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Published September 29, 2023 at 8:00 AM CDT

📻 Follow breaking news and all of the day’s top stories by scrolling below. Iowa Public Radio reporters file the latest headlines throughout the day to keep you informed of today’s most important news stories.

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IPR News

More than 58,000 Iowans could feel effects of government shutdown on WIC program in a matter of days 

Posted September 29, 2023 at 3:32 PM CDT

If the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives can’t pass a funding bill, the government could shut down Sunday. That means federally funded food programs could end for mothers and infants.

This week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) could feel the impact in just a few days.

The program supports more than 58,000 Iowans.

Iowa’s 1st Congressional District Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks called a shutdown “existential” for the country, but she told IPR that Republicans don’t like large spending bills. Thirty-two elected officials from her district are asking her to pass a budget and avoid the shutdown.

“We're pushing leadership to come up with a vote at the same time as we're continuing to talk with other members of Congress so that we can get funding for our government,” she said.

Johnson County Public Health Director Danielle Pettit-Majewski says while SNAP benefits will continue for a short time, she’s concerned about meeting already heightened food insecurity. She says she’s already getting calls because September’s benefit was smaller than normal. A complete stop to the program will mean real pain for households.

“We're trying to share as much information with our clients as we can, but we're really kind of in the dark about what will happen,” she said.

Harvest Public Media

Congress will miss the farm bill deadline in the midst of a likely government shutdown

Posted September 29, 2023 at 1:37 PM CDT

In the midst of a likely government shutdown, Congress is missing another big deadline — the farm bill.

The massive legislation passed roughly every five years includes funding for food assistance, commodity support, crop insurance and conservation programs.

As Congress appears likely to plow past the Sept. 30 deadline, agricultural policy experts and lawmakers say there shouldn’t be too much harm to critical programs, at least before the end of the year.

“It’s not the end of the world,” said Brad Lubben, an extension policy specialist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “But you can see it from there.”

Even without an immediate extension of the farm bill after Sept. 30, several programs are permanently authorized and will remain funded, including crop insurance.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.


Book ban prompts disclaimers on Little Free Library exchanges

Posted September 29, 2023 at 1:36 PM CDT

Earlier this year, the Iowa Legislature approved a law that bans books that describe sex actsfrom libraries and classrooms, forcing school districts to examine their books and remove any in violation of the new rules. The bill also requires school districts to maintain online lists of books that are available to students.

That law has led at least two suburban school districts to place disclaimers on Little Free Libraries, free-standing outdoor displays where people are encouraged to share books.

At Webster Elementary in the Urbandale school district, The Des Moines Register reports that a sign has been posted stating, “This ‘little library’ is not funded, sponsored, endorsed or maintained by the Urbandale Community School District and is not in any way part of the Urbandale Schools library program.”

In the West Des Moines school district, spokesperson Laine Buck said the district planned to add signs on any little libraries on school grounds, but wouldn’t remove the exchanges.

“They are intended for free book sharing, and because it is a community resource that we believe the broader community appreciates, we currently do not have plans to remove any from district property,” Buck said.

The Des Moines school district has a Little Free Library outside at least one school, but doesn’t plan to post a disclaimer, a spokesperson said.

Harvest Public Media

Composting businesses are sprouting across the Midwest — but many cities are unprepared

Posted September 29, 2023 at 1:35 PM CDT

Food waste is the largest category of trash going to landfills, according to an estimate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2018. Even more concerning, rotting food produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Municipal solid waste landfills were the third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States in 2021.

Community composting — creating and using the compost in the same community that generated the waste — is popping up in cities across the country. It keeps that waste out of landfills and returns nutrients to the soil. It can also save municipalities money on landfill fees.

Yet not all cities are welcoming composting operations, especially when neighbors complain about bad smells and pests.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

IPR News

With COVID-19 up again, Iowans should double check expiration dates on old test kits 

Posted September 29, 2023 at 8:44 AM CDT

The federal government has once again started offering Americans free at-home testing kits for COVID-19. Iowans should double check the expiration date on any older kits they have.

Americans can get up to four at-home rapid tests per household. However, these tests expire after a number of months.

Brian Benson, the executive director of UnityPoint Health’s pharmacy department, says over time, the solution in the kit that is mixed with the swab or the indicator panel could go bad, resulting in an inaccurate result.

“You might get a false positive, meaning it could indicate that you have COVID when you don't, or you could get a false negative or it would say you don't have COVID and you do, so the accuracy is pretty much, or could be, suspect.”

Iowans should first check the expiration date on the test kit’s box. The Food and Drug Administration’s website also addresses when a testing kithas been issued an extended expiration date.

Radio Iowa

Moose sightings continue in several northwest Iowa counties

Posted September 28, 2023 at 3:33 PM CDT

A moose is still on the loose in northwest Iowa.

DNR conservation officer Joey Yarkosky has covered Clay and O’Brien counties for eight years and says it’s a first for him.

“It’s really unusual, especially for Iowa,” Yarkosky said. “Having breeding populations of moose, you’ve really gotta go up to northern Minnesota. They would have moose that would wander -- especially a young bull like this -- south in different territory, so to make it all the way down in Iowa, it’s really pretty unique and he’s still on the move, so we’ll see where he heads to from here.”

Last week, the moose was photographed on the outskirts of Sioux Center. It appears he made a turn at Orange City and headed east, being spotted in recent days near Ruthven and Gillett Grove. Yarkosky is pleading with the public to keep its distance in hopes the moose can find its way home.

“That’s always our hope, for a positive outcome, especially if we get some unique species of animals we usually don’t see. We always hope that they stay away from roads and people are alert as well, too, and we just hope that they give it space and then he could return back to his habitat, where it came from.”

IPR News

Hawkeye Community College opens robotics and automation center 

Posted September 28, 2023 at 2:49 PM CDT

Hawkeye Community College has opened a robotics and automation center geared toward developing specialized skills for manufacturing jobs.

The center has been five years in the making. Located in a refurbished Waterloo John Deere factory, the college hopes to train high school graduates in automated manufacturing technologies.

Director Kent Wolfe says that he’s seen the need for the Cedar Valley manufacturing labor force firsthand.

“There’s a tremendous need for more workers to fill those jobs, but more importantly, workers that have these skills to work in smart manufacturing.”

The program initially began in area high schools to help close that gap. Wolfe says that engagement with high schools laid the groundwork for the center and the future of area manufacturing.

“Now, we’re really focused on the current workforce, and that’s going to be our longer-term focus.”

Wolfe says 30% of participating area high schoolers went on to continue training in the manufacturing sector during those initial five years. This fall marks the first for a three-semester, adult-oriented curriculum.

Radio Iowa

Government shutdown would delay CRP payments to Iowa farmers

Posted September 28, 2023 at 10:47 AM CDT

John Whitaker, an Iowan who had a leadership role in the Farm Service Agency a decade ago, says a federal government shutdown would delay Conservation Reserve Program payments, which are issued in October.

Whitaker was appointed by former President Barack Obama as Iowa State Executive Director of the Farm Service Agency in 2009. He was in that role when the federal government shut down for 16 days in October 2013.

“The more that we delay making those payments, the more likely it is the federal government will have to pay interest on those payments,” Whitaker said during an online news conference organized by the Iowa Democratic Party. “That adds to our cost, the cost of doing government.”

If Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments aren’t made by Oct. 31, Whjtaker said the federal government is required to pay a penalty and add interest onto those checks. Even a week-long federal government shutdown in October would create issues with CRP payments, according to Whitaker.

“It’s going to be more and more difficult to get them all certified and all through the system, and the staff is stressed because they know the cost of not getting the payment made. And they also know those producers are waiting on those payments. They expect that payment to be paid in early October, not the end of October or in November or later than that.”

Two years ago, the federal government paid $382 million on Iowa CRP contracts that keep the land out of corn and soybean production for up to 15 years.

Farm Service Agency offices will be closed if Congress does not pass a spending plan for the next federal fiscal year, which begins Sunday. Whitaker said that means farmers will not be able to submit required reports to the United States Department of Agriculture about cover crops that are being planted this fall.

Whitaker served on the Van Buren County Board of Supervisors for ten years. He also served seven years in the Iowa House before he was appointed to lead the Farm Service Agency operations in Iowa.

St. Louis Public Radio

Barges are very efficient. But environmentalists aren’t sure they make a good climate alternative for shipping

Posted September 28, 2023 at 10:43 AM CDT

The Mississippi River is a transportation powerhouse — especially for agriculture.

