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Iowa Boy Scout earns all 138 merit badges
A central Iowa Boy Scout has accomplished something only four other scouts in state history have achieved — he’s earned every single merit badge.
Charlie Stevens only needed 21 of the badges to earn the top rank of Eagle, but the boy scout from Ankeny decided to broaden his experience by working to acquire all 138 merit badges.
Stevens, who is 17, says it took him almost nine years to finish the feat.
“I was doing merit badges for the longest time just because it was fun, and then after I’d gotten a bunch in a row, people started asking me if I was trying to get all of them, so I decided why not?” he said. “Then I just tried to get all of them, and as I succeeded, it became more and more attainable, the longer I worked towards it.”
From astronomy and archery to wilderness survival and woodworking, Stevens learned a wealth of life skills during his quest to earn every possible patch.
“SCUBA diving was an interesting one. That was fairly hard to get because you had to find somewhere to do it and once I did find one, I found it at the site of an old rock quarry. It was just really fun to learn that skill and now I have a diver’s license, which I never knew I’d get.”
After he graduates from Ankeny Centennial High School next year, Stevens plans to attend the University of Iowa and major in computer science engineering.
“I’d like to do something in systems analysis or maybe cybersecurity, just so I can help people be more safe online.”
For his Eagle Project, Stevens created the Agape Garden at Ankeny First United Methodist Church, which is an ecumenical faith garden that donates fresh produce to area food pantries. He hopes to complete his remaining Eagle rank requirements next month.
Officials with the Mid-Iowa Council say only a few hundred Scouts nationwide have earned every merit badge in the history of the Boy Scouts of America, which was launched in 1910.
Man accused of killing Algona policeman held on $2 million bond
A judge has set a cash bond of $2 million for the man accused of killing an Algona police officer last week.
Algona resident Kyle Lou Ricke, 43, is accused of shooting and killing Officer Kevin Cram early on Sept. 13 as Cram was attempting to serve a warrant for Ricke’s arrest.
Ricke made his initial appearance in Kossuth County District Court Thursday afternoon via video conference and Judge Mark Laddusaw announced he’s seen enough evidence for the case to proceed.
Rickie has been charged with first-degree murder and the judge explained the penalty is a sentence of life in prison.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown asked the judge to set a cash only bond of $5 million. He says the gun used in the case has not been recovered.
Judge Laddusaw settled on $2 million and stipulated it’s cash only, meaning the full amount had to be paid in cash before Rickie could be released. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. in Kossuth County District Court.
Ricke, who was arrested in Minnesota, is being held at the Kossuth County Jail in Algona.
Cedar Rapids Schools adds its largest-ever bond to ballot
Cedar Rapids Schools is asking voters this November to approve its largest school bond ever. The school board met Thursday night to add the bond to the ballot.
The combined $445 million bond will fund renovating existing buildings, constructing a new middle school and purchasing new land. With that funding, all the district’s buildings would be new or recently renovated by 2037.
School board member Dexter Merschbrock called for the ballot petition to be posted for public review. Superintendent Tawana Grover declined, saying the public would be required to fill out a formal records request.
The district is seeking approval of the bond in two phases, with the first half voted on this November and the second half in 2029.
Thursday marks deadline to file to run for local office in November
The deadline to file to run for local office this November ends Thursday. For the election department in the Linn County Auditor’s Office, it’s a busy day as candidates for city council and mayor and even school bond campaigns officially file to be on the ballot.
Matt Warfield, the deputy commissioner of elections for Linn County, says compared to the same day in 2015 and 2019, participation is down around 10%. While not alarming, he said it’s something the county tracks to understand the level of community awareness of candidate filing periods.
“Candidates that come in and file are stepping up to do public service. It’s something everybody needs to be a part of: working with other people throughout the communities to figure out the best ways to have communities established that operate for everybody that lives in them.”
He says in a good year, there are candidates who file for positions up down the ballot, but it can be a challenge, particularly for local office.
This year, the primary falls on Oct. 10. Election Day is on Nov. 7.
Crop insurance costs are rising, fueled by climate change. Yet little has changed in federal program
Farming has always been risky, and success depends on the weather, which is becoming more extreme due to climate. Crop insurance, a sweeping federal program paid for by taxpayers, softens the blow when drought, floods, hail or other natural disasters destroy crops, as well as if commodity prices drop sharply.
And that’s expensive. The government pays roughly 60 cents on the dollar for crop insurance premiums and then shells out hefty subsidies directly to the insurance companies involved to protect against catastrophic losses.
Taxpayers pony up about $9 billion in a typical year, according to Steve Morris, a director at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and that number is rising fast.
“Part of that is just because of the scale and size of the program, you're having more producers sign up, et cetera. but I think the latest costs were, you know, upwards of $15 billion or so,” he said. “So, it's a very large program and it's getting bigger.”
Congress has expanded and sweetened subsidized crop insurance over the decades. The program now covers more than a hundred crops, and even livestock. Last year it insured 493 million acres.
Drought worsens in eastern Iowa
Iowa’s drought has worsened in the eastern part of the state.
All or parts of six counties in far northeast Iowa, as well as parts of Tama and Benton counties in east-central Iowa, are now in exceptional drought.
That’s the most severe level measured by the United States Drought Monitor. Most of those counties have received less than an inch of rain over the past month. Much of the northeast quarter of Iowa is in extreme drought, and nearly all of the state is considered in some level of drought.
Gov. Reynolds’ husband diagnosed with lung cancer
Iowa’s First Gentleman, Kevin Reynolds, has been diagnosed with lung cancer.
In a statement announcing the diagnosis, Gov. Kim Reynolds said she and her husband are confident in the medical team that will carry out his treatment. She says they take optimism from medical advancements in treating lung cancer.
The governor and first gentleman have been married for 41 years. They have three children and 11 grandchildren.
Des Moines mayor won’t run for reelection
Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie says his name will not appear on the ballot in November, which means the city will elect a new mayor for the first time in 20 years.
Cownie first took office in 2004. His time as mayor was marked by efforts to revive the downtown area, expand the trail system and lead the city through the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter announcing his decision, Cownie thanked residents for making him the city’s longest serving mayor, while noting ongoing challenges building affordable housing and keeping businesses downtown.
The candidates running for mayor in Des Moines include city council members Connie Boesen, Josh Mandelbaum and activist Denver Foote. Election Day is Nov. 7.
Trump campaigns in Iowa amid abortion comment criticism
Former President Donald Trump campaigned in Iowa on Wednesday as he works to become the Republican nominee for president again.
His trip to the lead-off caucus state comes as he faces blowback from anti-abortion activists for refusing to commit to national restrictions on abortion.
Trump recently told NBC’s Meet The Press that his rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, made a “terrible mistake” in signing a bill to ban abortion at six weeks. A similar ban signed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is currently tied up in the courts.
Trump didn’t bring up the issue of abortion during his remarks in Maquoketa, but at a speech in Dubuque afterwards, he said past presidents had only tried to end the right to an abortion.
“But they always failed. For year after year, nobody believed it would happen,” Trump said. “While others talked, what president after 52 years actually delivered?”
Trump said Republicans “must learn how to properly talk about abortion” in order to win in 2024.
“We have to win elections. Otherwise, we'll be back where we were.”
Trump regularly reminds crowds he was responsible for three of the Supreme Court Justices who overturned Roe v. Wade.
DeSantis recently told Radio Iowa he doesn’t understand how Trump can call himself pro-life if he’s criticizing states for enacting pro-life protections for babies.
Funeral held for Algona police officer killed in line of duty
In Algona on Wednesday, a funeral was held for Police Officer Kevin Cram, who was killed in the line of duty last week.
Cram was 33 years old and served for 10 years in the Nora Springs and Algona police departments. He was honored at a service in the Algona High School gym, where hundreds of officers from other law enforcement agencies were on hand.
Algona Police Chief Bo Miller called on them to continue their work.
“Law enforcement must stand hand-in-hand and be stronger now more than ever. We in law enforcement must hold the line. We must continue to be that beacon of light.”
Former Algona Police Chief Kendall Pals honored Cram as a professional who served the community.
“Kevin can best be described as an officer who took his responsibility seriously, didn’t shy away from difficult tasks, helped others in their greatest time of need and simply did the right thing for the right reasons.”
Cram was shot and killed while attempting to arrest 43-year-old Kyle Ricke, who is charged with first-degree murder in Kram’s death.
Waterloo partners with DNR to replant trees lost to Emerald Ash Borer
The City of Waterloo is partnering with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to replant 50% of its trees lost to the Emerald Ash Borer since 2014.
With help from the DNR, one apple and three evergreen tree species will put down roots in residential areas across the city.
Jacob Geller, Waterloo’s natural resources technician, says that cultivating diverse species should help in reducing potential tree loss in the future.
“In 1970, a whole bunch of elms were removed due to Dutch Elm Disease, and then we all planted a whole bunch of ash trees, and the ash borer came through, and now we have to replace a whole bunch of those. Third time going into this, the opinion of the industry is to plant as many different species as possible.”
The trees will be available on Oct. 10 for $25 each. Removal of dead ash trees from public spaces was completed in 2021.
Reynolds calls out Trump's comments on abortion policy
Gov. Kim Reynolds has made her first public statement about former President Donald Trump’s recent remarks about abortion policy.
During an interview a few days ago with NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump said the six-week abortion ban that his rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in April, was a “terrible mistake.”
Trump commented on his Truth Social platform yesterday afternoon, saying the three U.S. Supreme Court Justices he appointed did something nobody thought was possible by ending Roe v. Wade and sending the abortion issue back to the states.
Reynolds posted a comment on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, a little over an hour later.
“It’s never a ‘terrible thing’ to protect innocent life,” she wrote, adding that she’s proud of the "fetal heartbeat" bill she signed into law in 2018 and again this summer.
On Monday, DeSantis told Radio Iowa that Trump’s remarks don’t reflect the values of Iowans. On Tuesday night, DeSantis praised Reynolds on social media for “promoting a culture of life.”
Trump is scheduled to campaign in eastern Iowa on Wednesday. He’ll hold an event in Maquoketa, then appear at a late afternoon rally in Dubuque.
Some in Dickinson County pushing for updated distance setbacks for wind turbines
Wind turbines are getting blowback in the Iowa Great Lakes area.
Aaron Janssen, who owns a home and business east of Milford, uses his property as a wedding venue. He says Dickinson County needs to modernize setbacks. The county’s original ordinance was written in 2009, but now wind turbines are bigger and taller.
The current setback says turbines must be built a minimum of 1,200 feet away from a property. Some Dickinson County residences say that measurement is outdated, and should now force turbines to be built further away.
“For the scale, and the size of these turbines, consequences come with it,” he said. “Just between blade ice throw, the shadow, flicker, noise — some of those things that people have experienced with these turbines being too close to their home.”
Other counties across the state have modified their rules. Woodbury County banned turbines within two miles of city limits and doubled the setback length.
Janssen serves on a planning and zoning subcommittee looking into the issue.
The organization Dickinson County Concerned Citizens plans to hold a community meeting on Thursday evening in Okoboji to raise awareness about the issue.
Invenergy filed for a permit earlier this month to build up to 101 turbines. The Dickinson County Board of Adjustment plans a public hearing and possible vote on the application next month.
New USDA program to help eastern Iowans access Mississippi flood relief funds
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a new program to help eastern Iowans access relief funds from spring flooding.
The relief comes in the form of loans and grants to repair single-family rural homes in presidentially declared disaster areas from recent Mississippi River flooding.
Teresa Greenfield, the USDA’s Rural Development state director in Iowa, says the program is designed to assist lower income Iowans up and down the state’s eastern banks by removing several hurdles, including lowering the age requirement from 62 to 18 and increasing the lifetime grant amount from $10,000 to $40,675.
Greenfield says the pilot program expands opportunities for Iowans by looking beyond future reimbursement.
“Here, we’re looking retroactively. If you had to take out a loan to make repairs to your home to cover these damages, we can help refinance that loan with our program, and you can use the $40,000 to be reimbursed for the cost or to put towards that refinancing.”
Greenfield says that eastern Iowans can use the money to repair any home safety hazard due to natural disaster.
Harm reduction to combat synthetic drug overdose now federal policy
Nearly two-thirds of drug overdose deaths nationwide have been linked to synthetic drugs like fentanyl and xylazine. More than 100,000 people died of an opioid overdose nationwide in 2022.
During a recent visit to a university in Indiana, the Biden administration’s drug czar said harm reduction to combat these rising death counts is now federal policy.
White House Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Rahul Gupta, stressed the importance of Naloxone, an extremely effective medication used to reverse an opioid overdose.
“When we see the doubling of adolescent deaths from 2019 to 2021, in two out of three cases, bystanders were nearby, but Naloxone was not.”
Gupta recommends schools, governments and businesses make Naloxone readily available and that everyone should carry Naloxone if they can.
Gupta is the first medical doctor to serve as White House “drug czar.”
Graceland University cuts tuition by nearly 40%
Graceland University in Lamoni is cutting the sticker price for tuition by nearly 40% in a makeover of the private college’s tuition and financial aid system.
Starting next fall Graceland will charge $19,950 per year for tuition, down from over $32,000.
New students will pay about the same out-of-pocket as before, after accounting for scholarships and financial aid.
But Graceland President Pat Draves says the change will reduce the confusion families may have about the cost of attending the college.
“Graceland’s new price, with our simplified scholarship and financial aid process, puts Graceland back into the conversation with prospective students and their families about the outstanding opportunities that happen here in Lamoni, Iowa, with Graceland University.”
