© 2024 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations


Latest Iowa News ↓

Published February 18, 2024 at 2:18 PM CST

📻 Get all of the day’s news from across Iowa. IPR reporters and our partners file the latest headlines throughout the day to keep you informed.

Get this news in your inbox: Subscribe to Daily Digest for a five minute read to know what's happening in Iowa and around the country.

* indicates required

Radio Iowa

Daisy Brand plans to build $708 million facility in Boone

Posted April 16, 2024 at 3:58 PM CDT

The maker of a well-known brand of sour cream and cottage cheese is planning to open a production facility in Boone.

The Boone City Council voted to submit an application for Daisy Brand to the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The application is for tax incentives from the state’s High Quality Jobs program.

Boone Mayor Eli Stine says a state board is expected to approve the application Friday.

The City of Boone has agreed to a number of infrastructure improvements to attract Daisy’s investment and over 250 jobs. Stine says Daisy is “an incredibly well-run company” and its $708 million project is by far the largest capital investment the community has seen.

The headquarters of Daisy Brands is in Dallas, Texas. The company currently operates plants in Arizona, Ohio and Texas.

The Midwest Newsroom

VineBrook bought more than 24,000 homes in a nationwide shopping spree. Now it has to sell over 1,700 to get out of debt

Posted April 16, 2024 at 10:35 AM CDT
Four years ago, when the Cowells started renting this VineBrook property in a St. Louis suburb, they paid $1,000 a month. As of 2024, they were paying $1,600 a month.
Kavahn Mansouri
The Midwest Newsroom
Four years ago, when the Cowells started renting this VineBrook property in a St. Louis suburb, they paid $1,000 a month. As of 2024, they were paying $1,600 a month.

A company that bought hundreds of single-family homes in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area now says it must sell over 1,700 of them in order to stay in business.

Starting its shopping spree in 2019, VineBrook Homes quickly became the region’s third largest property owner. Now, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the company must sell homes to meet a $1.2 billion debt it says it cannot pay.

Single-family rental expert Noel Christopher says it's all according to the company’s plan.

“This is what these funds plan for — this is part of their thesis. When you get into hard times, it's easy to cull the portfolio and sell homes and get that full value.”

A 2023 investigation by the Midwest Newsroom found many tenants have complained of quick evictions, rapidly rising rent and poor customer service.

There are at least three proposed measures to rein in mega-property owners pending in Congress. And an Omaha state representative is backing proposed legislation calling for local ownership, among other requirements.

Read the full story from the Midwest Newsroom.

Radio Iowa

Independent RFK, Jr. says he’s met ballot access requirements in Iowa

Posted April 15, 2024 at 3:01 PM CDT

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says he’s gathered enough petition signatures to qualify for Iowa’s general election ballot due to turnout at a campaign rally in central Iowa.

Iowa law gives independent presidential candidates the option of holding an assembly and collecting at least 500 signatures from Iowa voters, with at least one person from 25 different counties. A Kennedy campaign aide announced the results Saturday to a convention of Kennedy’s “We the People” party in West Des Moines.

“We have 686 credentialed delegates representing more than 35 counties in Iowa,” the campaign staffer said.

Those nominating petitions will be submitted to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office for review. Kennedy vowed to return to campaign in Iowa before the November election.

While the Iowa Democratic Party offered no comment on Kennedy, Iowa Republican Party chairman Jeff Kaufmann issued a statement on Friday, accusing Kennedy of “peddling toxic conspiracy theories” instead of the kind of solutions former President Donald Trump is offering voters.

Utah officials have announced Kennedy has qualified to be on their state’s General Election ballot and Kennedy’s campaign says Iowa is one of seven other states where they have met the requirements for ballot access.

Radio Iowa

Severe storms Monday and Tuesday threaten hail, high winds and tornadoes

Posted April 15, 2024 at 3:00 PM CDT

A training session for severe weather spotters in Carroll County that was scheduled for Monday night is canceled due to the threat of… severe weather.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Brad Small says warming temperatures are bringing on the weather.

“The storms later tonight could be severe across western Iowa, with the main threat being large hail… but the severe weather threat will be squarely over Iowa by Tuesday.”

Des Moines set a record high of 88 degrees on Sunday, beating the previous record of 87, set in 2006. Small says highs this week should drop back into the seasonal 50s and 60s, with lows in the 30s and 40s.

IPR News

Home insurance premiums expected to hit another record high

Posted April 15, 2024 at 10:42 AM CDT

Home insurance rates have been rising steadily over the past few years, and are expected to hit another record average by the end of the year.

The Insurance Information Institute says the average annual premium in the United States will be over $2,500 by the end of the year, up 6% from last year.

Rates have been rising steadily over the past few years. In the Midwest, premiums have been higher than the national average.

Jeff Menary’s company, Grinnell Mutual, offers individual policies and provides insurance for other carriers. The CEO says for the past few years, insurance claims have been outpacing premiums.

“There’s more losses going through that equation than the premium that’s being charged. And so there’s no way companies can operate this way and so they’ve had to make adjustments in their pricing. And with that, that affects the consumers.”

Menary says he feels for consumers and suggests looking at ways to lower premiums by increasing deductibles and investing in hail-resistant roofing materials. He says farm owners who have older outbuildings they don’t plan on replacing may want to adjust coverage on them to lower insurance costs.

Harvest Public Media

Midwest dairy farmers say they're vigilant, but not alarmed, as bird flu spreads among herds

Posted April 15, 2024 at 10:41 AM CDT

The U.S. Department of Agriculture thinks cows are getting sick after exposure to wild migrating birds who have avian influenza. 

So far, the virus seems to result in mild cases for the cattle. And in impacted herds, only about 10% of cattle get sick. 

Missouri dairy farmer Sean Cornelius says he is watching developments closely. 

“Farm owners, farm managers are definitely keeping in touch with their veterinarians and with their other resources to understand how the situation is evolving. Not really alarmed by it, but being very vigilant.” 

The USDA says pasteurized milk is safe to drink because the process kills bacteria and viruses. 

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

IPR News

Iowa City crowd holds rally ahead of RVAP closure

Posted April 15, 2024 at 10:36 AM CDT

One hundred people gathered in Iowa City Saturday mourning the coming closure of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program.

RVAP services eight counties, and in a news release, the University of Iowa said the majority of clients aren’t affiliated with the university.

Elyssa Brock, who lives in Washington County, said she turned to the program when she was sexually assaulted at 17. She said she worries about the impact the closure will have on rural survivors like her.

“We don’t have Uber or Lyft in rural areas. We don’t have buses or public transportation. We don’t have countless therapists at our fingertips. So to not talk to us or even mention us in the media? Disgusting. Had anyone talked to us, the rural counties, they would know how this would affect us survivors. There will be a loss of coverage.”

Iowa City’s Domestic Violence Intervention Program has said it will pick up the services the University of Iowa is dropping. While the closure was announced this month, details on how DVIP will add sexual assault support services are still being developed.

IPR News

Refugee advocates say there’s a critical need for health care providers

Posted April 12, 2024 at 3:28 PM CDT
Fatiya Adam, an employee of of Lutheran Services in Iowa (third from the left), attends a conference on refugee health care at Briar Cliff University on April 12, 2024.
Iowa Public Radio/Sheila Brummer
Fatiya Adam, an employee of of Lutheran Services in Iowa (third from the left), attends a conference on refugee health care at Briar Cliff University on April 12, 2024.

As more refugees move into the state of Iowa, advocates say there is a critical need for health care providers who understand their unique needs.

Nick Wuertz, the director of immigrant and refugee community services for Lutheran Services in Iowa, says 11 agencies are helping resettle 2,500 people across the state of Iowa, which is more than the year before. Most are coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Burma.

“We do see additional challenges for newcomers who don't speak the language and are learning how to navigate insurance and all of these things.”

Wuertz says there is a shortage of physicians, dentists and mental health workers who can treat refugees.

He attended a conference at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City Friday on how to achieve cultural awareness in health care. The event also attracted college students who plan to go into the medical field after graduation.

Harvest Public Media

‘Forever chemicals’ to be regulated by EPA

Posted April 12, 2024 at 12:59 PM CDT

Only two states in the Midwest have regulated toxic “forever chemicals” in drinking water. But now, PFAS chemicals will be federally regulated, following an announcement from the Biden administration.

The Environmental Protection Agency is implementing the first-ever drinking water standards on six PFAS chemicals.

They join a list of nearly a hundred contaminants, like lead and copper, that all states must now screen for in their public water systems.

Sandy Wynn-Stelt, a Michigan resident whose drinking water was contaminated by a shoemaker, says she felt like the government had failed her when she lost her husband to liver cancer — a disease associated with PFAS exposure.

"This has been a long journey, not just in our state where we have made incredible progress, but for our country. This is really a day of celebration."

Roughly 10% of public utilities in the U.S. will need to make changes to meet the new standards, according to an EPA estimate.

Harvest Public Media

Robots provide a high-tech solution to an age-old farming problem: weeds

Posted April 12, 2024 at 12:58 PM CDT

Three yellow, bug-like creatures crawl in perfectly straight lines across the dead grass of a flat, brown February field in Cheney, Kansas. Two lights peer out from each side of the boxy machines, almost appearing like eyes. Blades whir at their base, about a half an inch from the ground – the perfect height to chop weeds, though there’s nothing to cut down on a frigid winter day.

The robots stick out in an otherwise rural landscape – and GreenField Robotics CEO Clint Brauer said he frequently hears from curious passersby.

Brauer founded the company in 2018. The start-up has now grown large enough to attract investment from Chipotle’s $100 million venture capital fund and to secure partnerships with dog food and baking mix brands.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

IPR News

Iowa Supreme Court hears arguments on 6-week abortion ban

Posted April 11, 2024 at 4:24 PM CDT

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday about Iowa’s law that would ban most abortions after a so-called fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

Solicitor General Eric Wessan argued for the state that Iowa has a vital interest in protecting life, and the court should use the “rational basis” standard to allow the abortion ban to take effect.

“There is no right to be found for abortion. And so what my friends on the other side say — that the right might be hiding here, it might be hiding there, in some combination of clauses — it’s simply not what this court historically has done.”

Peter Im, argueing for Planned Parenthood, said the law should be found unconstitutional using the “undue burden” standard that allows abortions before a fetus is viable.

“On the one hand you have autonomy and dominion over one’s own body, and also because as the PPH 2022 plurality stated, parenthood is a life-altering obligation that falls unevenly on women in our society. So because of those rights that are recognized under the Constitution, that’s why rational basis isn’t appropriate.”

The court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June. Abortion is currently legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

IPR News

Reynolds announces state-run summer food program months after rejecting federal aid

Posted April 11, 2024 at 1:41 PM CDT
Childhood classroom at the Community Action Agency of Siouxland, where serving healthy foods is a priority.
Community Action Agency
Childhood classroom at the Community Action Agency of Siouxland, where serving healthy foods is a priority.

Months after turning down $29 million in federal funding for a summer food program, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a new state-run grant program Wednesday.

The state is offering $900,000 in grants to schools and organizations to help pay for summer food programs.

Jean Logan, who oversees the Community Action Agency of Siouxland, says the new action shows the governor “doesn’t care” about helping families.

“I'm very disappointed. And I really don't feel that $900,000 is anywhere close to being able to meet the need that we have in Iowa to feed children.”

More than a dozen states, all Republican, also turned down the federal money, which would have cost Iowa an estimated $2.2 million. At the time, Reynolds said the program did not promote proper nutrition, and she worried about sustainability.

Read the full story.

Radio Iowa

Tick season becoming year-round threat

Posted April 11, 2024 at 9:20 AM CDT

The Midwest is seeing a rise in cases of Lyme disease and other health problems associated with ticks, and experts say the trouble is that millions of the tiny insects are now surviving our warmer winters.

Megan Meller, an infection preventionist at Gundersen Health System, says now that spring is here, Iowans should start doing tick checks on a regular basis.

“Tick season essentially now is moving year-round. I think we previously would think that we would have started looking for ticks once the weather turned warmer in April and May, when we’re spending more time outside, but this year, we were seeing warm weather back in really from December through January and currently, and even those brief cold spells didn’t kill the ticks.”

There are more than a dozen species of ticks in Iowa. The three most common are deer ticks, dog ticks and lone star ticks.

Meller says some are easier to spot than others.

“If we’re lucky, they’re large and we can find them right away, but some of them are really tiny, the size of a dot at the end of a sentence, and if you overlook those, they can also cause an infection.”

Meller says there is a greater push for vaccine development to prevent Lyme disease, and a vaccine in stage three clinical trials is showing promising results.

“Hopefully, at some point in the near future, there’ll be a vaccine that helps prevent Lyme disease, so we don’t have to keep worrying about this potential added fear in the woods.”

IPR News

UI to fund expansion of DVIP to include sexual assault victim support following RVAP closure

Posted April 11, 2024 at 9:17 AM CDT

The University of Iowa says it will directly fund the expansion of the Domestic Violence Intervention Program to include sexual assault support services. The move comes after the university announced the closure of the UI’s Rape Victim Advocacy Program, which serves the same eight-county area.

The university has not made any agreement with the DVIP available or explained how much money it plans to use to fund the Iowa City-based organization for expanding its services.

Katy Rasmussen, who coordinates the Johnson County Sexual Assault Response Team, says RVAP has made sure victim advocates were present during sexual assault exams. She said it’s common for peer organizations to comingle domestic violence and sexual assault services in the same organization.

“It is fairly common, and there is a big overlap in terms of patient populations when you’re looking at domestic or intrapersonal violence as well as sexual violence."

Rasmussen says she is concerned about the potential loss of RVAP’s experienced sexual assault advocates.

IPR News

IRS warns Iowans of tax scams

Posted April 11, 2024 at 8:29 AM CDT

The IRS is warning Iowans about bad tax advice circulating online.

IRS spokesperson Christopher Miller says there are scams that collect personal information for identity theft. There are also videos on platforms like TikTok urging people to misuse common tax documents like W-2 forms, or more obscure ones, like Form 8944, involving a technical e-file form not commonly used by taxpayers.

“Bad advice regarding taxes on social media platforms can lead to normally honest taxpayers filing fraudulent tax forms and other information, and that can lead to civil and even criminal penalties.”

Miller adds there are scams involving emails or pop-up browser messages, claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment. Miller says the IRS does not contact taxpayers in such a fashion.

Miller says taxpayers can get many of their questions answered on the IRS website. The agency is also holding an event at the IRS office in Des Moines on Saturday for face-to-face help without an appointment.

IPR News

Sierra Club asks EPA to investigate co-op responsible for fertilizer spill

Posted April 10, 2024 at 1:32 PM CDT

The Sierra Club is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to take part in the investigation and any enforcement action against the co-op responsible for a massive fertilizer spill into a river in southwest Iowa.

On March 11, workers at New Co-op in Red Oak discovered a valve on a tank had been left open and released 265,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen. Most ended up in the East Nishnabotna River. The Iowa and Missouri DNR estimate every fish along a 60-mile stretch of the river died as a result. The spill may be the largest fish kill ever recorded in the state.

Pam Mackey-Taylor, director of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, says the size of the spill and its impact on wildlife is unprecedented in Iowa, but she’s not confident the state will do enough to hold New Co-Op accountable.

“I’m sure that the DNR officials that deal with fisheries and ensuring water quality are alarmed, but I don’t know what kind of political pressure they are under to downplay it.”

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources can administratively order fines of up to $10,000 for fish kills. Mackey-Taylor says the EPA can levy greater fines and conduct any possible criminal investigation.

Radio Iowa

Blank Park Zoo plans expansion

Posted April 10, 2024 at 10:38 AM CDT

The Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines announced its largest expansion in history Monday. CEO Anne Shimerdla says the expansion and renovation effort will include the “Wild Iowa” exhibit on Iowa’s endangered species.

“There are over 100 species listed as endangered or a special concern from the Iowa DNR, and that means that action is imperative that we do things in our own backyards and inspire everybody to take part in the conservation work.”

The renovation will include deepening the river otters’ pool at the zoo and expanding their space.

“We’ll also move up the path into a shallow stream area where we can view their native behaviors, and then up around on the other end into a viewing cabin, where we can view the otters and their grass spaces.”

She says that also includes a tunnel that will go into the otter pool so you can see the otters swim around. The viewing cabin will feature smaller reptiles and amphibians located in Iowa to help highlight the zoo’s conservation programs, including for the Blanding’s turtle.

The zoo also plans to remodel and expand the lion conservation area.

“Our indoor area for breeding will allow us to become leaders within the cat conservation programs on a global scale.”

Shimerdla says the zoo is two-thirds of the way to its “Expand the Impact” $18 million fundraising goal.

Radio Iowa

Governor says Iowa coach Bluder’s pay should recognize excellence

Posted April 10, 2024 at 10:36 AM CDT

Gov. Kim Reynolds says Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder has done a “phenomenal job” and her pay should reflect that.