Roughly 60% of the U.S. grain exports float down the river by barge, and plenty of soybeans are moved that way. Barges can move a lot of other goods, too.

It would take more than 1,000 semi trucks to carry the same load as 15 barges and a single tow boat, the standard for this part of the Mississippi River. That’s significant given that the transportation sector accounts for about 28% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. But only about 2% of that sector is ships and boats.

Reducing the emissions from the transportation sector is imperative to meet the country’s climate goals and one reason some advocate for more things to be shipped on the country’s rivers.

A Texas A&M study from 2022 found that the overall carbon footprint of barge shipping is nine times smaller than trucking’s and about half that of rail.

But environmentalists are not sure barges are always a better alternative.

Read the full story from St. Louis Public Radio.

IPR News

COGS labor union asks UI for higher wages

Posted September 27, 2023 at 4:02 PM CDT

A labor union representing over two thousand graduate students at the University of Iowa says the cost of living in Johnson County outpaces their pay. They are calling on the Iowa Board of Regents to increase pay by 25% and 35%, depending on the position.

Since a great deal of graduate students are on nine-month academic year appointments, the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students (COGS) calling for the increase in their salaries to push them to a living wage.

According to the UI, 2,494 graduate student workers were employed for the 2023 fall semester — 83% of whom are COGS represented. The UI estimates a 25% increase in graduate student wages would cost the UI $13.9 million.

COGS’ Natalie McClellan says in the spring the organization was negotiating for an increase that kept pace with inflation, but the reality is the wages don’t account for costs like housing, transportation and food.

This year, the regents are asking the Iowa Legislature to increase funding for the state’s three public universities. McClellan says any increased funding needs to benefit its workforce.

“You’re asking for more money for the university system. How is that going to benefit us as the people who are making it go?”

The union and the Board of Regents agreed to the $26,000 minimum last March during negotiations. McClellan emphasized that the demands do not reopen those negotiations.

Regents apokesperson Josh Lehman said salaries are comparable to other Big Ten peer institutions.

“Graduate assistant positions are a distinct category of part-time employees who, in addition to receiving compensation, benefit from substantial contributions toward tuition, fees, and health and dental insurance,” Lehman said. “Moreover, they are frequently eligible for other forms of financial aid.”

The union is using MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, which accounts for costs like transportation and housing in the county. Assuming a 40-hour work week, it says a single person with no kids in Johnson County needs a pre-tax salary of $35,000.

Radio Iowa

Reynolds promises state surplus will fuel tax cuts

Posted September 27, 2023 at 3:14 PM CDT

The State of Iowa has nearly $5.4 billion in unspent tax dollars. Gov. Kim Reynolds is promising much of it will fuel tax cuts.

The final report on the state fiscal year that ended June 30 shows the state collected $1.8 billion more in taxes than was spent. Another $900 million is deposited in reserve funds, but the state’s Taxpayer Relief Fund has $2.74 billion in it.

Reynolds, a Republican, wrote in a statement that “some see that surplus as government not spending enough, but I view it as an overcollection” of taxes from Iowans.

Reynolds has previously said she wants to get rid of the state income tax by the end of her current term as governor. In the written statement issued Wednesday, Reynolds said she looks forward to cutting taxes again in the next legislative session and returning the current surplus back to Iowans.

The $1.8 billion budget surplus from the last state fiscal year will be deposited in the Taxpayer Relief Fund in January. The $900 million will stay in the state’s economic emergency fund and cash reserve fund.

Sen. Janet Petersen of Des Moines, the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the governor’s “tax schemes” favor corporations and special interests.

“While Gov. Reynolds is promising more giveaways to come, middle-class Iowa families still aren’t getting ahead,” Petersen wrote in a statement.

IPR News

Cedar Falls clinic partners with 3 states for LGBTQ care after Iowa law bans gender-affirming care for trans minors 

Posted September 27, 2023 at 3:12 PM CDT

A health care clinic in Cedar Falls has partnered with three other states to provide care after a statewide bill restricting LGBTQ care has become enforceable.

The partnership between Cedar Falls’ UnityPoint clinic and those in Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin comes as a response to the passing of a new law that restricts hormone therapy and puberty blockers for Iowans under 18 years old.

Rachel Benson, a primary health care provider with the Cedar Falls clinic, says that the regional network is an essential bright spot for the marginalized community.

“We’ve definitely tried to make sure that while we’re facing very scary and uncertain times, that we are remaining a beacon of hope that we’re going to continue to help these patients get the care that they need, albeit in a different fashion than we were doing previously.”

Benson and her clinicians are part of three clinics in Iowa that specialize in youth LGBTQ care.

Radio Iowa

Union rep for federal employees in Iowa says gov. shutdown would drag on economy

Posted September 27, 2023 at 2:33 PM CDT

Ruark Hotopp, the national vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, says some workers will be required to work, without pay, if there’s a federal government shutdown.

The union represents 19,000 federal employees who work in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Hotopp joined an online news conference organized by the Iowa Democratic Party.

“In our union, we had many discussions with a lot of federal lawmakers up on Capitol Hill,” Hotopp said. “The indication we had as of a month ago was that there was going to be a deal struck amongst House Republicans to avert this, only for them to then renege on that deal and to come back and hold us all hostage with the threat of a shutdown.”

Hotopp says a shutdown would bring the country to a screeching halt.

“I don’t know that folks really realize how many government agencies really exist and what they all do. We run the full gamut of law enforcement agencies, agriculture — you name it.”

Some employees of the United States Department of Agriculture are represented by Hotopp’s union, but the USDA would largely shut down, with the exception of critical functions, like firefighters in the U.S. Forest Service who protect property.

Radio Iowa

Nearly 100 dogs removed from Ogden puppy mill

Posted September 26, 2023 at 2:37 PM CDT

An already-crowded Animal Rescue League of Iowa is even shorter on space after teams were dispatched to Boone County, where nearly 100 dogs had to be removed from a puppy mill.

The rescue league’s KC Routos says conditions at the property in Ogden were exceptionally poor, and the smell was overpowering even before the buildings were entered.

“There was excrement from the animals in their spaces and there were quite a few pregnant moms with their puppies as well,” Routos said. “Some of the dogs had matting and were incredibly thin as well, and some of the puppies were just days old.”

The ARL has been fighting capacity all summer long as there have been dogs coming in practically daily, so handling this large of a case is putting the Des Moines facility in a bind.

“We didn’t have our normal kennel space for taking in nearly 100 dogs. We ended up having to put up temporary kennels in some of our rooms that are not necessarily meant for dogs to be housed in them, but we will do whatever we have to do to make sure that these dogs get to a safe spot.”

There’s no word on any charges being filed in the case. The puppy mill was mostly focused on breeding goldendoodles, Routos said.

While the puppies will need to stay with their mothers for a few more weeks before becoming available for adoption, the rest of the dogs will be able to be adopted soon, spending on their behavioral and medical needs. The ARL also has more than 70 other dogs available for immediate adoption.

IPR News

Federal grant to cover nearly 80% of Davenport rail safety project

Posted September 26, 2023 at 2:21 PM CDT

A new federal grant will cover nearly 80% of a $3.4 million project in Davenport that aims to improve railroad safety along the riverfront corridor.

The Biden administration announced that more than $1.4 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will go to 70 rail improvement projects across the country. The administration is calling it the largest amount ever awarded for rail safety and rail supply chain upgrades.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg says the projects make “American rail safer, more reliable and more resilient.”

In Davenport, that’s funding for lights, gates, medians and signage at rail crossings to help pedestrians and drivers know when a train is coming. Once finished, the city plans to establish a “quiet zone.”

Just last year, Canadian Pacific gave Davenport $10 million in return for not opposing its merger with the former Kansas City Southern. With the merger in effect, Canadian Pacific’s rail lines in southeastern Iowa are expected to see some of the largest increases in train traffic.

IPR News

Sioux City gearing up to hold Sounds of West 7th Street diversity festival

Posted September 26, 2023 at 12:20 PM CDT
City of Sioux City

This weekend, Sioux City is hosting a festival that highlights diversity. Organizers hope other communities will follow their example.

The Sounds of West 7th Street Festival happens on Saturday with food, art and music from rock-n-roll to blues, gospel and jazz.

Semehar Ghebrekidan, Sioux City’s community inclusion liaison, says West 7th St. in Sioux City was historically known as a hub for Jewish, Black and Asian residents.