The old price was based on offering big scholarships. But more families today are shopping on sites like Niche.com based on that they can afford.
Vice President of Enrollment Deb Skinner says that can cause private schools like Graceland to be filtered out before a student ever applies.
“And what happened was if a college’s sticker price is not in line with what that family expected to pay for college, they do not show up in the search results. And those tools are still being used heavily today.”
Graceland welcomed 341 students in its incoming class, the largest crop of new students since 2015.
Iowa auto dealers have inventory on hand as union strikes
Iowans likely won’t see an immediate impact from the United Auto Workers strike that started on Friday, but if it lasts a while, there could be shortages of new vehicles for sale on car lots across the state.
Bruce Anderson, president of the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association, says the 12,700 UAW workers are striking the “Big Three” automakers in Detroit — Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.
“The dealers of all three of those brands have some days’ supply on hand, it varies,” Anderson said. “General Motors dealers tend to have, right now, 45 to 60 days' supply of vehicles. Ford dealers are a little higher than that, and Chrysler, even higher, up to closer to 60-90 days.”
For the time being, Anderson says Iowans should continue to have a good selection of new vehicles to choose from, but Iowans who are looking for vehicles with very specific features or colors may run into a problem soon.
The previous four-year contract has expired. UAW leaders are demanding higher wages, shorter work weeks, a return to original pensions and more job security.
Harvest underway about one week ahead of last year
Some parts of Iowa actually got a normal amount of rainfall last week. The latest USDA crop report says parts of eastern and southern Iowa benefited the most from last week’s storms.
The driest part of the state was less fortunate. Less than an inch of rain fell in northeast Iowa. Overall dry conditions this summer have meant corn and soybeans have matured sooner than usual.
Five percent of Iowa’s corn crop has already been harvested, along with 3% of the state’s soybeans. Both of those are running about a week ahead of average harvest time. Corn improved a bit last week to 48% good-to-excellent. Soybeans were also looking slightly better, at 47% good-to-excellent.
Vigil held for slain Algona police officer
A solemn vigil was held in downtown Algona on Sunday night as hundreds of area residents came together to remember the life of Algona Police Officer Kevin Cram.
Cram, 33, joined the Algona Police Department in 2015. He was shot and killed while serving an arrest warrant on Sept. 13.
Algona Mayor Rick Murphy addressed those who met in front of the Kossuth County Law Enforcement Center.
“As we gather to recognize and honor a great police officer, husband, father, brother and friend, we come together in support and solidarity,” Murphy said. “I’ve always known that Algona was a special place, and the manner in which our community has come together in the past few days truly reflects that.”
Support has been coming in from across the state since the shooting, as many communities used their high school football games on Friday night to raise funds for Cram’s family. Murphy says those efforts are much appreciated as the community mourns the fallen lawman.
“He was a committed and dedicated police officer who brought compassion and professionalism to his role. Kevin is a homegrown hero. He truly cared about this community and the people he served.”
Vigil host Bob Jennings recited the Police Officer’s Prayer to end the night.
The funeral for Cram will be held on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in the Algona High School gymnasium. A visitation for the public will be held Tuesday at the Ed and Betty Wilcox Performing Arts Center in Algona from 4-8 p.m.
Serving farm fresh food in schools is getting big federal support — but will 'farm to school' stick?
A growing farm-to-school movement is revolutionizing the humble school lunch. When Farm to School programming works as designed, kids fill their plates with fresh, nutritious food, and local farm economies get a major boost, creating a more resilient regional food supply chain.
It’s a seemingly simple idea that has lots of benefits. Sunny Baker, senior director of programs and policy at the National Farm to School Network, said the issue is truly bipartisan.
“Farm to school is really easy,” she said. “We call it a triple win. It's a win for kids. It's a win for farmers, it's a win for school and the community.”
But while farmers and the schools they work with represent the best outcome of Farm to School programs, they are hardly typical. Getting all that local food into schools has proven frustratingly complicated. And while up-to-date data on the reach of Farm to School activity is lacking, it’s clear that there’s still lots of untapped potential for growth when it comes to getting farm fresh foods into school cafeterias.
Broadway actress from ‘The Music Man’ visits Mason City
A celebrated Broadway star visited Mason City last Thursday.
Actress Sutton Foster, who played Marian the Librarian in New York’s latest rendition of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, spent part of the day touring the setting for the fictional River City, including posing for pictures on the Meredith Willson Footbridge and touring Music Man Square.
Foster was presented with the “Key to the City” by Mayor Bill Schickel.
“You carried our beloved Meredith Willson’s creation to new heights,” the mayor says. “The pride we feel in you, Sutton, cannot be overstated.”
Schickel thanked Foster for visiting the community where Willson was born and was inspired to create the renowned musical.
“Your visit to the real River City, USA serves as a testament to the magic and transformative powers of the arts, which we love here in River City.”
Foster says she was grateful to see the community’s dedication to the playwright Willson.
“It’s really an honor to be here,” Foster said. “I’m actually very overwhelmed just walking through Music Man Square. It was a pretty special year of my life being able to be a part of the Music Man on Broadway, and it really means a lot to be here.”
Foster played opposite Hugh Jackman in the Broadway revival of the Music Man, for which she received her seventh nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and also won the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance.
Iowa Dems decide to hold caucuses on same date as Republicans
The Iowa Democratic Party will hold its in-person caucuses on the same date in January as Iowa Republicans next year.
Democrats will conduct party business and determine unbound delegates to the county convention on the date, but there’s still a question on how the presidential preference portion of the caucuses will work.
Iowa Democrats held a state central committee meeting on Saturday, where they voted on the date after a closed session.
IDP Chair Rita Hart read the vote tally, solidifying Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the caucus date.
Iowa Democrats plan to have a completely mail-in presidential preference system in 2024. The Democratic National Committee removed Iowa from the early window of nominating states last year. The DNC ruled Iowa’s plan out of compliance earlier this year.
The IDP has until Oct. 16 to bring the DNC additional updates on their caucus plans.
Trump absent, abortion policy spotlighted at weekend presidential candidate event for Evangelical Christians
Ten Republican presidential candidates took turns on a Des Moines stage on Saturday, where they offered varying policies on how far they would go in banning abortion as president.
Former Vice President Mike Pence favors a federal 15 week ban on abortion.
“Why would we leave unborn babies in California and Illinois and New York to the devices of liberal state legislatures and liberal governors? We need to stand for the unborn all across America and as your president, I promise you’ll have a champion for life in the oval office.”
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley says a federal abortion ban is not realistic because the votes are not there in the Senate to get a law passed.
“We might have 45 pro-life senators. So, no Republican president can any more ban abortions than a Democrat president can ban those state laws. So my goal is how do we save as many babies as possible and support as many moms as possible?”
Also at the event was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who spoke about his support for Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold on military promotions.
Tuberville has held up more than 300 promotions in protest against a Pentagon policy that reimburses expenses for service members traveling to states where abortion is legal to receive the procedure.
“What the defense department is doing is outside the law,” he said. “They are breaking, violating the law by funding abortion tourism with tax dollars.”
DeSantis signed a bill in Florida similar to one signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in Iowa that bans the procedure at six weeks. Former President Donald Trump criticized DeSantis for signing the law recently on NBC’s Meet The Press.
The candidates spoke to 1,200 Evangelical Christian voters on Saturday.
The voting block is a large portion of Republican Iowa caucusgoers. Donald Trump – who leads in the polls – turned down the invitation to speak at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Town Hall. The former president has not given a straight answer on whether he supports a federal ban.
Trump has campaign events scheduled this week in Dubuque and Maquoketa.
More Midwest states are offering universal free lunch to students — while others consider it
All students received free school meals during the pandemic.
That ended last school year, but six states in the Midwest expanded access to school meals starting this school year, serving school breakfast and lunch for free.
That includes Minnesota, Michigan and Colorado. Minnesota districts are already reporting a 15% increase in meal participation.
The initiatives in all six states are permanent. They have a high sticker price, but advocates say the benefits outweigh the costs.
Johnson County hires firm to study potential adaptation of railroad into Iowa City-North Liberty bus route
This week Johnson County local governments are hiring a firm to look at adapting a section of existing railroad into a dedicated rapid bus line that would run between Iowa City and North Liberty. Their study will determine if the demand is there.
North Liberty currently has few options for public transit. Mayor Chris Hoffman says the rapid bus route would expand options for users and also serve as a selling point to employers.
“It gives employers a little more reach. This is a great way to attract talent who may not otherwise live close by. Even in the same county, it’s tough for some folks to get from one place to the next.”
In the end, the $250,000 rapid bus study will be compared to an existing light rail study to determine which model will better serve the second-fastest growing region in the state.
Teen found guilty of 2nd-degree murder, manslaughter in deaths of 2 students at Des Moines alternative school
A teenager was found guilty on Thursday of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the deaths of two students that he shot at a Des Moines alternative school earlier this year.
Preston Walls, 19, had been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths, but jurors found him guilty of lesser charges. That seemed to indicate jurors accepted Walls’ claim that he fired on the students because he feared for his life.
Walls was charged in the deaths of Gionni Dameron, 18, and Rashad Carr, 16, at the Starts Right Here program on Jan. 23.
Walls also was found guilty of willful injury causing serious injury for his shooting of Will Keeps, a former Chicago gang member and rapper who started the Des Moines program for at-risk teens. He was acquitted of attempted murder in the shooting of Keeps.
If Walls had been convicted of first-degree murder, he would have faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison. His conviction of second-degree murder in the death of Carr and voluntary manslaughter in the death of Dameron means he will be eligible for parole.
Walls will be sentenced in November.
Trump won't attend Evangelical Christian presidential candidate event
Nine Republican presidential candidates will appear at a large gathering of Evangelical Christian voters in Des Moines on Saturday.
Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition President Steve Scheffler says Evangelical caucusgoers are not monolithic on how they size up the candidates. He says his group will not endorse ahead of the caucuses.
“I view our role to be matchmakers matching up with these voters and the candidates, not as a kingmaker,” he said. “Outside of my wife, I won’t tell anyone who I vote for on caucus day.”
Former President Donald Trump was invited but will not be at the event. The most recent Des Moines Register Iowa poll shows the former president holds a sizable lead in the crowded field. The event is happening the same day the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee will vote on an in-person caucus date.
Traditionally, Republicans and Democrats in the state have held caucuses on the same date. Republicans are scheduled to hold their caucus on Jan. 15.
Judge finds Davenport man guilty of kidnapping and murdering young girl
A Davenport man has been found guilty of kidnapping and murdering 10-year-old Breasia Terrell in July of 2020.
Scott County Judge Henry Latham heard the evidence against 51-year-old Henry Dinkins in a two-week trial and addressed the murder charge first.
Terrell’s mother had a son with Dinkins and the girl was staying with the son at Dinkins’ apartment when she disappeared. Dinkins’ defense argued there was no physical evidence to tie him to the crime, but Latham said there was enough evidence presented.
Terrell’s body was found in a pond by two fishermen several months after she disappeared in Clinton County. The prosecution argued Dinkins had kidnapped and killed the girl to hide the fact he had sexually abused her.
Judge Latham said there was enough evidence to prove Dinkins kidnapped Terrell.
The judge says that evidence led to the kidnapping conviction. A sentencing date has been set for Oct. 11.
Dedication ceremony to be held for new international art display in Storm Lake
A dedication ceremony is taking place Friday afternoon for a new international art display in Storm Lake. A team of artists from Mexico created a colorful mural in the city’s downtown.
The artwork uses images of monarch butterflies to celebrate the community’s diversity and represent migration. There are exactly 63 butterflies in total, one for each of the nationalities of people now living in Storm Lake.
New hands-on career academy in Sioux City to help fill trade jobs
It’s no secret Iowa faces a worker shortage. A new hands-on learning facility in northwest Iowa could help fill high-demand jobs.
The Sioux City Community School District’s Career Academy celebrated a new construction trades building on Wednesday for students, including 17-year-old Nathaniel Hamann, who attends East High.
“I'm hoping to learn electrical and plumbing… and just a little bit of everything that goes into building a house,” he said. “And I can just apply that to everything else in my life. And that would be good information to know.”
Here students study skills valued by potential employers, like Skip Perley, the CEO of Thomson Solutions Group and board president of the Sioux City Public Schools Foundation.
“There’s no lack of opportunity,” he said. “We need workers, and we need them at a faster pace than we've ever had before.”
Perley says he started his career as an electrician right out of high school, and students who attend the program will go directly into the workforce or an apprenticeship program.
Experts urge Iowans to get respiratory virus vaccinations ASAP
Respiratory virus season is approaching, and experts are urging Iowans to get their vaccinations as soon as possible.
This week federal officials approved the newest updated COVID-19 booster, which is expected to be available to Iowans soon.
Nathan Shaw, the medical director of urgent care at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, recommends Iowans get their flu and RSV shots before cases start to increase in order to build up immunity.
“With all of these vaccines, it is important to get them before we're seeing a rise in local cases, so that the people are protected when the viruses start circulating here.”
RSV vaccines are available to anyone 60 and older or infants under the age of 8 months. The flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older.
Cedar Rapids receives largest portion of federal funding to restore trees lost to derecho
Cedar Rapids is the largest recipient in the state of money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to plant and maintain trees.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack joined Cedar Rapids officials on Thursday to announce the $1.13 billion going to 385 recipients across the nation.
“Now, we have an extraordinary tool, the Inflation Reduction Act, which provided that mission area with significant resources,” he said.