“I think we need to recognize her. She’s done a great job. I think that should be reflected in the salaries. I always want to encourage recognizing excellence.”

Reynolds did not suggest what Bluder’s salary should be.

The Iowa men's basketball coach of 13 years, Fran McCaffrey, earned about $3.2 million this year, while Bluder, in her 24th season as the Iowa women’s coach, made $1.4 million salary this season, plus $310,000 worth of bonuses due to her team’s run in this year’s NCAA tournament.

Reynolds said the Hawkeye women have “changed the landscape of women’s sports,” capped by a championship game that was the most-watched basketball game since 2019 — surpassing college men’s basketball and NBA games over the past five seasons.

“That team has changed women’s sports forever. The number of people that watched, the number of people that were cheering them on.”

While speaking with reporters earlier today, Reynolds praised National Player of the Year Caitlin Clark and her Hawkeye teammates. 

“They really have just captured the hearts of the country and have done amazing things for women’s sports. All you have to do is look at the little girls that are not only standing in the audience with the signs, but are waiting to have a chance to shake her hand or have her sign something or to emulate what she’s done, so that should always be recognized.”

IPR News

Woodbury County supervisor’s wife files notice of appeal in voter fraud conviction

Posted April 9, 2024 at 4:24 PM CDT

A notice of appeal has been filed in the case of the wife of a Woodbury County supervisor sentenced to prison for voter fraud.

On April 1, Kim Phoung Taylor of Sioux City received four months behind bars and four months of home confinement for her conviction on 52 counts.

During the trial in November, prosecutors said Taylor took part in a scheme to steal votes from other immigrants from the Vietnamese community for her husband’s elections in 2020. Her husband, Jeremy Taylor, is currently on the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors, but doesn’t plan to run for reelection.

Taylor’s court-appointed attorney, Guy Weinstein from Omaha, tells IPR News that he wanted to give her the option to appeal within the 14-day deadline. He says no official decision has been made and notes that he took over Taylor’s case just a couple of days ago.

IPR News

Iowa City’s Domestic Violence Intervention Program plans to add sexual assault support services

Posted April 9, 2024 at 4:12 PM CDT

Iowa City’s Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) will have to grow considerably to add the sexual assault support services once provided by the University of Iowa. The university is laying off 12 full-time workers as part of its transition.

Currently, DVIP runs an emergency shelter, a hotline, a mobile response program and advocates for victims in the hospital and in the judicial system. But before it can begin working with survivors of sexual assault, DVIP anticipates adding between ten and 15 staff for the new services.

DVIP Director of Community Engagement Alta Medea says they’re planning to take on new staff members, but hiring will depend on the competitive bidding process required for federal and state funding.

“It will be work. Writing any grant takes time. But we’re comfortable in that work. We’ve done it many times, we’ve been doing it the entire time that I’ve been here and much, much longer.”

Already, state and federal funds account for 54% of DVIP’s budget. Medea says funding sources will ultimately determine the staffing for sexual assault support services added as part of the transition.

IPR News

Waterloo’s 1619 school opens reading room

Posted April 9, 2024 at 2:41 PM CDT

Waterloo’s 1619 Freedom School always had a plan for the Willie Mae Wright Community Room within All-In Grocers: to create a space for neighborhood kids to learn Black history.

The plan came together in months thanks to wide community support of donated books, time and money.

Civil rights activist Willie Mae Wright, the namesake of the community room, was on hand for the opening. Now in her 90s, she says the reading room will help the neighborhood’s kids better understand their history.

“It’s something that’s needed for the kids in the neighborhood. They have a reading room, they can come and read about it. It’s quite an ordeal.”

The youth library is an extension of the 1619 Freedom School’s Liberation Library, a lending library for adults in the city.

IPR news

Calls for Pottawattamie County supervisor to resign

Posted April 9, 2024 at 1:34 PM CDT

Democrats in Pottawattamie County are calling on a member of the Board of Supervisors to resign after his arrest over the weekend.

Jeff Jorgensen was charged with OWI and failure to maintain control after he hit a parked vehicle on I-80 in Pottawattamie County on Saturday.

According to the criminal complaint, Jorgensen was more than twice the legal limit (0.168) and admitted to having too many drinks.

A news release issued by the chair of the Pottawattamie County Democrats says the community “deserves elected leadership that takes responsibility seriously and acts with integrity.”

Jorgensen did not publicly comment on the arrest during a supervisor's meeting in Council Bluffs on Tuesday. After the meeting, he told reporters he would not step down.

He previously told Omaha television station KETV that he attended a Republican event in Fort Dodge on Saturday and was self-medicating to grieve the death of his wife last year.

IPR News

University of Iowa ending RVAP program

Posted April 9, 2024 at 9:24 AM CDT

The University of Iowa is ending a program that works with victims of sexual violence. It says it's transitioning services to another community partner.

Details are still murky, but 12 full-time staff and other part-time workers are being laid off.

Olivia Brown was in the middle of class when they learned they were out of the job. In an email from the Division of Student Life, Brown learned the University of Iowa was dissolving the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, where they worked on the crisis line and accompanied rape victims to the hospital.

Brown says they were blindsided and claims the decisions were made behind closed doors.

“We were quite literally the last to know about it.”

Brown said it's unclear what the university will do with funds from major donors, including its endowment.

The UI says it is transitioning service to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, which services a similar area. But it's unclear whether DVIP will have to compete for that funding with other providers.

The university did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

St. Louis Public Radio

Thousands flock to southern Illinois, southeast Missouri for total solar eclipse

Posted April 8, 2024 at 4:17 PM CDT

Thousands of eclipse-chasers descended on southern Illinois and southeast Missouri, hoping for a chance to see Monday’s celestial spectacle.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, temporarily blocking out its view.

Such a phenomenon happens every year or two, according to NASA. But having two of them intersect in one location is rare, said Travis Wohlrab, a public engagement officer with the Goddard Space Flight Center.

“The fact that this region is receiving two in a matter of seven years… the odds of that happening are about one in a billion.”

The Illinois Office of Tourism estimates the last total solar eclipse in 2017 brought 200,000 people to the southern part of the state. It says they had an economic impact of more than $15 million.

Eclipse viewers in southeast Missouri got more than four minutes of totality and pretty clear skies.

Jason Willis was one attendee who made a big change of plans because of cloudy conditions elsewhere. He flew from his home state of North Carolina to Texas, then drove for two days to Burfordville, Miss. He even slept one night in his car.

“I’m overjoyed because it was hit or miss all week whether we were going to make it here and be able to see something clearly.”

NOAA predicts the next total solar eclipse will be in August 2026. It will cover portions of the Arctic, eastern Greenland, Iceland and northern Spain.

Read the full story.

Radio Iowa

29 Iowa counties are ‘Bottle Bill’ redemption deserts

Posted April 8, 2024 at 3:43 PM CDT

A coalition that supports Iowa’s long-standing “Bottle Bill” says 29 counties are now “redemption deserts,” where there is nowhere to take an empty beverage can or bottle and redeem the deposit fee.

Iowa lawmakers changed the Bottle Bill in 2022, which increased the per-container handling fee for redemption centers. Retailers that sell pop, beer and other beverages can opt out of the requirement to accept empties and pay deposits if there’s a redemption center nearby.

The Cleaner Iowa coalition, which surveyed hundreds of Iowa retailers that sell beverages and collect the nickel deposit, found only 18.4% of Iowa grocery stores that responded continue to accept empties and pay back the deposits.

Spokesperson R.G. Schwarm says most of the “redemption deserts” are in rural areas.

“The Bottle Bill works and it will continue to work as long as convenient redemption opportunities are available.”

Cleaner Iowa’s survey connected with 143 retailers that were not allowed by the new law to opt out, and just eight were still accepting empty containers. The 2022 law established a civil fine for retailers that failed to follow the law, but Schwarm says the Iowa Department of Natural Resources hasn’t set up a system to investigate complaints.

“I think a big part of this with the changes is education. I don’t think a lot of folks recognize where they can redeem and also how they can contact the Department of Natural Resources if they are non-compliant.”

Radio Iowa

Southern Iowa will be best for eclipse gazing

Posted April 8, 2024 at 9:45 AM CDT
Madeleine King
IPR News

The view of Monday’s solar eclipse will range from excellent to so-so to lousy, depending on where you’re located in Iowa at midday.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Dylan Dodson says folks in the cloudy northern few tiers of counties may have to hop in the car and head south if they want to see the spectacle clearly.

While parts of the nation will see a total eclipse, the sun will be about 90% covered in southeast Iowa, and more like 75% in northwest Iowa. The moon will start covering the sun around 12:45 p.m. and peak around 2 p.m.

Robert Funk, an ophthalmologist with Gundersen Health System in Waukon, says those who plan to view the event will need a pair of ultra-dark eclipse glasses. Many stores are selling special glasses, but Funk says be sure to get some that are ISO-certified.

IPR News

Hawkeyes lose to South Carolina Gamecocks in NCAA women’s basketball championship

Posted April 8, 2024 at 9:42 AM CDT

The South Carolina Gamecocks bested the Hawkeyes over the weekend, a heartbreaking end for the season and for Iowa star Caitlin Clark’s college career.

She announced in February that she was entering the 2024 WNBA draft.

Just after Sunday’s loss, UI graduate student Lani Brown said even in defeat, it’s a season she won’t forget.

“Even though obviously the season didn’t end the way we wanted it to, it was a really, really fun process and it really brought the entire city and state of Iowa together. It’s sad knowing that she won’t bring that black and yellow anymore but she is definitely going to continue to grow in the WNBA and bring the entire sport world together in one piece.”

Clark is a two-time national player of the year. She’s projected to be the number one pick in the WNBA Draft on April 15 in New York. The Indiana Fever have the first pick.

The final score was 87-75 South Carolina.

IPR News

Budget cuts to close Waverly pool for summer season

Posted April 8, 2024 at 8:00 AM CDT

Waverly and five other communities have had a swim team at the city’s pool for almost 50 years, but due to a $1.8 million budget cut, the pool will not open this summer.

Legislative tax changes have affected recreation opportunities for several northeast Iowa communities due to budget cuts.

Anne Duncan is the head coach of the swim club. She says she’s concerned about the future safety of the kids who won’t have access to the pool — regardless if they're on the swim team.

"When those kids become teenagers, are we going to see an uptick in aquatic-related accidents? Especially for families that might have a financial barrier to private or group lessons and they never get that formal training, going to the pool is the only way they learn."

Waverly is considering building a new pool, which would displace the swim club and residents for at least two more years.

IPR News

Black Hawk clinic to install security cameras to prevent violence

Posted April 5, 2024 at 4:59 PM CDT

Studies from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics have shown that instances of violence in healthcare settings are five times more likely than other industries. One northeast Iowa clinic is taking a preventative step.

The Black Hawk-Grundy Mental Health Clinic has been around since 1950. In that time, it has seen two expansions and countless updates, but never security cameras. That could change soon, as the clinic has spent the last several years partnering with local and county law enforcement to reevaluate what a safe mental health space looks like.

Executive director of the clinic, Tom Eachus, says while he’s only seen one or two instances of violence in his 35 years on the job, the plan to implement cameras is a preventive measure designed to help everyone feel safe.

"We wanted to make sure that patients who come here for services and staff who provide those services, family members who come with patients and community representatives who visit regularly are in an environment they feel safe and secure in."

The clinic currently serves about 6,000 patients across the region.

IPR News

Hawkeye women's basketball to play UConn in Final Four

Posted April 5, 2024 at 2:59 PM CDT

The Iowa Hawkeye women’s basketball team will play the Connecticut Huskies at 8:30 p.m CT on Friday in an NCAA Final Four game in Cleveland. Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Mike Hlas is covering the game, and says Iowa has come together as a team around star Caitlin Clark. He also says it took a team effort to beat LSU on Monday, and the Hawkeyes need to match that effort against UConn and their coach, Geno Auriemma.

“Here we are in the second game of the year in a five-day period. Once again, it’s gotta be all hands on deck. And because, look, Geno Auriemma is gonna have a plan for Clark. That doesn't mean they’re going to hold her down. It just means you try to focus on her and if the other four players beat you, so be it. You live with it.”

The Hawkeyes are a slight favorite in the game. The team that wins will take on the winner of the earlier game between North Carolina State and the so-far undefeated South Carolina.


Average age of farmers grows while number of farms decline amidst high costs

Posted April 5, 2024 at 12:13 PM CDT

Last year the National Future Farmers of America Organization (FFA) announced a new record membership – almost one million students. Yet the most recent agriculture census from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found the country lost 140,000 farms over a five-year-period, bringing the total number to just under two million farms.

Increased costs are cited as a major challenge for new farmers. Higher farmland prices, high priced farm equipment and the low-margin nature of the business are among the biggest barriers to entry.

According to the latest USDA ag census, the average age of farmers has increased to 58 years old, but the number of new and beginning farmers also is increasing. Now, one million of the 3.4 million farmers in the U.S. are “beginning” farmers, meaning they have 10 or fewer years of experience.

Cait Caughey, the senior beginning farmer and market associate at the Center for Rural Affairs, says she sees a lot of younger people coming into farming because they want to tackle real-world problems like racism, food sovereignty and climate change.

“You're seeing urban youth and rural youth who are interested, they might want there to be a path for them to be involved in agriculture, but we are up against enormous issues when it comes to accessing land."

You can read the full story from Harvest Public Media here.

Side Effects Public Media

New study finds racial disparities in air pollution related deaths

Posted April 5, 2024 at 9:48 AM CDT

A new study found that air pollution has caused 50,000 premature deaths and over 100,000 new cases of pediatric asthma in 2019. Iowa had more than 500 premature deaths and 550 new cases of pediatric asthma due to pollution. The study has also found that the racial and ethnic disparities in air pollution levels have widened.

Gaige Kerr, a researcher at George Washington University and the study’s lead author, says these disparities impact areas that already have health struggles.

“Even without air pollution, They're sicker because they have reduced access to nutritious food, or health care, etc.”

According to the study, the racial and ethnic disparities between the least and most white communities has widened by 16% for premature deaths related to soot, and 19% for pediatric asthma related to nitrogen dioxide.

Radio Iowa

Total solar eclipse Monday will be visible in Iowa

Posted April 5, 2024 at 9:47 AM CDT

It’s been seven years since a total solar eclipse darkened parts of the Midwest, and although Monday’s event won’t be a total eclipse in Iowa, it will still be significant.

Prof. Channon Visscher at Dordt University says the eclipse will be noticeable even for those not in the direct path of the event.

“Up in the northwest corner of Iowa here, we’re going to see about 75% coverage,” Visscher says. “If you go down to southeast Iowa, you’ll get up to about 90% of the sun’s just getting covered, but throughout most of the state we’re going to see about three-fourths of the sun get covered up by the moon.”

The eclipse will begin about 12:40 pm, but Visscher says the maximum coverage will occur around 2 pm.

Wear solar eclipse glasses for protection when viewing the eclipse.

Radio Iowa

Fort Dodge police officers cleared in fatal shooting

Posted April 4, 2024 at 3:27 PM CDT

A report finds four Fort Dodge police officers were justified in using deadly force in a March shooting that left one man dead.

Webster County Attorney Darren Driscoll released his findings, concluding that the officers used a level of force that a reasonable person would have deemed necessary to prevent injury or loss. The officers responded on March 16 to a report of a distress call. The caller reported that an individual within the residence was out of control and had injured a dog.

The officers entered the residence and found a male armed with two knives. The man, later identified as 25-year-old Tyler Stansberry, allegedly ran at the officers prompting one of the four officers to shoot him. Stansberry died as a result.

The police department’s focus is now on returning the officers to full duty status after the investigation.

IPR News

Iowa DNR says people won't notice changes in park staff under new plan

Posted April 4, 2024 at 2:16 PM CDT

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says a plan to reassign park rangers will not mean decreased law enforcement presence in state parks. Under the plan, park rangers will be reclassified as conservation officers and cover a larger geographic area.

Pete Hildreth, head of the DNR’s Conservation and Recreation Division, says Iowans visiting state parks won’t see a difference.

“An alignment will merge state park rangers and conservation officers into a single force that will ultimately increase our law enforcement coverage in our state parks in addition to our other public lands under DNR jurisdiction. So that way staff with similar functions will be working together under one bureau.”

Hildreth says state park managers and natural resource technicians will handle state park operations, allowing sworn officers to focus on law enforcement. He also says the DNR has consistently advised park-goers seeking law enforcement assistance to call 911.

The plan is part of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ mandate to streamline state departments.

Radio Iowa

DNA match identifies remains as Iowa girl missing since 1977

Posted April 4, 2024 at 10:44 AM CDT

Remains that were found in Missouri 46 years ago have been identified as a southeast Iowa girl. Wapello County Sheriff Detective Aaron McConnell is asking for the public’s help in the death of 15-year-old Helen Renee Grooms of Ottumwa, who went missing in 1977.

“Anybody that knew Helen back in 1977, 1978, or the family is encouraged to call us. Even if you think it’s nothing. It’d still be nice to put little pieces of the puzzle together.”