“I think this is an easy way to be able to connect with people and then hopefully start having those conversations that go beyond the fun things,” Ghebrekidan said. “I think it's just important to be able to celebrate all the diversity of this community.”

Ghebrekidan encourages other cities in Iowa to do the same.

Read the full story.

Side Effects Public Media

States to reinstate half a million people’s Medicaid coverage after system errors

Posted September 26, 2023 at 12:19 PM CDT

Thousands of people have been mistakenly dropped off Medicaid since the spring. In Iowa, state officials say they’re still assessing the number of people affected by the error. System glitches are behind the massive loss of coverage.

States have been sifting through their rolls to check who still qualifies for Medicaid after pandemic-era federal protections expired last spring.

One way they’re doing that is through computer systems that draw on information from reliable sources like state wage data to see if a person still qualifies for government insurance.

Federal rules require states to determine each person’s eligibility individually. But 30 states have been assessing eligibility for households as a whole. This means that sometimes they disenroll the entire household including eligible members, like children who have higher income thresholds.

Federal officials have ordered states to fix their process as soon as possible. They say that nearly half a million people across the country will be reinstated soon.

Read the full story from Side Effects Public Media.

IPR News

Planned Parenthood ending Des Moines book sale 

Posted September 25, 2023 at 4:05 PM CDT

Planned Parenthood North Central States says its book sale at the state fairgrounds next month will be its last.

A statement from the organization says the biannual sale has raised more than $10 million for its work since 1961.

Planned Parenthood originally said Monday night that the warehouse where they store the books is being acquired by the city of Des Moines using eminent domain. According to a report from KCCI, the city denied those claims, saying Des Moines and Planned Parenthood reached a voluntary agreement to purchase the property at a fair market price without the use of eminent domain.

Planned Parenthood verified this is true, telling KCCI that the city main the organization a fair offer for the warehouse to avoid the eminent domain process and legal fight.

“In this increasingly hostile landscape, Planned Parenthood is often fighting legal battles to protect the right of Iowans to access essential health care and much needed sex education,” the organization wrote in a statement. “We often have to make hard decisions about where to allocate resources to support our mission. We recognized that by coming to a mutual agreement with the city with a fair purchase price for the warehouse, we could continue supporting sex education in Iowa and preserve our legal resources for the fight to protect Iowans’ freedom to control their health, bodies and future. We are thankful for the city’s open communication and partnership in that process.”

The organization says an endowed fund established by the sale of the building to the city will enable Planned Parenthood to continue funding its education programs at current levels.

The final book sale begins on Oct. 12 and continues through Oct. 16.

IPR News

The first-ever full review of Iowa’s boards and commissions is complete. Over 100 of them could be eliminated — or merged

Posted September 25, 2023 at 3:41 PM CDT

A state committee that has been evaluating the number of boards and commissions in Iowa is sending final recommendations to lawmakers.

In the final report, the Boards and Commissions Review Committee suggested ending or merging 111 of the state’s 256 boards and commissions. Many of those boards oversee professional licensing or government services.

Committee Chair Kraig Paulsen, the director of the Iowa Department of Management, says this was the first ever complete review of boards and commissions in the state’s history.

“The governor and the general assembly are going to receive a copy of these recommendations, and as everyone knows these recommendations will require legislation. So between now and when session starts, I hope Iowans continue this conversation.”

Sen. Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, said at Monday’s meeting that the committee should not dismiss boards that may seem obscure or narrowly focused.

Five boards that were originally slated for elimination are now suggested to stay in place. That includes the Iowa Coalition on Volunteer Service. Some commenters had warned that ending the coalition might have caused the state to lose AmeriCorps funding. The State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council and Commission of Deaf Services will also remain standalone boards.

IPR News

State obesity rate over 37%, report finds

Posted September 25, 2023 at 9:53 AM CDT

An annual report by the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health found more than 37% of Iowa adults were obese in 2022, a slight uptick from the previous year’s number.

Iowa is now one of 22 states with an obesity rate over 35%.

Dara Lieberman, with the nonprofit, says national and state lawmakers need to invest more in chronic disease prevention programs to reverse the trend.

“[The] CDC only has enough money to fund about 17 states to fight obesity and to promote physical activity and nutrition, and Iowa doesn't receive that money,” Lieberman said. “So despite having high obesity rates, in Iowa, there's not enough money for Iowa to receive that funding.”

Lieberman says many factors contribute to obesity rates, including a lack of access to affordable nutritious food and physical activity spaces for many Iowans.


UI announces plans to build $20 million facility for women’s gymnastics team, spirit squads

Posted September 25, 2023 at 9:53 AM CDT

The University of Iowa plans to build a $20 million training center for the women’s gymnastics team and spirit squads, pending approval by the state Board of Regents.

The facility, announced Tuesday, will feature competition-style beams, vault runways, uneven bars and a floor-exercise space.

In addition to practice space totaling about 21,000 square feet, there will be locker rooms, meeting and athletic training rooms, office space and a multi-purpose room.

The project will be paid for with athletic department revenue and private gifts. The building will be adjacent to the women’s soccer and field hockey facilities.

The women’s gymnastics team and spirit squads have practiced in the Field House, which opened in 1927.

The gymnastics team finished the 2023 season ranked No. 26 nationally, reaching as high as No. 15 during the regular season.

Harvest Public Media

Cover crops and no-till aren't just good for soil — they also make farmers more money, study says

Posted September 25, 2023 at 9:52 AM CDT

Farming practices that improve soil health might also have economic benefits for farmers, according to a study from the Soil Health Institute.

The study looked at 30 farms across the United States. The soil management practices included no-till, which means leaving soil undisturbed, and cover crops, which are plants that are primarily used to keep soil in place between growing seasons.

On average, these practices increased net farm income by $65 an acre per year, says Wayne Honeycutt, the president of the soil health institute.

“This is a way that not only is more profitable, but these practices can really help them build that resilience to those more extreme weather events.”

The institute found similar results in a 2021 study that focused on 100 farms across the Midwest.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.


Ottumwa man arrested after failing to appear for the guilty verdict at his murder trial

Posted September 25, 2023 at 9:52 AM CDT

An Ottumwa man who failed to show up for the guilty verdict at his murder trial has been found and taken into custody, state officials announced Saturday.

In a brief statement, the Iowa Department of Public Safety thanked everyone who provided information that led to the arrest of Gregory Showalter Sr. of Ottumwa and said more details would be released later. The statement did not provide any additional information about Showalter’s arrest or how or where authorities found him.

A judge issued an arrest warrant for Showalter after he missed the reading of the jury verdict on Friday, according to the Ottumwa Courier. He was convicted of killing his wife, 60-year-old Helen Showalter.

Showalter, 63, had been out on bail since August 2021, when a judge allowed him to post 10% of his $250,000 bond as long as he attended court hearings and wore a GPS monitor.

IPR News

Des Moines proposes merging 13 systems into one utility to source drinking water

Posted September 25, 2023 at 9:51 AM CDT

Water utilities in the Des Moines area are taking another step toward creating a new organization that would take over the job of sourcing drinking water for around 600,000 residents in four central Iowa counties.

In a final draft agreement, the Des Moines Water Works and 12 other systems propose to combine their wells, river intakes, treatment plants and other infrastructure under a new Central Iowa Water Works.

Under the plan, the regional utility would provide water at the same wholesale rate to member utilities. Those members would still be in charge of delivering drinking water to homes and businesses.

Des Moines Water Works CEO Ted Corrigan says a combined system would be more resilient, for instance when drought makes water scarce.

“The last thing we want to do is begin fighting over which community — which growing community, which established community — has the rights to use that water. We want to work together.”

Public meetings are planned in Des Moines and West Des Moines beginning this week to take public comment on the plan.

Once a final agreement is approved, Corrigan says it would take about one more year for the Central Iowa Water Works to take over operations.

Radio Iowa

Iowa Boy Scout earns all 138 merit badges

Posted September 22, 2023 at 10:46 AM CDT

A central Iowa Boy Scout has accomplished something only four other scouts in state history have achieved — he’s earned every single merit badge.

Charlie Stevens only needed 21 of the badges to earn the top rank of Eagle, but the boy scout from Ankeny decided to broaden his experience by working to acquire all 138 merit badges.

Stevens, who is 17, says it took him almost nine years to finish the feat.

“I was doing merit badges for the longest time just because it was fun, and then after I’d gotten a bunch in a row, people started asking me if I was trying to get all of them, so I decided why not?” he said. “Then I just tried to get all of them, and as I succeeded, it became more and more attainable, the longer I worked towards it.”