In 2020, Cedar Rapids was devastated by a derecho that destroyed two-thirds of its tree canopy. The city and partner Trees Forever will take the USDA’s $6 million to replace trees lost to the storm.
“Cedar Rapids consistently figures out a way to commit itself to community, consistently looks for the opportunity to rebuild into a better community, a stronger community.”
Des Moines, Dubuque, Ames, Decorah, Council Bluffs and West Des Moines received a total of $6.5 million for their trees.
Former federal admin says Summit pipeline shouldn’t be delayed while new regulations form
A former federal administrator for pipeline safety says Summit Carbon Solutions should not be delayed while regulators develop new rules for projects like it.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is revising carbon pipeline regulations following a rupture in Mississippi in 2020 that sent dozens of people to the hospital.
Opponents have called for a moratorium on carbon pipeline projects until the new rules are announced.
Brigham McCown, testifying on behalf of Summit, told the Iowa Utilities Board he expects regulators to make changes that could take effect even after the pipeline is built.
“All it’s going to do is update emergency response and other operational aspects which all operators retroactively have to apply. It does not do a thing with the actual metal of the pipe.”
The IUB is wrapping up the fourth week of testimony over the proposed route of the Summit pipeline. The hearing has continued even as regulators in North and South Dakota have denied Summit’s initial applications for the project.
Algona police officer killed, suspect captured in Minnesota
An Algona police officer has died after being shot Wednesday night while trying to make an arrest.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety says Officer Kevin Cram was attempting to arrest Kyle Ricke on a warrant for harassment. Ricke shot Cram and fled.
Cram was taken to a hospital in Algona where he later died of his injuries. Ricke was captured without incident overnight near Sleepy Eye, Minn. He has been charged with murder and will be extradited at a later date.
Cram was a 10-year law enforcement veteran. He had served with the Nora Spring Police Department as well as Algona Police.
Woodbury County law enforcement center opening delayed further
Woodbury County’s new law enforcement center will open even later than expected. A construction delay is to blame.
During Tuesday’s Woodbury County supervisors meeting, board members heard an update on the project. Once expected to open on Sept. 14, construction could now extend into April of next year.
Supervisor Mark Nelson, who sits on the center authority that oversees the project, says the fire-dampening system is going to add substantial work.
“They cannot proceed with ceiling work, paintwork, or wall work because the fire dampening is within the walls within the ceilings,” he said. “And they have to get that done before they can continue on.”
Nelson says there is a chance the jail could open before the rest of the facility, which includes the sheriff’s office and courtrooms.
Last week, officials said the jail wouldn’t be ready on time but didn’t expect such a long wait. Woodbury County expected to house federal inmates starting next month, a move that would bring in around $1.2 million of extra revenue through the end of the fiscal year.
The sheriff’s office did hire 15 additional jailers to handle the increase, and they will do other work until the new jail finally opens.
Heritage Trail project faces challenges in Waterloo
A new cultural project is underway in Waterloo to help residents connect with local and state Black history, but it’s facing an uphill battle.
Local historian Charles Pearson will be launching a walking trail to shed light on Waterloo’s Black history. Pearson has worked on several similar projects up and down the Mississippi River, but bringing the Heritage Trail to Iowa, he says, offers a particularly difficult challenge: the city hasn’t officially designated any historical Black neighborhoods.
“You don’t have a single Black historical neighborhood, not one Black historical district,” he said.
Pearson says he would like to see his trail drivable and bikeable. He cited access to recreational resources as another barrier to the trail’s progress, noting that the eastern part of Waterloo has no bike trail, and its roads can be unsafe.
By February, however, he hopes to have laid the research and groundwork for at least one Black historical district in the city.
Judge finds Iowa basketball coach’s son guilty of misdemeanor in fatal crash
The teenage son of University of Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery was found guilty Tuesday of failure to yield to a pedestrian who later died from injuries suffered in the crash.
A judge found Jonathan McCaffery, 17, guilty of the simple misdemeanor in the crash, which injured Corey J. Hite, 45, of Cedar Rapids. Hite died about two weeks after the crash.
McCaffery will be sentenced on Oct. 13. He faces up to a $1,000 fine, a 180-day driver’s license suspension or both.
The crash happened May 22 while McCaffery was driving from his high school in Iowa City. McCaffery was passing stopped cars in a right lane when one of those motorists indicated to a runner that he could cross the multilane street.
McCaffery couldn’t see the runner and hit Hite when he stepped in front of his vehicle. The judge determined McCaffery had not been distracted or using a cellphone.
The ruling followed a trial on Aug. 29.
Hite, who served 27 years in the Iowa Army National Guard, was married with four children.
The future of the Midwest includes hazardous heat, and most of our homes are not ready
In middle to late August, parts of the Midwest experienced a streak of “feels like” temperatures of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In one 48-hour period, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported record numbers of people suffering from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, fainting and other heat-related illnesses at emergency rooms in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.
Such heat can be deadly, said Peter Thorne, an expert on the impact of climate change on health at the University of Iowa.
“People have different susceptibility to heat,” said Thorne, whose Thorne Lab conducts advanced environmental health sciences research. “Heat stroke, for example, kills more people every year than does air pollution-induced asthma in the U.S. or other respiratory effects of climate change.”
About a year ago, a research and technology nonprofit called First Street Foundation released its “extreme heat belt” map. It shows that within about 30 years, Americans across the Midwest and parts of the South will face heat indices (or “feels like” temperatures) of 125 degrees or higher with greater frequency.
A big concern in that infrastructure is our homes, the places we rely on as havens from extreme heat.
“The scientists have been very clear,” said Alice Hill, a senior fellow at the Center on Foreign Relations and an expert on the impact of climate change. “This is in our future. It's occurring now, and they are still telling us more will come.
Iowa’s U.S. House delegation backs impeachment inquiry into Biden
All four members of Iowa’s U.S. House delegation are expressing support for an impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden.
Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District Rep. Zach Nunn, a Republican from Bondurant, said he thinks it’s a starting point for “a real conversation on what evidence may exist.”
Earlier on Tuesday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said allegations of corruption and abuse of power warrant further investigation. He directed House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into Biden.
Nunn spoke with reporters in Iowa as McCarthy was making the announcement in Washington. He said House Republicans are handling the investigation into Biden differently than Democrats did when they voted to impeach Former President Donald Trump a week before his term ended.
Fourth District Rep. Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, says Biden is corrupt and “must be held accountable” after credible whistleblowers say the president secured preferential treatment for his son, who is facing tax evasion charges.
Feenstra said a thorough investigation is warranted about Biden’s involvement with his son's foreign business dealings as well.
First District Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks said the impeachment inquiry gives House Republicans additional subpoena powers to seek bank records that may “connect the dots” regarding improper payments to Biden and his family. But Miller-Meeks added that it’s “important to note that an impeachment inquiry may or may not lead to impeachment proceedings.”
Earlier this month, Iowa’s 2nd District Rep. Ashley Hinson, of Marion, said she supports moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. Hinson said it gives House committees “the tools they need to get information” and answers questions about the Biden family’s business dealings.
Hinson called the two impeachments against Trump “baseless” and she said the American people want Congress “to prove a high crime or misdemeanor exists” if the House moves to vote on impeaching Biden.
A spokesperson for Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign said in a written statement that the Republican-led House of Representatives “has become an arm of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign” and the allegations against Biden are “debunked conspiracy theories.”
Scott County Humane Society asks for more funding
The Humane Society of Scott County wants more money from the City of Davenport for its animal protection and control services. The organization says it cares for 3,000 animals each year, and says the only way to cut costs would be to deny medical care to some animals and reduce staffing.
Last year, the Humane Society and city negotiated a three-year contract that gave the organization $400,000 each year, which the society says accounts for less than 30% of the costs required to run their operation. Meanwhile, Davenport accounts for more than half of the census population of Scott County.
The Humane Society’s legal counsel wrote the city in late August requesting an increase of $1 million annually – more than three times its current funding level.
The City of Davenport wrote in a statement that it understands the importance of these services and that they will continue “regardless of provider.”
Summit VP says permits denials in Dakotas shouldn’t impact Iowa process
The vice president for Summit Carbon Solutions says rejected requests to build the company’s carbon pipeline in North and South Dakota should not impact its pursuit of a construction permit in Iowa.
Micah Rorie, who is in charge of land acquisition for the company, took the witness stand Tuesday morning at an Iowa Utilities Board hearing in Fort Dodge.
“I was asked the question last week about whether I thought we ought to get a permit without other state permits in play, to which I responded, ‘Yes, I think we ought to seek a permit in Iowa regardless of what’s going on in other states.'”
Rorie said over 1,200 Iowa landowners have voluntarily signed easements that give Summit access to over 3,300 parcels of land along its proposed route through Iowa. The company is asking the Iowa Utilities Board for eminent domain authority to force 469 Iowa landowners who object to the project to sign property easements.
Artificial intelligence technology behind ChatGPT was built in Iowa — with a lot of water
The cost of building an artificial intelligence product like ChatGPT can be hard to measure, but one thing Microsoft-backed OpenAI needed for its technology was plenty of water.
That water was pulled from the watershed of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers in central Iowa to cool a powerful supercomputer as it helped teach its AI systems how to mimic human writing.
As they race to capitalize on a craze for generative AI, leading tech developers including Microsoft, OpenAI and Google have acknowledged that growing demand for their AI tools carries hefty costs, from expensive semiconductors to an increase in water consumption.
But they’re often secretive about the specifics. Few people in Iowa knew about its status as a birthplace of OpenAI’s most advanced large language model, GPT-4, before a top Microsoft executive said in a speech it “was literally made next to cornfields west of Des Moines.”
Midwest producers continue to see wide range of corn crop conditions
Recent heat and drought have fueled concerns about this year’s corn crop. Producers in the Midwest are seeing a wide range of conditions.
In western Iowa, some cornfields have leaves turning from green to dried-out brown.
Farmer Dolph Ivener estimates big swings in yields from 200 bushels per acre on his farms with heavier rainfall to around 40 in spots stifled by a third year of drought.
“Until you run the combine through it, you won’t really know, but it is 100% due to lack of moisture.”
The latest USDA crop report shows deteriorating conditions, with the biggest impact in the heart of the Midwest. Things look better in the eastern section of the corn belt.
Iowans warned to be on guard for Asian longhorned beetle
Iowans are familiar with the emerald ash borer and the green insect’s threat to state foliage, but now another insect has entered the picture, and it’s equally as lethal to a much wider variety of trees.
Rhonda Santos, a spokesperson for the USDA, says it’s the ideal time of year for Iowa homeowners to examine their trees for the Asian longhorned beetle and to report any clues they find about the invasive pest. The beetle has been found in New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio and South Carolina, but all states are at risk.
Santos says the wood-boring beetle attacks many types of trees, and is a threat to shade trees, recreational areas and forest resources.
Unlike the emerald ash borer, the Asian longhorned beetle likes to feed on a host of trees, including ash, birch, elm, sycamore, maple, buckeye, poplar and willow. The bug has distinct markings and leaves behind a series of holes and other signs in trees that make it quick to identify.
“The beetle is easy to recognize with [its] black and white antennae, shiny black body with white spots and six legs,” Santos said. “The beetles create round holes and scars in the tree bark, sawdust-like material around the tree and can cause branches to fall.”
The beetle is not native to the U.S. and has almost no natural predators. Santos encourages Iowans to take five minutes and give your trees a close inspection for round holes or sawdust.
Iowans are encouraged to take photos of signs of the beetle and capture them to help the USDA with identification.The beetle was first spotted in the U.S. in New York in 1996 and spread quickly. It’s one of a group of invasive pests and plant diseases that costs the nation some $40 billion each year in losses to trees, plants and crops.
Special election to be held for Des Moines City Council seat
A special election for an open Des Moines City Council seat will be added to the November ballot.
On Monday, the council unanimously decided to allow voters to fill the position vacated by Indira Sheumaker’s recent resignation.
The racial justice organizer defeated a council incumbent to win the seat in 2021, but submitted her resignation this month after a six-month absence from meetings and work sessions.
Any candidates running to represent northwest Des Moines have 10 days -- or until Sept. 21 -- to file their candidacy paperwork.
‘Greater Iowa City’ forming to boost Johnson County businesses
Johnson County’s economic development group and chamber of commerce have merged to form Greater Iowa City, a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs, industry and investors looking to do business in the region.
Services range from helping clear the regulatory environment for restaurants to locating a facility for a manufacturer.
Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth is helping lead the transition for the merger. He says the organization is structured to support small entrepreneurs to large industries.
“I think you’re going to just see that continue to grow and prosper as they are willing to work with everybody no matter how big or small or what type of business you have,” Hayworth said. “They’re going to be able to provide services and I think that’s critical.”
Jennie Wunderlich, a co-owner of two small businesses in Iowa City and a member of the organization’s board, says having a common point for the business community is essential for markets that struggle to keep talent and bring in capital.
“We’re a fourth generation business. So that was a heavy baton being passed,” she said. “And never have we had such challenges with workforce over the years from my great grandfather down to me.”
Rather than charging dues for access like a typical chamber, the organization says it’s opening membership to all businesses trying to make it in Johnson County. Part of that vision also includes local advocacy with institutions like the city council.
UI launches nurse-midwives program to address maternal health care shortage
The University of Iowa has launched a new program to train nurse-midwives and help address the shortage of maternal health care providers in the state, particularly in rural areas.
The program admits four students every fall. To qualify, students must have a bachelor’s degree and be a registered nurse. The program has four clinics – two of which are located in rural areas in Muscatine and Washington.
After the five-semester program, students will obtain a master’s degree in midwifery, which will allow them to take the necessary board exam.