Grooms was dubbed “Lincoln County Jane Doe” since her body was found in the Mississippi River near Elsberry, Mo., in March 1978. Her body was exhumed last October.

“The Lincoln County Coroner’s Office made contact with us, gave us a brief synopsis of what they had done already,” McConnell says. “They advised that they had a possible DNA match to a possible brother.”

McConnell says a family DNA sample he collected matched the girl’s DNA and allowed investigators to identify Grooms. Her remains were returned to her family.

McConnell described meeting Grooms’ brother.

“You can just imagine, right? A brother not knowing where your sister was for 46-47 years,” McConnell says. “Every family deserves to know what happened to their loved ones that went missing no matter how long ago it was.”

The Wapello County Sheriff’s Office says there are approximately 585 cold cases in the state of Iowa.

Harvest Public Media

Pig producers saw costs outpace profits in 2023. Will this year be better?

Posted April 4, 2024 at 9:00 AM CDT

Last year, it cost more to raise a hog than it brought in at sale. Producers lost, on average, $32 per head in 2023.

This year's pork production outlook is slightly better. Lee Schulz, an associate professor and extension economist at Iowa State University, predicts a 10% decrease in production costs in 2024. He said an increase in hog prices over the last 60-90 days is helping.

However, the industry still faces many headwinds. Input costs such as energy and labor remain high, the upcoming closure of a long-running facility in Perry is likely to impact output and California’s new Prop 12 rules will present new challenges for breeders.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

IPR News

New system launches for Iowans applying for unemployment benefits

Posted April 3, 2024 at 3:55 PM CDT

Iowa Workforce Development has been running the ID.me system in test mode since January. It became standard practice this week.

Director of Iowa Workforce Development Beth Townsend says ID.me is used by 29 other states, and it’s been successful in preventing fraud and identity theft during the application process.

“It helps us ensure, using next-generation identity platforms, that you are who you say you are. And so, when we approve and pay a claim, you will receive the money, that it’s not someone else making a claim on your behalf, with or without your knowledge. And that the money is going to an account that you actually own.”

Townsend says initial registration for ID.me involves photographing and uploading certain documents and should take about five minutes. During testing, 96% of applicants could use the system without any problems.

“It’s not going to be a significant increase in the amount of time or complexity to get your unemployment claim filed.”

Townsend says the system has proven secure and doesn’t access personal data stored by IWD. Once registered, claimants must sign into their ID.me account each week.

IPR News

Seniors who are hospitalized are at risk of a dangerous downward spiral. Some programs are trying to help

Posted April 3, 2024 at 1:01 PM CDT
Celita Flowers, of Waterloo, Iowa, participated in Iowa's Return to Community program following a hospitalization for COVID-19 and pneumonia. The program helped set up Flowers with housekeeping services because her health issues did not allow her to deep clean her house.
Natalie Krebs
Side Effects Public Media
Celita Flowers, of Waterloo, Iowa, participated in Iowa's Return to Community program following a hospitalization for COVID-19 and pneumonia. The program helped set up Flowers with housekeeping services because her health issues did not allow her to deep clean her house.

Studies show that when older adults are hospitalized for an injury or illness, they're at risk for what some researchers call hospital-acquired disability. That's characterized by seniors leaving the hospital and increasingly struggling with daily living activities.

With a hospital-acquired disability, many seniors risk cycling back in and out of the emergency room, which could eventually lead them into pricey nursing home care involuntarily or even contribute to their death.

It's a growing concern as estimates show more than one in five Americans will be over the age of 65 by 2030.

Several programs in Iowa seek to assist seniors who have been recently hospitalized in order to combat that downward spiral before it begins and prevent seniors from going into institutionalized care when they may not need it.

Read the full story.

IPR news

Iowa ‘Bumble Bee Atlas’ seeks volunteers for research, tracking

Posted April 3, 2024 at 11:04 AM CDT

A new statewide project is looking for volunteers to help researchers track and monitor Iowa’s at-risk bumblebee population.

The Iowa Bumble Bee Atlas is a collaboration between organizations including Iowa State University and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The aim is to understand native bumblebee distributions and habitat needs throughout the state. Matt O’Neal, an entomology professor at ISU, says they’ll train people to locate, count and identify different species of bees.

“It's not so much a number of volunteers, like I said we’ll take as many as we can get. What we’re looking for is a good coverage across the state. The atlas will divide the state up into some 40 different districts, and we want to make sure all of those districts have some volunteer that goes out and looks for bumblebees.”

Iowa is home to at least 14 species of bumblebees, which play an essential role in sustaining the health of the environment. Unfortunately, several bumblebee species native to Iowa face an uncertain future.

IPR News

Baltimore bridge collapse won’t have major impact on Midwest manufacturers

Posted April 2, 2024 at 4:03 PM CDT

Supply chain experts say the bridge collapse that closed the Port of Baltimore won’t have a major impact on Midwestern manufactures.

In 2023, the port moved nearly $81 billion in foreign cargo value. Part of that came from major ag equipment manufacturers like CNH Industrial and John Deere.

Iowa State University’s Frank Montabon is a professor of supply chain management. He says farmers buying equipment could see some cost increases related to the trouble in the Port of Baltimore. But for the average consumer, the impact will be muted as firms adjust their supply chains.

“That again gets to the idea of resiliency. Can you deal with some sort of shock. Some companies are great at it and have figured it out very well. Some companies, for whatever reasons, they don’t want to take the time and energy to be ready for that,” he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard is working to reopen the port. Experts say the length of that closure will be key to curbing its impact.

IPR News

Iowa women’s basketball team moves on to Final Four

Posted April 2, 2024 at 3:51 PM CDT

On Monday, Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes bested defending NCAA women's basketball champions Louisiana State University 97-84 in the Elite Eight round of NCAA tournament. It's the hawk's second trip to the Final Four in as many years, marking the third trip to Final Four for the program overall.

This Friday, Iowa will face off against the University of Connecticut, while North Carolina State will battle South Carolina. The Final Four games will be broadcast back-to-back beginning at 6 p.m. CT Friday on ESPN. The championship game will broadcast live from Cleveland Sunday at 2 p.m. CT on ABC.

Radio Iowa

Emerald ash borer confirmed in 98 of Iowa’s 99 counties

Posted April 2, 2024 at 2:57 PM CDT

As spring approaches, the Iowa DNR is keeping an eye on Emmet County in far northwest Iowa. It’s the only county left in the state with no confirmed infestations of the emerald ash borer.

Mike Kintner, an entomologist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture, says the invasive, tree-killing insects can be hard to spot, and when you do find them, it’s likely too late for the tree.

“In the earlier days, they were marshalling yards where they would take the tree debris and chip it up, and quarantines came into place,” Kintner says. “We’ve just found out through the years that… the insect’s going to continue to move, unfortunately, no matter what we do as humans. We can slow it down, but we can’t stop it.”

The DNR says people are responsible for the spread of the emerald ash borer, which was first confirmed in Iowa in 2010, through the movement of infested firewood, ash nursery stock and other ash items. Many communities in Iowa have been systematically cutting down their ash trees, infected or not, and planting different species of trees in their place.

Radio Iowa

Iowa AG joins 26 states in asking SCOTUS to block Illinois' AR-15 ban

Posted April 2, 2024 at 2:55 PM CDT

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird released a statement Tuesday announcing a joint effort with attorneys general in 26 other states asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block an Illinois law banning AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles.

Bird calls the 2023 Illinois law banning the manufacture, importation, sale and ownership of assault weapons, including AR-15s and standard-capacity magazines “an outright assault on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”

The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in the U.S., with a recent poll showing more than 24 million Americans own one, or a comparable firearm. A federal court upheld the ban and ruled that AR-15s and magazines aren't considered arms under the Second Amendment because they are militaristic.

U.S. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says it’s important to find balance between protecting people and Second Amendment rights.

“States can, in 50 different ways, try to regulate guns, but it’s got to be within the Supreme Court decision,” Grassley says. “So, Illinois can pass what they want to pass, but sometimes it’s going to be checked by the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court’s going to make that determination of constitutionality.”


Woodbury County supervisor's wife will serve prison time for voter fraud

Posted April 2, 2024 at 10:57 AM CDT
Kim Phuong Taylor received a split sentence of four months behind bars and two years of supervised release, including four months of house arrest at a sentencing hearing Mon., April 1 in Sioux City.
Shelia Brummer
Kim Phuong Taylor received a split sentence of four months behind bars and two years of supervised release, including four months of house arrest at a sentencing hearing Mon., April 1 in Sioux City.

The wife of a Woodbury County supervisor convicted of 52 counts of voter fraud will spend time in prison.

Kim Phuong Taylor received a split sentence of four months behind bars and two years of supervised release, including four months of house arrest. She received the sentence Monday afternoon in a federal courtroom in Sioux City. Federal prosecutors had pushed for 18 to 24 months for the mother of six.

In November, a jury found Taylor guilty of illegally filling out forms and ballots for other members of the Vietnamese community to help her husband, Jeremy, in elections for Congress and county supervisor in 2020. Judge Leonard Strand said her lack of a criminal record and significant community support weighed into his decision. Taylor has 14 days to appeal.

The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment. Taylor’s attorney, F. Montgomery Brown, says he was pleased with the outcome.

Read the full story.

Radio Iowa

Vilsack hoping Iowa reverses refusal of extra federal dollars for summer food program

Posted April 1, 2024 at 4:35 PM CDT

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he hopes Iowa officials reconsider the decision to turn down additional federal food assistance in the summer for about 240,000 Iowa children from low-income households.

“I’m hopeful that at some point in time the state of Iowa joins 37 other states that have made the decision to participate in the summer feeding program,” Vilsack says.

Under the program, families with children eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school may receive an Electronic Benefits Card that allows them to buy an extra $40 worth of food per child during the summer months when school is not in session.

In December, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Iowa would not participate in the program because of administrative costs to the state and because it “did nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic.” Republican governors in 13 other states announced similar decisions last year, but in February, Nebraska’s governor reversed course and announced Nebraska would accept $18 million in additional federal food assistance for Nebraska children this summer.

The USDA extended the deadline for states to sign up for the Summer Food Service Program to mid-February, but has indicated it will work with all states that are “operationally ready” to administer the program this summer.

According to the USDA, the parents of 21 million children across the country will get the extra food assistance this summer.

IPR Music

Des Moines Music Coalition adds camping to 80/35 at Water Works Park

Posted April 1, 2024 at 9:57 AM CDT

The Des Moines Music Coalition has announced the 80/35 Music Festival will take place July 12-13, 2024 at Water Works Park in Des Moines.

“We love that we can bring the festival to one of the most beautiful parks in the Midwest and create a fresh experience,” said Kuuku Saah, Board President of the Des Moines Music Coalition. “80/35 was built by music lovers who were willing to volunteer hundreds of hours to create one of the largest nonprofit festivals in the country. There are not a lot of communities that can sustain a music festival like this. We are fortunate to celebrate our 15th edition with a festival that will excite and challenge people’s music tastes.”

The theme for the 2024 festival is Some Call It Sorcery, We Call It Music. The full lineup will be announced on April 12, with early-bird tickets on sale now.

IPR News

New report says Iowans have more difficulty accessing contraception since Dobbs decision

Posted April 1, 2024 at 9:41 AM CDT

The report is part of an ongoing study of reproductive access in Iowa, Arizona, New Jersey and Wisconsin by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that supports reproductive rights.

The most recent study surveyed women of reproductive age before and after the 2022 Supreme Court Dobbs decision on their sexual activity and contraception access.

“Specifically in Iowa, we found that people reported more trouble or delays in trying to get their preferred contraception after the Dobbs decision, compared to before,” said Megan Kavanaugh of the Guttmacher Institute.

The report also found a decrease in quality of care, and while Iowans’ pregnancy desires didn’t change following the Dobbs decision, sexual activity did decrease.

IPR News

USDA confirms bird flu in dairy cattle in Texas, Kansas

Posted March 29, 2024 at 11:28 AM CDT

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed that avian flu has been reported in older dairy cattle in Texas and Kansas.

In her weekly press call Friday morning, Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District Rep. Ashley Hinson talked about her concerns regarding the spread of the disease.

Hinson says she’s been working closely with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig to come up with a solution and is looking to bring in federal help as well.

“It’s going to take an all-government response to make sure we’re controlling the spread and mitigating the impact on our producers long-term.”

According to the USDA’s report, wild birds were the likely culprit of the spread. Federal officials are also investigating similar cases in New Mexico.

Harvest Public Media

Iowa's gray fox population is declining. Researchers want to know why

Posted March 29, 2024 at 11:27 AM CDT
A gray fox sites in a metal cage outside
Courtesy of Iowa DNR

Gray foxes are one of the few canines in the world known to climb trees; their rotating forearms and semi-retractable claws help them scoot up trunks to hunt and escape predators. The unique canine can be found throughout nearly all of the U.S., north into the eastern edges of Canada and south through Central America and the northern part of South America.

Yet their numbers have steadily dropped in several Midwestern states. In Iowa, for instance, historic harvest data and wildlife observation surveys conducted by DNR staff and volunteers indicate a steady, downward trend over the last 25 years.

“It’s to the point now that it’s a pretty big concern because the population is so low that we’re at risk of losing this wildlife species out there,” said Vince Evelsizer, an Iowa DNR furbearer biologist. “And on top of that, there really isn’t very much research that has been done about the gray fox in the Midwest.”

Wildlife biologists from Illinois, Indiana and Ohio have noticed a similar decline and are looking for answers. Now researchers at state agencies in all four states are conducting studies, hoping to share what they learn to better understand regional trends.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media and listen to Evelsizer discuss the research project to learn more about gray fox decline on IPR’s Talk of Iowa.

Radio Iowa

Reynolds sending Iowa Guard soldiers, law officers to Texas for third time

Posted March 29, 2024 at 9:54 AM CDT

Gov. Kim Reynolds is sending a small group of Iowa law officers and dozens of Iowa National Guard soldiers to assist Texas authorities with border security.

This is the third time Reynolds has deployed Iowans to Texas. On Monday, 110 Iowa National Guard soldiers will start a month-long tour of duty with the Texas Military Department. Eight state troopers and two Iowa Department of Public Safety sergeants will also leave Iowa for a 28-day stint in Texas on Sunday.

“Texas faces nothing short of an invasion with historic levels of illegal immigrants,” Reynolds said in a written statement, adding that the Iowans she’s sending south will be “frontline” help for Texas.

All of the people the governor is deploying to Texas are volunteers and Reynolds said she will use federal pandemic relief money to cover their expenses.

IPR News

Waverly farm preps for Easter

Posted March 28, 2024 at 2:39 PM CDT

Easter is this weekend, and Solstice Farm in Waverly has a head start on coloring eggs.

The farm has been around for just over five years and keeps between 180 to 200 chickens for their eggs.

Those birds are several different breeds, which means more than just different colored feathers: that makes each egg unique, as well.

Farm owner Mark Westbrock says that means his hens are taking care of his Easter prep.

“Blue eggs, green eggs, 364 days out of the year, they’re the most beautiful eggs out there, but you can’t really dye them, because they’re already colored.”

Westbrock adds that organic farming practices also help in bringing out the eggs’ richer colors.

Radio Iowa

Baltimore bridge collapse could be catastrophic for shipping Iowa goods

Posted March 28, 2024 at 1:32 PM CDT

The deadly collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge may have significant ripple effects in Iowa, as the port in Maryland is a vital link in the supply chain for getting Iowa’s commodities and a range of products to overseas markets.

Iowa U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says he’s concerned that as long as that port is blocked by the wreckage and out of commission, the effects will be widespread.

“There’s a lot of heavy manufacturing and even some grain leaving Iowa through the Baltimore port, so it’s going to have a catastrophic impact on the economy.”

Grassley says it’s possible Iowa companies that need to ship their commodities or products overseas via the East coast can use another port, but most of them are farther away, which would likely mean higher costs.

IPR News

House oversight committee hearing held for Davenport employee payouts

Posted March 28, 2024 at 11:08 AM CDT

Iowa lawmakers are gathering information about the $2 million Davenport paid to three former employees last fall.

In a state House oversight committee hearing, Rep. Brooke Boden, R-Indianola, called the situation “disgraceful.”

“I’m concerned about the waste of taxpayer dollars. With Davenport now entering into lawsuits with their own residents, with our state auditor’s office, we have $2 million that are unanswered for in what appears to be a complete lack of transparency. It’s perplexing to me.”

Davenport paid former City Administrator Corri Spiegel $600,000 for lost wages and $1 million for emotional pain and suffering, citing “harassment at the hands of a former city alderman.”

The Quad-City Times and area residents have asked the courts to mandate the release of documents explaining why the city agreed to these settlements behind closed doors.

IPR News

Iowa City Community School District closes Hills elementary

Posted March 28, 2024 at 11:07 AM CDT

The Iowa City Community School District is closing its smallest elementary school, citing continued budget shortfalls.

