- Associated Press - Monday, December 7, 2015

The Des Moines Register. Dec. 4, 2015

Branstad plays fast and loose with job numbers.

Now poised to become the longest-serving governor in the nation’s history, Gov. Terry Branstad appears to be in legacy-building mode. While that may explain his recent claims on job creation, it certainly doesn’t excuse it.

While campaigning for governor in 2010, Branstad made a bold promise to create 200,000 new jobs within five years. At the time, there was considerable skepticism that Branstad could meet the goal, even though he had previously demonstrated a tendency to twist job statistics to his liking.

Just last week, Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend was making a PowerPoint budget presentation alongside the governor when she made an announcement. “We just went over 200,000 jobs created since the beginning of the Branstad administration,” she proclaimed, explaining that 206,200 jobs had been added since her boss took office in January 2011.

As reported by the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Branstad crowed, “We hit that mark last week,” and then asked Townsend to back up the PowerPoint slide to again show the evidence that, just in the nick of time, he had met his deadline for creating 200,000 new jobs.

Here’s the thing: The net increase in jobs since January 2011 is actually about 101,700.

The number trotted out by Townsend and her boss, says Mike Owen of the Iowa Policy Project, “is clearly a bogus number and it has no business being in an official presentation or document of any kind by a state agency. This is totally a political number.”

The Iowa Policy Project is a liberal organization, but its math holds up better than that of the Branstad administration. The governor is counting only the number of new jobs created in the past five years, and is ignoring all of the jobs lost during that same period. The IPP counts both sets of numbers.

The governor says he never promised to deliver net growth in Iowa jobs, and that’s true. Branstad has been remarkably upfront about his affinity for counting only the jobs that are created on his watch while ignoring those that are lost.

But if he truly believes it’s fair and honest to look at only one side of the ledger when measuring employment, why not look at just the other side of the ledger? Why not count only the jobs lost over the past five years, without factoring in those newly created jobs?

This is not the first time Branstad has used his office - and what should be a nonpolitical agency - to advance his own agenda.

Way back in 1984, the director of what was then called the Iowa Development Commission acknowledged that an official state report had been changed at the request of a Branstad aide to increase the number of new jobs credited to the administration’s efforts.

Soon after Branstad resumed office in 2011, Iowa Workforce Development began calculating and reporting what it called “gross over-the-month employment gains.” It’s an entirely made-up measure of employment that’s not recognized by economists or the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics - and for good reason: It ignores any and all jobs that are lost.

But these “gross over-the-month employment gains” statistics came in handy during the governor’s 2014 campaign for re-election, enabling Branstad to boast that he had created 130,000 jobs since 2011. His office cited the make-believe IWD stats as proof. Actual job growth was closer to 54,000, about 41 percent of what the governor claimed.

To understand why this is such an egregious distortion of the truth, consider this: If an Iowan suddenly finds himself laid off from a good-paying job, and then takes a new job at half the pay, this personal calamity is considered a success by the Branstad administration: A job has been created, and that’s all that counts. No one considers, or even acknowledges, the job that was lost.

Granted, the public fully expects political candidates to cite only those statistics that bolster the arguments they are making.

But they don’t expect a sitting governor to use a nonpartisan, publicly funded state agency to manufacture and disseminate misinformation simply to make himself look good.

As things stand now, Iowa taxpayers are paying Iowa Workforce Development to create and distribute political propaganda that’s aimed directly at them. It needs to stop.

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The Quad City Times. Dec. 4, 2015

New Genesis unit is a good start.

We’re encouraged by the Genesis Health System announcement this week that it is opening an in-patient behavioral health unit for children from ages 8 to 17.

This is a tremendous advance for the families of children in need of these mental health services; previously, patients were sent to hospitals and clinics around the state, sometimes in the western part of Iowa.

The need for mental health beds for children and adolescents in this part of the state has been documented, along with additional beds for adults and seniors. Genesis points out that in 2013 it promised to expand behavioral health beds when it announced a major expansion of its campus on East Rusholme Street. That construction, health system officials said, would allow for expansion of a mental health unit on the West Central Park Avenue campus.

And Genesis says it’s not done: At its news event Monday announcing the opening of the child unit, officials said the new beds - along with another unit for adults - would grow to 36 beds by July and expand to 60 beds by July 2017 with the addition of a program for patients 65 and older.

“This comprehensive expansion plan, starting with the new child and adolescent unit, reflects not only a regional need for more in-patient beds, but also for expanded outpatient services,” Jordan Voigt, president of Genesis Medical Center, Davenport, said at Monday’s event.

All of this, however, comes against the backdrop of a proposal by a for-profit company to build a 72-bed psychiatric hospital in Davenport or Bettendorf.

Genesis and its counterparts at UnityPoint Health Trinity are forcefully against the plans put forward by Strategic Behavioral Health LLC of Memphis, Tenn. They say their mental health programs won’t be able to co-exist with the private hospital; Strategic Behavioral Health disagrees, saying it wants a collaborative relationship with the local hospitals.

In any case, the Strategic proposal seems to be somewhat in limbo. The company was scheduled to present its plan on Oct. 28 to the State Health Facilities Council, which would have to approve the new hospital before the project could move forward. When at least one member of the council couldn’t make the Oct. 28 meeting, Strategic opted to delay its presentation to the group’s February meeting.

Previously, we offered tentative support for Strategic’s plans but added that we wanted to learn more about them. We look forward to the Health Facilities Council presentation to provide more details.

Meanwhile, we’re happy that Genesis is keeping its promise to expand its mental health services, and we will watch for action on the remainder of the health system’s plans.

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Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Dec. 4, 2015

Be true to your school - and coach.

