- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

Des Moines Register. May 20, 2016

Silent protest pleads for safe streets.

A slow procession of hundreds of cyclists rode for five miles around downtown Des Moines on Wednesday night. The numbers were powerful, and so was the quiet.

Escorted by police, the line of riders stretched for blocks and created quite a stir. Pedestrians yelled, “What’s going on?” A motorist on Third Street and Court Avenue expressed impatience, and a police officer responded, “Bad timing, dude.”

But the cyclists said nothing above a whisper. Observers couldn’t hear the riders, but the message of the Ride of Silence was loud and clear:

See us.

Similar rides occurred Wednesday in Cedar Falls, Mason City, Sioux City, Dubuque and around the world. All had the same goals: “To honor those who have been injured or killed. To raise awareness that we are here. To ask that we all share the road.”

The Des Moines ride attracted a crowd of probably 300 to 500 riders. Last year, about 70 people showed up.

The ride has taken on a “whole new life,” said Jeremy Lewis, executive director of the Des Moines Bike Collective. “As I was riding home, I realized it has grown into a very reflective silent protest for streets that are safe for all users.”

What has happened in a year?

Too much tragedy. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition reports that the number of bicycle/motor vehicle crashes between increased by 20 percent to total of 391 crashes in 2015, after declines in the previous two years. Four of the accidents were fatal.

Many of the Ride of Silence participants were moved to ride in memory of Gregary “Wade” Franck, who was killed in August in a hit-and-run crash caused by a drunken driver.

The event also honored five other Iowans who had been killed since the last Ride of Silence, as well as many who were injured. Before the ride began, Scott Sumpter of Bike Iowa read the names of the dead and some of the injured, and the details of the crashes.

The cyclists listed ranged in age from 6 to 83. The details were similar: A driver looked the wrong way. A driver was distracted and struck a cyclist from behind as he was passing him. A driver failed to yield.

Since 2011, 22 bicyclists have died in collisions with cars in Iowa. Drivers were charged in 13 of those deaths, but Franck’s case was an exception, because almost all received a fine and no jail time.

Of course, cyclists break the law too often and are at fault in accidents. But the Iowa Bicycle Coalition study found that in 59 percent of crashes, the driver contributed to the crash through actions such as failure to yield.

Iowa has a lot of work to do in improving bike safety. The state slipped to 28th among in national rankings for bike-friendly states in 2015, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

To improve that rating, the league recommends that Iowa approve a safe-passing law and update other traffic laws; spend more federal funding on bicyclists and pedestrians; and adopt model streets policies. The Iowa Department of Transportation could finally finish its Iowa Bike and Pedestrian Plan, a blueprint for road construction. The plan is supposed to be updated every six years. Iowa’s hasn’t changed since 2000.

Many cyclists would be thankful, however, if more motorists simply showed them respect. Drive sober, pay attention, put down your phone. See us.

The cyclists ended the Ride of Silence by climbing the sidewalks to the Capitol, their headlights blinking in the dusk.

A rider later commented, “It would be nice to do this or something similar when our legislators are in session .”

And can see us.


Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. May 20, 2016

Where did Waterloo go right?

Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart is right.

Image counts for a lot. Especially downtown.

And there’s more to downtown Waterloo’s actual image than meets the eye - once you get past The Bridge.

While city officials are stymied in their efforts to renovate and repair the Fourth Street Bridge pedestrian walkway - rejecting a lone bid coming in $1 million over estimate - another phenomena has set in.

Creeping commercialism has crept its way across the Cedar River.

That’s right, folks, that insatiable insidious incidence of free enterprise has spread from East Fourth Street to West Fourth Street.

Four buildings in the 200 block of West Fourth, adjacent to the Ramada Hotel and across from the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center are seeing new life.

The four buildings that housed Walden Photo have been renovated with their historic features revived.

“These are some of the oldest buildings left in Waterloo,” said David Deeds, controller with JSA Development, the company that headed the projects.

One of the four commercial spaces, 225 W. Fourth St., will be home to Basal Pizza. The pizzeria offered free sample slices to people attending a recent opening reception of the $2.5 million project.

The entire project features four commercial spaces and six loft-style apartments. Three of the apartments have tenants planning to move in, and two of the four commercial spaces are occupied. The commercial space at 227 W. Fourth St. is occupied by 4u Clothing.

The oldest building, 229 W. Fourth St., was built in 1882. The newest was built in 1904. Developers said renovating the buildings and finding new uses for them preserves the appeal of downtown.

“I have fun doing these projects because Waterloo needs them,” said Jim Walsh, president and founder of JSA Development.

Walsh said downtown Waterloo has lost about a third of its buildings. The renovations, which include foundation work, new ventilation systems and roofs, will add to their already long lives.

“These buildings would have been knocked down if we did not do this,” Walsh said. “They’re good for another 150 years.”

Contrary to the perception of many longtime city residents, this commercial development is spreading from the east side to the west side.

Thanks to the efforts of downtown developers like Walsh, Donna Nelson and others, the east side of downtown, particularly East Fourth Street, has seen considerable revitalization over the past decade or more - contrary to longtime perceptions of the east side being more run down and crime ridden.

While the west side has seen major public improvements like the Phelps Youth Pavilion and the RiverLoop Amphitheatre, that building-by-building storefront commercial revitalization seen along and near East Fourth had not quite made it to the west side of the river. That is no longer the case with the development in the “Walden block” area on West Fourth.