Over the last three years, the district has cut $24.8 million from its budget. Closing the school gets the district closer to meeting the $7.5 million in expenses it needs to cut over the next two years.

But school board President Ruthina Malone says an end still isn’t in sight. She says the state’s per-pupil funding isn’t sufficient to meet rising costs, citing rising insurance premiums, building costs and employee pay. Meanwhile, districts have been limited in the amount of money they can raise from property taxes.

“We have to make hard decisions to protect our programming for our students and our people.”

Budgetary pressure is forcing hard choices across the region. Last week, the Linn-Mar School District cut 50 people from its staff. The Highland Community School District in Riverside is considering transitioning to a four-day school week to cut costs and recruit talent.

IPR News

UI to continue to charge grad student workers fees despite drop request from union

Posted March 28, 2024 at 11:06 AM CDT

The University of Iowa says it will continue to charge its graduate student workers student fees. This comes after the graduate students requested the UI drop these fees completely for workers. The union called on the public to boycott a fundraiser.

Like undergraduate students, graduate student workers pay mandatory fees that go toward a range of university costs like new construction projects and athletic facilities.

Hannah Zadeh, the president of UI graduate student union, said while fees appear to be a minor cost to the university, it’s not for workers.

“When you’re being paid as little as graduate workers are, paying hundreds of dollars in fees every semester is a really huge financial burden.”

Due to the state’s restrictions on collective bargaining, the union cannot bring up fees as part of contract negotiations with the Board of Regents.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the One Day for Iowa fundraiser had raised nearly $2 million.

IPR News

Waterloo considers moving rail yard away from Smokey Row

Posted March 27, 2024 at 3:38 PM CDT

The city of Waterloo is considering moving one of its rail yards to help make some of its lower income neighborhoods safer and more equitable.

Currently, one of the Canadian National lines cuts through Smokey Row, a predominantly Black neighborhood in the city.

The rail yard creates noise and air pollution, which has driven down property values for generations, and physically divides the neighborhood from the rest of the city. The average home in Smokey Row is priced at about $60,000, less than half of the rest of the city.

Community Planning Director Noel Anderson says a $750,000 study to move the yard could be the first step in fixing the problem.

“It’s a matter of looking at the larger impact on the whole neighborhood and how eliminating some of these problems could help the larger area.”

The railyard has been in the neighborhood for nearly a century.

IPR News

Auditor expresses concern over time attorney general’s office has spent reviewing pause on paying for emergency contraception for rape victims

Posted March 27, 2024 at 3:37 PM CDT
State Auditor Rob Sand said he's concerned about the length of time it has taken the attorney general's office to conduct its review of a controversial pause on reimbursing emergency contraception for rape victims.
Natalie Krebs
IPR News
State Auditor Rob Sand said he's concerned about the length of time it has taken the attorney general's office to conduct its review of a controversial pause on reimbursing emergency contraception for rape victims.

State Auditor Rob Sand says he’s concerned about the amount of time the Iowa attorney general’s office is taking to review its pause on paying for rape victims’ emergency contraception reimbursements.

State Attorney General Brenna Bird, a Republican, paused reimbursement for emergency contraception under the Crime Victim’s Compensation program when she took office in January 2023.

Her office says her policy, along with other crime victims programs, have been under review ever since. The office has declined so far to release any results of its ongoing internal investigation of the payments.

Sand, a Democrat, says Bird’s office has not asked his office to conduct an audit of the payments, and says he doesn’t understand why the payments were targeted for review. He expressed concern about the length of the review and Bird’s choice to call the investigation an “audit.”

“This is her decision on day one, to quit paying for emergency contraception for sexual assault survivors. And the word salad around that decision and around what is going on is nothing more than a way to reduce the clarity of that fact.”

In a statement, Bird’s office called Sand’s concerns “flat wrong” and said it is in the final stages of its audit.

Read the full story.

Radio Iowa

Oskaloosa to open student-run cafe in downtown square

Posted March 27, 2024 at 2:09 PM CDT

The Oskaloosa Community School District is planning to open the Oskaloosa Spirit Cafe on the downtown square in an effort to foster entrepreneurship and empower students with special needs.

High School special education teacher Sarah Deronde says the ultimate goal is to provide opportunities for all students to thrive and offer a meaningful contribution to society.

“It started off as kind of a dream for placement for my special education students, to give them the skills they need to get into our community, find jobs, get the skills that they need to be successful, create more sustainability in our community, those kinds of things, and it’s kind of just grown from there.”

Employment will be open to all students and adults in the community with special needs who want to learn skills, from basic jobs all the way up to management.

Deronde hopes to get culinary arts students involved in the cafe as well.

The walls of the cafe will showcase student art, and there will also be a “service wall” where students and others can advertise.

The cafe will have several soft openings in the months to come so students can get comfortable in their new roles. A grand opening is planned for sometime this summer.

Radio Iowa

Clear Lake gets USDA award for improving school lunch

Posted March 27, 2024 at 11:22 AM CDT

Clear Lake High School is one of four school districts to receive a national award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its efforts to improve the nutritional quality of meals for students.

Clear Lake reduced sodium in its lunch menu items by using spices, more fresh local foods and some low- or no-sodium products. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the district to deliver the award.

Vilsack credited Clear Lake for overcoming challenges to improve menu options.

”It’s difficult for schools with tight budgets. Oftentimes because of the pandemic, there were and continue to be supply chain challenges, so the nutrition folks at school do an amazing job.”

The USDA has provided billion of dollars of assistance over the last several years to help U.S. school districts improve the nutrition of school lunches. The department’s “Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards” are designed to showcase schools that have made big gains with that support.

Clear Lake received an incentive grant last August, which it used to install a walk-in freezer, add a salad bar and purchase food processors.

IPR News

Iowa City man sentenced to 5 years in prison for bringing handgun to elementary school

Posted March 26, 2024 at 9:43 AM CDT

An Iowa City man was sentenced to five years in prison for bringing a handgun to his child’s elementary school.

Brandon Jones, 32, walked into Grant Wood Elementary last November and demanded to speak with the principal, saying his child was wrongfully sent home. During an interaction, Jones unholstered a 9-millimeter handgun and handed it to someone he entered the school with, saying, “Hold my gun so I don’t do something stupid.”

Initially, Prairielands Freedom Fund posted bail for Jones. The bail fund said in a statement that the firearm was legal and when Jones realized he’d brought the handgun into the school he immediately asked his partner to remove it from the premises.

Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmermann Smith said the interaction created a “really scary situation” for school staff and students.

Jones will serve five years for one count of carrying weapons on school grounds and two counts of harassment in the first degree.

IPR News

Iowan nominated for astronaut hall of fame

Posted March 25, 2024 at 1:18 PM CDT

David Hilmers has been nominated for the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Hilmers was a mission specialist on four shuttle missions, including the first after the Challenger disaster in 1986. The 74-year-old was born in Clinton and grew up in DeWitt.

Hilmers said he decided to join the Marines after finding a brochure on the ground during his junior year at Cornell College in Mount Vernon. He said joining the astronaut program was a similar experience.

“Here's a bulletin that comes across my desk. It says, ‘NASA is looking for astronauts’. It’s kind of reminiscent of that paper I picked up to go into the Marines, off the floor. It was something. I said, ‘Well, that seems like something that might be a good idea to try or at least put an application in.”

Hilmers had a PhD in Electrical Engineering, but always wanted to be a doctor. He earned his M.D. at age 45. Hilmers now lives in Australia with his wife, where the couple run a nonprofit dedicated to treating and preventing Hepatitis B.

In June, Hilmers will be formally inducted into the hall of fame at Kennedy Space Center in Houston.

Harvest Public Media

Honey production on the rise

Posted March 25, 2024 at 8:20 AM CDT

Honeybees across the United States produced more honey last year than in previous years. The USDA says it’s the first time production has risen in three years.

Rainy, cool weather in some areas after years of drought likely drove 2023’s increase in production. Those conditions help plants grow, giving bees the nectar they need to make honey.

But Matt Lance, who manages about 350 honeybee colonies across Nebraska, points out that the latest boost is against a decades-long downward trend in honey production.

He calls the latest numbers “small potatoes” in the grand scheme of things.

“I would say, don’t look at the increase in honey yield as an industry thriving, it’s just a slight less headache than what it was before.”

Lance says factors like parasites and viruses, cheap, foreign honey and loss of flower-rich lands are challenging beekeepers across the country.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

IPR News

Billions of cicadas are coming to the Midwest this spring

Posted March 22, 2024 at 4:13 PM CDT

The late summer cicada buzz is starting a little earlier this year. The periodical cicada broods XIII and XIX (the Northern Illinois and Great Southern Broods, respectively) will emerge simultaneously from late April through June across much of the Midwest and South for the first time since 1803.

“It’s so infrequent that we’re able to observe something like this in nature,” said Zach Schumm, insect diagnostician at Iowa State University’s Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic. “The eastern half of the United States is the only location that has these periodical cicadas. So it’s a very unique sort of… ecological phenomenon.”

This co-emergence happens every 221 years, when Brood XIII’s 17-year cycle and Brood XIX’s 13-year cycle align. Brood XIX is the largest of all periodical cicada broods, and the last time Brood XIII emerged, Chicagoans had to get out their shovels to clear the carcasses.

Read the full story.

IPR News

UI professor raises awareness about impending famine in Haiti

Posted March 22, 2024 at 4:13 PM CDT

A Haitian-born University of Iowa professor who formerly worked in the country’s finance ministry is working to raise awareness about impending famine in the Caribbean nation.

Dimi Doresca worked for a time in Haiti’s finance ministry after graduating from Georgetown University, but left due to rampant corruption. He says two earthquakes, the COVID-19 pandemic and the assassination of Haitian President Jovanel Moise have left Haiti in the grips of criminal gangs who restrict the movement of food.

Speaking on IPR’s River to River on Friday, Doresca said his wife’s godmother tells them she can’t buy food at the market.

“Even if you have money in your hand — those who can afford to have money — you would go to the market to find…nothing, because products cannot come from outside Port Au Prince. There’s no transportation. Everybody is afraid.”

Doresca says Americans aren’t getting the entire story of what’s happening in Haiti, as international media can’t report from the gangs’ strongholds in and around the capital, Port-Au-Prince. He says it’s too dangerous for foreign journalists.

“You have to be a Haitian, to have people on the ground that you communicate with on a regular basis to hear stories like my wife was getting from her godmother in Haiti, to hear stories that I get from my former classmates that are on the ground in the country.”

Doresca is director of the UI’s Institute for International Business and an associate professor in the Tippie College of Business. He says the international community should involve Haitians living outside the country in the effort to broker peace and provide aid to the Caribbean nation.

IPR News

Hinson voices support for spending package

Posted March 22, 2024 at 2:18 PM CDT

Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District Rep. Ashley Hinson says she supports Congress’ $1.2 trillion federal spending package to prevent a government shutdown.

The package combines six annual spending bills into one package, with 70% of the money scheduled to go to defense.

Hinson says that’s one of the big reasons she’s supporting the package.

“I do believe defense is a key priority and program. When you look at what’s happening around the world right now, we need to make sure we’re providing a robust defense for our country. If we don’t have a safe and secure country, I don’t think we have anything.”

Hinson adds that part of that defense money will fund the largest basic military pay increase in over 20 years.

Investigate Midwest

Report sparks questions, controversy over possible causes of Iowa ‘cancer crisis’

Posted March 22, 2024 at 12:36 PM CDT
Clark Porter, environmental specialist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, prepares an Iowa stream bank for a project to impede the flow of toxic nitrates into water.
Keith Schneider
Circle of Blue
Clark Porter, environmental specialist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, prepares an Iowa stream bank for a project to impede the flow of toxic nitrates into water.

Amid increasing scrutiny of a potential link between agricultural chemicals and cancer, a new report is generating controversy as it blames rising rates not on the toxins used widely throughout the state, but on something else entirely: binge alcohol consumption.

The Iowa Cancer Registry, a health research group housed at the University of Iowa, reported on Feb. 20 that Iowa has the second-highest and fastest-rising incidence of cancer among all states. An estimated 21,000 new cancer cases are expected to develop this year and 6,100 Iowans will die from cancer, said Mary Charlton, Iowa Cancer Registry director, in announcing the report.

Iowa, she said, has the highest rate of binge drinking in the Midwest, with 22% of residents reporting binge drinking, more than the national average of 17%.

Overall, Iowa has the fourth-highest incidence of alcohol-related cancers in the U.S., according to the report.

The assessment has drawn questions and sparked doubts, however, from state leaders and health and environment researchers who have been calling for a probe into how much the state’s agricultural industry may be contributing to the spread of disease.

Read the full story from Investigate Midwest.

Radio Iowa

Northwest Iowa entrepreneur wins top small business award

Posted March 22, 2024 at 12:32 PM CDT

The owner of a catering business and event venue in Sergeant Bluff is being named the Iowa Small Business Person of the Year by the Iowa district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Cathy Bishop opened a restaurant called Aggies in the Sioux City suburb in 1994, but after several years, realized she had to shift to catering full-time to keep up with the demand.

In 2009, Bishop turned the restaurant into an event venue and immediately began hosting graduations, birthdays, retirements, weddings and funerals. Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner catering weekdays and multiple events on weekends, she’s continued adding members to her staff over the past 15 years.

“We have about ten that come every day. I have one that comes in at 4:30 every morning because that’s when she likes to get up, and then we have up to 50 people that we pull from for events, because if you have five parties, you have to have five different teams.”

A 1983 graduate of Texas A&M (where the mascot is the Aggies), Cathy worked for several years as a bank examiner, but her heart’s desire was to become an entrepreneur, which led her to the hospitality industry.

Bishop says her mottos and business practices are simple.

“I treat people the way I want to be treated. My dad was an entrepreneur and he taught me to do deals with a handshake and I’ve always done that. It’s always good to get involved in your community, supporting other people, helping other people get involved in starting new businesses. Small businesses are all in the same kind of boat and they need each other to help support each other.”

As the Iowa Small Business Person of the Year, Bishop will represent Iowa at National Small Business Week ceremonies in Washington D.C. in April, where she will compete for the National Small Business Person of the Year Award.

IPR News

Waverly-Shell Rock looks to repurpose old elementary school into early education, preschool center

Posted March 21, 2024 at 4:16 PM CDT

As the child care industry faces shortages across the state, the Waverly-Shell Rock School District is taking matters into its own hands.

Growth for the district over the past decade has meant more updated buildings, bigger classes and more kids. About 50 kids are expected in this coming fall’s preschool program, more than double last year’s enrollment.

Now, it’s looking to repurpose one of its old elementary school buildings to be a dedicated early education and preschool center, meaning no demolition or expensive construction.

District Superintendent Ed Klamfoth says the transformation makes perfect sense.

“Now, because of this vacancy, we’ve got an opportunity to expand preschool offerings for those that need it, so that’s what we’re looking at doing.”

That renovation comes just in time: preschool enrollment for the district is anticipated to more than double for the coming fall.

IPR News, Radio Iowa

Snow likely in northern Iowa

Posted March 21, 2024 at 12:57 PM CDT

The commute could be dicey Friday morning across parts of northern Iowa, as forecasters say the region may get snow — starting Thursday night — along a coating of ice.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Craig Cogil says a Winter Weather Advisory is posted for cities including Mason City, Waterloo, Dubuque and Decorah, which could get anywhere from one to four inches of snow.

“The concern there is that some of the heaviest snow may be falling around the morning commute time. So, those folks that live across about the northern third of the state need to be aware of that as we head into work on Friday morning.”

Another, larger weather system is forecast to arrive on Sunday and could bring more precipitation to much of the state. Cogil says the second storm system is shaping up to be “vigorous.”

Some forecast models indicate the snowfall in segments of northern Iowa could be as much as six inches in that second storm, but Cogil says it’s not clear if the rain/snow line will be in Iowa or Minnesota.

“I would be prepared for winter driving conditions as you head into northern Iowa, particularly into Minnesota. It does look like the farther north you go, much worse conditions are going to be found.”

Central Iowa should see rain, with some thunderstorms possible Thursday night.

The long-range forecast calls for temperatures to climb back into the 50s by the middle of next week.

IPR News

State Ombudsman investigation finds county jails improperly collecting inmate money for medical services

Posted March 21, 2024 at 9:37 AM CDT

Iowa jails are not following state law in their collection of inmate money for medical services, according to an investigation by the Iowa Office of Ombudsman.

The investigation found some county jails, including those in Wapello, Scott and O’Brien counties, are taking money directly out of inmate commissary accounts before their conviction and without going through the courts.

Ombudsman Bernardo Granwehr says this practice violates an incarcerated person’s due process rights.

“We’re calling for the Department of Corrections to make a change. We had a constructive dialogue with the department and they understand what the problem is so we want to encourage them to take the step of amending the rule that is causing the confusion.”

Jails can charge adult inmates for medical services if they are convicted of a crime or sentenced for contempt of court for violating a domestic abuse order. But they still have to seek that money through the courts and cannot remove it directly from a commissary account.