From astronomy and archery to wilderness survival and woodworking, Stevens learned a wealth of life skills during his quest to earn every possible patch.

“SCUBA diving was an interesting one. That was fairly hard to get because you had to find somewhere to do it and once I did find one, I found it at the site of an old rock quarry. It was just really fun to learn that skill and now I have a diver’s license, which I never knew I’d get.”

After he graduates from Ankeny Centennial High School next year, Stevens plans to attend the University of Iowa and major in computer science engineering.

“I’d like to do something in systems analysis or maybe cybersecurity, just so I can help people be more safe online.”

For his Eagle Project, Stevens created the Agape Garden at Ankeny First United Methodist Church, which is an ecumenical faith garden that donates fresh produce to area food pantries. He hopes to complete his remaining Eagle rank requirements next month.

Officials with the Mid-Iowa Council say only a few hundred Scouts nationwide have earned every merit badge in the history of the Boy Scouts of America, which was launched in 1910.

Radio Iowa

Man accused of killing Algona policeman held on $2 million bond

Posted September 22, 2023 at 10:46 AM CDT

A judge has set a cash bond of $2 million for the man accused of killing an Algona police officer last week.

Algona resident Kyle Lou Ricke, 43, is accused of shooting and killing Officer Kevin Cram early on Sept. 13 as Cram was attempting to serve a warrant for Ricke’s arrest.

Ricke made his initial appearance in Kossuth County District Court Thursday afternoon via video conference and Judge Mark Laddusaw announced he’s seen enough evidence for the case to proceed.

Rickie has been charged with first-degree murder and the judge explained the penalty is a sentence of life in prison.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown asked the judge to set a cash only bond of $5 million. He says the gun used in the case has not been recovered.

Judge Laddusaw settled on $2 million and stipulated it’s cash only, meaning the full amount had to be paid in cash before Rickie could be released. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. in Kossuth County District Court.

Ricke, who was arrested in Minnesota, is being held at the Kossuth County Jail in Algona.

IPR News

Cedar Rapids Schools adds its largest-ever bond to ballot 

Posted September 22, 2023 at 10:45 AM CDT

Cedar Rapids Schools is asking voters this November to approve its largest school bond ever. The school board met Thursday night to add the bond to the ballot.

The combined $445 million bond will fund renovating existing buildings, constructing a new middle school and purchasing new land. With that funding, all the district’s buildings would be new or recently renovated by 2037.

School board member Dexter Merschbrock called for the ballot petition to be posted for public review. Superintendent Tawana Grover declined, saying the public would be required to fill out a formal records request.

The district is seeking approval of the bond in two phases, with the first half voted on this November and the second half in 2029.

IPR News

Thursday marks deadline to file to run for local office in November

Posted September 21, 2023 at 3:54 PM CDT

The deadline to file to run for local office this November ends Thursday. For the election department in the Linn County Auditor’s Office, it’s a busy day as candidates for city council and mayor and even school bond campaigns officially file to be on the ballot.

Matt Warfield, the deputy commissioner of elections for Linn County, says compared to the same day in 2015 and 2019, participation is down around 10%. While not alarming, he said it’s something the county tracks to understand the level of community awareness of candidate filing periods.

“Candidates that come in and file are stepping up to do public service. It’s something everybody needs to be a part of: working with other people throughout the communities to figure out the best ways to have communities established that operate for everybody that lives in them.”

He says in a good year, there are candidates who file for positions up down the ballot, but it can be a challenge, particularly for local office.

This year, the primary falls on Oct. 10. Election Day is on Nov. 7.

Harvest Public Media

Crop insurance costs are rising, fueled by climate change. Yet little has changed in federal program

Posted September 21, 2023 at 3:53 PM CDT

Farming has always been risky, and success depends on the weather, which is becoming more extreme due to climate. Crop insurance, a sweeping federal program paid for by taxpayers, softens the blow when drought, floods, hail or other natural disasters destroy crops, as well as if commodity prices drop sharply.

And that’s expensive. The government pays roughly 60 cents on the dollar for crop insurance premiums and then shells out hefty subsidies directly to the insurance companies involved to protect against catastrophic losses.

Taxpayers pony up about $9 billion in a typical year, according to Steve Morris, a director at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and that number is rising fast.

“Part of that is just because of the scale and size of the program, you're having more producers sign up, et cetera. but I think the latest costs were, you know, upwards of $15 billion or so,” he said. “So, it's a very large program and it's getting bigger.”

Congress has expanded and sweetened subsidized crop insurance over the decades. The program now covers more than a hundred crops, and even livestock. Last year it insured 493 million acres.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

IPR News

Drought worsens in eastern Iowa

Posted September 21, 2023 at 12:18 PM CDT

Iowa’s drought has worsened in the eastern part of the state.

All or parts of six counties in far northeast Iowa, as well as parts of Tama and Benton counties in east-central Iowa, are now in exceptional drought.

That’s the most severe level measured by the United States Drought Monitor. Most of those counties have received less than an inch of rain over the past month. Much of the northeast quarter of Iowa is in extreme drought, and nearly all of the state is considered in some level of drought.

IPR News

Gov. Reynolds’ husband diagnosed with lung cancer

Posted September 21, 2023 at 11:36 AM CDT

Iowa’s First Gentleman, Kevin Reynolds, has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

In a statement announcing the diagnosis, Gov. Kim Reynolds said she and her husband are confident in the medical team that will carry out his treatment. She says they take optimism from medical advancements in treating lung cancer.

The governor and first gentleman have been married for 41 years. They have three children and 11 grandchildren.

IPR News

Des Moines mayor won’t run for reelection

Posted September 21, 2023 at 11:30 AM CDT

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie says his name will not appear on the ballot in November, which means the city will elect a new mayor for the first time in 20 years.

Cownie first took office in 2004. His time as mayor was marked by efforts to revive the downtown area, expand the trail system and lead the city through the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter announcing his decision, Cownie thanked residents for making him the city’s longest serving mayor, while noting ongoing challenges building affordable housing and keeping businesses downtown.

The candidates running for mayor in Des Moines include city council members Connie Boesen, Josh Mandelbaum and activist Denver Foote. Election Day is Nov. 7.

IPR News

Trump campaigns in Iowa amid abortion comment criticism 

Posted September 21, 2023 at 10:54 AM CDT
Former President Donald Trump greets supporters at an event for his 2024 campaign on the Jackson County fairgrounds in Maquoketa, Iowa on September 20, 2023.
Clay Masters
Former President Donald Trump greets supporters at an event for his 2024 campaign on the Jackson County fairgrounds in Maquoketa, Iowa on September 20, 2023.

Former President Donald Trump campaigned in Iowa on Wednesday as he works to become the Republican nominee for president again.

His trip to the lead-off caucus state comes as he faces blowback from anti-abortion activists for refusing to commit to national restrictions on abortion.

Trump recently told NBC’s Meet The Press that his rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, made a “terrible mistake” in signing a bill to ban abortion at six weeks. A similar ban signed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is currently tied up in the courts.

Trump didn’t bring up the issue of abortion during his remarks in Maquoketa, but at a speech in Dubuque afterwards, he said past presidents had only tried to end the right to an abortion.

“But they always failed. For year after year, nobody believed it would happen,” Trump said. “While others talked, what president after 52 years actually delivered?”

Trump said Republicans “must learn how to properly talk about abortion” in order to win in 2024.

“We have to win elections. Otherwise, we'll be back where we were.”

Trump regularly reminds crowds he was responsible for three of the Supreme Court Justices who overturned Roe v. Wade.

DeSantis recently told Radio Iowa he doesn’t understand how Trump can call himself pro-life if he’s criticizing states for enacting pro-life protections for babies.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Funeral held for Algona police officer killed in line of duty

Posted September 20, 2023 at 1:21 PM CDT

In Algona on Wednesday, a funeral was held for Police Officer Kevin Cram, who was killed in the line of duty last week.

Cram was 33 years old and served for 10 years in the Nora Springs and Algona police departments. He was honored at a service in the Algona High School gym, where hundreds of officers from other law enforcement agencies were on hand.

Algona Police Chief Bo Miller called on them to continue their work.

“Law enforcement must stand hand-in-hand and be stronger now more than ever. We in law enforcement must hold the line. We must continue to be that beacon of light.”

Former Algona Police Chief Kendall Pals honored Cram as a professional who served the community.