Lastascia Coleman, a clinical associate professor at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, says nurse-midwives can provide health care in many areas.
“Most people associate nurse-midwives with pregnancy and birth, but midwives can also provide primary care, regular gynecologic care -- really care throughout the lifespan.”
Coleman says the application cycle for next year starts in mid-December and ends in February.
State climatologist says recent rain wasn’t enough to ease drought
Iowa’s state climatologist Justin Glisan says the rain that fell overnight Sunday into Monday was welcome, but won’t put much of a dent in Iowa’s long-standing drought.
Glisan says rainfall amounts ranged from a quarter-to-half inch in the northern parts of the state, to an inch or more farther south.
“These are the types of rains that we need several more of to really start to put a chip in the deficits we’re seeing, especially in drier parts of the state… looking at eastern Iowa.”
Glisan says northeast Iowa just had its tenth-driest summer and would need six-to-eight inches of rain above the average to make up for this year’s rainfall deficits. He says the current drought hasn’t been quite as bad as droughts in 2012 or 1988, because this summer was cooler overall than those were.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report says 91% of Iowa is in moderate-to-extreme drought.
Glisan made his comments on IPR’s River to River.
Walk remembers victims of 9/11 terrorist attacks
The terrorist attacks of 22 years ago are being remembered in central Iowa with a long walk.
The March to the Capitol started at 9:11 Monday morning at Centennial Park in the Des Moines suburb of Waukee and will end at the Iowa State Capitol. According to the walk’s website, the event was started in 2015 by Bob Lyons. Lyons now lives in Des Moines but worked in New York City in 2001, about 10 miles from the Twin Towers.
The walk is being led by two Des Moines area firefighters and will stop at seven fire stations along the route and Glendale Cemetery. The full walk is 21 miles, a nod to the 21-gun salute for fallen heroes.
Iowa takes back CY-Hawk trophy with win in Ames
The Iowa defense held Iowa State out of the end zone until late in the game while blocking a field goal and scoring on an interception to win 20-13 in Ames Saturday. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says they expected a hard-fought game.
“I’m really thrilled to get the win, really proud of our players and the coaching staff,” he said. “We knew coming in here it’s gonna be really tough, I can’t remember a time when that hasn’t been the case, so we knew that.”
Linebacker Sebastian Castro picked off Cyclone quarterback Rocho Becht in the second quarter and returned it for a 30-yard touchdown.
The Hawkeye defense ended the game by stopping Iowa State on downs as they were trying to get the tying score.
“I couldn’t ask for a better ending, a better moment, for the defense to have the game, for us to be on the field in that moment, you couldn’t ask for a better story,” Castro said.
Iowa’s offense got 17 of its 20 points in the first half and couldn’t complete drives in the second.
Quarterback Cade McNamara says he missed some throws, and there were some mistakes, but he says the offense is getting better.
The win gave Iowa the Cy-Hawk trophy back after a loss last year in Iowa City. Hawkeye lineman and Cedar Rapids native Connor Colby says that’s a great feeling.
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell says he thought this was the best game his team has played in the series since he took over. He said he was proud of the way his team battled back after getting down early.
Iowa State falls to 1-1 and is at Ohio on Saturday. Iowa Moves to 2-0 and returns home to face Western Michigan Saturday.
South Dakota rejects Summit’s application to build carbon capture pipeline
South Dakota regulators have rejected Summit Carbon Solutions’ application to build a carbon capture pipeline through the state.
It’s part of the same pipeline system that would run nearly 700 miles across Iowa.
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission voted on Monday to deny Summit’s permit in large part because the company’s proposed route would violate some counties’ rules for setbacks from homes and other structures.
The commission says Summit could renew its application once it has resolved the conflict with the counties.
The Summit project has now been denied on its first applications in both North and South Dakota.
Trump stops at a fraternity house on his way to Iowa-Iowa State football game, outdrawing his rivals
Former President Donald Trump stepped out of a fraternity house to the cheers of hundreds of Iowa State University students and tossed autographed footballs into the crowd.
“I guess the youth likes Trump,” he said over the cheers of the students, speaking to the Right Side Broadcasting Network, which supports his candidacy.
Then, the former president entered a motorcade to head to a private stadium suite where he watched the school’s annual football grudge match Saturday with the University of Iowa.
The pregame campus stop was a reminder of Trump’s dominant position atop a crowded Republican field both in Iowa and nationally. Several of his rivals also attended the game, mingling with fans at pregame tailgates outside the stadium. But Trump got by far the most attention and hasn’t paid a price yet for skipping the closer interactions with voters that are a cherished Iowa political tradition.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has struggled to position himself as a potent foe to Trump, came to Ames to attend the game with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has not endorsed a candidate but often has appeared with DeSantis and his wife, Casey.
As he moved from one tailgate to another, DeSantis was flanked by fans cheering and waving campaign signs from a booth hosted by the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC.
“We’re having a good time,” DeSantis told reporters. “It’s quite an atmosphere, probably a little bit more civilized than the Florida-Georgia game.”
Trump has made a habit of visiting Iowa on the same day as DeSantis, whom Trump treats as his main threat. Their dynamic Saturday was similar to last month when Trump drew huge crowds to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines while DeSantis addressed smaller audiences and hit the midway rides with his family.
So far this year, abortion in Iowa has increased 11% compared to 2020 data
New data shows that abortion in Iowa increased 11% in the first half of this year as compared to 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit policy group that supports abortion rights.
Kelly Baden, vice president of policy at the organization, says neighboring states like Minnesota and Illinois saw a greater increase in abortions because their lawmakers have passed additional protections for the procedure.
“So while abortion remains legal in Iowa right now, the legal and policy back-and-forth really creates headlines that lend themselves to a lot of confusion for people; the special session, the abortion ban, the lawsuits,” Baden said.
In July, a Polk County judge issued a temporary injunction that blocked a new law that bans abortion at around six weeks of pregnancy as it faces legal challenges.
Abortion remains legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Pipeline disputes in South Dakota could derail Summit's plans
A dispute over how far a pipeline must be set back from homes could lead regulators in South Dakota to deny a construction permit for Summit Carbon Solutions’ carbon capture project.
The Summit pipeline is also proposed to cross Iowa. A final hearing before the Iowa Utilities Board is wrapping up a third week of testimony in Fort Dodge.
But in South Dakota, staff members with the state public utilities commission filed a motion on Friday to deny Summit’s construction permit.
They claim the pipeline’s route does not meet setback laws in several counties.
If the motion is granted, Summit could renew its application after getting waivers from the counties or changing the route.
The motion comes just days before Summit is scheduled to begin the final hearing process before the South Dakota PUC.
Enrollment is up at all three state universities this fall
Iowa State University gained 208 students, the University of Northern Iowa gained 72 and the University of Iowa gained 27. UNI has been trying for several years to keep numbers up, and spokesman Pete Moris says this is good news.
“Our biggest increase here at UNI in over a decade, and you know in addition to that increase in our total enrollment, our freshman enrollment is over 1,500, which represents an 8% increase.”
Moris says they’ve had to counter some of their own success in keeping enrollment up.
“One in 11 UNI students graduates in only three years,” Moris says. “So we’ve got to really work hard to continue to bring new students in on the front end because we’re very good at graduating students on time or ahead of schedule.”
The school has also worked to adjust its strategy in the face of national and state labor trends. Moris says that with low unemployment and the availability of quality paying jobs, some people have been more on the fence about attending college.
Meanwhile, ISU reported an increase of more than 2% for first-year students. The UI reports this is the fourth-largest incoming first-year class ever with 5,064 students.
ISU expands security for Cy-Hawk game with Trump, other GOP presidential hopefuls visiting Ames
Extra security will be on hand this Saturday in Ames as former President Donald Trump and other GOP presidential contenders join the crowd on hand for the Iowa-Iowa State football game.
Vivek Ramaswamy, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also have plans to be in Ames on gameday.
Michael Newton, the ISU Chief of Police, says law enforcement, security and medical staffing at the annual Cy-Hawk matchup will be even greater with the high-profile politicians attending.
"It's the Super Bowl of Iowa. It brings in so many people, we're already upping staffing. And so this we just, you know, almost comes close to doubling some of our efforts."
He says security teams will try to minimize the disruption to football fans coming and going from Jack Trice Stadium. However, he says people should expect to spend some extra time in the gameday traffic.
Newton made his comments on IPR's River to River.
Davenport City Council removes alderman over inappropriate behavior
On Thursday night, the Davenport City Council removed an elected member from the council based on his documented history of unacceptable behavior.
Over the course of a two-hour special meeting, the city attorney’s office argued that 7th Ward Alderman Derek Cornette showed an unacceptable trend of behavior. This ranged from harassing female staff members, showing up to council meetings intoxicated and making offensive voicemails.
“Alderman Cornette claimed to the media that he had talked to those two female staffers, who were offended by his language and conduct. And that he had apologized and made amends," said Brian Heyer, an assistant city attorney. "Is that true? There are two empty work stations upstairs that I believe say, 'That’s not true.'”
Cornette said after the meeting he’s planning to run for reelection. His attorney told IPR News they plan to challenge his removal in district court.
Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center won’t open on time
The opening of Woodbury County’s new law enforcement center has been delayed.
Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Matthew Ung says so far, he hasn’t received an official reason to why the $69 million LEC won’t open Sept. 14.
Ung admits that the project, approved by voters in 2020, has faced significant challenges, including an extra $15 million in costs.
“Ever since the pandemic supply chain historic inflation.... We've had a lot of... a lot of people protest it, for a lot of different reasons. But at the end of the day, the community supported the decision to build a new jail.”
Ung says the county estimated bringing in $1.2 million through the end of the fiscal year by housing federal inmates, but that is on hold for now.
“Every month that's delayed is another month of lost revenue, that we’ll have to... find in the general fund or in reserves. We have an agreement with the Marshals to house inmates.”
Voters approved the project to replace the current jail, which officials say needed significant repairs and failed to guarantee safety of staff and inmates.
Ung says he can’t confirm news reports that point to litigation as the reason the jail won’t open on time.
Lack of clarity around new education law causes new challenges for schools
With a new school year only a few weeks old, many districts in Iowa are struggling with how to interpret the state’s new and wide-ranging education law.
File 496, which looks to regulate public schools’ curriculum, libraries and other parts of the student experience, has received sharp criticism for its perceived targeting of LGBTQ and at-risk youth, as well as the vagueness of its language.
Waterloo Community Schools Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Gina Weekley says that after multiple conversations with staff, at-risk students and the district’s legal team, gray areas mean solutions are infinite and nonexistent.
“When we think about ‘gray,’ it leaves people to their own interpretations. It leaves them to seek out and create stories and information on their own. And right now, without solidified answers from the state level, that’s exactly what people are doing.”
She also says the wording of the bill has created a disruption in the learning environment.
“It has set up a high level of anxiety for our teachers, our staff, and with our leaders. With this file, it seems as if there’s a barrier in that ability to form and build relationships where it feels like they aren’t damaging that child or how that child identifies.”
The Waterloo Community Schools are currently consulting with other area districts, Iowa’s Urban Education Network, and its legal team to figure out the best path forward.
Older adults encouraged to get new RSV vaccine
Experts are encouraging Iowans 60 and older as well as children under 8 months to get vaccinated against RSV.
The respiratory virus can cause severe lung infections in young infants, who have not yet built up immunity against it
But Pat Winokur with the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine says numbers show elderly people are more likely to be hospitalized with the virus.
Winokur says a new vaccine for those 60 and older has been shown to prevent severe illness in 85% of people.
“That's a pretty good track record—85%. And they watched people for multiple seasons, the immunity seemed to last pretty well for two years. So that's really encouraging.”
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control recommended a new vaccine to help protect infants eight months and younger.
Winokur made her comments on IPR’s Talk of Iowa.
Report says bad practices led to preventable Davenport building collapse and deaths
Since May, the cause of the Davenport building collapse has been under investigation. A new report says bad practices across the board led to its fall, killing three people.
The firms that investigated the collapse, White Birch Group and SOCOTEC Engineering, said in their report that failures in engineering and repair practices, as well as deferred maintenance, caused the collapse.
During the three days leading up to the collapse, repair crews advised by a professional engineer removed layers of brick from the western wall. The report says the supports they put in place were "grossly inadequate."
They say with the right supports, the collapse would not have happened.
While the contractor's shoring failed to meet professional standards, the report also says the direction from Professional Engineer David Valliere of Select Structural did not offer adequate direction for the repairs.
Further, the report says building owner Andrew Wold's chronic delays in repair work led to long-term water infiltration that further destabilized the building.
In a release that included the full report, Davenport Mayor Mike Matson said, "our hearts and thoughts" remain with families of the dead.
Canadian wildfire smoke worsens air quality in western Iowa
The wildfire smoke from Canada is back over Iowa once again. Brian Hutchins at the DNR Air Quality Bureau says the hazy conditions are visible in parts of the state.
“Looking at some of the forecasts, it looks like it’s primarily going to be western to central Iowa. So it’s right now looking like it won’t be as bad in eastern Iowa."
Hutchins says there’s enough concentration of the smoke that it's impacting air quality.
“The levels around Des Moines are considered unhealthy for sensitive individuals,” Hutchins says. “And what we’re seeing currently out towards the west, northwest, can be unhealthy for all.”
He says you should take note of your tolerance and make adjustments to how much time you will be outside.
“So we recommend that people kind of reduce the amount of time spent outdoors. And take more breaks during outdoor activities. That’s important for individuals that have like pre-existing conditions, whether that be heart or lung disease, or older adults, children,” Hutchins says.