Read the full story.

Radio Iowa

Women from around the globe to compete at Fairfield billiard invitational

Posted March 21, 2024 at 9:21 AM CDT

While many Iowans are excited about this week’s start of the college basketball tournaments, another tournament in a different sport will be held in Iowa starting Thursday.

Daryn Hamilton of Fairfield, vice president of the Women’s Professional Billiard Association’s board of directors, says the Fairfield Invitational is bringing 48 of the world’s most talented professional female billiard players to the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.

“They’re literally coming from around the globe. Of the 48 players, maybe 30 of them are from here in the United States and different locations, but we have people coming from China. We have people coming from Europe, Bulgaria. We’ve got a gal coming from Germany.”

Spectators are expected from all over, too, as the best-of-the-best compete simultaneously on six tables.

The youngest competitors are just 12 and 14 years old. The tournament runs through Sunday and will feature some of the best women in the sport, including Kelly Fisher from England. Fisher, known as the “Duchess of Doom,” won the tournament the last time it was held in Fairfield in 2021.

IPR News

Organizers hope Caitlin Clark effect will bring more attention to NAIA National Women’s Basketball Championship

Posted March 21, 2024 at 9:19 AM CDT

While most of the college basketball world is focused on the NCAA tournaments this weekend, another — smaller — national contest kicks off Thursday in Sioux City.

The NAIA Women’s National Championship features 16 smaller colleges and universities. Tournament co-chair Corey Westra expects excitement surrounding Iowa star Caitlin Clark to attract more fans this year.

“It's just helped elevate the game for the women, and it's awesome. This Caitlin Clark effect is not necessarily new to us, but we're embracing it as well because we'll take new fans.”

Westra says he expects ticket sales to also increase due to two northwest Iowa teams taking part: Sioux City’s Briar Cliff and Dordt, which is located in Sioux Center.

Sioux City has hosted the tournament since 1998. On Friday night, the city will honor Grace Beyer, who broke the NAIA scoring record this season. The player for the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis scored almost 4,000 points during her career.

IPR News

Latest Grinnell national poll finds little consensus on how Americans want to protect kids from mass shootings

Posted March 20, 2024 at 2:33 PM CDT

Americans can’t seem to find common ground on how to protect kids from mass shootings at school, according to the latest Grinnell College National Poll.

The poll laid out five ways that could best address the problem, including banning assault rifles and arming teachers. None of the five gained a majority of support among the 1,005 people surveyed.

Political Science associate professor Peter Hanson, director of the poll, says the lack of consensus on the issue is discouraging.

“As a society, despite the fact that people are horrified by this problem, they don’t know what to do. And the underlying politics seem calcified; no one’s moving, no one's persuading each other and in the meantime these shootings keep happening.”

Hanson spoke Wednesday on IPR’s River to River. According to data from the K-12 School Shooting Database, there have been 38 incidents of a school shooting so far this year. A bill to arm Iowa school staff is working its way through the Statehouse.

IPR News

Belmond Healthcare Clinic is increasing remote care options, but say insurance companies haven’t caught up with telehealth

Posted March 20, 2024 at 12:55 PM CDT

One rural healthcare clinic in northern Iowa is rethinking its care strategies post-COVID, but it’s waiting for some help from insurance providers.

The Belmond Healthcare Clinic is turning increasingly to forms of remote care to better serve its 3,000 patients, whether through video, over the phone or online.

However, some insurance providers aren’t yet recognizing telehealth as covered care. The clinic’s Business Development Coordinator Robyn Hardman says that leaves the nonprofit clinic fronting the cost.

“There are a lot of times where you’re trying to serve your patients and give them that remote access, and at times we’re having to cover the cost of that because the insurance payers haven’t caught up. We’re not getting paid for these services, but it’s patients who critically need it.”

Nearly 70% of the Belmond clinic’s patients utilize some form of remote health care.

IPR News

Grassley says he’ll back TikTok ban

Posted March 20, 2024 at 10:10 AM CDT
Sen. Grassley speaks into a microphone in front of an American flag.
John Pemble
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley giving his victory reelection speech in Des Moines on Election Day 2022. Grassley has been Iowa's longest-serving senator.

A bill that could potentially ban TikTok, which passed the U.S. House last week, is now arriving in the Senate, where some observers say it faces a graveyard.

But Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley says he’d like to see restrictions placed on the popular social media app, and he believes the legislation will eventually pass in the Senate.

“I am not that pessimistic about it. I think it’s going to not move as quickly as it did in the House, but nothing moves quickly in the United States Senate. I think it’s going to have a hearing in the Commerce Committee before it gets out of committee.”

The House passed the bill last Wednesday (352-65). It would force ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok, to sell the app or face being banned across the U.S.

Iowa 2nd District Rep. Ashley Hinson backed the bill, saying ByteDance is beholden to the Chinese Communist Party. Grassley agrees that TikTok is a threat, and fears how potential data mining could be used to harm the U.S.

“We all know that China is a competitor to the United States, and a potential danger to the world.”

Given its wide user base, Hinson said she fears TikTok could even be used to manipulate elections.

IPR News

West Liberty Foods to lay off 260 workers

Posted March 19, 2024 at 1:30 PM CDT

West Liberty Foods is laying off more than quarter of its Iowa workforce in April.

The 260-person layoff was announced in February and mostly impacts the West Liberty facility’s turkey slicing lines.

West Liberty Foods was one of sandwich chain Subway’s top meat product vendors.Subway announced in 2022 that it was moving towards slicing its own meat in its more than 22,000 stores, which cut demand.

The company is working with laid off workers for reassignment opportunities elsewhere in the company and in the community.

West Liberty Foods employs 865 Iowans. It also runs facilities in Illinois and Utah.

IPR News

Hinton high school looks to provide more training for coaches, strengthen policies for student activities following hazing controversy

Posted March 19, 2024 at 10:20 AM CDT
Several people are sitting in a school library for a school board meeting. They are sitting around tables with the school board sitting at the front.
Sheila Brummer/IPR News
Several concerned parents in the Hinton Community School District attended a special board meeting on March 5, 2024. The meeting to accept the resignations of two administrators ended in less than seven minutes.

A northwest Iowa school district is working to change extracurricular policies after a hazing controversy.

A full room of more than 75 people attended Monday night’s Hinton School Board meeting, where the board officiallyapproved the resignation of high school wrestling coach Casey Crawford. He will stay on as a math teacher.

Police investigated after a video on social media showed a wrestler from Hinton High School being held down and tasered. The incident took place at a hotel during a tournament in Coralville in early February. Parents say seven freshmen were targeted.

The district is now looking at providing more training for coaches and strengthening policies for student activities.

Holly Keegan told the board she wants to make sure a wrong is made right. She and other parents met with administrators to help develop new policies.

“There can be no more blame on the freshman parents. No more saying ‘we’re making a bigger deal than there is.’ There must be a mutual understanding.”

In addition to updating the handbook, the district is hiring a new high school principal and athletic director after both resigned earlier this month.

Superintendent Ken Slater said the district met with parents to come up with suggestions to improve the district’s handbook. He says the new changes will likely be finalized this summer.

IPR News

UI men’s basketball student manager takes plea deal in sports gambling case

Posted March 19, 2024 at 8:41 AM CDT

A University of Iowa men’s basketball student manager has taken a plea deal in a sports gambling case.

Evan Schuster was originally charged with tampering with records involving sports betting, which included betting on his own team.

But according to a court filing, Schuster pled down the original charge to gambling under the age of 21 — the difference between a serious misdemeanor and a simple misdemeanor.

Schuster’s lawyer, Leon Spies, and the Johnson County Attorney’s Office were not immediately available for comment on the case.

The charges originated from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s probe into sports wagering at two state universities. Using the app FanDuel, Schuster placed nine bets on the Iowa team using his father’s name.

Schuster will pay a fine of $645.

IPR News

Iowa direct care workers’ salaries have remained mostly stagnant in recent years, report finds

Posted March 18, 2024 at 2:51 PM CDT

A new report has found wages for Iowa certified nursing assistants and home health aides grew less than 5% from 2019 to 2022.

The report by Iowa Caregivers, which represents direct care workers, looked at state data, including surveys the organization did with Iowa Workforce Development.

It found that the median wage for certified nurse aids increased just 62 cents to $14.42 per hour.

Iowa Caregivers Executive Director Di Findley says stagnant wages directly contribute to the worker shortage.

“These individuals are grossly underpaid and they're not being paid a wage that's consistent with the importance of the work that they do.”

The report comes as many Iowa nursing homes are facing chronic staffing shortages of direct care workers.

IPR News

Massive fertilizer spill leads to fish kill in East Nishnabotna River

Posted March 18, 2024 at 2:50 PM CDT

A fertilizer spill in western Iowa has killed large numbers of fish and other species along a stretch of the East Nishnabotna River.

Some 265,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen leaked from a tank at New Cooperative in Red Oak just over a week ago, on March 9, after a valve was left open.

John Lorenzen, a fisheries management biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says the DNR sampled from bridges along the river, from Red Oak 50 miles south to the state line.

“What we found was, obviously, multiple species and length of dead fish. We found dead mussels, frogs, a snake and some earthworms. Basically, anything aquatic had the potential to be impacted.”

Lorenzen says his counterparts in Missouri have also observed dead fish in the Nishnabotna River. He says some fish may have been able to seek refuge in tributaries, and many larger species are still overwintering in the Missouri River. He says the Nishnabotna will eventually repopulate, though there could be some setbacks depending on the weather.

Harvest Public Media

Dry conditions, warm temps create optimal setting for wildfire

Posted March 18, 2024 at 11:59 AM CDT
Two police cars sit in a street. Behind them, clouds of smoke rise up from the field fire.
Courtesy of Harrison County Sheriff's Department
Emergency responders across 12 communities and 2 counties helped to stop a fire in Mondamin over the weekend.

This year, wildfires have already charred thousands of acres in the Great Plains. Wildfires caused evacuations in parts of Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas, where the Smokehouse Creek Fire began on Feb. 26 and is the largest wildfire in the state’s history.

Some experts say they are seeing more intense fires. Ben Bohall, a Nebraska Forest Service public information officer, says his state used to have a bad wildfire season about once every five years, but since 2022, the season is longer and more extreme.

“We're not really having fire seasons anymore. We're just having fire years.”

Bohall says about 90% of the state’s wildfires are caused by humans. For instance, Nebraska’s recent 70,000 acre-fire sparked when a mower hit a rock.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

IPR News

Sioux City housing projects seeks to meet need

Posted March 18, 2024 at 11:57 AM CDT
Plans are underway for the East High Lofts at 1520 Morningside Avenue in Sioux City. The $18 million dollar project by Commonwealth Development Corporation of America will transform a former school that once housed the Northwest Iowa AEA.
Sheila Brummer/IPR News
Plans are underway for the East High Lofts at 1520 Morningside Avenue in Sioux City. The $18 million dollar project by Commonwealth Development Corporation of America will transform a former school that once housed the Northwest Iowa AEA.

Two new housing projects are underway in Sioux City to help ease a housing crunch. But more units are needed.

The city is helping developers finance two apartment building projects, including an old school. Neighborhood Services Supervisor Amy Keairns says that demand extends throughout the state.

“There will be 71 total units of affordable housing created, but there is such a need in our community for affordable housing.”

She says she wishes they could do more.

“We're limited on the dollars that we receive. And we're always seeking out other opportunities for additional funding and additional partnerships to try and try and do even more as far as new housing units and services as well.”

The two projects will also include a total of eight units for the unhoused, including outreach services.

Sioux City kicked in more than $1.2 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to help pay for the apartments that will be ready for people to move in next year.

The Iowa Finance Authority statewide estimates that by 2030, there will be a shortage of 55,000 rental homes for lower-income Iowans. Currently, more than 20% of the lowest earners spend more than half of their income on housing costs.

Read the full story.

Radio Iowa

AAA offering free service for impaired drivers on Saint Patrick's Day

Posted March 15, 2024 at 2:58 PM CDT

Iowans who have too much Saint Patrick’s Day cheer can get a safe ride home Friday night through Monday morning.

AAA-Iowa spokesman Brian Ortner says the motor club is offering its free, statewide Tow to Go service for members and non-members across Iowa this weekend.

“It’s pretty simple,” Ortner says. “When someone calls Tow to Go, AAA will dispatch a tow truck to transport the impaired driver and their vehicle to a safe location within a 10-mile radius.”

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau says during March of last year, there were 26 traffic fatalities on Iowa’s roads and almost 40% of those happened the week of Saint Patrick’s Day.

Ortner says this service provides an alternative to anyone who may have drunk too much.

“We ask that you use it as a last resort, for many reasons,” Ortner says. “One, because planning is so important if you’re celebrating holidays. Having a designated driver or a rideshare program set up is definitely the best way to go.”

In its 26 years, he says Tow to Go has taken more than 30,000 drivers safely home.

The number to call is 1-855-TOW-2-GO.

IPR News

Sierra Club challenges additions to pipeline that would run through Iowa

Posted March 15, 2024 at 2:57 PM CDT

Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions has expanded the scope of a proposed carbon pipeline that would run across several states, including Iowa. But the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club is challenging the idea that additions to the line should be considered separately from the company’s original permit application.

Wally Taylor, an attorney for the Sierra Club, has filed a motion calling on the Iowa Utilities Board to look at the pipeline in its entirety before granting any permits.

“The Board hasn’t made a decision yet on the original project. So it just seems to make sense in terms of efficiency and hearing all of the evidence, that all of the projects should be consolidated into one case.”

Taylor also says the IUB has been relying on a loophole to avoid holding regular monthly meetings.

“Certainly, landowners and other members of the public would come in and make public statements... Summit, or anybody else who wanted to oppose that could come in and make their arguments so, that just seems to me to be a tactic to avoid having to listen to the landowners”

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation has filed a similar motion. Earlier this month, Summit filed 14 separate permit applications to add additional ethanol plants to the pipeline project.

IPR News

McGovern jury acquittal will not change the law

Posted March 15, 2024 at 2:55 PM CDT

This week, a jury acquitted transgender community activist Tara McGovern for charges related to blocking traffic in Iowa City last October. One of the charges was part of a 2021 change to Iowa law that increased penalties for protest related charges.

Alison Guernsey, a clinical law professor at the University of Iowa says an acquittal doesn’t challenge that law.

"It doesn’t mean the statutes under which they were charged aren’t constitutional or can’t be used in another context. What it simply means is in this case with these facts, the state was unable to show there was a law violation."

Guernsey added that the ruling could inform how law enforcement and prosecutors approach pressing charges in future demonstrations.

IPR News

Hornick still recovering after 2019 flood

Posted March 15, 2024 at 10:44 AM CDT

A small western Iowa community is still trying to recover five years after a devastating flood.

On March 14, 2019, the town of Hornick was evacuated after water from the west branch of the Little Sioux River broke through a levee.

Mayor Scott Mitchell says it’s been quite the journey to put everything back in place.

“Lots of ups and downs, maybe more downs and ups. And it's still pretty amazing how a community in the surrounding areas can come together to help out a small community that they don't even have any ties to.”

A berm now protects Hornick from future flooding. However, Mitchell says it’s been challenging to get funding from FEMA to fix damaged roads, because Hornick is so small it doesn’t have the staffing to deal with all the regulations and paperwork. He hopes to have the final work done by the end of the year.

Mitchell says he is still thankful for the support his small town received in cleaning up after the natural disaster.

Radio Iowa

Casey’s continues adding stores in new states

Posted March 15, 2024 at 10:43 AM CDT

The Ankeny-based Casey’s convenience store chain continued adding more stores in the third quarter of its fiscal year.

Darren Rebelez, Casey’s President and CEO, says they like to have a mix of building new stores along with merging or acquiring existing stores. He says acquiring stores is more attractive now as the cost of construction has gone up, so installing or upgrading the kitchen in an existing store is less than the cost to replace the whole store.

“I think we’ve learned how to get our prepared foods into these acquisitions more quickly. Historically this has taken us a long time to do, and to the extent that some of these stores that we acquire have some level of kitchen space available, our team has gotten really effective at getting equipment in early and getting the food into the stores quicker.”

Rebelez says that allows them to gain the advantage from the prepared food sales much quicker than in the past. He says the recent acquisitions have mostly been competitors with under 100 stores.

”We’re also having discussions on larger potential deals but we just haven’t gotten anything over the finish line yet.”

Casey’s now has more than 2,600 stores in 17 states.

IPR News

Iowa DNR watching fish hatcheries amid drought

Posted March 14, 2024 at 1:01 PM CDT

As Iowa’s spring fishing season approaches, the Department of Natural Resources could be heading into uncharted waters with northeast Iowa’s ongoing drought.

The drought and heat may complicate the DNR’s plans to restock the region’s hundreds of miles of streams with rainbow trout in the coming weeks.

Mike Siepker, the DNR’s fisheries supervisor for northeast Iowa, says his team is cautious about when and where they’ll be stocking over 300,000 fish.