“Kevin can best be described as an officer who took his responsibility seriously, didn’t shy away from difficult tasks, helped others in their greatest time of need and simply did the right thing for the right reasons.”

Cram was shot and killed while attempting to arrest 43-year-old Kyle Ricke, who is charged with first-degree murder in Kram’s death.

IPR News

Waterloo partners with DNR to replant trees lost to Emerald Ash Borer

Posted September 20, 2023 at 12:32 PM CDT

The City of Waterloo is partnering with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to replant 50% of its trees lost to the Emerald Ash Borer since 2014.

With help from the DNR, one apple and three evergreen tree species will put down roots in residential areas across the city.

Jacob Geller, Waterloo’s natural resources technician, says that cultivating diverse species should help in reducing potential tree loss in the future.

“In 1970, a whole bunch of elms were removed due to Dutch Elm Disease, and then we all planted a whole bunch of ash trees, and the ash borer came through, and now we have to replace a whole bunch of those. Third time going into this, the opinion of the industry is to plant as many different species as possible.”

The trees will be available on Oct. 10 for $25 each. Removal of dead ash trees from public spaces was completed in 2021.

Radio Iowa

Reynolds calls out Trump's comments on abortion policy

Posted September 20, 2023 at 10:20 AM CDT

Gov. Kim Reynolds has made her first public statement about former President Donald Trump’s recent remarks about abortion policy.

During an interview a few days ago with NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump said the six-week abortion ban that his rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in April, was a “terrible mistake.”

Trump commented on his Truth Social platform yesterday afternoon, saying the three U.S. Supreme Court Justices he appointed did something nobody thought was possible by ending Roe v. Wade and sending the abortion issue back to the states.

Trump said Republicans need to learn how to talk about abortion or risk losing elections in 2024.

Reynolds posted a comment on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, a little over an hour later.

“It’s never a ‘terrible thing’ to protect innocent life,” she wrote, adding that she’s proud of the "fetal heartbeat" bill she signed into law in 2018 and again this summer.

On Monday, DeSantis told Radio Iowa that Trump’s remarks don’t reflect the values of Iowans. On Tuesday night, DeSantis praised Reynolds on social media for “promoting a culture of life.”

Trump is scheduled to campaign in eastern Iowa on Wednesday. He’ll hold an event in Maquoketa, then appear at a late afternoon rally in Dubuque.

IPR News

Some in Dickinson County pushing for updated distance setbacks for wind turbines

Posted September 20, 2023 at 10:18 AM CDT
Dozens of wind turbines are seen along Interstate 80 in Adair County, Iowa.
Clay Masters
IPR News
Dozens of wind turbines are seen along Interstate 80 in Adair County, Iowa.

Wind turbines are getting blowback in the Iowa Great Lakes area.

Aaron Janssen, who owns a home and business east of Milford, uses his property as a wedding venue. He says Dickinson County needs to modernize setbacks. The county’s original ordinance was written in 2009, but now wind turbines are bigger and taller.

The current setback says turbines must be built a minimum of 1,200 feet away from a property. Some Dickinson County residences say that measurement is outdated, and should now force turbines to be built further away.

“For the scale, and the size of these turbines, consequences come with it,” he said. “Just between blade ice throw, the shadow, flicker, noise — some of those things that people have experienced with these turbines being too close to their home.”

Other counties across the state have modified their rules. Woodbury County banned turbines within two miles of city limits and doubled the setback length.

Janssen serves on a planning and zoning subcommittee looking into the issue.

The organization Dickinson County Concerned Citizens plans to hold a community meeting on Thursday evening in Okoboji to raise awareness about the issue.

Invenergy filed for a permit earlier this month to build up to 101 turbines. The Dickinson County Board of Adjustment plans a public hearing and possible vote on the application next month.

Read the full story.

IPR News

New USDA program to help eastern Iowans access Mississippi flood relief funds

Posted September 20, 2023 at 9:58 AM CDT

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a new program to help eastern Iowans access relief funds from spring flooding.

The relief comes in the form of loans and grants to repair single-family rural homes in presidentially declared disaster areas from recent Mississippi River flooding.

Teresa Greenfield, the USDA’s Rural Development state director in Iowa, says the program is designed to assist lower income Iowans up and down the state’s eastern banks by removing several hurdles, including lowering the age requirement from 62 to 18 and increasing the lifetime grant amount from $10,000 to $40,675.

Greenfield says the pilot program expands opportunities for Iowans by looking beyond future reimbursement.

“Here, we’re looking retroactively. If you had to take out a loan to make repairs to your home to cover these damages, we can help refinance that loan with our program, and you can use the $40,000 to be reimbursed for the cost or to put towards that refinancing.”

Greenfield says that eastern Iowans can use the money to repair any home safety hazard due to natural disaster.

Side Effects Public Media

Harm reduction to combat synthetic drug overdose now federal policy

Posted September 19, 2023 at 3:16 PM CDT

Nearly two-thirds of drug overdose deaths nationwide have been linked to synthetic drugs like fentanyl and xylazine. More than 100,000 people died of an opioid overdose nationwide in 2022.

During a recent visit to a university in Indiana, the Biden administration’s drug czar said harm reduction to combat these rising death counts is now federal policy.

White House Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Rahul Gupta, stressed the importance of Naloxone, an extremely effective medication used to reverse an opioid overdose.

“When we see the doubling of adolescent deaths from 2019 to 2021, in two out of three cases, bystanders were nearby, but Naloxone was not.”

Gupta recommends schools, governments and businesses make Naloxone readily available and that everyone should carry Naloxone if they can.

Gupta is the first medical doctor to serve as White House “drug czar.”

Read the full story from Side Effects Public Media.

IPR News

Graceland University cuts tuition by nearly 40%

Posted September 19, 2023 at 3:15 PM CDT

Graceland University in Lamoni is cutting the sticker price for tuition by nearly 40% in a makeover of the private college’s tuition and financial aid system.

Starting next fall Graceland will charge $19,950 per year for tuition, down from over $32,000.

New students will pay about the same out-of-pocket as before, after accounting for scholarships and financial aid.

But Graceland President Pat Draves says the change will reduce the confusion families may have about the cost of attending the college.

“Graceland’s new price, with our simplified scholarship and financial aid process, puts Graceland back into the conversation with prospective students and their families about the outstanding opportunities that happen here in Lamoni, Iowa, with Graceland University.”

The old price was based on offering big scholarships. But more families today are shopping on sites like Niche.com based on that they can afford.

Vice President of Enrollment Deb Skinner says that can cause private schools like Graceland to be filtered out before a student ever applies.

“And what happened was if a college’s sticker price is not in line with what that family expected to pay for college, they do not show up in the search results. And those tools are still being used heavily today.”

Graceland welcomed 341 students in its incoming class, the largest crop of new students since 2015.

Radio Iowa

Iowa auto dealers have inventory on hand as union strikes

Posted September 19, 2023 at 10:15 AM CDT

Iowans likely won’t see an immediate impact from the United Auto Workers strike that started on Friday, but if it lasts a while, there could be shortages of new vehicles for sale on car lots across the state.

Bruce Anderson, president of the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association, says the 12,700 UAW workers are striking the “Big Three” automakers in Detroit — Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.

“The dealers of all three of those brands have some days’ supply on hand, it varies,” Anderson said. “General Motors dealers tend to have, right now, 45 to 60 days' supply of vehicles. Ford dealers are a little higher than that, and Chrysler, even higher, up to closer to 60-90 days.”

For the time being, Anderson says Iowans should continue to have a good selection of new vehicles to choose from, but Iowans who are looking for vehicles with very specific features or colors may run into a problem soon.

The previous four-year contract has expired. UAW leaders are demanding higher wages, shorter work weeks, a return to original pensions and more job security.

IPR News

Harvest underway about one week ahead of last year

Posted September 19, 2023 at 9:49 AM CDT

Some parts of Iowa actually got a normal amount of rainfall last week. The latest USDA crop report says parts of eastern and southern Iowa benefited the most from last week’s storms.

The driest part of the state was less fortunate. Less than an inch of rain fell in northeast Iowa. Overall dry conditions this summer have meant corn and soybeans have matured sooner than usual.

Five percent of Iowa’s corn crop has already been harvested, along with 3% of the state’s soybeans. Both of those are running about a week ahead of average harvest time. Corn improved a bit last week to 48% good-to-excellent. Soybeans were also looking slightly better, at 47% good-to-excellent.

