range plans,” said Denise Bulat, executive director of the Bi-State Regional Commission, the area’s metropolitan planning organization.

The new transportation law, which authorizes $305 billion in spending, is the first time since 2005 that Congress passed a plan that went for more than two years.

Two years is a drop in the bucket for a project of the size and scope of building a new I-74 bridge and making significant improvements to the corridor on both sides of the river.

For those who lament that the beginning of construction on the new bridge itself is still two years away, consider this: The first comprehensive study of a new I-74 bridge was completed in 1998, with conversations between transportation officials in Iowa and Illinois starting years before that.

The transformation in downtown Bettendorf as buildings have been demolished and Grant Street is reconfigured is the result of years of planning, right-of-way acquisition, environmental studies and budgeting the federal, state and local dollars necessary to support the largest public works project in Quad-Cities history. Many motorists may not realize that the massive overhaul to the I-74/53rd Street interchange in Davenport is part of the total I-74 corridor improvement.

That’s why a multiyear plan is so important.

Stuart Anderson, director of the planning, programming and modal division at the Iowa Department of Transportation, told reporter Ed Tibbetts that the five-year bill “provides us with the certainty and makes us comfortable moving forward.”

Funding for parts of the corridor improvement are still needed, and officials are hopeful a new competitive grant program authorized by the five-year plan that is targeting nationally significant freight and highway projects could assist with that.

As concerns grow about the state of infrastructure throughout the country, a multiyear transportation plan at the federal level gives at least some measure of stability to the important planning that must go on to ensure a smooth, efficient and safe transportation system.


Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Dec. 11, 2015

Troy Dannen makes lasting impression on UNI athletics.

Last week, many followers of University of Northern Iowa athletics were surprised by hearing the news Troy Dannen, UNI athletics director, had agreed to take a position at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have been. Through his skill and success at UNI, he had earned the distinction of being an in-demand AD. Strong supporters of UNI athletics have certainly enjoyed the past several years.

Under Dannen, UNI has had 15 Coaches of the Year and 15 conference Players of the Year across 11 different sports since 2008. Football competed in the FCS national championship playoffs four times in seven years, (including this year) and won three conference championships. Men’s basketball won three conference titles and made three NCAA appearances, including the first Sweet 16 appearance in school history.

“Troy has really taken UNI athletic programs to a new level,” said UNI President Bill Ruud. “He has done a great deal to enhance athletics at UNI, from improving our facilities to increasing the number of scholarships for student athletes. We are grateful for Troy’s leadership and support, and we wish him and his family the best at Tulane.”

A statistic that should be of great pride to Dannen, UNI, and fans is the Northern Iowa athletics graduation rate significantly exceeds the student body average.

Dannen’s efforts helped raise millions of dollars for capital improvements and greatly increased marketing revenues over the past seven years. It was apparent he loved his job here.

“From a competitive, academic and fiscal standpoint, we’re really at a high-water mark right now at Northern Iowa, said Dannen. “As an alum, if you’re going to leave, you want to leave something behind that you’re really proud of. I am really proud of where we’re at right now, and I feel like it can still get better. I will always have a special ownership in this place because it is my alma mater and because of the time I’ve spent here. I wouldn’t want to leave that unless I felt confident it’s in good shape.”

While the vast majority of head coaches at UNI were in place when Dannen arrived, he has been instrumental in keeping excellent coaches at their positions over the years. He also was key in the hiring of wrestling coach Doug Schwab. Subsequently, the tradition-rich wrestling program is re-establishing its status as one of the premier programs in the country, while frequently selling out the West Gym for performances. The volleyball team continues its strong standing among elite competition.

The Panthers have enjoyed an incredible amount of athletic success while Dannen has been the director of athletics. His strengths covered many of the facets needed to be a good administrator. We hope UNI sees fit to continue such success.

And we wish Dannen and his family all the best in New Orleans and at Tulane University.


The Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Dec. 10, 2015.

Slow the flow of red ink and Five Flags.

In the private sector, a business can survive only so long when its expenses exceed revenues. After a period of only red ink, the operation goes out of business.

That’s not the case in the public sector, better known as government. It has plenty - most, actually - of programs, departments and facilities where revenues don’t come close to matching expenses. Red ink is common.

So, what is the solution? Shut down the public-sector offerings that don’t carry their weight? Obviously not. At least not all of them. We are not about to close the police department. We aren’t going to shutter the city’s fire stations. We aren’t going to stop operating the community’s leading site for literature and information, the public library. We still expect to have parks, and we expect the grass there to be mowed.

There are public safety, public convenience and quality-of-life considerations driving the decisions to keep providing certain operations and services (and subsidizing them with tax dollars).

There are other facilities and programs, however, where the decision is not as clear-cut. How much red ink is acceptable when it comes to marinas, certain recreation programs and facilities (such as campgrounds and golf courses), and, to use a current example in Dubuque, civic centers?

As TH Media reported last week, Five Flags Civic Center continues to operate at a deficit. It’s been losing some money virtually since the day it opened nearly four decades ago. A deficit should not be a surprise, as the venue has always been a quality-of-life amenity and one that provides a lift to the local business community, especially restaurants, bars and hotels.

However, how much red ink is too much?

Several years ago, the taxpayer-subsidized deficit at Five Flags Civic Center jumped, and it has been running above $800,000 annually since. At what point do taxpayers and city officials say enough is enough and it’s time to move on?

We might not be at that point - yet. But we’re getting close. After all, what else could the city do - or taxpayers save - with more than three-quarters of a million bucks every year?

Before the City of Dubuque does anything along the lines of closing the civic center, it will hire a consultant to conduct a building and market evaluation. That study will cost up to $50,000.

Meanwhile, Five Flags soon will have a new general manager, H.R. Cook, who succeeds the retiring Joyce White and is itching to look at our challenges with a fresh set of eyes. Cook and White work for SMG Worldwide Entertainment and Convention Venue Management, with which the city contracts to run Five Flags.

Expect the city to pay the consultant to tell us a few things White and others have been saying for years: The place needs more seats, more space and more amenities to make it a more viable venue again.

That, obviously, means more money. Is renovating Five Flags a good investment for the future, or is it throwing good money after bad? That is where the consulting firm will earn its fee, and that’s why a study is a wise decision.

As we stated in an editorial 16 months ago, don’t expect Five Flags Civic Center to be transformed to the extent that it operates in the black. However, before this community throws in the towel on the facility, it should identify and seek opportunities that will make the place a desirable destination for community members and visitors - and a much smaller financial burden on taxpayers.


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