This is kind of uncharted territory. We’ve had droughts in the past, but for staff that are here now, this is kind of a new thing where we’re dealing with these low-stream conditions and what could potentially be a really warm summer.”

Siepker says one of solutions is staggering the 18-month hatching and growth window across multiple sites, which would ultimately use less water.

But low streams and heat aren’t the only problems for fish. Siepker says it could make raising them a challenge, too.

Many of the DNR’s hatcheries in the region rely on groundwater reserves, which are also low.

Radio Iowa

Remains of Dubuque soldier missing since WWII identified

Posted March 14, 2024 at 9:33 AM CDT

The remains of an eastern Iowa man who went missing during a World War Two battle in France have been identified.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency recently updated the identification of Army Private First Class Raymond Schlamp of Dubuque. Army reports say Schlamp was 28 when he was hit by German machine gun fire as his infantry unit was retreating across a river near Dornot, France in 1944.

Schlamp was left behind and later could not be found. Remains were recovered from the area in 1947 and buried in a French cemetery.

DNA and other techniques were used to identify his remains in March of 2022.

IPR News

Judge acquits Iowa City protester of charges carrying increased penalties under Iowa law change

Posted March 14, 2024 at 9:32 AM CDT
Tara McGovern embraced friends and family after hearing their innocent verdict on March 13, 2024 at Thornberry Dog Park in Iowa City.
Zachary Oren Smith/IPR News
Tara McGovern embraced friends and family after hearing their innocent verdict on March 13, 2024 at Thornberry Dog Park in Iowa City.

A jury has acquitted a protester of charges related to an Iowa City protest.

Tara Dutcher, who goes by Tara McGovern, was among hundreds of people who blocked an intersection in Iowa City during an October protest opposing a speaker who advocates against gender affirming care for minors.

Moments after learning about their acquittal, McGovern, a transgender Iowan, said their attention turns to the future.

“There certainly are possible things that could unfold as we move forward in terms of looking into why this could have happened and if there is a way we can prevent this from happening again.”

McGovern was found not guilty of two charges. One for blocking traffic and another for interfering with official acts. While the charges were relatively minor, the one for obstructing the street gained attention as it was part of a recent change in Iowa law that increased the penalties for protest related charges.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Black Hawk County reports uptick in tuberculosis cases

Posted March 13, 2024 at 12:04 PM CDT

Black Hawk County has reported an uptick in tuberculosis cases well above the state and national averages.

According to the county’s public health department, the number of TB cases has roughly tripled over the past three years to nearly 12 per 100,000 people. The national average is 2.5, and the rest of the state’s is 1.9.

Black Hawk County Public Health Director Kaitlin Emrich says the increase in cases stems in part from native Pacific Islanders living in the county who didn’t have access to preventative care in their home countries.

The public health department currently has only two nurses who help fight the disease in the county.

IPR News

Construction issue further delays opening of Woodbury County law enforcement center

Posted March 13, 2024 at 9:49 AM CDT

Woodbury County’s new law enforcement center won’t be ready to open next month. Officials say another construction issue is to blame.

The new jail located in Sioux City did not pass a state inspection this week.

In a news release, the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Authority, the group overseeing the project, says additional mechanical work needs to be done and blames an engineering firm for the problem. The jail's new completion date is now planned for mid-May.

County officials declined any interviews due to potential litigation. However, Chief Deputy Tony Wingert says he is eager to make the move. He says some people are waiting more than a year to serve their sentences due to overcrowding at the old jail.

“We want to get in there because we know that it'll be a much safer place for our staff, for our inmates, for the public.”

Wingert says the new jail would have room for more than 500 beds — more than double the current size.

The jail was originally scheduled to open six months ago.

IPR News

Police testify in trial of Iowa City protester

Posted March 13, 2024 at 9:48 AM CDT

Jury trial began Tuesday for a Coralville protester who blocked traffic while demonstrating in Iowa City.

Tara McGovern, whose legal name is Tara Dutcher, was among the more than 100 people who shut down a city intersection last October, protesting a speaker who advocates against gender affirming care for minors.

The jury heard details from three University of Iowa Police Department officers who described several unsuccessful attempts to clear the intersection. UIPD Lieutenant Travis Tyrell supervised the police response that night.

“We only have a certain amount of staffing available to us and to try and move 100 to 150 people out of the intersection. We didn’t have a safe way to do that.”

McGovern has been charged with blocking traffic and ignoring commands from police. A large crowd came to support them at the trial, many of whom were also protesting in the intersection, but were not charged.

Judge Jason Burns opted for a bigger courtroom to allow more observers, but did bring up a concern to the courtroom after custodial staff discovered someone had written “jury nullification” on a bathroom surface, the controversial concept that a jury can acquit someone of a crime even if they know they’re guilty.

The trial is expected to wrap up this week.

IPR News

UI women’s wrestling team caps inaugural season with national title

Posted March 12, 2024 at 3:42 PM CDT

The University of Iowa Women’s Wrestling team finished their inaugural season by taking the team title at the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships last weekend.

Senior Marlynne Deede won her final match in the 155-pound class. She says she was so focused, she didn’t know the Hawkeyes were down in points going into the finals.

“This is the first tournament that I really went into feeling super confident in, just like how much work I put in, and so I was super calm wrestling. And then the finals match — I honestly just went out there and I was calm and had a lot of fun wrestling.”

The Hawkeyes are favorites to repeat as champions next season. Deede says she hopes other Division 1 schools will see Iowa’s success and fan following and decide to field women’s wrestling teams.

IPR News

Ethics committee dismisses complaint alleging Republican abused power by voting for private school scholarships, then founding private school

Posted March 12, 2024 at 2:59 PM CDT

The Iowa House Ethics Committee has unanimously dismissed a complaint against Rep. Dean Fisher, R-Montour, alleging that he abused his power by voting for taxpayer-funded private school scholarships and then starting a new private school and serving as board president.

Barb Kalbach of Dexter filed the complaint on behalf of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

The committee voted 6-0 to dismiss the complaint, with Republicans and Democrats saying Fisher’s actions didn’t violate the House ethics code.

Kalbach says she believes this decision has opened the door to unethical behavior by lawmakers.

“Fisher’s actions are self-dealing and self-servicing. Some would say they’re corrupt. And the House Ethics Committee is letting him get away with it. And that’s shameful.”

In a statement, Fisher says the complaint was a politically-motivated attempt to smear him. He says it’s wrong to use the mechanisms of government to attack someone based on a policy disagreement.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Iowa Pork Producer Association CEO says Perry Tyson plant closure will strain pork producers

Posted March 12, 2024 at 2:01 PM CDT

The upcoming closure of the Tyson pork plant in Perry not only means the loss of almost 1,300 jobs, but it also puts a strain on producers, according to Iowa Pork Producer Association CEO Pat McGonegle.

McGonegle says he feels disappointment for the community of Perry and for producers, who now need to find another market for their animals.

“This announcement just kind of adds another little headwind to us, but pork producers are resilient, and they'll get things figured out.”

McGonegle says once the Perry plant closes in June, the nearest options are Storm Lake and Denison.

McGonegle says the past 20 months have been rough, with producers losing $20 to $30 per pig, and tough economic times have also hurt processors.

IPR News

Report finds 1 in 6 full-time Iowa workers struggle to afford cost of basic needs

Posted March 12, 2024 at 12:53 PM CDT
A new report found one in six Iowans struggle to meet a basic needs budget.
Alexander Grey
A new report found one in six Iowans struggle to meet a basic needs budget.

A new report from Common Good Iowa estimates one in six full-time workers in Iowa earn below what is needed to cover the cost of basic needs.

The nonprofit estimates 17.5% of all Iowa working households earn below what is needed to cover a basic-needs budget.

Policy Analyst Sean Finn says figures this year show more low-income Iowans are struggling as compared to last year’s report, even as the state has seen strong wage growth.

“Even though these families were making more each month even though these wages – especially low wages – were increasing, inflation just outpaced it during this time.”

The report found the situation is worse along racial lines. It estimates a third of full-time Black and Latino workers make below what is needed to support their families’ basic needs, which is almost double the statewide average rate.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Iowa DNR monitoring 1,500-ton fertilizer spill in western Iowa

Posted March 12, 2024 at 12:53 PM CDT

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is on the scene of a large fertilizer spill in Western Iowa’s Montgomery County.

Senior Environmental Specialist Wendy Wittrock says the DNR was notified of the spill on Monday.

“We received a phone call from New Cooperative in Red Oak to let us know that they had had a release of approximately 1,500 tons of liquid nitrogen fertilizer and it had discharged into a drainage ditch on site, and had then continued on into the East Nishnabotna River.”

Wittrock says someone at the co-op had failed to close a valve on an above-ground storage tank. She says DNR fisheries experts have observed dead fish in the river, but the full extent of the damage is unknown at this time. She noted that levels in the Nishnabotna River are currently low, which could affect how long it takes for the nitrogen to disperse.

IPR News

Perry mayor says Tyson closure came as a shock, plans to aid displaced workers

Posted March 12, 2024 at 12:52 PM CDT

Perry’s mayor is getting assurances from Tyson Foods that its soon to be shuttered plant won’t sit empty after the company closes its doors.

Mayor Dirk Cavanaugh met with Tyson officials Tuesday morning, a day after the company announced its processing plant in the central Iowa city will permanently close its doors at the end of June. The move means nearly 1,300 workers will lose their jobs.

Cavanaugh says the news came as a complete shock, especially since he got only a five minute heads up before the news became public.

“From our conversation with management this morning, I don’t think the local management here knew — or at least if they knew there might be talk about it — didn’t know it was definitely happening until yesterday themselves.”

Cavanaugh says his first priority moving forward is helping the soon-to-be-displaced workers find other jobs, help with rent and possible food assistance. The Iowa Workforce Development is also sending its new mobile Iowa Works center to Perry.

IPR News

Davenport resists state auditor subpoena in court

Posted March 12, 2024 at 9:58 AM CDT

State Auditor Rob Sand is investigating the City of Davenport’s large payouts to former employees, but the city wants a judge to intervene and prevent him from having access to certain information.

On Tuesday morning, the Quad-City Times reported court filings detailing Davenport’s efforts to keep the recordings and minutes of closed sessions from the auditor’s view. They assert attorney-client privilege, saying their legal counsel discussed the city’s numerous lawsuits during these meetings.

One employee, former city administrator Corri Spiegel, received a payout of $1.6 million when she left the city.

The city is asking a Scott County judge to modify the auditor’s subpoena. A hearing is scheduled for March 25.

IPR News

Hinton wrestling coach resigns

Posted March 11, 2024 at 2:10 PM CDT

The northwest Iowa wrestling coach suspended after his players faced assault allegations has resigned.

Casey Crawford, who served as head coach of the Hinton High School boys' wrestling team for 15 years, turned in his letter of resignation last week.

Authorities in Coralville and Hinton launched an investigation after players said older teammates used a taser on them during a meet last month in Coralville. A video on social media showed a boy being held down and tased on a hotel bed.

During a school board meeting last month, one parent said Crawford told wrestlers to delete videos and photos from their phones.

In the resignation letter, Crawford said, “he was grateful to make a positive influence on the athlete's lives,” and he looks forward to continuing his career as a teacher in Hinton.

Crawford was allowed to teach math during his administrative leave as coach.

The school board will vote on the resignation during a meeting next week on March 18. Two school administrators are also stepping down at the end of the school year.

IPR News

Trial for Coralville protester who refused plea deal begins Tuesday

Posted March 11, 2024 at 2:09 PM CDT
Tara McGovern was charged for blocking an Iowa City intersection and ignoring the orders of police telling McGovern and other protesters to get out of the road. Of the seven charged, McGovern is the only one to refuse a plea deal. Their trial begins Tuesday, March 12.
Zachary Oren Smith/IPR News
Tara McGovern was charged for blocking an Iowa City intersection and ignoring the orders of police telling McGovern and other protesters to get out of the road. Of the seven charged, McGovern is the only one to refuse a plea deal. Their trial begins Tuesday, March 12.

A Coralville resident is on trial this week, facing charges from a protest in October.

Tara McGovern faces two charges: a serious misdemeanor for blocking an Iowa City intersection and a simple misdemeanor for ignoring commands to exit the street by police.

A month after the protest, University of Iowa Police charged seven people. Charges included disorderly conduct, which has increased penalties under a law Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed following the 2020 George Floyd protests.

Six of the seven people charged took a plea deal to avoid trial, but McGovern told IPR News that refusing the plea deal came down to their belief that protesters did nothing wrong. They say the new law is wrong.

Jury selection is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Read the full story.

Radio Iowa

Work underway to repair Mississippi River bridge at Lansing

Posted March 11, 2024 at 10:25 AM CDT

The Iowa Department of Transportation has started work to repair the existing bridge over the Mississippi River from Lansing to Wisconsin. The bridge was closed on Feb. 25 after it was discovered that two of the bridge piers had shifted.

The DOT’s Clayton Burke says the repair plan is to lift the deck off the bridge and set it to the side, then the existing concrete piers will be demolished and replaced with new piers made of steel.

“Then we’re going to take that deck that we set on the side, lift it back up and set it into place and the original location before the bridge deck moved.”

The problem happened near the area where a new bridge is being built, and Burke says that could be part of the reason for the pier shift.

“It’s likely a combination of several factors. But construction definitely could have been one of those factors.”

It will take two months to get the existing bridge back open and the DOT has been working on alternatives, including a van pool to help with the cost of the 75-mile detour.

There could also be a water taxi to take people across the river.

Burke says while work continues on the new bridge, deep drilling into the riverbed has been paused to avoid vibrations.

“We think when the bridge deck is removed from the existing bridge, that’ll be a good opportunity for us to continue some of that work, because we’re not as concerned about those existing piers moving because they’ll be demolished anyway.”

The new bridge won’t be completed until the end of 2026. Burke says around 2,900 people crossed the Lansing bridge each day before it had to be closed.

IPR News

Pork council passes resolution that would help trace pigs during outbreaks

Posted March 8, 2024 at 2:29 PM CST

Pork producers in Iowa and across the country would take steps to enhance the traceability of swine under a resolution passed this week at a forum hosted by the National Pork Producers Council. Dwight Mogler raises swine in Lyon County, and serves on the boards of the Iowa Pork Producers and the NPPC. He says the industry came up with the plan, which will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The impetus that really pushed this effort forward was the deep need of the U.S. pork industry to be better prepared for a potential foreign animal disease event.”

Mogler says extra measures would apply to pigs that don’t go directly from farm to processing. It would include giving every pork producer an identification number, tagging these pigs with radio frequency ID tags and providing data on their movement.

Mogler also says without accurate tracing, U.S. pork producers could lose their entire export market in the event of an outbreak of a foreign animal disease, such as African swine fever or foot-and-mouth disease.

IPR News

Cedar Falls votes to establish affordable housing trust fund

Posted March 8, 2024 at 2:28 PM CST

Cedar Falls is one of the last communities in Iowa not to have an affordable housing trust fund. The city council moved forward based on a housing assessment late last year. It would allow the local government to access about $200,000 of state aid for rehab and development.

Brian Schoon, the executive director of the Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments, says the nonprofit will mainly focus on driving living costs down.

"They’re going to have to look at projects that would be categorized as the affordability side of things... One of the things that jumped up in the housing needs assessment was the cost of housing, the cost of land and the cost of development."

The nonprofit hopes to be made official by Jan. 2025.

Radio Iowa

Warm weather could impact DNR’s spring trout stocking

Posted March 8, 2024 at 9:40 AM CST

The Iowa DNR is keeping an eye on the weather as it prepares for its annual spring trout stocking. Trout are a cool water fish naturally found in northeast Iowa streams. Mike Siepker, the Northeast Iowa Region Fisheries Supervisor at the Iowa DNR, says the unseasonably warm weather may bring up water temperatures in urban ponds and lakes.

“That is something we will keep an eye on as we get later into the spring. You know our April 19th and 20th stockings we will definitely keep an eye on it... But you know, it’s Iowa so you never know what the weather is going to do. And it may cool down and allow us to stock those trout.”

The stocking size for trout is usually 10-12 inches. Siepker oversees the hatcheries that produce the trout.

“We spawn all of our trout at the Manchester Fish Hatchery. And then once they reach about a three to four inch size we move those fish to Big Spring or the Chuck Gipp Decorah Fish Hatchery. And they’re in the hatcheries from egg to stocking size for about 18 months."

The stocking starts April 19, and there is a list of locations on the Iowa DNR website. They plan to stock between 1,000-2,000 trout in nine different lakes, but Siepker says you don’t have to be there when the trout are released into the water to catch one. An Iowa fishing license and trout stamp is required to take the trout from the lakes and ponds.

IPR News

UI conducts mental health survey on students, faculty

Posted March 7, 2024 at 2:46 PM CST

Researchers at the University of Iowa are conducting what they call the state’s first survey on the mental health of college staff and faculty members.