Radio Iowa

Vigil held for slain Algona police officer

Posted September 18, 2023 at 4:46 PM CDT

A solemn vigil was held in downtown Algona on Sunday night as hundreds of area residents came together to remember the life of Algona Police Officer Kevin Cram.

Cram, 33, joined the Algona Police Department in 2015. He was shot and killed while serving an arrest warrant on Sept. 13.

Algona Mayor Rick Murphy addressed those who met in front of the Kossuth County Law Enforcement Center.

“As we gather to recognize and honor a great police officer, husband, father, brother and friend, we come together in support and solidarity,” Murphy said. “I’ve always known that Algona was a special place, and the manner in which our community has come together in the past few days truly reflects that.”

Support has been coming in from across the state since the shooting, as many communities used their high school football games on Friday night to raise funds for Cram’s family. Murphy says those efforts are much appreciated as the community mourns the fallen lawman.

“He was a committed and dedicated police officer who brought compassion and professionalism to his role. Kevin is a homegrown hero. He truly cared about this community and the people he served.”

Vigil host Bob Jennings recited the Police Officer’s Prayer to end the night.

The funeral for Cram will be held on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in the Algona High School gymnasium. A visitation for the public will be held Tuesday at the Ed and Betty Wilcox Performing Arts Center in Algona from 4-8 p.m.

Harvest Public Media

Serving farm fresh food in schools is getting big federal support — but will 'farm to school' stick?

Posted September 18, 2023 at 10:29 AM CDT

A growing farm-to-school movement is revolutionizing the humble school lunch. When Farm to School programming works as designed, kids fill their plates with fresh, nutritious food, and local farm economies get a major boost, creating a more resilient regional food supply chain.

It’s a seemingly simple idea that has lots of benefits. Sunny Baker, senior director of programs and policy at the National Farm to School Network, said the issue is truly bipartisan.

“Farm to school is really easy,” she said. “We call it a triple win. It's a win for kids. It's a win for farmers, it's a win for school and the community.”

But while farmers and the schools they work with represent the best outcome of Farm to School programs, they are hardly typical. Getting all that local food into schools has proven frustratingly complicated. And while up-to-date data on the reach of Farm to School activity is lacking, it’s clear that there’s still lots of untapped potential for growth when it comes to getting farm fresh foods into school cafeterias.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

Radio Iowa

Broadway actress from ‘The Music Man’ visits Mason City

Posted September 18, 2023 at 10:13 AM CDT

A celebrated Broadway star visited Mason City last Thursday.

Actress Sutton Foster, who played Marian the Librarian in New York’s latest rendition of Meredith Willson’sThe Music Man, spent part of the day touring the setting for the fictional River City, including posing for pictures on the Meredith Willson Footbridge and touring Music Man Square.

Foster was presented with the “Key to the City” by Mayor Bill Schickel.

“You carried our beloved Meredith Willson’s creation to new heights,” the mayor says. “The pride we feel in you, Sutton, cannot be overstated.”

Schickel thanked Foster for visiting the community where Willson was born and was inspired to create the renowned musical.

“Your visit to the real River City, USA serves as a testament to the magic and transformative powers of the arts, which we love here in River City.”

Foster says she was grateful to see the community’s dedication to the playwright Willson.

“It’s really an honor to be here,” Foster said. “I’m actually very overwhelmed just walking through Music Man Square. It was a pretty special year of my life being able to be a part of the Music Man on Broadway, and it really means a lot to be here.”

Foster played opposite Hugh Jackman in the Broadway revival of the Music Man, for which she received her seventh nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and also won the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance.

IPR News

Iowa Dems decide to hold caucuses on same date as Republicans 

Posted September 18, 2023 at 9:18 AM CDT

The Iowa Democratic Party will hold its in-person caucuses on the same date in January as Iowa Republicans next year.

Democrats will conduct party business and determine unbound delegates to the county convention on the date, but there’s still a question on how the presidential preference portion of the caucuses will work.

Iowa Democrats held a state central committee meeting on Saturday, where they voted on the date after a closed session.

IDP Chair Rita Hart read the vote tally, solidifying Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the caucus date.

Iowa Democrats plan to have a completely mail-in presidential preference system in 2024. The Democratic National Committee removed Iowa from the early window of nominating states last year. The DNC ruled Iowa’s plan out of compliance earlier this year.

The IDP has until Oct. 16 to bring the DNC additional updates on their caucus plans.

IPR News

Trump absent, abortion policy spotlighted at weekend presidential candidate event for Evangelical Christians

Posted September 18, 2023 at 9:17 AM CDT

Ten Republican presidential candidates took turns on a Des Moines stage on Saturday, where they offered varying policies on how far they would go in banning abortion as president.

Former Vice President Mike Pence favors a federal 15 week ban on abortion.

“Why would we leave unborn babies in California and Illinois and New York to the devices of liberal state legislatures and liberal governors? We need to stand for the unborn all across America and as your president, I promise you’ll have a champion for life in the oval office.”

Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley says a federal abortion ban is not realistic because the votes are not there in the Senate to get a law passed.

“We might have 45 pro-life senators. So, no Republican president can any more ban abortions than a Democrat president can ban those state laws. So my goal is how do we save as many babies as possible and support as many moms as possible?”

Also at the event was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who spoke about his support for Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold on military promotions.

Tuberville has held up more than 300 promotions in protest against a Pentagon policy that reimburses expenses for service members traveling to states where abortion is legal to receive the procedure.

“What the defense department is doing is outside the law,” he said. “They are breaking, violating the law by funding abortion tourism with tax dollars.”

DeSantis signed a bill in Florida similar to one signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in Iowa that bans the procedure at six weeks. Former President Donald Trump criticized DeSantis for signing the law recently on NBC’s Meet The Press.

The candidates spoke to 1,200 Evangelical Christian voters on Saturday.

The voting block is a large portion of Republican Iowa caucusgoers. Donald Trump – who leads in the polls – turned down the invitation to speak at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Town Hall. The former president has not given a straight answer on whether he supports a federal ban.

Trump has campaign events scheduled this week in Dubuque and Maquoketa.

Harvest Public Media

More Midwest states are offering universal free lunch to students — while others consider it

Posted September 18, 2023 at 9:15 AM CDT

All students received free school meals during the pandemic.

That ended last school year, but six states in the Midwest expanded access to school meals starting this school year, serving school breakfast and lunch for free.

That includes Minnesota, Michigan and Colorado. Minnesota districts are already reporting a 15% increase in meal participation.

The initiatives in all six states are permanent. They have a high sticker price, but advocates say the benefits outweigh the costs.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

IPR News

Johnson County hires firm to study potential adaptation of railroad into Iowa City-North Liberty bus route 

Posted September 18, 2023 at 9:15 AM CDT

This week Johnson County local governments are hiring a firm to look at adapting a section of existing railroad into a dedicated rapid bus line that would run between Iowa City and North Liberty. Their study will determine if the demand is there.

North Liberty currently has few options for public transit. Mayor Chris Hoffman says the rapid bus route would expand options for users and also serve as a selling point to employers.

It gives employers a little more reach. This is a great way to attract talent who may not otherwise live close by. Even in the same county, it’s tough for some folks to get from one place to the next.”

In the end, the $250,000 rapid bus study will be compared to an existing light rail study to determine which model will better serve the second-fastest growing region in the state.


Teen found guilty of 2nd-degree murder, manslaughter in deaths of 2 students at Des Moines alternative school

Posted September 18, 2023 at 7:57 AM CDT

A teenager was found guilty on Thursday of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the deaths of two students that he shot at a Des Moines alternative school earlier this year.

Preston Walls, 19, had been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths, but jurors found him guilty of lesser charges. That seemed to indicate jurors accepted Walls’ claim that he fired on the students because he feared for his life.

Walls was charged in the deaths of Gionni Dameron, 18, and Rashad Carr, 16, at the Starts Right Here program on Jan. 23.

Walls also was found guilty of willful injury causing serious injury for his shooting of Will Keeps, a former Chicago gang member and rapper who started the Des Moines program for at-risk teens. He was acquitted of attempted murder in the shooting of Keeps.

If Walls had been convicted of first-degree murder, he would have faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison. His conviction of second-degree murder in the death of Carr and voluntary manslaughter in the death of Dameron means he will be eligible for parole.

Walls will be sentenced in November.

Read the full story fromThe Associated Press.

