- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

The Des Moines Register. July 14, 2015

Bradshaw is right pick to revive police academy.

Gov. Terry Branstad made one of the most promising appointments of his administration last week when he tapped Des Moines’ former police chief, Judy Bradshaw, to head the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

If there’s one thing the academy has lacked in recent years, it’s professionalism. Penny Westfall, who was director for 12 years, resigned in early 2011 amid widespread complaints about her management style and communication skills. Her successor, Arlan Ciechanowski, was strongly criticized over his hiring and firing decisions and for a culture in which female recruits and employees endured unprofessional comments from their male colleagues and instructors.

If Bradshaw’s history in Des Moines is any indication, she doesn’t have much patience for that sort of behavior. Over the seven years she served as chief, she held her officers to high standards of conduct, and in the process she repeatedly demonstrated her commitment to openness and public accountability.

Last year, two Des Moines police sergeants were suspended for a month without pay after investigators determined one officer behaved unprofessionally toward a female recruit and the other made unwanted advances toward the woman. The recruit was not allowed to graduate from the police academy after investigators concluded she had lied about an accusation.

Bradshaw could have tried to keep a lid on all of that by characterizing it as a private, personnel matter. But, as she had done in other cases involving police misconduct, Bradshaw publicly disclosed both the nature of the offenses and the discipline that resulted. That not only enabled citizens to measure her response to the situation, it helped demonstrate that the Des Moines Police Department operates in an open fashion and is capable of enforcing its own policies.

If Bradshaw takes that same approach to running the state police academy, Iowans will be well served.

She told The Des Moines Register recently, “I’m going to do what I’ve always done,” and will “call people out” when she sees unprofessional behavior.

Judy Bradshaw shows every sign of being the right person, for the right job, at the right time.

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The Quad City Times. July 15, 2015

Prison problems pile up in Iowa.

Iowa Department of Corrections issued a 35-point “corrective action memo” following the 2005 escape of two convicted murderers from the state penitentiary in Fort Madison.

More razor wire. More lighting. “Back to basics” security training. Etc., etc.

Twenty-five-year-old Justin Kestner didn’t read that memo. It was written five years before the convicted Iowa thief began his 10-year term at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

Turns out, he didn’t need to. Kestner’s escape plan was no more sophisticated than a middling TV script. On July 5, he squeezed through a plumbing tunnel to the roof, then shimmied down sheets he’d tied together into a 67-foot escape rope.

Illinois authorities captured Kestner hours later near Geneseo. He was conveniently wearing a black and gold University of Iowa shirt when collared in Illini country.

Since then, Iowa prison authorities have emptied the cell block where Kestner escaped. We assume an investigation is continuing. But the escape is hardly the only concern at the prison.

Construction delays have left the old prison in limbo. Prison authorities intended a January 2015 opening of a new prison, which was further delayed because of heating and air conditioning problems.

Prison leaders say the construction boondoggles had no effect on security. The simplicity of Kestner’s escape suggests otherwise.

In any event, this escape of a dangerous inmate held in the prison’s most secure cellblock piles more skepticism on Iowa’s prison system and the Branstad administration’s ability to run it.

In August 2013, an inmate escaped from Iowa’s Clarinda prison, then shot and injured a pursuing county deputy. He broke into a nearby house and held the owners captive a day before they reached a hidden shotgun, then shot and killed the escapee.

In 2005, Gov. Tom Vilsack fired the warden before proceeding with an inquiry resulting in that 35-point memo. New York authorities suspended 12 prison staffers after the escape of two dangerous inmates from the Clinton Correctional Center in upstate New York.

We’ve not seen enough of a public investigation to determine if firings or suspensions are in order at Fort Madison. In fact, we’ve not seen any kind of formal inquiry proposed into prison security in the wake of this escape, or the 2013 escape at Clarinda.

With Fort Madison construction still mired in delays and two escaped felons on his watch, we urge the governor to initiate a public task force to assure compliance with those 35 corrective action points and assure that Iowa prisons aren’t compromised by dangerous felons with access to bedsheets.

___

The Dubuque Telegraph Herald. July 14, 2015

Housing incentives for firefighters, police could help.

There are many challenges confronting downtown areas in cities nationwide, and Dubuque is no exception. Despite progress on various fronts, problems remain more plentiful than answers. There is no single solution that will make everything right.

With that in mind, it’s commendable that the City of Dubuque is embarking on an initiative that has the potential for positives on several levels.

The City Council last week signed off on a program to give city police officers and firefighters financial incentives - primarily no-interest, forgivable loans - to buy, rehabilitate and live in homes downtown. The program is fashioned after a federal Good Neighbor Next Door Initiative.

If the program works as designed, the downtown will have more fixed-up homes, the city will have an employment recruiting tool, public-safety employees will have more incentive to accept or keep jobs here, and downtown will be home to more folks with stable, well-paying employment.

And there is an additional benefit in our low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. According to Alvin Nash, the city’s Housing and Community Development director, federal statistics show that crime rates drop in neighborhoods where officers reside.

Let’s hope that enough qualifying employees take up the city on the offer to find out whether, and how well, this innovative initiative works.

We’ll apologize at the outset to readers who are offended by this segment, which comments on what were, for the principals and their immediate families, tragic situations.