The survey started last year with seven community colleges. Barry Schreier, with the UI's Scanlan Center for School Mental Health, says results so far show faculty and staff members overall feel mental health resources are adequate on campus, but they would like more support.

"Staff and faculty highly endorsed that they would like additional training. In fact, faculty said, which is very surprising, that they think it should be mandatory."

Schreier says they plan to expand the survey to include private colleges and the state’s three Regents universities.

Radio Iowa

Appeals Court upholds sanctions against UNI professor

Posted March 7, 2024 at 12:00 PM CST

The Iowa Court of Appeals is upholding discipline imposed on a University of Northern Iowa professor for plagiarism.

A UNI investigation committee found communication and media professor Gayle Pohl committed plagiarism in a book chapter she published in 2017. The committee rejected the possibility that problems in her writing were honest errors. It recommended five sanctions that included prohibiting her from applying for promotion to full professor.

Pohl asked for a judicial review on a variety of claims, including allegations of bias and a lack of substantial evidence. The Court of Appeals upheld the UNI committee’s findings, saying its decision making and resulting discipline against Pohl was not illogical, unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion.

Radio Iowa

Murder sentence upheld in fatal shooting of Milford woman

Posted March 7, 2024 at 9:09 AM CST

The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld the life sentence of a Dickinson County man in the shooting death of a woman outside a Milford medical staffing office in February, 2022.

Christian Goyne-Yarns of Spirit Lake was found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Shelby Woizeschke in the parking lot of her workplace. Woizeschke was the mother of Goyne-Yarns' two children, but they were separated.

Goyne-Yarns appealed, saying there was not enough evidence to support his conviction or to show he planned the shooting ahead of time. The Court of Appeals ruling says there was some evidence missing from the case, including the gun, but Woizeschke’s 911 call identifying Goyne-Yarns as the shooter and corroborating surveillance video was substantial evidence to uphold the conviction.

IPR News

Report finds hospitals not fully compliant with federal price transparency requirements

Posted March 6, 2024 at 2:43 PM CST

A new report has found more than two dozen Iowa hospitals are still not compliant with federal price transparency requirements three years after they went into effect.

The Hospital Price Transparency Rule went into effect at the beginning of 2021. It requires hospitals to post actual — not estimated — prices of every procedure and code they offer.

A report released last month by the nonprofit Patient Rights Advocate reviewed 43 Iowa hospitals and found 60% are noncompliant with the requirement.

Cynthia Fischer, founder and chairman of Patient Rights Advocate, says the price of procedures can widely vary between hospitals and insurance plans.

“We know that when we all can pull back the curtains and see these prices, no one would tolerate being overcharged ten times more.”

The feds have issued fines to 14 hospitals nationwide so far for noncompliance. None are in Iowa.

IPR News

Two Hinton school administrators resign following assault investigation

Posted March 6, 2024 at 1:45 PM CST

A western Iowa school district at the center of an assault investigation involving its high school wrestling team is losing two administrators.

On Tuesday night, the Hinton School Board accepted the resignation of two principals, Phil Goetstouwers and Brian DeJong, who also serves as athletic director. Officials didn’t offer reasons for the resignations, effective at the end of the school year.

The Coralville Police Department launched an investigation after players said older teammates tasered them at a hotel during a wrestling tournament last month. A video circulating on social media showed a player being held down on a bed during the attack.

A police spokesperson says additional information will likely not be released because all involved are juveniles.

The public wasn’t allowed to speak at the special meeting, but afterward, one woman who identified herself by only her initials, DH, said her son was one of seven freshmen targeted.

“It has torn a lot of things apart. A lot of things have been unraveling more and more. And it's going to hit the hidden community hard. It's going to be getting worse before it gets better.”

Hinton’s head wrestling coach is still on administrative leave. Parents say he is being allowed to teach math.

IPR News

Biden wins 91% of Iowa Democrats’ caucus mail-in votes

Posted March 6, 2024 at 10:38 AM CST

Iowa Democrats are overwhelmingly supporting incumbent President Joe Biden for a second term.

Biden carried 91% of the mail-in presidential preference vote. Twelve thousand people mailed their votes. Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart said it’s a sign her party is ready to reelect Biden.

This year’s Democratic preference vote happened entirely by mail and was the first time the party announced results on Super Tuesday.

Iowa Republicans gave their results back in January, overwhelmingly supporting former President Donald Trump.

Tuesday night’s results are still considered unofficial. Tuesday was the last day to send in a presidential preference card. Cards bearing the correct postmark can still be counted.

IPR News

Investigation finds Sioux City police justified in shooting

Posted March 6, 2024 at 10:37 AM CST

An investigation by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation says Sioux City police did nothing wrong during an officer-involved shooting near the Hard Rock Casino earlier this year.

Woodbury County Attorney James Loomis says the shooting was “legally justified.”

“His violent aggression was planned and targeted at law enforcement. His attack on officers with the Sioux City Police Department put their lives in immediate danger.”

Loomis says 55-year-old Salvador Perez-Garcia rammed two patrol vehicles with his pick-up in the parking garage near the casino on Jan. 8. He then came toward officers swinging a chain with a metal object on the end of it. Officers fired 11 rounds and Perez-Garcia died at the scene.

The police department released graphic security and body camera footage of the incident.

Loomis made his comments during a news conference on Tuesday and said the state attorney general is still reviewing the case, which is standard procedure for shootings involving police officers.

IPR News

Iowa Democratic Party counts Super Tuesday caucus votes

Posted March 5, 2024 at 2:50 PM CST

Workers at the Iowa Democratic Party’s headquarters have been busy tabulating results from mail-in presidential preference cards. The cards replace the in-person caucuses that had been held for the last five decades.

The party will release results Tuesday evening, counting all cards postmarked by Tuesday.

IDP Chair Rita Hart says she’s happy with the process.

“The process of tabulating these presidential preference cards has gone very smoothly so far. We’re going to keep working on this today and hopefully we’ll have results — unofficial results — at 5 p.m. today.”

Democrats had hoped to have 15,000 people participate in the mail-in caucus, which is roughly the same number who participated in the 2012 caucus – the last time there was an incumbent Democrat in the White House.

More than 19,000 cards had been requested, and Hart says as of this morning around 12,000 had been returned.

IPR News

Cedar Falls residents call for Gaza ceasefire

Posted March 5, 2024 at 2:21 PM CST

As the Israel-Hamas War enters its fifth month, some Cedar Valley residents are speaking out against their cities’ silence.

A group of nearly two dozen protesters voiced their frustration with their government’s inaction Monday night outside the Cedar Falls City Hall.

Activists thought they had scored a major victory in January when the Cedar Falls city council considered a resolution from its Human Rights Commission condemning the violence, but that has since been withdrawn.

Protester Amelia Gotera says the anger stems in part from the city council’s about-face.

“The city council, what they’re doing right now, the mayor, they’re going directly against the recommendations of their human rights councils.”

Similar protests were held in Waterloo, where city officials are considering issuing a ceasefire proclamation.

State universities deal with delays in FAFSA information release

Posted March 5, 2024 at 12:52 PM CST

Updates to the FAFSA process have delayed the normal opening of applications, and is holding up the aid awards.

University of Northern Iowa Financial Aid Director Tim Bakula says all three state schools had financial aid offers out to students last year by mid-February.

This year, some students weren’t even able to get their FAFSA completed right after the process opened. Bakula said he was met with outages when he went to log in on Jan. 1 that lasted the full first week of the month.

Bakula says the universities should be seeing the results in the next few weeks.

He says they hope to begin awarding financial aid around the middle of April, which he says will impact students.

“It presents, from a family’s perspective, a much more condensed timeline to make decisions on which colleges to attend, especially for those students that were waiting on awards to ensure that the school they were selecting was accessible and affordable for them from a financial standpoint.”

University of Iowa Financial Aid Director Brenda Buzynski says the colleges and universities have been the “guinea pigs” for the upgraded system.

“They’ve had limited time for testing, and bottom line, what’s happening is that schools… are ending up being their testers.”

Undergraduate students receive 67% of the student financial aid at the UI, Iowa State University and UNI. In 2023, 41% of the regent’s undergraduate financial aid came from the federal government, 41% from the regent institutions, 18 % from private organizations and 1% from the State of Iowa.

IPR News

Meteorologist says Iowa countryside is ‘extremely combustible’

Posted March 5, 2024 at 10:15 AM CST

Local officials in about a third of Iowa counties have issued outdoor burning bans.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Rod Donovan says over the past week and a half, the satellite data for Iowa showed lots of hot spots and radar has picked up smoke plumes from a lot of field fires.

It doesn’t take much to spark a fire in current conditions according to Donovan.

“Part of the issue we’ve had across Iowa is really our abnormally short winter, at least abnormally dry and warm across the area.”

These conditions have extended the drought. Donovan says pastures, cropland and grassy areas enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program are “extremely combustible” right now.

“It doesn’t take much for an ignition source to create hazardous fire weather conditions.”

The forecast for Iowa indicates March temperatures are likely to be above normal. Donovan says to expect more red flag warnings from the NWS until plants spring to life and fields start turning green.

Radio Iowa

DPS Commissioner responds after sports gambling charges dropped

Posted March 4, 2024 at 2:38 PM CST

The head of the Iowa Department of Public Safety issued a statement following the decision of the Story County Attorney’s Office to drop the prosecution of sports betting cases against four Iowa State University athletes.

In the statement, DPS Commissioner Stephen Bayens said that the decision to drop the cases is disappointing. He says Story County repeatedly shared with the department their belief that the DCI’s actions were legal.

The statement says the DCI used geolocation as part of their duty to regulate the sports betting industry, and agents obtained subpoenas after anomalies were observed at athletic facilities.

It says the anomalies were observed at athletic facilities that only individuals associated with NCAA-sanctioned sports teams had access.

“This was concerning because sportsbooks must seek to prohibit sports wagering by coaches, athletic trainers and players as required by Iowa law. Also, individuals with access to these facilities would possess insider information, could impact outcomes and tended to be underage.”

Bayens' statement says he understands why the investigation and resulting charges have generated so much attention and so many strong opinions.

"We love our college sports here in Iowa, myself included. Had this situation not involved college athletes, the public perception may have been entirely different.”

The statement comes just one day after an attorney for four former Iowa State student-athletes claimed investigators had been shut out of geofencing software that played a key role in gathering evidence in the case. Lawyers argued the geofence was set up unlawfully, and the athletes had cooperated with a preliminary investigation under a false promise of leniency.

IPR News

Bohannan criticizes Miller-Meeks for not speaking out against Koch acquisition 

Posted March 4, 2024 at 2:37 PM CST

Democratic congressional candidate Christina Bohannan is criticizing incumbent 1st Congressional District Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks for not speaking out against Koch Ag’s proposed acquisition of a Lee County fertilizer plant.

Critics argue the fertilizer industry is already dominated by just a few mega-operators, which has implications on the price of fertilizer for farmers and of food for Iowans. The Iowa Fertilizer Company’s plant was heavily incentivized by federal, state and local money.

Bohannan and other Democrats argue the deal and its impacts need to be monitored closely.

“After a few years, when they’ve made the profits, they pick up and move out, leaving us with big abandoned buildings and hollowed out communities. They don’t live here and they don’t care what happens here.”

Miller-Meeks did not offer comment on the merger. Koch Industries is a contributor to both her campaigns and affiliated political action committee.

Koch Ag’s $3.6 billion purchase was announced in December and is pending regulator approval.

IPR News

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark becomes NCAA all-time leading scorer

Posted March 4, 2024 at 12:45 PM CST

Iowa basketball superstar Caitlin Clark has become the all-time leading scorer in major college basketball. She passed Pete Maravich’s record of 3,667 points with a couple of free throws just before halftime of Sunday’s game against Ohio State.

Clark says she hopes she’ll be remembered for more than just her records.

“I hope people remember me for the way I play with a smile on my face and my competitive fire. They can remember the wins, but also the fun me and my teammates have together. That’s even the same for my teammates. We’ll talk about great wins we had at things like that, but it’s all the other moments that mean the most to us.”

Clark finished the game with 35 points, increasing her total to 3,685. The Hawkeyes won 93-83, and finished the season 15-3 in the Big Ten. They’ll be the second seed in the conference tournament, and will play Friday night.

IPR News

Guidelink Center celebrates three years of mental health service

Posted March 4, 2024 at 9:31 AM CST

Johnson County’s GuideLink Center is reaching its third year of service providing mental health and substance abuse treatment. Data shows more walk-ins than expected.

Approximately 700 of the facility’s 4,000 admissions came from law enforcement. Over 1,000 came from health care providers.

GuideLink’s Faraji Hubbard, who coordinates recovery, says it’s a “gift” for first responders to be able to come in and connect with individuals who are struggling.

He says instead of inadequate care, jail time or a trip to the emergency room, the center offers a chance to get more help.

Nearly 70% — 1,400 — of GuideLink’s visitors reflected in the data were walk-ins. The center says people are becoming more aware of its services and are making use of them, even outside of crises.

IPR News

Mild winter could spell trouble for Iowa trees

Posted March 1, 2024 at 3:40 PM CST

An early spring means a head start for Iowa gardens, but could make things difficult for the state’s conifer trees.

Many of the non-native species could be going through “winter desiccation,” where the tree is exposed to prolonged, irregular temperatures and cannot pull water from the still-frozen ground.

Tivon Feeley, the forest health program leader with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says symptoms may not appear until well into spring.

“The conifers look fine right now, but when we get further down the line in June, they’re going to brown up. I think it’s a high likelihood of something we’re going to see, because they’ve dehydrated themselves now, and it just takes awhile to catch up to the tree.”

Feeley says winter desiccation is often fatal.

Radio Iowa

Siouxland Food Bank receives record donation

Posted March 1, 2024 at 2:27 PM CST

The Food Bank of Siouxland got a record-breaking donation Thursday from Perdue Farms and the Feeding America program.

Food Bank Director Jacob Wanderscheid says Perdue delivered 80,000 pounds of frozen chicken breasts.

“This will be the biggest single donation that we received at one time of a greatly needed product in chicken,” he says. “Protein is the number one item that gets asked for, and top three of the categories that get distributed.”

He says it will fill up their freezer space.

“We did work with Perdue to try to get it in two different shipments so that we could get the first shipment to get into the warehouse. We have room for the second one and we’re working with our partners like Hope Food Pantry in Sioux Center to distribute this.”

Gary Malenke, the senior vice president of Perdue Farms in Sioux Center, says the Siouxland donation is part of a larger overall effort.

“Today is the single largest donation that Perdue has ever made in the history of the company,” he says. “Over 3.3 million pounds of product being delivered across the United States today, really kind of in recognition of leap day and the need for another day to feed ourselves.”

The Siouxland area covers 11 counties. It’s estimated that more than 25,000 residents don’t have enough food, including 42% of all children.

IPR News

Cyberattack causing prescription delays

Posted March 1, 2024 at 2:26 PM CST

A cyberattack on a health care company is causing delays in prescriptions nationwide, including in Iowa.

Change Healthcare, which is owned by UnitedHeath Group, has seen delays in its system since experiencing a cyberattack more than a week ago.

The company handles things like payments and requests to insurance companies to authorize care. The attack has caused many pharmacies to experience delays in filling prescriptions.

This includes UnityPoint Health, which operates clinics and hospitals across the state.

A spokesperson for the organization said in a statement the cyberattack has affected its pharmacies’ ability to submit prescription claims to insurance companies.

UnityPoint says it has disconnected its systems from Change Healthcare until the issue is resolved, and is trying to fill urgent prescriptions. But it said patients may experience a longer wait time and different payment requirements temporarily.

As of Friday, Change Healthcare’s systems remain down.

IPR News

Bohannan criticizes Miller-Meeks for supporting Life at Conception bill that could have impacted IVF treatments

Posted March 1, 2024 at 10:02 AM CST

Democratic challenger Christina Bohannan is going after Iowa’s 1st Congressional District Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks for being one of 166 Republicans who co-sponsored a Life at Conception Act in 2021.

The bill doesn’t mention in vitro fertilization, and following an Alabama Supreme Court decision that threatens the practice, Miller-Meeks recently said she supports IVF.

But because the bill would make fertilized eggs subject to the same protections as a child, Bohannan says it would have made IVF treatment impossible to practice.

“You can’t sign onto a bill that has this severe, devastating consequence for families and then try to backtrack later and say, ‘Oh I didn’t mean that, now I’m going to try and change what I’m saying simply now because you think you’re now in some political hot water over it.’”

Lab director Amy Sparks spoke at a campaign event for Bohannan. She said when she’s pipetting a tiny egg at the in vitro fertilization lab at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, there is always a chance its soft shell could be cracked.

She says the Alabama Supreme Court decision would make such a mistake a potential wrongful death lawsuit.

“I’m trying to do the best for our patients. But if I’m going to be liable to that level, I don’t know how many of us will continue to do this work.”

At the event, Bohannan said she pursued IVF when trying to conceive a second child.