IPR News

Trump won't attend Evangelical Christian presidential candidate event

Posted September 15, 2023 at 1:46 PM CDT

Nine Republican presidential candidates will appear at a large gathering of Evangelical Christian voters in Des Moines on Saturday.

Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition President Steve Scheffler says Evangelical caucusgoers are not monolithic on how they size up the candidates. He says his group will not endorse ahead of the caucuses.

“I view our role to be matchmakers matching up with these voters and the candidates, not as a kingmaker,” he said. “Outside of my wife, I won’t tell anyone who I vote for on caucus day.”

Former President Donald Trump was invited but will not be at the event. The most recent Des Moines Register Iowa poll shows the former president holds a sizable lead in the crowded field. The event is happening the same day the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee will vote on an in-person caucus date.

Traditionally, Republicans and Democrats in the state have held caucuses on the same date. Republicans are scheduled to hold their caucus on Jan. 15.

Radio Iowa

Judge finds Davenport man guilty of kidnapping and murdering young girl

Posted September 15, 2023 at 1:44 PM CDT

A Davenport man has been found guilty of kidnapping and murdering 10-year-old Breasia Terrell in July of 2020.

Scott County Judge Henry Latham heard the evidence against 51-year-old Henry Dinkins in a two-week trial and addressed the murder charge first.

Terrell’s mother had a son with Dinkins and the girl was staying with the son at Dinkins’ apartment when she disappeared. Dinkins’ defense argued there was no physical evidence to tie him to the crime, but Latham said there was enough evidence presented.

Terrell’s body was found in a pond by two fishermen several months after she disappeared in Clinton County. The prosecution argued Dinkins had kidnapped and killed the girl to hide the fact he had sexually abused her.

Judge Latham said there was enough evidence to prove Dinkins kidnapped Terrell.

The judge says that evidence led to the kidnapping conviction. A sentencing date has been set for Oct. 11.

IPR News

Dedication ceremony to be held for new international art display in Storm Lake

Posted September 15, 2023 at 1:42 PM CDT
An artist works on a traditional Mexican mosaic on the side of Valentina's Meat Market in Storm Lake. The process took about a week and included help from community volunteers.
Sheila Brummer
An artist works on a traditional Mexican mosaic on the side of Valentina's Meat Market in Storm Lake. The process took about a week and included help from community volunteers.

A dedication ceremony is taking place Friday afternoon for a new international art display in Storm Lake. A team of artists from Mexico created a colorful mural in the city’s downtown.

The artwork uses images of monarch butterflies to celebrate the community’s diversity and represent migration. There are exactly 63 butterflies in total, one for each of the nationalities of people now living in Storm Lake.

Read the full story.

IPR News

New hands-on career academy in Sioux City to help fill trade jobs

Posted September 15, 2023 at 11:36 AM CDT
Nathaniel Hamann plans to graduate early from East High School in Sioux City and use the skills he is learning at the
Sheila Brummer/IPR News
Nathaniel Hamann plans to graduate early from East High School in Sioux City and use the skills he is learning at the trades building to launch his own business.

It’s no secret Iowa faces a worker shortage. A new hands-on learning facility in northwest Iowa could help fill high-demand jobs.

The Sioux City Community School District’s Career Academy celebrated a new construction trades building on Wednesday for students, including 17-year-old Nathaniel Hamann, who attends East High.

“I'm hoping to learn electrical and plumbing… and just a little bit of everything that goes into building a house,” he said. “And I can just apply that to everything else in my life. And that would be good information to know.”

Here students study skills valued by potential employers, like Skip Perley, the CEO of Thomson Solutions Group and board president of the Sioux City Public Schools Foundation.

“There’s no lack of opportunity,” he said. “We need workers, and we need them at a faster pace than we've ever had before.”

Perley says he started his career as an electrician right out of high school, and students who attend the program will go directly into the workforce or an apprenticeship program.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Experts urge Iowans to get respiratory virus vaccinations ASAP

Posted September 15, 2023 at 11:32 AM CDT

Respiratory virus season is approaching, and experts are urging Iowans to get their vaccinations as soon as possible.

This week federal officials approved the newest updated COVID-19 booster, which is expected to be available to Iowans soon.

Nathan Shaw, the medical director of urgent care at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, recommends Iowans get their flu and RSV shots before cases start to increase in order to build up immunity.

“With all of these vaccines, it is important to get them before we're seeing a rise in local cases, so that the people are protected when the viruses start circulating here.”

RSV vaccines are available to anyone 60 and older or infants under the age of 8 months. The flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older.

IPR News

Cedar Rapids receives largest portion of federal funding to restore trees lost to derecho

Posted September 14, 2023 at 3:43 PM CDT

Cedar Rapids is the largest recipient in the state of money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to plant and maintain trees.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack joined Cedar Rapids officials on Thursday to announce the $1.13 billion going to 385 recipients across the nation.

“Now, we have an extraordinary tool, the Inflation Reduction Act, which provided that mission area with significant resources,” he said.

In 2020, Cedar Rapids was devastated by a derecho that destroyed two-thirds of its tree canopy. The city and partner Trees Forever will take the USDA’s $6 million to replace trees lost to the storm.

“Cedar Rapids consistently figures out a way to commit itself to community, consistently looks for the opportunity to rebuild into a better community, a stronger community.”

Des Moines, Dubuque, Ames, Decorah, Council Bluffs and West Des Moines received a total of $6.5 million for their trees.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Former federal admin says Summit pipeline shouldn’t be delayed while new regulations form

Posted September 14, 2023 at 3:24 PM CDT

A former federal administrator for pipeline safety says Summit Carbon Solutions should not be delayed while regulators develop new rules for projects like it.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is revising carbon pipeline regulations following a rupture in Mississippi in 2020 that sent dozens of people to the hospital.

Opponents have called for a moratorium on carbon pipeline projects until the new rules are announced.

Brigham McCown, testifying on behalf of Summit, told the Iowa Utilities Board he expects regulators to make changes that could take effect even after the pipeline is built.

“All it’s going to do is update emergency response and other operational aspects which all operators retroactively have to apply. It does not do a thing with the actual metal of the pipe.”

The IUB is wrapping up the fourth week of testimony over the proposed route of the Summit pipeline. The hearing has continued even as regulators in North and South Dakota have denied Summit’s initial applications for the project.

IPR News

Algona police officer killed, suspect captured in Minnesota 

Posted September 14, 2023 at 12:45 PM CDT

An Algona police officer has died after being shot Wednesday night while trying to make an arrest.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety says Officer Kevin Cram was attempting to arrest Kyle Ricke on a warrant for harassment. Ricke shot Cram and fled.

Cram was taken to a hospital in Algona where he later died of his injuries. Ricke was captured without incident overnight near Sleepy Eye, Minn. He has been charged with murder and will be extradited at a later date.

Cram was a 10-year law enforcement veteran. He had served with the Nora Spring Police Department as well as Algona Police.

IPR News

Woodbury County law enforcement center opening delayed further

Posted September 13, 2023 at 3:55 PM CDT
There is a large building nestled into a series of rolling hills.
Sheila Brummer/IPR News
Construction of the Woodbury County LEC located on 28th Street in Sioux City started in 2020.

Woodbury County’s new law enforcement center will open even later than expected. A construction delay is to blame.

During Tuesday’s Woodbury County supervisors meeting, board members heard an update on the project. Once expected to open on Sept. 14, construction could now extend into April of next year.

Supervisor Mark Nelson, who sits on the center authority that oversees the project, says the fire-dampening system is going to add substantial work.

“They cannot proceed with ceiling work, paintwork, or wall work because the fire dampening is within the walls within the ceilings,” he said. “And they have to get that done before they can continue on.”

Nelson says there is a chance the jail could open before the rest of the facility, which includes the sheriff’s office and courtrooms.

Last week, officials said the jail wouldn’t be ready on time but didn’t expect such a long wait. Woodbury County expected to house federal inmates starting next month, a move that would bring in around $1.2 million of extra revenue through the end of the fiscal year.

The sheriff’s office did hire 15 additional jailers to handle the increase, and they will do other work until the new jail finally opens.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Heritage Trail project faces challenges in Waterloo

Posted September 13, 2023 at 10:21 AM CDT

A new cultural project is underway in Waterloo to help residents connect with local and state Black history, but it’s facing an uphill battle.

Local historian Charles Pearson will be launching a walking trail to shed light on Waterloo’s Black history. Pearson has worked on several similar projects up and down the Mississippi River, but bringing the Heritage Trail to Iowa, he says, offers a particularly difficult challenge: the city hasn’t officially designated any historical Black neighborhoods.

