- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

Dubuque Telegraph Herald. July 20, 2015

Iowa lawmakers must have votes to convene session

We get it. Democrats in the Iowa Legislature are frustrated by the governor’s veto of supplemental school funding. There are plenty of reasons to explain their frustration:

- The veto dismantled weeks of arduous negotiations between Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

- The Iowa Association of School Boards predicts that 162 Iowa school districts will have to raise property taxes to make up for the money.

- Iowa is now 35th in the nation in average per-pupil spending - and dropping.

But Democrats shouldn’t compound the problem by calling for a special session if it won’t make much difference.

If lawmakers could go back to Des Moines and undo what Gov. Terry Branstad’s veto pen did, the effort would make sense. But without assurances that they have in hand the votes to restore that $55.7 million in supplemental funding, it doesn’t.

At some point, legislators and school officials have to move on and swallow the bitter political pill.

It’s unfortunate - but not necessarily surprising - that the governor insisted the supplemental spending fell into the one-time spending category he abhors, even though lawmakers took care to make sure to specify that the money wasn’t to go toward operational expenses like salaries. It was meant to fill gaps - a one-time payment to pay for one-time expenses.

Next year, lawmakers will remember that such an arrangement won’t fly with the governor.

In the meantime, schools must do the best they can with their meager increase in state support.

Next session, it should be legislative priority to give Iowa schools a handle early on what to expect in state aid. Rather than negotiate through the month of May as they did this year, they need to hammer out a plan in March so school districts have information before they must certify their budgets in mid-April.


Des Moines Register. July 19, 2015

Air guard must budge.

Iowa seemed to suffer a big loss when the Air National Guard announced it would remove F-16 fighter jets based in Des Moines three years ago. As it turned out, the pain is being felt most directly by the Des Moines International Airport.

The airport would like to use much if not all of the 172 acres now controlled by the Iowa Air National Guard to expand corporate and private aviation, which could bring in an estimated $5 million annual revenue. But the Guard has for two years stalled on saying how much land it needs, or if it in fact still requires a presence at the civilian airport, given its new mission.

Des Moines airport officials have been commendably patient, but it’s time for the military to get off the dime. The uncertainty looming over the future of a prime piece of airport property is holding up planning for expansion projects, including a new terminal building, and depriving Des Moines of potential revenue that could hold down fees charged to airlines.

The airport is caught between a rock and a hard place between two federal agencies: The Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force. As such, Iowa’s congressional delegation needs to get involved. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and Rep. David Young all say the same thing: They are monitoring the situation and hope the parties come to an agreement.

“It is critical that a fair resolution for all parties is achieved sooner rather than later to ensure those involved can continue their different, but crucial, missions,” Ernst said in a statement.

We agree, and we don’t expect military officials to move without political pressure.

Airport, Guard dispute has nationwide implications

After the fighter jets were pulled out of Des Moines in March 2014, the Iowa Air National Guard was given a new mission in Des Moines that includes surveillance, cybersecurity and operating pilotless drones. Those drones are not based in Des Moines, however, which suggests the Guard could substantially reduce its footprint at the airport. Or, perhaps it could relocate its 350 full-time and 650 part-time employees to the Iowa National Guard at Camp Dodge in Johnston.

Whatever the Guard decides will have a substantial impact on the airport’s finances and future expansion plans. The Des Moines Airport Authority estimates it could collect as much as $5 million a year in new revenue from expanding private operations for corporate and private aircraft on the land now leased for $1 a year to the National Guard.

The difference is more than just a question of money: The FAA, which supplements the airport with grants for capital investments in runways and other projects, argues that those federal grants require the airport to charge fair-market value to all tenants except military units with an aeronautical mission.

It seems logical the Guard’s “aeronautical mission” ended with the removal of jets that actually land and take off from the Des Moines airport, which is the position of the FAA. The Air Force, however, has taken the position that by definition anything the Air National Guard does has an aeronautical mission.


The Quad City Times. July 21, 2015

Break up Iowa’s sex-offender clusters

Three previously convicted sex offenders living in a west Davenport mobile home park are heading back to prison for abusing more kids.

One mother of some of the victims is heading to prison after she knowingly permitted her own children to be alone with these creeps.

But what about the Iowa legislators who continue to allow sex offender dens like the one they created at the Patriot Mobile Home Park, 4847 W. Kimberly Road, Davenport? One sex offender was convicted and another pleaded guilty earlier this month to new abuses at the park.