He says a visible haze is expected.
You can check current conditions in Iowa at the EPA website called AirNow.
Absent Des Moines city councilmember resigns
A Des Moines city councilmember who hasn’t attended meetings or work sessions since March has resigned.
Mayor Frank Cownie says Indira Sheumaker’s father, Randy, delivered her resignation letter Wednesday. The resignation was effective Aug. 31.
Sheumaker was elected in 2021. City officials say the last council meeting Sheumaker attended was on March 6, 2023.
In April, Randy Sheumaker told the Des Moines Register his daughter had been hospitalized, but city officials said she had not responded to their questions about her absence.
Last month, Mayor Cownie wrote Sheumaker, asking her to communicate her intentions or the council would presume she’d abandoned the office. She represented Des Moines' Ward 1, which covers the city’s northwest side.
Subcommittee proposes eliminating more than a quarter of Iowa's boards and commissions
A state subcommittee that has proposed the elimination of more than a quarter of Iowa’s boards and commissions heard around two hours of public testimony on Wednesday.
The proposal from the Boards and Commissions Review Committee is part of a government reorganization law signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier this year.
It proposes eliminating or consolidating more than 100 Iowa boards and commissions. It also recommends eliminating a gender balance requirement for boards.
Keenan Crowe is with One Iowa, which advocates for LGBTQ rights. He says the requirement has been shown to greatly help balance county boards and commissions, but they still haven’t achieved gender parity.
"Getting rid of the gender balance requirement right now, it'd be like standing in a rainstorm with an umbrella and concluding that you aren't currently getting very wet at the moment, so maybe we can just ditch the umbrella altogether."
The public has until Sept. 17 to submit testimony to the subcommittee, which will issue a report to lawmakers later this month.
Free, city-wide dental clinic coming to Waterloo in October
The city of Waterloo has announced a free, city-wide dental clinic.
The full-service clinic has been rotating throughout the state since 2008. It provides free, certified, volunteer-led dental care to thousands of Iowans each year.
Nearly 50% of the clinic’s patients earn $20,000 or less per year. Waterloo dentist and clinic co-chair Dr. Chris Aldritch says that in his experience serving Waterloo, there are several barriers to getting care.
"Financial barriers, one. But they could also be due to education, transportation or unemployment. A person could have had insurance through an employer, and they no longer have that. The barriers to care can be complex sometimes."
The Mission of Mercy clinic has provided dental care to nearly 1,500 in its two visits to Waterloo. Oct. 13 and 14 will mark the clinic’s third stop in Waterloo.
American Lung Association encourages fall vaccines
The American Lung Association is urging Iowans to get an array of vaccinations this fall to protect against the flu, RSV and a resurgence of COVID-19.
Pulmonologist Dr. Jamie Rutland says flu cases spiked in Iowa last year, compared to previous pandemic years, as most people were no longer masking or keeping practicing social distancing. He says this year will likely be similar.
Flu vaccines are already available in Iowa, so he’s hoping people will get their shots now so their immune systems are ready. Rutland says people with conditions like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes should especially seek out vaccinations.
“... when they are infected with a virus like influenza, it leads to an extreme amount of inflammation and it can lead to organ failures and things of that sort."
The Centers for Disease Control estimates there were as many as 54 million flu cases nationwide last year and between 19,000 and 58,000 deaths due to the flu. Iowa health officials reported 366 flu deaths statewide in 2021.
Department of Energy awards $2.3M to accelerate hydropower in Keokuk
The U.S. Department of Energy will invest $2.3 million in a Keokuk project that is advancing hydropower as a source of clean energy.
It’s one of seven projects the Biden administration is targeting to accelerate technologies to generate power at dams that currently do not.
Fewer than 3% of the nation’s 90,000 dams currently produce power. The Department of Energy says they have the potential to add thousands of megawatts of clean energy to the grid.
In Keokuk, the California-based Electric Power Research Institute will test two models of a turbine system designed to add power-generating infrastructure to non-powered dams.
Lack of severe weather is likely to continue
State Climatologist Justin Glisan says a tornado outbreak is unlikely this month because Iowa is in a severe weather drought.
“When you don’t have thunderstorms to drive rainfall, you don’t get a lot of severe weather and you get into pervasive drought.”
There have been 63 confirmed tornadoes in Iowa so far this year. Glisan says September tornadoes typically only account for about 4% of the state's total for the year.
And the drought it likely to persist. The mid-Atlantic and southern states are getting a lot of rain right now during hurricane season, but Glisan says those storm systems rarely bring beneficial rainfall to Iowa.
“We did have a June tropical system back in 2019 that made it into eastern Iowa,” Glisan says, “and that had been the first time since 1900 that we had seen a tropical system actually make it into Iowa.”
He says a “moisture gate” from the Gulf of Mexico is blocked off right now, preventing the development of thunderstorms.
Despite the low risk, Glisan cautions that tornadoes can occur year-round.
Iowa Utilities Board says Summit must share information about high-risk areas for its proposed CO2 pipeline
The Iowa Utilities Board says Summit Carbon Solutions must share information about the areas it has determined are at highest risk if there is a CO2 release from its proposed pipeline.
The issue came up in the Iowa Utilities Board hearing that will decide the fate of Summit’s carbon capture pipeline. That hearing entered a new phase on Tuesday, with the company presenting testimony in support of the project.
Chief Operating Officer Jimmy Powell says Summit has run its own analysis of where carbon dioxide would go if the pipeline breaks.
"Of the 686 miles of pipeline proposed, there are 1.13 miles of direct impact to high consequence areas in a worst-case scenario."
The IUB says the results of Summit’s analysis must be shared with other attorneys involved in supporting and opposing the project, but will not be made public. The board has not decided whether the information shall be entered as evidence regarding Summit’s permit application.
Iowans are vulnerable to long COVID as national cases rise
As the country is seeing an increase in COVID cases, more Iowans are vulnerable to experiencing long COVID, or persistent symptoms that last at least four weeks.
Many Iowans suffer from long COVID symptoms, but experts say it's still unclear why some people develop persistent symptoms.
Lauren Graham is the director of the post-COVID clinic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She says experts don’t know why some people develop ongoing symptoms.
"I also see perfectly healthy 30-year-olds, and you know, 75-year-olds have many chronic conditions. So it can really affect anyone, and the severity is not often matched with the severity of the illness or the number of chronic medical conditions they have."
Graham says long COVID is generally defined as someone who has symptoms lasting at least four weeks.
"So really, really significant fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, and then persistent change in taste and smell. Those are the most common symptoms of long COVID that we see."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one in five people who get COVID develop some kind of long-term symptoms.
Graham says it’s important to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations and talk to your doctor about possible treatments like Paxlovid if you do get COVID.
Trump to attend Cy-Hawk football game
Former President Donald Trump will be at this Saturday’s Cy-Hawk football game at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, according to a release from his campaign.
The Cyclones and Hawkeyes are scheduled to kick off at 2:30 p.m.
The in-state rivalry draws tens of thousands of fans. Iowa State University announced in early August that this year's game had sold out.
Trump attended the Cy-Hawk game in 2015, before he was assigned a Secret Service detail in November.
New solar project regulations pass first hurdle in Linn County
New large-scale solar project regulations got their first approval by the Linn County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. New rules range from large setback requirements to adding more expansive neighbor notification for potential projects.
The meeting was packed. Solar developers including NextEra Solar argued regulation reduces Linn’s advantage in recruiting new projects. Some landowners said the projects could damage valuable cropland.
Charlie Nichols, Linn County’s director of Planning and Development, said this reception might just mean it’s a successful compromise.
“Every statement was a compromise. So nobody’s completely happy with those statements, but they do represent people with different views on these projects trying to work together and come up with something they can all be a little bit unhappy with but nobody is completely unhappy with.”
The plan will require two more yes votes from the board to go into effect.
Fortepan photo project awarded national grant
An ongoing archival photography project in Cedar Falls has been awarded a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities grant to help its users see the big picture.
The Fortepan Iowa project, based at the University of Northern Iowa, will use the $149,000 to develop an augmented reality app called “Mainstreet 360º” that will allow users to interact with the archive’s 160 years of photographs as if standing where they were taken.
Fortepan Iowa founder and professor of interactive digital studies Bettina Fabos says the app will help Iowans engage with their local history and become a part of its telling.
"This is one great way of helping people interpret their own local history and really appreciating change over time. Looking at how vibrant a community was 50 years ago; it might provide some incentive to bring it back."
The app is anticipated by spring, with the grant’s second year devoted to outreach in libraries and schools in and beyond Iowa.
Iowa superintendent sees less change than anticipated with new education savings account program
A northwest Iowa school superintendent who worried his district might lose students to private schools didn’t see any changes in enrollment due to the state’s new education savings accounts.
Chad Shook oversees Lawton-Bronson Community Schools, just east of Sioux City. With up to 100 students open-enrolling in his district each year, he felt vulnerable some of those students would choose to go to nearby parochial schools instead. But that didn't happen.
"I'm not aware of a single one.”
Even though his district is stable, Shook remains critical.
“The Iowa Legislature really had a chance to do something very cool for Iowa's public schools this year and instead, they gave the money away. So, you know, did nothing to solve the teacher shortage.”
Shook considers himself a lifelong conservative, but he doesn’t back the Legislature’s move to put public money into private schools.
The Iowa Department of Education says the final number of students receiving ESAs will not be available until later this fall when school enrollment numbers are certified. In July, the state reported that 40% of students who applied for ESAs planned to move from public to accredited nonpublic schools.
State health data show Iowa’s syphilis rates continue to climb
Iowa had 877 syphilis cases in 2022, marking the fourth year in a row that cases have increased and mirroring a nationwide trend. Meanwhile, Iowa’s rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea dropped last year.
State Medical Director Robert Kruse says the reason is unclear, but it could be because those STIs have early symptoms that are easier to detect. He says syphilis usually begins with a painless blister that goes away on its own, so it can be harder to detect in earlier stages.
Kruse says that’s why it’s important that Iowans recognize signs and symptoms of STIs and go in for testing if they think they have been exposed.
There's also been a rise in congenital syphilis — cases in which a pregnant person passes the illness to a child during pregnancy. Kruse says doctors should consider additional screenings for their pregnant patients at risk.
"We've also recommended screening at increased intervals for the infection. So not just during the first prenatal visit, but at that 28- to 32-week gestational visit, and then again, at delivery."
Last known Iowan to survive the Holocaust dies
A Des Moines man who survived the Nazi Holocaust during World War II has died.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines says 95-year-old David Wolnerman died Monday at his home in Des Moines.
Wolnerman was born in Poland and survived nearly six years in the Nazi concentration camps. After the war, he lived in Germany, Ohio and Indiana before settling in Des Moines.
In his later years, Wolnerman shared stories of his liberation with schools and community groups. He would tell each audience: “Forgive, but not forget.”
The Jewish Federation says Wolnerman is the last known Iowan to have survived the Nazi concentration camps.
Iowans reflect on labor organization efforts
Monday's Labor Day holiday fell during a time when many labor organizers are finding plenty to celebrate.
The National Labor Relations Board says both unfair labor practice filings and petitions for union representation are up, and big work projects from the infrastructure bill and Inflation Reduction Act are fueling demand for the trades.
Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, said unions benefit Iowans.
“We want them to be good green jobs. Not just jobs. And what we’re seeing is, when these projects are done, and they’re being done union, they are massive and they are great for a state like Iowa.”
Gallup polling suggests two-thirds of Americans approve of labor unions – the highest percentage since 1965.
Union membership has been rising, but it's still just half what it was 30 years ago. Iowa has a long history of union representation in its workplaces, but for decades, union membership has declined.
ISU Labor economist Peter Orazem says no amount of enthusiasm reverses decades of fewer union members in fewer shops.
“I’m not sure that is changing the longer term trajectory, which is the share of Iowa workers represented by unions has decreased by almost half.”
Jennifer Sherer, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s State Worker Power Initiative, says union membership numbers won’t jump overnight. But with a tight labor market making it harder to replace striking workers, unions have more bargaining power.
Sherer says numbers reported by the LRB are a sign of interest in growing labor power.
US Labor Dept. says federal protections remain in effect for minors affected by loosened Iowa child labor laws
The U.S. Department of Labor says while the Iowa Legislature may have loosened the protections for minors working hazardous jobs, federal protections remain in effect.In a letter last month, the department said Iowa’s 16- and 17-year-olds still cannot work in certain hazardous occupations, whether state leaders say so or not.
In May, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill that would allow teens to work a range of jobs that include operating power saws and joining demolition crews so long as they were part of a work-based learning program. The bill would even allow them to serve alcohol in restaurants.
But Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda writes “states cannot nullify federal requirements by enacting less protective standards.”
She says the Department of Labor has enforcement provisions for child labor including monetary penalties and that it will be watching the state and the extent to which it is complying with Fair Labor Standards Act protections.
Several Iowa lakes under E. coli advisories
With the long Labor Day weekend on the horizon, many Iowans will be heading to lakes in the state’s parks, several of which are under an E. coli advisory.
Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources has advised against swimming in 13 lakes across the state since last week. The return of wildlife and agricultural runoff toward the end of the season has created an elevated risk for all types of harmful bacteria.
Jason Palmer of the DNR’s Water Quality division explained that Natural Resources uses E. coli as a gauge for even harder-to-spot -- and even more dangerous -- microorganisms.
“We use E. coli bacteria primarily as an indicator of conditions where we might also see other pathogens or virulent bacteria that are of human health concern.”