IPR News

Rep. Steckman stepping down after 16 years

Posted February 29, 2024 at 2:47 PM CST

After nearly two decades in office, state Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, will not seek reelection.

Steckman is a Democrat who represents District 59 in northern Iowa. She’s a retired teacher and has held the office for 16 years.

In that time, she says she’s become a staunch defender of the state’s public education system. She is the ranking member of the House Education Committee.

She says part of the reason she’s stepping down is the promise she sees in Iowa’s next generation of politicians.

“A lot of the new folks that came into our caucus are young, excited about Iowa. They’re passionate, they’re enthusiastic and I would love to see someone in north Iowa step up and fill those shoes up here.”

Steckman’s district includes roughly 32,000 Iowans, stretching from Plymouth at its northernmost to Thornton in the south, including Mason City.

IPR News

Governor unveils mobile office to connect unemployed Iowans with jobs

Posted February 29, 2024 at 12:53 PM CST

Gov. Kim Reynolds unveiled a new mobile workforce office on Thursday that will travel around the state to help connect out-of-work Iowans with new jobs.

Reynolds says it’s part of her initiative to focus on “re-employment.” She says her bill passed in 2022 to limit unemployment benefits to 16 weeks maximum has reduced the average amount of time Iowans get benefits to just under ten weeks.

"That is the shortest amount of time in more than 50 years, and significantly better than the national average of more than 14 weeks.”

Reynolds says the mobile workforce office will help with the state’s ongoing efforts to alleviate the state’s workforce shortage. She says about 60,000 jobs are open, many in the health care field.

The 32-foot workforce bus cost nearly $500,000 and was paid for with a mix of COVID relief funds and other federal grants.

IPR News

Dubuque County Auditor says phishing scam took $524,000 from city

Posted February 29, 2024 at 12:50 PM CST

More than $500,000 in federal money has gone missing in Dubuque County.

The county was passing the money to the City of Dyersville for an American Rescue Plan-funded project. Dubuque County officials believe the Dyersville city email was compromised and used by a third party to transfer $524,000 outside the county.

County Auditor Kevin Dragotto says the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident.

“We will continue to release all the information and be completely transparent in the process so that the public and the taxpayers can have a clear picture of what transpired.”

In 2022, the FBI reported that phishing attempts netted $52 million.

IPR News

Northeast Iowa church goes full solar

Posted February 29, 2024 at 9:17 AM CST

A recent report from the Department of Energy has found Iowa churches are below national averages of renewable energy use. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Decorah is helping to change that.

The church is one of just 17 houses of worship in Iowa that utilizes solar energy, according to the report.

In the past year, the church has devoted itself entirely to switching over to renewable energy. It replaced five furnaces with 102 solar panels and is now operating at net zero.

Jim Fritz, a member of the congregation for about 30 years, first proposed the idea after powering his home with solar energy. He says three of the church’s rooftop furnaces were failing, and all five were “ugly.”

“You either go back to what you’ve been doing for the last however long and continue to spew emissions, or you can do something creative and clean up an eyesore.”

The switch to solar will allow the church to offset an estimated 25 tons of carbon emissions per year.

IPR News

Court says families cannot sue state for banning school mask mandates

Posted February 28, 2024 at 10:23 AM CST

A federal appeals court has officially ended a lawsuit brought by a group of Iowa parents against a state law passed in 2021 that banned schools from issuing mask mandates.

The families argued that schools must be allowed to require masking to protect their children who have disabilities that make them vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.

On Tuesday, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the families do not have legal standing to sue the state.

In a statement, Gov. Kim Reynolds said prohibiting school mask mandates was the right thing to do and she would do it again.

The Midwest Newsroom

In the Midwest, it's hard to count how many Hispanic women die from pregnancy issues

Posted February 28, 2024 at 10:22 AM CST

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hispanic maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are rising. The most recent data published in 2021 shows the rate at 28 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 11.8 in 2018.

In 2021, Iowa reported 13% of pregnancy-related deaths were self-reported as Hispanic but did not include race information.

One of the largest sources of federal funding for maternal-child health comes from Title V, a federal block grant program. Title V provides funding to all 50 states for the improvement of public health services and systems for mothers, children and families.

Title V is different from other grants. It’s a “block” of money from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that is distributed among states. State Title V offices allocate their portion of the funding.

As part of the block grant agreement, all subcontractors list any health gaps in the community and what they are doing to address them. All states also must list their health priorities each year.

Each state is also required to show what percentage of its target population is being served by the Title V program. Iowa, as well as many other states, report serving 100% of pregnant people. However, this year, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri did not specifically state addressing racial or ethnic health disparities as a priority for pregnant women and maternal health.

Read the full story from the Midwest Newsroom.

IPR News

1619 Freedom School program works to help close literacy gap by teaching Black history

Posted February 27, 2024 at 3:46 PM CST
Six kids and one teacher at a table reading books.
Grant Leo Winterer
IPR News
Small groups in the school focus on group reading.

Studies have shown that African American students who have had at least one Black teacher are more likely to enroll in college.

In Waterloo, a small team of mostly Black instructors is leading an after-school program to sharpen elementary students’ literacy skills. They also want to help students better understand their community’s history.

Gary Crawford is one of those instructors. He’s a 5th grade teacher by day and has been with the school since it began. Crawford grew up in Waterloo. He said in addition to improved literacy, he’s hoping the program will make his students more aware of their community’s history than he was.

“As a kid, when I was their age, they didn’t tell me any of that stuff," he said. "So now that I have some of that knowledge, I’m really honored to be able to share that with them so they can hopefully get out into the neighborhoods and see some of those buildings.”

Read the full story.

IPR News

IDOT closes Highway 9 bridge for structural investigation

Posted February 27, 2024 at 3:45 PM CST

Drivers who use the Highway 9 bridge over the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa should plan a different route. The Iowa Department of Transportation closed the bridge after inspectors found a couple of the structure’s piers had moved.

Crews have been building a new bridge about 60 feet from the old one in Lansing. Project Manager Clayton Burke says the Iowa DOT found the problem during an inspection on Sunday.

“It seems, based on the construction activity that was occurring at the time the bridge moved, that it was related to the activity that was going on to build the new bridge.”

The closure will mean a 75-mile detour to either Marquette to the south or La Crescent to the north. Burke says IDOT is putting up signs notifying drivers on Tuesday. He says repairs will take a couple of months.

The new bridge is not scheduled to open until 2027.

This story has been updated to reflect that the detour will go to Marquette. A previous version said McGregor.

IPR News

Former lawmaker Wes Whitehead dies

Posted February 26, 2024 at 4:35 PM CST

Former Iowa lawmaker Wes Whitehead died last week at the age of 90. He was known as a champion for working families.

Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott considered Whitehead a friend who paid attention to the needs of his community, especially labor issues.

“Wes was very independent when he went to the statehouse. He didn't vote party lines and he listened to the local officials probably better than anybody about what were concerns of ours.”

Whitehead, a Democrat, represented Sioux City for five terms in the Iowa House before retiring in 2011. He was a veteran of the Korean War and owned a heavy machinery company.

Whitehead died at a local care center in Sioux City on Thursday. A funeral service is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Midwest Newsroom

More than 123,000 Iowa households could lose internet service unless Congress approves funding for discount program

Posted February 26, 2024 at 8:58 AM CST

More than 742,000 households in the Midwest, including over 123,000 in Iowa, could lose access to the internet unless Congress extends funding that’s set to end in May.

The American Connectivity Program, part of the $14.2 billion infrastructure bill passed in 2021, serves roughly 23 million low-income and rural households nationwide. The program provides discounts on monthly internet bills.

Janie Dunning, a member of Missouri’s Broadband Coalition, says the loss of internet service would have significant effects for residents.

“They could lose their ability to do their job — resulting in loss of income — lose their access to health care, lose their access to their children to have a better education.”

IPR News

Discovery of dead gray wolf could suggest population growth

Posted February 23, 2024 at 4:13 PM CST

A gray wolf was killed by a vehicle in eastern Iowa earlier this week, but the finding could suggest good news for the species overall.

The wolf was found on the northwest edge of Davenport, and was killed by a car, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Gray wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Over the past five years, the DNR has confirmed an average of one wolf sighting per year.

State Furbearer Biologist Vince Evelsizer says because wolves have been sighted in Iowa, it means their numbers are growing.

“It’s a good thing overall. It means that the population in the core areas is good, and there’s extra animals that are willing to disperse long distances and look for new territory.”

Evelsizer guesses the wolf came down from the Great Lakes region, where there are significant numbers of gray wolves.

IPR News

Iowa Supreme Court rules that Republican lawmakers don’t need to disclose emails

Posted February 23, 2024 at 4:13 PM CST

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that Republican lawmakers don’t have to disclose their emails as part of a lawsuit over sweeping changes to Iowa’s voting laws.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa sued the State of Iowa challenging a law passed three years ago that gives Iowans less time to vote in person and by mail. The group asked a district court judge to compel several Republican lawmakers to provide their communications with others about the process of passing that legislation.

A Polk County District Court judge ordered the lawmakers to provide those documents to LULAC’s lawyers, which was appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

The court determined lawmakers’ communications about the legislative process and legislative intent can be shielded, and that the documents requested in the case aren’t relevant to LULAC’s claims that the voting law changes are unconstitutional.

IPR News

Warm weather to continue until mid-week next week

Posted February 23, 2024 at 2:45 PM CST

Temperatures are expected to rise through the weekend before the Midwest sees a brief shot of winter weather in the middle of next week.

Des Moines National Weather Service Meteorologist Andrew Ansorge says to expect near-record warm temperatures on Monday and Tuesday before a system moves in and things quickly change.

The cold won’t last for long. Temperatures are expected to be back in the 50s across most of Iowa next Friday.

IPR News

Report finds that most of Iowa’s rural hospitals no longer deliver babies

Posted February 23, 2024 at 2:44 PM CST

As of last month, 61% of rural Iowa hospitals no longer have OB services, according toa report by the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform.

The report also found that of the 36 rural hospitals still providing OB care, 58% reported losing money on the service.

Harold Miller, the president and CEO of the nonprofit policy center, says insurance companies and Medicaid need to reimburse hospitals more for the cost of births.

“We've suggested that they also need to pay differently. Rather than simply paying for each birth, they need to be paying the hospital to be able to support the availability of the appropriate staff to do that.”

Miller says policymakers also need to find ways to recruit and train more people to work in rural health care.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Two years since the war in Ukraine began, Sioux County continues to welcome refugees

Posted February 23, 2024 at 2:43 PM CST

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Sioux County resident Martha Hulshof has helped 120 Ukrainians escape the conflict by filling out paperwork, securing transportation and finding local churches and individuals willing to sponsor refugees.

If she can’t find volunteers, she does it all herself.

Bringing people over from Ukraine has become more difficult as the war wages on. What used to take just a couple of days to get people out of a war zone can now stretch out for almost three months, due to the extra documentation required by the federal government.

Hulshof said some people she knows have disappeared, and she doesn’t know where they are. Others are killed before they can leave.

Once Ukrainians who succeed in leaving their country reach America, there is no guarantee they won’t be forced to return home when the fighting stops.

Hulshof said when the war started, the government launched a program called Uniting for Ukraine, where people can stay temporarily for a two-year period of parole followed by an extension.

"But our government is always changing stuff, so we can't say with certainty, ‘Yep, they'll be here in five years,’” she said.

Through the uncertainty, Hulshof still feels a calling to help the Ukrainians and considers them friends and part of her extended family.

Read the full story.

Radio Iowa

DNR seeking information after state’s largest sycamore damaged by fire

Posted February 23, 2024 at 8:42 AM CST

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is asking the public for help in finding out how one of the state’s oldest trees was damaged.

The DNR says someone reported a burning tree Sunday at Geode State Park near Danville in southeast Iowa. The tree turned out to be certified as the largest sycamore in the state. Based on its circumference and other measurements, it is estimated to be around 350 years old.

A park ranger says the tree was severely damaged by the fire and its survival is uncertain. Anyone with information on the fire is asked to call the DNR.

Harvest Public Media

Ag groups, lawmakers warn of monopoly in the fertilizer industry with plant sale

Posted February 23, 2024 at 8:41 AM CST

When Koch Industries announced a $3.6 billion deal in December to buy OCI’s Iowa Fertilizer Co. in far southeast Iowa, Jason Sporrer said he was shocked.

The sales manager for a co-op that provides agricultural products and services in western Iowa said the facility had brought much-needed diversity.

While still pending review by the Federal Trade Commission, some agricultural leaders and lawmakers say a finalized sale could put pressure on an already volatile market, creating a monopoly and higher prices for farmers. In January, several agriculture groups sent the FTC and the Department of Justice a letter calling on both federal agencies to thoroughly investigate the sale.

Democratic lawmakers in Iowa also are raising concerns, pointing at more than $500 million in local, state and federal tax incentives that OCI received before opening the plant in 2017. At a press conference earlier this month, Rep. Megan Srinivas, D-Des Moines, said while taxpayers helped fund the facility, questions remained about what would happen to the plant’s 260 employees.

In an email to Harvest Public Media, a representative of Koch Fertilizer said the subsidiary is focused on completing the transaction and operating the plant in Wever.

“This acquisition is consistent with the significant investments we have made in our business to increase production, improve reliability and expand our customers’ access to the products and services they need,” the statement said.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

IPR News

Audit finds over $24,000 missing from Webster County Public Health Department

Posted February 22, 2024 at 3:49 PM CST

A report released by State Auditor Rob Sand has found more than $24,000 is missing from the Webster County Public Health Department.

Sand conducteda special investigation of the department between July 2016 and May 2022 following concerns from county officials about former public health director Kari Prescott’s handling of finances.

Prescott was fired in June 2022 following reports of a hostile work environment.

The report found more than $24,000 in undeposited collections, including $16,000 for immunization fees and nearly $8,000 for tuberculosis tests. The funds’ location could not be determined due to poor record keeping at the department.

Sand’s office has filed a copy of the report with county and state law enforcement agencies, which are responsible for deciding whether to file any criminal charges.

IPR News

Ethics Committee dismisses complaint against Rep. Jeff Shipley

Posted February 22, 2024 at 1:14 PM CST

The Iowa House Ethics Committee has unanimously voted to dismiss an ethics complaint against Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Birmingham.

Sara Hayden Parris of Johnston filed the complaint last month. She alleged Shipley used social media to personally defame her. Parris wrote in her complaint that Shipley’s online comments constituted a violation of the House ethics code.

Rep. Anne Osmundson, R-Volga, who chairs the House Ethics Committee, says lawmakers disagree.

“It really seemed politically motivated, and he had not violated any of the House Code of Ethics rules so that’s why it was dismissed.”

Parris is president of a nonprofit that distributes free books with sexual content that Republican lawmakers have targeted with legislation. Shipley has accused her of giving out obscene materials and wrote on social media that Parris should be under criminal investigation.


New Kirkwood president inaugurated

Posted February 22, 2024 at 1:12 PM CST

Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids has inaugurated its new president.

College and community leaders, legislators and alums attended the event for President Kristie Fisher on Feb. 21, who began her tenure at Kirkwood on Oct. 30, 2023.

“Kirkwood has a long tradition of high quality education and training, and a tradition of exceptional service to our students and our communities that deserves to be celebrated.”

Fisher is the sixth president in Kirkwood’s nearly 60-year history and the second woman to serve in the role. She succeeded Lori Sundberg, who retired in 2023.

Radio Iowa

Central Iowa cyclists launch effort to build massive indoor BMX track

Posted February 21, 2024 at 2:36 PM CST

A capital campaign is being launched to build an indoor Olympic-level bicycle motocross, or BMX, track and cycling park in central Iowa.

One of the effort’s organizers, Bobby Kennedy, operations manager of the Des Moines Street Collective, says the proposed facility would be an excellent resource for community wellness that would promote access to sports and recreation.

BMX involves both bike racing, which is racing on a short course over “pumps” and freestyle, which focuses more on tricks and jumps.

The plans call for a 200,000 square foot facility that could cost between $5 million and $9 million.

“What we’re hoping to put in is a full BMX race track, but then also a skills park. It’d be a place where you can practice drops like ledges, a pump track and then dirt winds as well. We’re aiming big, so it’d be nice if we had some actual single-track style, maybe wooden features where people could practice mountain biking in the winter.”

There’s also discussion of building a steeply banked track, called a velodrome, for bike racing within the facility. Cycling is huge in Iowa and Kennedy says there are no indoor tracks near this level in the state.

“The nice thing about an indoor track is constancy, which is not how you talk about Iowa weather. So basically, we’re looking at something that people would be able to use on a day-to-day basis, no matter if it’s 120 degrees outside or -20.”

Under the capital campaign, backers have 12 months to raise $47,000 to pay for a feasibility study on the track, and Kennedy says they’ve already raised $16,000 toward the goal.

Radio Iowa

Treehouse Village attraction to open soon at Iowa Arboretum

Posted February 21, 2024 at 11:24 AM CST