Scott County authorities said as many as seven children were abused by three of eight sex offenders living at the far west side location.

This assembly of convicted sex offenders was invented by the state legislature when it set up ridiculous rules about where sex offenders could live after prison. The law barring former offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or day care centers pretty much relegated them to low-rent housing on the edge of Iowa towns.

When they passed the law in 1995, lawmakers had zero evidence these residency restrictions would improve safety.

Since then, they have ample evidence their law drove convicted sex offenders to low-rent, long-term rental motels, like the Ced-Rel motel in Cedar Rapids, where 26 sex offenders filled the 24 rooms; or Davenport’s Heatherton Avenue, where five offenders still are clustered in two blocks.

These legislatively-created sex offender dens are easy to plot if you’re web savvy and visit the Iowa Sex Offender Registry website: iowasexoffender.com.

But if you’re an impoverished parent with no computer and little rent money, your children can become victims awaiting perpetrators clustered together by state law.

For decades, Iowa law has prohibited some convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of most schools and child care businesses. But not all sex offenders. Those with existing residences near schools can stay after their conviction. If a school or day care opens near convicted sex offenders’ current homes, they can stay.

And no sex offender is restricted from living next to a public pool, playground, library, water park, fast-food restaurant or any of dozens of places where kids may congregate.

So this incomplete ban does little to distance sex offenders from kids. And it does plenty to concentrate sex offenders near poor children.

Since Scott County authorities launched the 2014 investigation at the Patriot Mobile Home Park, three convicted sex offenders have pleaded or been found guilty of new abuses. Five women also have been charged or convicted for allowing kids to become victims.

Case closed? We hope so.

But according to Iowa Sex Offender Registry records researched Monday, five offenders remain clustered at the mobile home park. Clusters will continue to exist throughout Iowa until Iowa lawmakers fix the problem they created and drop the ridiculous, useless and dangerous residency restriction.


The Messenger (Fort Dodge). July 20, 2015

Girls softball is back in Fort Dodge

This annual state tournament is a highlight of the season

One of summer’s most enjoyable events begins today. The Girls State Softball Tournament will be the highlight of the season for the 40 teams that made it to state-level competition. All the teams are outstanding. Making it to this final event of the season means that none will have any reason for more than a brief lament, no matter what their final standing. Making it to state is itself an accomplishment that marks a season as one to remember with pride.

This event has become a major feature of the summer sports season in our town. Fort Dodge has been the host city for this competition for four decades.

The marvelous Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex has been the selected venue for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union softball finals for so long that it is hard to imagine any other location for this event.

We’re pleased the IGHSAU leadership agrees that the superb facilities at Rogers and the other amenities Fort Dodge has to offer can’t easily be topped. It is a source of pride that this community will host these tournaments through at least 2020.

It is also very good news for the economy of Fort Dodge and the surrounding towns.

The Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau, shared with The Messenger data regarding this tournament’s financial impact on the local economy. The numbers are impressive.

- Over the tournament’s five days, approximately 25,000 people will visit Fort Dodge.

- This will have $1.3 million in direct financial impact - the money spent by these visitors.

- There is also $4 million in indirect stimulation to the local economy. The money visitors will spend here will help pay salaries and generate profits for businesses. Much of the money that goes out in payrolls and is earned by businesses as profit is plowed back into the local economy.

It’s not hard to see evidence of the direct spending.

Hotel rooms will be filled this week not only in Fort Dodge, but also in nearby towns. During the course of the tournament, The CVB estimates that about 3,000 hotel room nights will be consumed by the fans and others the event will bring here. Additionally, the majority of the teams will be housed at Iowa Central Community College.

Anyone who visits a restaurant this week will learn firsthand that local eateries benefit greatly from this event.

The money spent in stores, gas stations, convenience stores and the assorted other places where visitors shop helps strengthen these local businesses.

When local businesses do well, so do we all.

The investment this community made in the Rogers Sports Complex is an excellent example of creative planning. When communities invest in carefully crafted infrastructure projects, they set the stage for future economic growth.

This will be a great week for fans of girls softball.

It will also be a wonderful demonstration that Fort Dodge is not only open for business, but also knows how to compete in that world like a champion.

The Messenger welcomes the competitors and their supporters to Fort Dodge.

Fort Dodgers are excited to have the teams and their fans as a part of our community for a few days. Win or lose, this will be a week filled with outstanding softball that will generate both great fun and treasured memories.

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