The DNR has maintained last week’s advisories since suspending collection due to the recent heatwave. Sample collecting resumed within the past few days and have been collected for next week.
Sioux City photographer focuses on changing perspectives about his hometown
Photographer Britton Hacke is gearing up for Sioux City's annual ArtSplash festival. Even with a hot forecast on the way, thousands are expected to attend.
"I've been going to this since I was a kid. I mean, it's in its 29th year this year,” Hacke said. “And I'm 42."
Hacke, a photographer, is this year's featured artist. The event hosts 70 artists from across Iowa and almost a dozen other states.
Hacke's photography highlights the landmarks of Sioux City, from historic buildings to the War Eagle Monument.
He also documents the lives of the people who occupy the town. Part of his perspective is photography that humanizes people experiencing homelessness. He often donates money to a local shelter through print sales, including one he plans to feature during ArtSplash.
Hacke hopes to change perspectives about the city through his photography.
“You know, growing up here, I've heard a lot of negative stuff about Sioux City, and of course, online,” he said. “I try to challenge that and challenge people's view of society and try to show it in a better light.”
Drought conditions reported in 99% of Iowa
The latest Iowa Drought Monitor shows drought conditions have worsened. There’s been an 18% increase in extreme drought conditions since last week’s report.
“The big standout that we see on the map this week is a big expansion of that D3 extreme drought category across north central into northeastern Iowa,” State Climatologist Justin Glisan said.
There’s a persistent area of extreme drought in southeast Iowa as well. Some farmers have begun chopping corn for silage because most leaves on the stalks have died.
“Corn is drying up out there. Soybeans are dropping pods because of the heat and the dryness. Harvest is going to come at us fast given the drier conditions and the warmer temperatures that we’ve seen.”
Small sections of Fremont and Ringgold Counties are the only areas of Iowa considered to be drought-free. Glisan says 99.49% of the entire state is now in some level of drought.
Gilsan says the statewide average rainfall is about 3.25 inches in August -- about an inch below normal, but he says there is wide variation in sections of the state.
“If you look at the climate divisions in eastern Iowa, so climate Division 3 is the northeastern corner and then east central is where the nose of Iowa is — it’s the top 10 driest August on record, so that statewide average is skewed where we see higher precipitation totals across the southern part of the state.”
The southern two tiers of Iowa got an average amount of rainfall during the past month.
ISU taking comments on removal of Carrie Chapman Catt’s name from building
An Iowa State University committee’s first vote would keep Carrie Chapman Catt’s name on a campus building.
Nine members of the committee voted to keep Catt’s name on the building and six voted to remove it. The building was named in her honor in 1990 for her efforts to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.
The committee was formed in 2021 after accusations that Catt used racist language and tactics in her push to get the issue passed.
The committee met 27 times to review multiple documents surrounding the 1880 ISU grad. There is now a public input period that will last through Oct. 29, and the committee will then take a final vote.
Hinson meets with NAIFA to discuss financial health
Iowa’s 2nd District Rep. Ashley Hinson landed in Cedar Falls for a meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss Iowans’ financial health.
The Republican representative met with the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and addressed the group’s concerns about youth financial literacy, inflation and the existing governmental red tape she thinks should be heavily scrutinized going into the next congressional session.
“Some of them are designed to be in place to protect against bad actors, but I think what we’ve seen across the board is that they are heavy-handed. I think that we need to be taking a serious look at whether those regulations are needed or if we need more accountability regarding the rules and regulations that are already in place.”
Hinson has sponsored two bills aimed at scaling back regulation: 2021’s Red Tape Reduction Act, and the REINS Act, which passed in the House earlier this year.
Attorney general appeals court ruling permitting voting materials to be printing in languages other than English
Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird has filed an appeal to a recent court ruling clarifying that some voting materials can be printed in languages other than English.
Iowa’s English Language Reaffirmation Act was signed into law in 2002 by then-Gov. Tom Vilsack. It requires all official documents representing the state be in the English language.
The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, or LULAC, sued the Secretary of State’s office in 2021, asking that voting materials like ballots and voting notices be exempt from the law. The organization sought to overturn a previous court decision barring the state from printing registration forms in languages other than English.
Bird says her office is appealing the Polk County judge’s decision in favor of LULAC to “secure the integrity of our elections.”
According to U.S. Census data, around 9% of Iowans ages 5 and older speak a language other than English at home.
SNAP remains GOP target even as farm bill deadline looms, food insecurity rises
As part of the farm bill, some Republican lawmakers want more changes for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Congress expanded work requirements for SNAP earlier this summer.
The negotiations come at a time when food insecurity is on the rise. About 27 million people are living in households that haven’t had enough food in the last week, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, up more than 11% from January.
Thomas Gremillion, the food policy director for the Consumer Federation of America, says if Congress cuts SNAP, low-income households will have to spend even more of their tight budgets on food.
“Cutting back on SNAP benefits, right at a time when food prices have really skyrocketed over the last couple of years, yeah, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
Lawmakers have until Sept. 30. to hammer out a new Farm Bill, but officials are already talking about an extension.
Three counties testing Iowa United First Aid program
Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg says a pilot project in three Iowa counties may be a way to provide quicker emergency responses in rural areas.
“A heart attack, a choking incident, a stroke — if that happens to happen in one of the outlying parts of a county, even under the best circumstances despite the hard work of volunteers, geography may just dictate that it’s going to be 20-25 minutes before somebody can arrive,” Gregg told Radio Iowa.
Beyond the ambulance crews and EMTs already in place around the state, the Iowa United First Aid program will train new groups of volunteers in Cass, Calhoun and Van Buren Counties in what Gregg describes as “CPR Plus,” which includes the use of an AED, basic first aid and an app that allows 911 to alert the volunteer closest to the emergency.
Gregg got the idea for the program when he visited Israel last year and learned about a smart phone app that alerts medical professionals if there’s an emergency nearby.
Earlier this week, Gregg was in Keosauqua to meet with over 30 people starting volunteer orientation for the program in Van Buren County.
“I had the opportunity to say ,’Thank you,’ to them, for being willing to try something new. For being willing to step up and serve their community in this way.”
Gregg is also urging the group to provide feedback about how the program works and if changes may be needed.
The three counties involved in the pilot program have each gotten a $50,000 state grant, which is being matched with $25,000 in local resources. Nearly all the money is being used to buy the bags and medical equipment for each of the volunteers.
Fareway to move corporate headquarters
The Des Moines Register is reporting Fareway plans to move its corporate headquarters from Boone to the Des Moines metro.
Fareway CEO Reynolds Cramer told the Register he didn’t make the decision lightly, as it was his great grandparents who opened Fareway’s first store in Boone in 1938. Cramer said Fareway’s headquarters in Boone is out of space and many of the people who work there live in the Des Moines metro.
According to the newspaper, Fareway is buying a building in Johnston that had been the Iowa Bankers Association headquarters. One hundred employees will move into that building next spring.
In a statement provided to KWBG Radio, Boone Mayor John Slight said Fareway will remain a vital corporate citizen of the city and 600 Fareway employees will still work in Boone.
Slight said while disappointing, moving Fareway’s corporate headquarters to Johnston is important to Fareway’s continued expansion, and that’s beneficial to Boone.
According to the company’s website, Fareway operates more than 130 stores in Iowa and six other states. It has over 12,000 employees.
Warren County ousts interim county auditor in special election
Unofficial results from a Tuesday vote in Warren County show Interim County Auditor David Whipple, a Republican, was defeated by Democrat Kim Sheets in a special election.
Sheets held the position of deputy auditor, but when the previous officeholder retired, the county board chose to appoint Whipple, who works as a construction manager.
There was a petition drive to force the special election after social media posts surfaced where Whipple shared false conspiracies about election fraud.
Sheets received 67% of the vote. Whipple received 33%.
In a statement, Sheets said the results show voters “trust competence over conspiracies.”
Judge hears closing arguments in Dinkins murder trial
The case of Henry Dinkins is now in the hands of Scott County District Judge Henry Latham. The judge heard closing arguments on Tuesday in the murder and kidnapping trial of the Davenport man accused of killing 10-year-old Breasia Terrell.
Scott County Attorney Kelly Cunningham gave a lengthy review of the evidence presented over the past few weeks.
During his closing arguments, Dinkins' attorney, Chad Frese, accused the prosecution of spinning a "fairytale" that Dinkins ever intended to hurt the girl. He says the state can't prove its claim that she was sexually assaulted, and that the case is full of serious and reasonable doubt.
In her rebuttal, Assistant Scott County Attorney Elizabeth O'Donnell said the evidence points to the guilt of the last person to have been with the girl when she went missing and when she died.
Cedar Rapids gets tax credit boost to revitalize historically diverse Oak Hill neighborhood
The City of Cedar Rapids has just received $1.8 million in workforce housing tax credits to help revitalize one of its most historically diverse neighborhoods.
Oak Hill neighborhood will soon be home to four new two-story townhomes as part of a $3.8 million package from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
The credit comes as the city continues ongoing efforts to revitalize the neighborhood 15 years after the flood of 2008.
Cedar Rapids Economic Development Manager Caleb Mason says the homes are the result of a collaborative neighborhood plan between the city and its residents.
“One of the things we’ve done is a neighborhood plan. We’ll go in and engage residents and businesses, ask them what they want and tailor our incentives to that. So the neighborhood, the city and the community has a vision of what that should look like.”
The remaining money will go to five other projects, all of which are intended to meet demand for the city’s growing workforce.
Corn, soybean crops suffered during heatwave
Summer is almost over and it’ll soon be harvest time for the state’s main commodity crops: corn and soybeans. But the recent bout of extreme heat that blanketed the state could have a negative effect on this year’s yields, according to Chad Hart, ISU professor of agricultural and natural resources economics.
Hart says crops had a hard time during the heatwave.
“The idea is that anytime we see temperatures north of 95 or 100 degrees, it definitely stresses the crops, especially at this time of year when we’re basically in the critical grain fill period. The idea is the crops are sort of like us: they need to rest at night, need those cooler temperatures. And that helps extend what we call the grain fill period.”
In the meantime, more temperatures in the upper 90s are on the way this holiday weekend. Hart made his comments on IPR’s River to River.
Spring test scores show Iowa students improved in math, but not reading
Test scores from last spring show Iowa students made some improvement overall in math proficiency, but there was little change in reading.
The Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress samples the grade level achievement of students in 3rd through 11th grade.
After falling during the pandemic, the share of students performing at grade-level in math either matched or exceeded 2019 levels in most grades.
Statewide reading proficiency for 2023 was mostly even with last year, but has been trending downward overall in ninth grade and above.
The Iowa Department of Education also released district and school specific data on student proficiency.
Grassley calls Biden’s Medicare price negotiations the ‘wrong way’ to lower drug costs
On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced plans to negotiate Medicare drug prices for ten medications, including treatments for diabetes.
The plan faces legal action from pharmaceutical companies and criticism from Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who, during a visit to the Siouxland Community Health Center, called the plan “the wrong way” to go about lowering costs.
Grassley, who has worked on legislation to fight escalating drug prices, says the government should not dictate payments.
“I believe drug prices are too high, but we ought to do it through the marketplace,” he said. “Do I believe costs for pharmaceuticals are too high? Yes, I do. The drugs for diabetes should not be more than $35 a month, for example.”
Grassley says taking decision-making away from pharmaceutical companies will result in less money going into the research to develop new drugs.
The negotiated prices are expected to start in 2026.
Englert union ends dispute
Production staff at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City say they’ve resolved a contract dispute. It’s the first major grievance since stagehands and technicians at the theater voted to unionize last November.
This month, the Englert signed onto an agreement that clarifies minimum pay requirements for technicians and stagehands. Union steward and lead production tech Ioannis Alexakis says he’s proud of the unit and the process their contract established.
“Obviously, this is a first contract. So it’s kind of an educational experience for the Englert and the bargaining unit too.”
Executive Director John Schickedanz says he’s excited to see the grievance resolved.
The Englert Theatre is a financial supporter of IPR.
Meals from the Heartland begins with packaging competition
Tuesday morning marked the start of the 16th annual effort to package millions of meals to help feed the hungry in Iowa, across the U.S. and in countries around the globe.
Meals from the Heartland launches the massive mission with Tuesday’s corporate contest, where Hy-Vee spokeswoman Nola Aigner Davis says dozens of volunteers will be pitching in to assemble the meals in plastic bags, which are then packed into cardboard boxes.
“We have more than 30 company teams, which is the most we’ve ever had,” Aigner Davis said. “During this competition, teams will need to package two boxes of food as fast as they can.”
That event, the One Step Challenge, is being held at the MidAmerican Energy RecPlex in West Des Moines.
The larger “Hunger Fight” event runs Wednesday through Saturday, as many thousands of volunteers package meals at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines. The goal is to produce and package four million meals by the end of the day on Saturday.
There are two basic meals that will be assembled, a Hearty Pack, with rice, soy protein, vitamins, minerals and dried vegetables; and a Taco Mac, which contains enriched pasta, soy flour and vitamin- and mineral-fortified cheese mix.
Individual and group registrations are being welcomed for shifts Wednesday through Saturday. Hairnets and gloves will be provided. Since 2008, Meals from the Heartland has provided more than 183 million meals to the hungry in Iowa, across the U.S. and around the world.
Drought hitting apple orchards in eastern Iowa
The drought in eastern Iowa is taking its toll on apple orchard owners.
Chris Gensicke has owned Allen’s Orchard in Marion since 2010 and says the drought and excessive heat have made this one of his strangest years.