And in fact, considerable economic incentives have been provided by the city on the west side of downtown. The storefronts are in a designated national historic district on the west side of downtown and the renovation work is in part being aided by historic preservation tax credits.

JSA has renovated more than 50 upper-level apartments, roughly 20 of them in the past year. “There’s a lot of people that don’t believe it,” Deeds said when we toured Walden Block apartments with him in January. “You don’t see them; they’re all on the upper floors.

“There’s plenty of vacant land in the world. There’s not plenty of historic buildings. Nobody ever went somewhere just because they could park,” Deeds said.

If this kind of thing keeps up, who knows? Maybe people are going to demand Mayor Hart explain where downtown Waterloo went right.


Quad-City Times. May 20, 2016

Dickmann won’t be muzzled .

Alderwoman Maria Dickmann went there, all right. In so doing, she exposed the importance of elected officials freely and publicly speaking their minds.

Earlier this month, Dickmann rightly questioned the annual losses, almost $100,000, at city-owned Red Hawk Golf and Learning Center. She wondered if the land could be a better used, especially since Davenport owns a pair of 18-hole courses that operate in the black.

Fair question.

Dickmann’s comments came at one of the City Council’s weekly Tuesday briefings, that, until recently, had been sealed off to the public and media. It’s just more evidence that the City Council has, for years, done the real business of governance behind closed doors.

Since raising the question, Dickmann is taking a beating from the pro-golf contingent for even broaching the topic. Mayor Frank Klipsch allayed their fears on Thursday by reiterating his support for the nine-hole course.

The Red Hawk debate Dickmann instigated is but an example of a larger issue. For too long, elected officials have been muzzled in Davenport.

Dickmann last year vacated her seat on the Davenport Community School Board after election to the City Council. Her departure from the school board was, in part, initiated by that body’s long-standing policy of barring its members - elected officials, mind you - from speaking to the press. Only school board President Ralph Johanson is authorized to speak to the press.

It’s nothing short of an attempt to maintain a tidy public appearance while the school board grapples with the highly political business of educating the community’s children.

Johanson - a GOP candidate for Scott County Board of Supervisors - walked back Wednesday from his previous hard-line stance, during an endorsement meeting with the Quad-City Times editorial board. The “policy” isn’t the issue, Johanson said. The problem is in its application. Too often, board members use “we,” inadvertently speaking for the board, a role solely intended for the board president, he said. But, going forward, he intended to better advise new members to speak only for themselves when talking to the media.

School board Vice President Rich Clewell - who is seeking the Democratic nomination for county board - said the gag order is intended to represent the school board “in the best light.” The district’s position in the pending stand-off with state officials over funding could be weakened should in-fighting go public, he said.

“Now you have issues like Red Hawk,” Clewell said, making an example of the dangers of free-speaking officials.

But Clewell too added that he’s not married to policy that essentially bans elected officials from speaking out.

Well, it’s a start.

A comment made in a now-open City Council “briefing” kicked off an important debate about Davenport’s ownership of a cash-bleeding, nine-hole golf course. It speaks to fiduciary realities and government’s role in providing amenities. It poses the question: Should the city lose money on a course that, frankly, serves a tiny fraction of its tax base.

Yet, Dickmann is a link between an improving City Council and a school board more concerned with image than transparency. She’s unafraid to tread the occasional mine field, a necessary quality for any elected official who believes in open representative government. It’s a principle that, in part, drove her from the school board.

Dickmann will take some lumps every so often because of her willingness to speak out. Those are bruises that should be worn proudly by anyone who values inclusive government.


Mason City Globe Gazette. May 18, 2016

Grassley seeks study on cannabidiol

A major sticking point among those opposing easier access to cannabidiol - the oil extracted from marijuana - for extremely ill Iowans has been the failure of the federal government to reclassify it for prescription use.

Ill Iowans and their supporters have been literally begging for several years for the Legislature to make cannabidiol more readily accessible in the state, especially for epilepsy patients. It’s been shown to reduce the number of seizures significantly, and stories about those who need the medicine have been heartbreaking. Iowa passed a relatively useless measure allowing its use but not making it available. Some families have even moved to states where it’s available.

Now, to his credit, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is joining Sen. Dianne Feinstein in asking the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice for an update on their scientific and medical evaluation of cannabidiol. The agencies have agreed to conduct the review, which will determine whether there is a scientific basis to change the legal schedule of cannabidiol separate from marijuana.

“Given that many individuals suffer from serious medical conditions that may be alleviated by cannabidiol, it is critical that this evaluation be completed expeditiously,” Grassley and Feinstein wrote to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

Changing the legal schedule of cannabidiol to make it separate from marijuana is one of very issues that opponents in the Legislature - mostly Republicans, as is Grassley - keep referencing.

Grassley and Feinstein, a California Democrat, are well-positioned to make such inquiries. He, along with being chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control. Feinstein is co-chair of the caucus and a member of the Judiciary Committee. Already, at their urging, the federal government has eased certain barriers to research.

In June of last year they conducted a hearing to explore the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol and barriers to research. Just days before that hearing, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it was eliminating the Public Health Service review for non-federally funded marijuana studies, which many viewed as a hindrance to cannabidiol research.

Finally in late 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration agreed at the senators’ request to ease some of the regulatory requirements for those conducting FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabidiol.

Grassley and Feinstein are powerful senators. Hopefully what they learn will help convince those in the Iowa Legislature of the distinct difference between cannabidiol and the marijuana plant, and that those whose suffering could be diminished dramatically should not have to leave the state or feel like criminals to get and use it. They have waited long enough.

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