But what were they thinking?

(asterisk) In Maine, a man celebrating Independence Day with friends placed a fireworks mortar tube on top of his head. After his friends thought they had dissuaded him from doing so, 22-year-old Devon Staples lit the fuse. He died instantly. By the way, he had been drinking at the time.

(asterisk) A 28-year-old man thought it would be fun to take a nocturnal swim in a Texas bayou. Tommie Woodward not only ignored posted signs and verbal admonitions warning of alligators, before he jumped in (with a female companion), he hollered, “(Blank) the alligators!” Perhaps the “blank” meant “feed,” because that’s what Woodward wound up doing. By the way, witnesses said he had been drinking.

(asterisk) And, with a touch of nostalgia, we note another season of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, whose summer festival was popularized in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel, “The Sun Also Rises.” On the first day in Pamplona, the bulls gored three runners, and a handful of others suffered injuries from falls. One of those gored, Floridian Mike Webster, has run through the streets ahead of a half-dozen bulls 38 times over 11 years. Interviewed in his hospital room, Webster said he won’t decide whether to run with the bulls again until he talks with his wife.

Perhaps we should not worry about these incidents, and just chalk them up to what geneticists call natural selection.

Here’s a tip for corporations, colleges and other institutions thirsty for publicity: Announce rankings. It doesn’t really matter what the rankings are for. They don’t necessarily have to be based on science or quality research. Entities that come out on top will help spread the word, including your organization’s name. Reporters and editorial writers needing to fill out a column will take notice.

Which brings us to the dubious ranking of the “most American” of the U.S. states by the real estate blog Estately. (Ever heard of Estately? We hadn’t, either.)

How is one state “more American” than another? The folks at Estately selected eight criteria on a per-capita or square-mile basis, including bald eagles, Olympic gold medals won, natives who became astronauts or Major League Baseball players, fast-food restaurants, homes with firearms, Facebook users’ interest in the “United States of America” and Google searches for “Bin Laden dead.”

Hmm.

When numbers associated with those unusual criteria were crunched, guess which state ranked No. 1.

Iowa. Yep, Iowa.

Estately wrote: “It’s where astronauts are born, and where the actual baseball field in the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ is located. It produces the most bacon of any state, and Iowa corn farmers fuel our country’s obesity epidemic with sweet, sweet corn syrup. Instead of saying, ‘It’s as American as apple pie’ we should be saying ‘It’s as American as Iowa.’”

Well, that was fun - but not definitive.

By the way, our region’s other states are pretty darn “American,” too: Illinois (sixth) and Wisconsin (13th). If only government debt and cheese consumption were part of the scoreboard …

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The Des Moines Register. July 16, 2015

Income gap needs national, local approaches

United Way, DMACC, others put resources toward issue

One pressing national issue that presidential candidates in both parties agree on is the growing income inequality. The challenge is finding agreement on what the president or the federal government should do about it.

Candidates retreat to predictable camps: Democrats calling for taxing the rich and spending the proceeds on social programs, and Republicans pointing to federal regulations that stifle job growth. The conversation usually ends there. Presidential candidates have a 30,000-foot perspective of the issue, however, while economic inequality must be addressed at ground zero in every community. The president and Congress have a role to play, but it should be a supportive role, giving communities incentives and targeted resources.

The need for local action is clear from the recent work of Harvard Professor Robert Putnam, who visited with the Register’s editorial and news staff last week. Putnam, known for his 2000 book, “Bowling Alone” about America’s unraveling social fabric, is now trying to engage presidential aspirants in both parties on what he calls the “opportunity gap.”

Putnam cites research that points to a growing and solidifying divide: Children at the top have the greatest opportunity, thanks to two nurturing parents who guide them toward advanced education; children at the bottom face staggering obstacles to success. America has become a “hereditary aristocracy,” he said, not seen since the Gilded Age of the 1890s.

Putnam is making the rounds in early presidential caucus and primary states in the hope of getting candidates to focus on closing that gap. The title of his book exploring the issue, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” comes from his experience growing up in a small Ohio town where all kids in town were everyone’s concern. Restoring that shared concern and expanding opportunity includes education from early childhood through high school and beyond.

Iowa has taken steps in that direction with investments in preschool, elementary and secondary education.

Iowa’s community colleges offer a path to opportunity, but they have increasingly focused on making sure students finish their education. Des Moines Area Community College, for example, requires every student to take a class on how to navigate the college system, and it has hired more advisers and navigators to keep students “stay on the rails,” as DMACC President Rob Denson puts it.

Community leaders in Iowa understand the need to target resources at those most vulnerable to falling through the cracks. The United Way of Central Iowa, for example, retooled its giving program in 2009 to measure how well its dollars are spent on three key goals: raising graduation rates, increasing the number of financially self-sufficient families and improving health.

The Iowa caucuses are an opportunity to address what the federal government can do to help all communities overcome the opportunity gap. That will be the topic of a candidate forum in October at Des Moines Area Community College planned by Opportunity Nation, a national bipartisan coalition of businesses, nonprofits, educators and community leaders working to expand economic mobility.

The next president won’t close the income and opportunity gaps, but he or she can use the bully pulpit to lead the nation in that direction.resources toward issue

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