Gensicke told KCRG TV the derecho killed about half of his tree canopy. Many of the trees he replanted are still new and struggling from excessive heat and a lack of water.
“They’re quite stressed, and I’m quite stressed too, having to move around thousands of gallons of water a week,” he said.
Gensicke has an irrigation system that waters most of the new trees he replanted following the derecho, but he says even that hasn’t been enough.
He says the trees haven’t grown as fast, the fruit might not be as big and the flavor may be stronger than normal.
The trees have seen so much stress, he says people who want to pick apples this year might want to come out earlier than usual.
“If you think you’re going to be putting on your flannel shirts this year and your long-sleeved coats and having your mittens and your hats on and drinking hot cider while picking apples, the apples will be gone by then this year.”
Gensicke said if Iowa doesn’t get some rain soon, it could start to affect next year’s apple crop.
Warren County special election could unseat interim county auditor
Voters in Warren County are headed to the polls on Tuesday for a special election challenging the appointment of the interim county auditor.
In June, the Warren County supervisors selected Republican David Whipple for the job overseeing elections.
Democrats condemned the pick because of Facebook posts Whipple shared in 2020 that made false claims of fraud in the presidential vote. Whipple has said he does not believe the claims he shared and that he accepts the vote was valid.
Deputy County Auditor and Democrat Kim Sheets is running to unseat Whipple. She’s campaigned on her experience serving in the auditor’s office and other roles in local government over the last 20 years.
The winner of the special election will be on the ballot again for a full term in the 2024 general election.
Early study suggests ties between teargas exposure and reproductive system issues
A new study has found a correlation between tear gas exposure and effects on the reproductive system.
Researchers conducted a survey of more than 1,200 people nationwide following the protests over George Floyd’s murder in 2020, where police routinely used chemicals against crowds, like tear gas.
Asha Hassan, a research manager and scientist for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said 83% of those surveyed had at least one adverse reproductive health outcome, including uterine cramping, early or delayed menstrual bleeding and breast tenderness.
Hassan calls this study an exploratory first step and says more research is needed into the connection between tear gas and reproductive health.
Here’s how to protect yourself as fall, winter bring more respiratory virus activity
Many respiratory viruses circulate year-round in the United States, and more activity is typically seen during fall and winter.
The public is likely to be exposed to coronavirus, flu and RSV in the coming months.
Read this story from Side Effects Public Media on what people should know about these viruses and the available vaccines.
Midwest farmers aren't allowed to fix their own tractors. And many right-to-repair bills are stalled
For years, farmers and ranchers have argued they should have the right to fix their own equipment and not be solely reliant on authorized dealerships.
The right-to-repair movement has resulted in the introduction of several bills across the country. They seek to require equipment manufacturers to hand over software, codes and tools to farmers and independent service technicians, enabling them to fix their own equipment.
Yet, so far, only one state has succeeded.
In April, Colorado passed the nation’s first farmer’s right-to-repair law, which will go into effect at the start of 2024. Four other states in the Midwest introduced similar legislation, but bills in Iowa, Missouri and South Dakota all failed to make it out of committee. A bill in Michigan remains active as the state’s Legislature heads into its fall session.
Sioux City pushing for diversity in police force
There’s been a push across the country to recruit more minorities for careers in law enforcement.
Bayron Ordonez is one of four new officers taking the oath to serve and protect Sioux City.
Ordonez, who was born in Honduras, is one of two new officers representing the Hispanic community that makes up about 20% of Sioux City’s population. Eight percent of the city’s officers are Hispanic.
“Unfortunately, in the society that we live in today, some people don't trust police officers, if they see somebody that is more of what they're used to, it's easier for people to open up and trust us,” Ordonez said.
Police Chief Rex Mueller said it’s important to recruit officers who look like the community the police serve.
“That's what we constantly strive to do. We want good people, but we also want people that will be able to relate to the community and them,” he said.
Of the 127 police officers on the force, more than a quarter are minorities, including women. There are no Indigenous officers.
DeSantis stops by Field of Dreams, Rock Rapids in post-debate Iowa campaign swing
Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis says he chose to emphasize his record as Florida’s governor, rather than quarrel with the other candidates at this week’s debate.
“The thing about the debate you know is nobody hit me, so I wasn’t going to get involved in that scrum. I know those guys were going back and forth,” DeSantis said Thursday night in northeast Iowa. “What I did with 100% of my time was to speak directly to the American people about our vision to reverse the country’s decline.”
DeSantis and his family stopped at the Field of Dreams last night and DeSantis spoke to a crowd in Rock Rapids this morning.
“I was proud to be able to, at that debate, muscle in issues that maybe the moderators didn’t necessarily want to talk about and one of those issues was the issue of our southern border. I am going to be the president who finally puts this issue to bed. We are going to solve the problem.”
Former Iowa GOP co-chair Cody Hoefert also spoke to the crowd in Rock Rapids, and said after watching Wednesday’s debate, he decided to endorse DeSantis.
Clinton High School using new AI weapons detecting system
Clinton High School students returned to class this week with a system that uses artificial intelligence to detect concealed weapons in use. Clinton Superintendent Gary DeLacy thinks it will really improve safety.
“I believe with this technology Clinton High School will be the safest school campus in the state of Iowa,” he says. It is not a metal detector, it looks at the density and shape of items to determine if they are guns or knives.
DeLacy says there will be some education involved as they use the system.
“If you’re carrying something that might be real straight that it could detect that, is that a knife, it could go off. “We’ll take a look at that, pull it out of your bookbag or whatever and have you walk through and then make sure that it doesn’t go off."
The system is designed so it recognizes the shape of a cell phone and keys, so it doesn’t go off when they are detected. DeLacy says the new machine will allow high school students to carry their bookbags between classes.
Students returned to class in Clinton Wednesday.
New series of postage stamps honors two Iowa bridges
The U.S. Postal Service is issuing a new set of four stamps depicting the architectural beauty of bridges, and two of those bridges lead to Iowa.
The series is simply called “Bridges,” and one of them shows an aerial view of the recently-completed Interstate 74 bridge over the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities, officially known as the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge, which connects Bettendorf and Moline.
Another stamp in the series depicts a span at the other end of the state: The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which links Council Bluffs to Omaha, Neb.
The 25-cent stamps are for Presorted First Class Mail and they went on sale Thursday.
Black Hawk County turning greenhouse gas into transportation fuel
Iowa’s 4th largest landfill will be implementing a program that will convert its methane and other emissions into transit fuel starting in November.
Black Hawk County Solid Waste Management Administrator John Foster says that its size could help it set a national trend for similar programs.
"The coolest thing about this project is that there are only five landfills in Iowa who are recycling their gas beneficially, and only two of us are using it for transportation fuel. And that’s pretty much the trend nationally: only about 10% of landfills are using the program."
The program will send the emissions off-site to be cleaned and reused as fuel. Foster expects that the project will be ready to go by November, adding that the sale of the recycled gas could yield $70,000 in revenue in its first year.
Midwest states break records for heat related illnesses
As heat index levels hit more than 100-degrees this week, emergency rooms in the region have seen higher than usual numbers of heat-related illnesses.
In fact, the CDC reports that the combined number of cases in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska broke records on Monday and again on Tuesday.
On those days, about 6% of ER visits were patients suffering from heat-related illness (HRI). That’s far more than normal for this time of year.
Rish Vaidyanathan of the CDC says case numbers started to climb over the weekend.
“On August 21st we had seen the highest ever daily HRI that region ever recorded in the last five years or six years of data, our data since 2018. And then on August 22nd that was surpassed.”
Vaidyanathan says heat-related illnesses are not going away.
“Extreme summer heat is increasing in the United States... All climate predictions indicate that extreme summer heat events will become more frequent, more intense in coming decades.”
Heat-related illnesses include cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Iowa is set for a cool-down this weekend.
ISU classes go online after fire at university power plant
Classes at Iowa State University are going online after a fire at the university’s power plant caused an outage of the main cooling system. The university is asking students to leave campus to beat the heat.
The fire disrupted the cooling system as temperatures in Ames approached triple-digits and with an excessive heat warning in effect. A note to faculty says it is up to each instructor to determine whether a course can go online or must be canceled.
Students who live on campus are being told to leave for the weekend if they’re able to. The university says it's working on ways to offer assistance to students who cannot leave.
Check for updates here.
Nonprofit shelter helps homeless in excessive heat
As Iowans experience another day under an Excessive Heat Warning, there are some who don’t have a place to protect themselves from stifling conditions. One nonprofit is helping homeless people get through the week more safely.
The Warming Shelter serves the homeless in Sioux City, including former resident Tammy Bursell, who uses the facility to do laundry and stay cool.
“It's hard. I mean, I'm thankful that I got an apartment, but I have no air conditioning. I live on the top floor. And you know, heat rises. So, it's very hot.”
To help during the heatwave, the day shelter stayed open seven days a week instead of a few.
Brittney Wilson is the assistant director. She worries about others who don’t utilize the shelter.
“But a lot of shade has been cut down, their trees, so a lot of their refuge or methods of reprieve have been dwindling... We had a lot of donors graciously donate packs and packs of water, so hopefully, we’re keeping everyone hydrated.”
The Warming Shelter offers respite for Bursell, who is thankful for her new apartment and a job she starts next week.
New Latin drag night a safe space for Iowans and Nebraskans following anti-LGBTQ bills
Nebraska and Iowa lawmakers each passed bills this spring to restrict gender-affirming care and ban transition surgeries for minors. Both states also introduced legislation to ban drag shows for minors, but neither passed, keeping drag shows as safe spaces for all people to enjoy performances.
In Omaha, there's a new drag show for adults that aims to celebrate and support queer Latin people in the Midwest. Juan Valdovinos is the 22-year-old producer of Noche Latina at Flixx Lounge, who performs as Juanna V Mii.
Valdovinos decided to start a drag show for Latin entertainers when he noticed that many performances only had music in English and lacked diversity. He hopes Noche Latina can be a safe space to celebrate and support queer Latin people in the Midwest.
“I'm also really hoping that we start cooperating with some more nonprofits and being able to raise funds for people, especially Latin, queer and trans people... Because right now, we still have legislation, especially against trans people. And they need support."
You can read the full story here.
Flood mitigation limited damage in Quad Cities
Flood mitigation projects and a little bit of help from the Mississippi River seem to have limited damage from this year’s flooding in the Quad Cities.
Matt Wilson is a hydrologist with the National Weather Service office in Davenport. He says the crest of 21.5 feet was the region’s seventh-highest, but the waters receded fairly quickly.
“We were really only at the high flood thresholds for about a week and a half. So that alleviates a lot of the extra pressure that goes into our levee systems and our protections that we have against floods.”
Local communities have done a lot to protect themselves, like buying out homes in the floodplain. Wilson says that’s important because big floods are happening more often.
“What used to be maybe only a once a couple decades problem has become not a yearly problem, but every three or four years we are getting another significantly impactful flood here on the Mississippi River.”
Wilson says eight of the 10 highest flood crests in the Quad Cities have happened since the 1993 flood.
Public spaces offer relief from excessive heat
As high temps continue statewide, some Iowans who don’t have air conditioning are turning to other options. In northeast Iowa’s Delaware County, emergency management coordinator Mandy Bieber says public spaces are available to cool off.
“Most public libraries are available during the regular business hours... Manchester Public Library is available and then Edgewood Fire and Delhi Fire are available if needed, and then if anyone else needs cooling information, they can contact their local city hall for information.”
Bieber offers a few more precautions you can take during this oppressive heat.
“Drink plenty of fluids, make sure you’re staying hydrated. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing when possible... Obviously, stay indoors if you can. If you can’t, be sure you’re taking lots of rest breaks in an air-conditioned environment, and then make sure you know what the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are, and if you believe you’re suffering from that, go ahead and call 911.”
Experts suggest you skip outdoor activities unless you absolutely need to be outside, or do those chores early in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler.
Humans may be able to handle the heat, but it can be fatal for furry friends
As extreme heat continues, people - and pets - are feeling the effects. At this stage, some people may be getting used to the steamy weather, but it can still be deadly, quickly, to enclosed animals.
Joe Stafford, Director of Animal Services at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, says if you leave a pet in a parked car, cracking a window open does virtually no good, and neither does parking in the shade.
“Anything over 80 degrees, just leave your furry family members at home where they’re safe and they’re comfortable... Take them on a car ride to the dog park or something if we’re looking to go for a car ride but just do not leave animals unattended in a vehicle.”
In his 20-plus years in the industry, Stafford says he hears about such cases every summer, and he’s confounded as to why some pet owners don’t ever seem to get the message.
He urges Iowans, if you see a pet (or a child) alone in a car, call 911, as your action could save a life. Many dogs love to go on walks, but during this heat wave, it’s wise to limit their time outdoors, perhaps just to walk in the morning and evening when it’s cooler.
Rep. Hinson meets with pork producers following Prop. 12 upholding
Rep. Ashley Hinson of Iowa’s Second District met with the National Pork Producers Council Wednesday to talk about several issues confronting the industry.
Topping the list was Proposition 12, a California initiative requiring farmers to meet minimum housing space requirements to sell their pork products in the state. The law was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hinson’s proposed solution is her Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression, or EATS Act, which she says would allow ag operations outside California more agency in their industry.
"There’s nothing prohibiting any producer from raising their animals in a certain way. That’s what we want to protect - is that choice. What I don’t want to see is a complete shut-out of a market. California produces a small percentage of pork consumed in this country but consumes 13% of pork in this country."
Hinson followed her stop in Manchester with a town hall meeting in Independence, where she discussed alternative energy sources, the Farm Bill and veteran affairs.