What a difference three years make - especially in the world of college football.

In 2012, a college football team in the state of Iowa defeated the No. 2 team in the country and was headed for its third bowl game in four years. It also enjoyed a second consecutive victory over its in-state rival.

In 2012, another college football team in the state of Iowa finished 4-8, didn’t go to a bowl game, and skeptics raised questions about whether its coach deserved his $3-million-plus annual salary. The team also endured a second consecutive loss over its in-state rival.

Three years later, the coach of the first team is out of a job and the coach of the second team has, a least for the time being, silenced his critics.

The first team was from Iowa State University. The second team was from the University of Iowa.

The 2012 season was the last time ISU went to a bowl game. After skidding in three successive losing seasons, Cyclone head coach Paul Rhoads, whose enthusiasm inspired the Cyclone faithful, filled Jack Trice Stadium and led to a expansion of that facility, was fired.

The 2012 season was the last time the University of Iowa Hawkeyes had a losing season. After riding out a rocky three years from a demanding fan base, capped by an embarrassing bowl-game drubbing last January by Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is leading the Hawkeyes to a record-setting season. With a 12-0 record as of this writing and a berth in the Big 10 Championship game, a win in that game could land Iowa a spot in the national championship playoff. Despite residual grumblings over an relatively easy schedule, 12-0 is still 12-0, no matter how you cut it.

Both Rhoads and Ferentz are quality individuals who made significant contributions to their schools, their football program and their state.

We would respectfully suggest those Hawkeye fans who have questioned Ferentz don’t know how good they have had it. They only have to look to their sister school 120 miles to the west in Ames.

Since 1979, Iowa has had just two head football coaches - Hayden Fry and Ferentz. In that same period of time ISU has had six - Donnie Duncan, Jim Criner, Jim Walden, Dan McCarney, Gene Chizik and Rhoads. Newly hired coach Matt Campbell makes seven.

In those 37 seasons, Iowa has had just eight losing seasons. Iowa State has had just eight winning seasons. Iowa had 26 bowl appearances in that same period. Iowa State has had eight, and a 22-year drought from 1978 to 2000.

We would also point out Iowa went 19 years without a winning season, from 1962-80, under a succession of coaches. The best it could muster were two straight 5-5 years in 1968-69 under Ray Nagel.

Fry and Ferentz have changed all that.

So, to Hawkeye fans, we say, count your blessings, in good times - and bad.

To Cyclone fans, who suffered through many narrow losses this year and have good players coming back, we hope better days are ahead.

Meanwhile we hope the state can also find time to support a team that had 32 winning seasons over that same 37 years and is making its 17th postseason appearance in that period. And they’re right here in the Cedar Valley.

-Go University of Northern Iowa Panthers.

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The Sioux City Journal. Dec. 4, 2015.

EPA decision on RFS disappoints.

We share concerns expressed within Iowa and the renewable fuels industry about the Environmental Protection Agency’s final decision on the Renewable Fuel Standard for next year.

The federal RFS requires transportation fuel sold in the U.S. to be blended with a minimum volume of renewable fuels. In May, the EPA proposed to lower the RFS for next year below the level set by Congress in 2007 because it doesn’t believe the industry can meet the more aggressive target.

In a June editorial, we pledged support for efforts by Iowa’s congressional delegation to prevent a reduction in the RFS because we believe in both the importance of renewable fuels for our state and nation and believe the industry capable of meeting the higher RFS level proposed by Congress.

In its decision, issued on Monday, the EPA said refiners will be required to blend 18.11 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2016, an increase from the 17.40 billion gallons proposed in May, but still below the 22.25-billion-gallon 2007 congressional target.

Here is a sampling of reaction:

- “This rule is a slight improvement, but it still sells biofuels short,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said. “The EPA just doesn’t appreciate that farmers and biofuels producers can generate enough renewable fuels to meet the goals set by Congress. The EPA doesn’t seem to appreciate that the law on the books requires strong biofuels targets and that consumers like the chance to use alternate fuels. Instead, the EPA took a flawed approach that seems to buy into Big Oil’s rhetoric.”

- “EPA’s decision today turns our nation’s most successful energy policy on its head,” Bob Dineen, Renewable Fuels Association president and chief executive officer, said. “When EPA released its proposed RFS rule in May, the agency claimed it was attempting to get the program back on track. Today’s decision, however, fails to do that. It will deepen uncertainty in the marketplace and thus chill investment in second-generation biofuels. Unlike Big Oil, the ethanol industry does not receive billions in tax subsidies, and the RFS is our only means of accessing a marketplace that is overwhelmingly and unfairly dominated by the petroleum industry.”

- “By not passing the RFS levels recommended by Congress and lowering the ethanol targets, the EPA once again has failed Iowa farmers and consumers,” Iowa State Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson, said. “By ignoring the will of the agriculture community and Congress, the EPA’s decision will most likely have a detrimental impact on Iowa farmers. This comes at a time when low commodity prices are causing financial issues for many producers.”

- “The EPA volumes announced today are a move in the right direction, and they correctly call the oil industry’s bluff about our ability to surpass 10 percent ethanol use in the U.S.,” Jeff Broin, founder and chairman of Poet, a South Dakota-based ethanol company, said. “However, these numbers fall well short of our capability to provide clean, domestic ethanol to America’s drivers.”

In our view, the EPA’s reduction in the RFS level advocated by Congress will result in negative consequences for the renewable fuels industry. As a result, Iowa - the nation’s number one producer of ethanol and number two producer of biodiesel - will suffer, perhaps more than any other state, we fear.

Not only was the EPA decision disappointing, but the fact it came from an administration who says it’s committed to clean energy was disappointing, as well.

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