How pennies keep students cool during extreme heat
Several Iowa school districts called for early dismissals Wednesday due to the Extreme Heat Warning blanketing the state.
The Sioux City Community School District keeps kids in class thanks to a one-cent sales tax. The initiative first started in Woodbury County in 1998.
Superintendent Rod Earlywine says each year, the district receives more than $12 million.
“All of our buildings, our elementary buildings and middle schools are relatively new. So, all of those are air-conditioned, which just makes the learning environment so much more better.”
The local option sales tax was extended statewide in 2008. Iowa passed a law four years ago to keep the “Secure an Advanced Vision for Education” program until 2051. The governor estimated the program will provide an extra boost of $26 billion in revenue for school infrastructure projects.
Heat warnings and high temps continue as kids return to school
As kids return to school during an excessive heat wave, many districts are taking precautions like holding recess and sports practices inside.
Taylor Heitzman is with Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. She says they have not seen any heat-related illnesses yet, but urges everyone to take precautions.
"If your kiddos are just not seeming super active, it's because their bodies aren't able to be active at that time. So allow them to be inside if you can with air conditioning. If not, make sure that they have fans available and shade available if you do have to be outside."
Heitzman also urges families to make the most of libraries, malls and other public air conditioned spaces.
The Centers for Disease Control’s Heat-Related Illness and Temperature tracker shows a rate of 290 heat-related illnesses per 100,000 ER visits last week in the region, which includes Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas.
Drivers need to stay vigilant as school starts
This is the first day of school in many Iowa districts, and motorists are being warned to slow down and stay alert for darting kids and for school buses. Hamilton County Supervisor Rick Young of Jewell says there’s been a recent rash of bad behavior from behind the wheel.
“We have been fielding several reports of inappropriate driving throughout the county,” Young says, “particularly on secondary roads, gravel roads and so forth.”
Speeding on gravel roads can be very risky, especially if a school bus is making a stop over the next hill, or as you’re approaching a rural intersection that’s partly obscured by crops.
“The public should know, first of all, the corn’s getting up there tall now. Heed those intersections where there’s tall corn and beans,” Young says. “Where you least expect it, we may be having measures out there to detect what’s going on.”
The Iowa Legislature unanimously passed Kadyn’s Law in 2012, targeting motorists who pass a stopped school bus with the stop arm extended. On the first offense, a conviction could bring a fine of up to $675, up to 30 days in jail and a 30-day suspension of the driver’s license.
In Sioux City alone, police reported issuing 32 citations last school year to motorists who passed a parked school bus with its stop sign extended.
July continued the trend of falling home sale numbers
The Iowa Association of Realtors report for July says the state housing market continued to see sales and inventory drop.
Home sales were down by nearly 21% in July of 2023 compared to July of 2022. That’s a drop of 677 homes sold for a total of 3,011 in the month. The number of sales from June to July of 2023 mirrored the yearly trend, which was down by 20%.
The report says higher interest rates and a lower inventory led to the decline. The number of homes on the market this July decreased by a little more than 12% compared to July of last year. Homes sat on the market for 33 days this July before a sale — compared to the 23-day average of July 2022.
Projects in Pocahontas, Decorah, Centerville, Hawarden getting rural development funds
The USDA is sending rural development loans and grants to four projects in Appanoose, Pocahontas, Sioux and Winneshiek counties. State Rural Development Director Theresa Greenfield says they work with the local rural electric cooperatives, or the city municipal cooperative or the telecoms.
“We provide pass-through loans to them that they in turn, then lend to local businesses within the community.”
A couple of the projects involved health care. The Corn Belt Power Cooperative received a loan of more than $1.2 million for the Pocahontas Community Hospital. The hospital plans to renovate 12 patient exam rooms, the pharmacy, reception areas and build an addition for a new public restroom and reception room. The other is a nearly $13 million loan and $1 million grant to Aase Haugen Homes in Decorah to build a nursing home with assisted living and dementia care units. Greenfield says these projects will help fill some voids in health care in rural Iowa.
Other projects include a $2 million pass-through loan to the Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative to fund a material flow system for animal and human products at a facility in Centerville. The Hawarden Municipal Utilities received a $124,000 grant to expand a revolving loan fund. This project will provide financing through the city of Hawarden to five businesses with the hopes of increasing local employment opportunities.
“One of the things I like best about our rural economic development program is that, one, it puts the decision-making in the local community’s hands and the local businesses’ hands. It’s not USDA in Washington trying to tell a rural community the best way to build their businesses and expand.”
Greenfield says Iowa has nearly 40 cooperatives across the state that they partner with.
Iowa attorney general says state has reached settlement with tobacco manufacturers
Attorney General Brenna Bird has announced the state has reached a settlement with the country’s four largest tobacco manufacturers to receive an additional $171 million.
Iowa had been just one of nine states that was still litigating a claim under the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Thirty-seven other states have already entered into the settlement.
The attorney general's office says the state will receive about $124 million in April of next year and the rest annually over the next five years.
The majority of the money will be used to pay down the state’s debt to bondholders. The rest will go into the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.
Supreme cattle feedlot withdraws manure management plan
The owners of a large cattle feedlot in northeast Iowa have withdrawn their controversial manure management plan from getting approval by the state.
The Clayton County feedlot is near the headwaters of a prized trout stream. Earlier this month, Supreme Beef LLC sought approval of a plan for its feedlot for 11,600 cattle. In April, a Polk County judge reversed the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ decision to permit their initial plan.
The open feedlot is located in fragile karst terrain near the headwaters of Bloody Run Creek near Monona. The Iowa chapters of the Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited successfully blocked that initial manure plan in court, arguing the state agency used “illogical interpretations and applications” in its approval. Six people spoke against this new plan at a public hearing before the Iowa DNR earlier this month, citing many of the same concerns.
A spokesperson with the DNR expects Supreme Beef to submit yet another manure management plan.
Summit holds first hearing ahead of decision to use eminent domain in pipeline project
Landowners opposed to the Summit carbon capture pipeline filled seats at a key hearing on the project in Fort Dodge on Tuesday.
It was the first day of testimony as the Iowa Utilities Board approaches a decision on whether to approve the pipeline route and Summit Carbon Solutions’ use of eminent domain.
Speaking before the hearing, Denison resident Tim Baughman said the pipeline would cut through farmland that his family values as a model for soil conservation.
“Our soil has not been plowed for 47 years, and now Summit Carbon Solutions wants to target our land for their private profits.”
Summit’s proposed pipeline system would move carbon dioxide from ethanol plants in five states. The industry says the project is necessary to be able to market low-carbon fuels.
The IUB hearing could last weeks as board members hear testimony on more than 900 parcels of land where landowners oppose eminent domain.
More than 160 rape victim emergency contraception reimbursement requests pending at Iowa AG office
More than 160 reimbursement requests for rape victims’ emergency contraception are pending at the state attorney general’s office, totaling around $7,500, according to public records obtained by IPR.
The reimbursement requests come from hospitals and pharmacies statewide. The majority are from this year and are as recent as the end of June. Several go back as far as 2020 and 2021.
In April, Attorney General Brenna Bird’s office suspended emergency contraception reimbursements for rape victims made through the Crime Victim Compensation Program while it reviews the practice.
This month, Bird indicated on an episode of Iowa Press that she believes her office could make the move permanent.
Critics have called for Bird to reinstate the practice, saying cost for medical care should never be a concern for rape victims.
Iowa Corn Growers Association reports varied growing season
The growing season has been spotty for corn producers statewide.
Rachel Zumbach of the Iowa Corn Growers Association says conditions vary widely across the state.
"It's very dependent on where people got rain. I think even in eastern Iowa, where I'm from, you could be in one spot and you get rain, and a quarter mile down the road, you have no rain,” she said. “We were just up in the very, very corner of northwest Iowa, and their corn was looking pretty good. And I couldn't believe how tall it was."
The most recent USDA crop report released Monday shows corn and soybeans rated about 60% good to excellent, with around 10% rated poor to very poor, similar to last week's numbers.
The report tracked conditions through Aug. 20, so the impact of the recent heatwave isn’t known yet. However, soybean prices have increased as hot and dry conditions raised concerns about potential plant stress.
State regulators hold first carbon pipeline hearing
The Iowa Utilities Board is holding the first public hearing on Tuesday for one of the three proposed carbon dioxide pipelines that would run through the state.
Summit Carbon Solutions is seeking a permit to operate and maintain 687 miles of pipeline through 29 Iowa counties. The IUB says Summit is requesting the right to use eminent domain for approximately 973 parcels on the proposed pipeline route.
The hearing begins at 10 a.m. at the Cardiff Event Center in Fort Dodge. The IUB is livestreaming the hearing, which is expected to last for several days.
2023 Iowa State Fair sees second-best overall attendance
Numbers released from the Iowa State Fair this year show the fair had the second-best attendance ever in its 169 years.
This year finished with 1,133,958 people going through the gates.
The attendance record of 1,170,000 was set in 2019. The first Sunday of the 2023 fair on Aug. 13 set an attendance record for that day. Nearly 115,000 people came to the fair that day, with more than 17,000 coming to see country star Eric Church’s performance at the grandstand.
Waterloo City Council votes to repeal ordinance banning conversion therapy
The Waterloo City Council has repealed a conversion therapy ban mere days before the city’s Pride festival.
After 50 minutes of public comments, almost all directly from Waterloo’s LGBTQ residents, the Waterloo City Council voted 4-3 Monday night to repeal the ordinance. Councilman Johnathan Grieder, who wrote the ordinance, expressed his disappointment in what he believed to be a decision out-of-step with the council’s core mission.
“We sit up here, and we make laws, and the point of laws is not to put words on paper, or digits on a screen. The point of laws is to enact justice and fairness and equality. Until we do that, we have a lot of work to do.”
The council cited the threat of a lawsuit as one reason for the repeal. Linn County and Davenport are the only remaining Iowa governments to have gender conversion therapy bans in effect.
Trump leads DeSantis by 23 points in Iowa Poll
A Des Moines Register/NBC News Iowa Poll shows former President Donald Trump has the support of 42% of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers.
The poll was conducted last week, from Sunday through Thursday. According to pollster Ann Selzer, the fourth indictment filed against Trump helped him, as the polling shows an uptick in Trump’s support after the Georgia indictment was announced.
Trump’s closest competitor is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had 19% in the Iowa Poll.
No other candidate had double digit support.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott came in third. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence tied for fourth. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has not campaigned in Iowa, but registered in fifth place. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy was in sixth place with 4% support.
Sixty-five percent of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers surveyed said it’s most important to pick a candidate who shares their views on issues, while 29% said the most important thing is for Republicans to pick a candidate who can beat President Joe Biden.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%.
Reynolds meets with four Republican governors to discuss border security
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and three other Republican governors in Eagle Pass, Texas on Monday to discuss border security.
Eagle Pass is where Texas installed a chain of controversial buoys earlier this summer, meant to deter unlawful border crossings by migrants.
She says she sent troops to the border to help prevent the illegal trafficking of fentanyl by cartels.
“Since 2020, we have seen a 500% increase in the amount of fentanyl that has been seized. We've seen 100% increase in meth. And we have seen drug-related deaths increase by 35%.”
As the school year begins, law requiring parental consent for name changes worrying LGBTQ students, advocates
A new school year is beginning for students across Iowa, and a message sent out by the Sioux City Community School District has served as a reminder for some groups of laws passed this year that target LGBTQ students, particularly trans students.
The school sent out a message by phone late last week asking parents to contact their student’s principal to request a name or pronoun change. An Iowa law now requires parental permission for students to be called by another name or pronoun.
The Co-Founder of the Siouxland Pride Alliance, Karen Mackey, says it appears the school district is trying to comply with the law.
"The problem is that this is only going to be beneficial to kids whose parents are supportive, and there are a lot of kids whose families are not supportive of them. Having met with students, they are terrified, absolutely terrified.”
The students say the law makes them a target and feel school administration should provide a lesson in understanding.
Temperatures forecast in the 100s
Temperatures are predicted to be near or above 100 degrees over the next few days.
If the forecast holds, meteorologist Andrew Ansorge says it will be the first time in a decade August has had four or more consecutive days like this in Des Moines.
Ansorge says triple-digit temperatures are common in August, but typically highs are in the 80s during the third week of the month.
Tropical Storm Hilary in the Pacific Ocean is one of the reasons temperatures will be so high. Ansorge says the low pressure system is pushing the record high heat from the southwest to the Midwest.
“So everything's kind of interconnected, and so even though we may not think too much about… Hilary there in the eastern Pacific, it does kind of play a role, as do all the pressure patterns, they all work together in kind of moving things around the atmosphere.”
The last time August had four or more consecutive days above 95 degrees in Des Moines was in 2013.
The extended forecast predicts temperatures for the remaining days of August to be higher than normal.
America's chicken supply chain is vulnerable to salmonella. Researchers think they have a fix
Chicken and other meats are susceptible to harmful bacteria like salmonella, but researchers in Missouri are looking to curb contamination in chicken products with new technology to test for the pathogen.
For the most part, the chicken supply chain is safe and contaminated product alerts aren’t common.
Haitao Li, the chair of the supply chain analytics department at the University of Missouri St. Louis, says right now, chicken is only tested for contamination at the processor.
Li is working with University of Missouri Columbia researchers to make sensors that could detect salmonella across the whole supply chain.
“If we know the level of contamination risk, we might speed up the shipment of some goods or shorten their storage time.”
Li says this technology is in its early stages, but could be commercially ready in a few years.