“You don’t have a single Black historical neighborhood, not one Black historical district,” he said.

Pearson says he would like to see his trail drivable and bikeable. He cited access to recreational resources as another barrier to the trail’s progress, noting that the eastern part of Waterloo has no bike trail, and its roads can be unsafe.

By February, however, he hopes to have laid the research and groundwork for at least one Black historical district in the city.


Judge finds Iowa basketball coach’s son guilty of misdemeanor in fatal crash

Posted September 13, 2023 at 10:20 AM CDT

The teenage son of University of Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery was found guilty Tuesday of failure to yield to a pedestrian who later died from injuries suffered in the crash.

A judge found Jonathan McCaffery, 17, guilty of the simple misdemeanor in the crash, which injured Corey J. Hite, 45, of Cedar Rapids. Hite died about two weeks after the crash.

McCaffery will be sentenced on Oct. 13. He faces up to a $1,000 fine, a 180-day driver’s license suspension or both.

The crash happened May 22 while McCaffery was driving from his high school in Iowa City. McCaffery was passing stopped cars in a right lane when one of those motorists indicated to a runner that he could cross the multilane street.

McCaffery couldn’t see the runner and hit Hite when he stepped in front of his vehicle. The judge determined McCaffery had not been distracted or using a cellphone.

The ruling followed a trial on Aug. 29.

Hite, who served 27 years in the Iowa Army National Guard, was married with four children.

Midwest Newsroom

The future of the Midwest includes hazardous heat, and most of our homes are not ready

Posted September 13, 2023 at 10:19 AM CDT

In middle to late August, parts of the Midwest experienced a streak of “feels like” temperatures of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In one 48-hour period, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported record numbers of people suffering from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, fainting and other heat-related illnesses at emergency rooms in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Such heat can be deadly, said Peter Thorne, an expert on the impact of climate change on health at the University of Iowa.

“People have different susceptibility to heat,” said Thorne, whose Thorne Lab conducts advanced environmental health sciences research. “Heat stroke, for example, kills more people every year than does air pollution-induced asthma in the U.S. or other respiratory effects of climate change.”

About a year ago, a research and technology nonprofit called First Street Foundation released its “extreme heat belt” map. It shows that within about 30 years, Americans across the Midwest and parts of the South will face heat indices (or “feels like” temperatures) of 125 degrees or higher with greater frequency.

A big concern in that infrastructure is our homes, the places we rely on as havens from extreme heat.

“The scientists have been very clear,” said Alice Hill, a senior fellow at the Center on Foreign Relations and an expert on the impact of climate change. “This is in our future. It's occurring now, and they are still telling us more will come.

Read the full story from the Midwest Newsroom.

Radio Iowa

Iowa’s U.S. House delegation backs impeachment inquiry into Biden

Posted September 13, 2023 at 9:28 AM CDT

All four members of Iowa’s U.S. House delegation are expressing support for an impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden.

Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District Rep. Zach Nunn, a Republican from Bondurant, said he thinks it’s a starting point for “a real conversation on what evidence may exist.”

Earlier on Tuesday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said allegations of corruption and abuse of power warrant further investigation. He directed House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into Biden.

Nunn spoke with reporters in Iowa as McCarthy was making the announcement in Washington. He said House Republicans are handling the investigation into Biden differently than Democrats did when they voted to impeach Former President Donald Trump a week before his term ended.

Fourth District Rep. Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, says Biden is corrupt and “must be held accountable” after credible whistleblowers say the president secured preferential treatment for his son, who is facing tax evasion charges.

Feenstra said a thorough investigation is warranted about Biden’s involvement with his son's foreign business dealings as well.

First District Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks said the impeachment inquiry gives House Republicans additional subpoena powers to seek bank records that may “connect the dots” regarding improper payments to Biden and his family. But Miller-Meeks added that it’s “important to note that an impeachment inquiry may or may not lead to impeachment proceedings.”

Earlier this month, Iowa’s 2nd District Rep. Ashley Hinson, of Marion, said she supports moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. Hinson said it gives House committees “the tools they need to get information” and answers questions about the Biden family’s business dealings.

Hinson called the two impeachments against Trump “baseless” and she said the American people want Congress “to prove a high crime or misdemeanor exists” if the House moves to vote on impeaching Biden.

A spokesperson for Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign said in a written statement that the Republican-led House of Representatives “has become an arm of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign” and the allegations against Biden are “debunked conspiracy theories.”

IPR News

Scott County Humane Society asks for more funding 

Posted September 13, 2023 at 9:27 AM CDT

The Humane Society of Scott County wants more money from the City of Davenport for its animal protection and control services. The organization says it cares for 3,000 animals each year, and says the only way to cut costs would be to deny medical care to some animals and reduce staffing.

Last year, the Humane Society and city negotiated a three-year contract that gave the organization $400,000 each year, which the society says accounts for less than 30% of the costs required to run their operation. Meanwhile, Davenport accounts for more than half of the census population of Scott County.

The Humane Society’s legal counsel wrote the city in late August requesting an increase of $1 million annually – more than three times its current funding level.

The City of Davenport wrote in a statement that it understands the importance of these services and that they will continue “regardless of provider.”

Radio Iowa

Summit VP says permits denials in Dakotas shouldn’t impact Iowa process

Posted September 12, 2023 at 3:43 PM CDT

The vice president for Summit Carbon Solutions says rejected requests to build the company’s carbon pipeline in North and South Dakota should not impact its pursuit of a construction permit in Iowa.

Micah Rorie, who is in charge of land acquisition for the company, took the witness stand Tuesday morning at an Iowa Utilities Board hearing in Fort Dodge.

“I was asked the question last week about whether I thought we ought to get a permit without other state permits in play, to which I responded, ‘Yes, I think we ought to seek a permit in Iowa regardless of what’s going on in other states.'”

Rorie said over 1,200 Iowa landowners have voluntarily signed easements that give Summit access to over 3,300 parcels of land along its proposed route through Iowa. The company is asking the Iowa Utilities Board for eminent domain authority to force 469 Iowa landowners who object to the project to sign property easements.

The Associated Press

Artificial intelligence technology behind ChatGPT was built in Iowa — with a lot of water

Posted September 12, 2023 at 3:13 PM CDT
Traffic on Interstate 35 passes a Microsoft data center on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023 in West Des Moines. Microsoft has been amassing a cluster of data centers to power its cloud computing services for more than a decade. Its fourth and fifth data centers in the city are due to open later this year.
Charlie Neibergall
AP Photo
Traffic on Interstate 35 passes a Microsoft data center on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023 in West Des Moines. Microsoft has been amassing a cluster of data centers to power its cloud computing services for more than a decade. Its fourth and fifth data centers in the city are due to open later this year.

The cost of building an artificial intelligence product like ChatGPT can be hard to measure, but one thing Microsoft-backed OpenAI needed for its technology was plenty of water.

That water was pulled from the watershed of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers in central Iowa to cool a powerful supercomputer as it helped teach its AI systems how to mimic human writing.

As they race to capitalize on a craze for generative AI, leading tech developers including Microsoft, OpenAI and Google have acknowledged that growing demand for their AI tools carries hefty costs, from expensive semiconductors to an increase in water consumption.

But they’re often secretive about the specifics. Few people in Iowa knew about its status as a birthplace of OpenAI’s most advanced large language model, GPT-4, before a top Microsoft executive said in a speech it “was literally made next to cornfields west of Des Moines.”

Read the full story fromThe Associated Press.

IPR News

Midwest producers continue to see wide range of corn crop conditions 

Posted September 12, 2023 at 12:00 PM CDT

Recent heat and drought have fueled concerns about this year’s corn crop. Producers in the Midwest are seeing a wide range of conditions.

In western Iowa, some cornfields have leaves turning from green to dried-out brown.

Farmer Dolph Ivener estimates big swings in yields from 200 bushels per acre on his farms with heavier rainfall to around 40 in spots stifled by a third year of drought.

“Until you run the combine through it, you won’t really know, but it is 100% due to lack of moisture.”

The latest USDA crop report shows deteriorating conditions, with the biggest impact in the heart of the Midwest. Things look better in the eastern section of the corn belt.

Radio Iowa

Iowans warned to be on guard for Asian longhorned beetle

Posted September 12, 2023 at 9:40 AM CDT

Iowans are familiar with the emerald ash borer and the green insect’s threat to state foliage, but now another insect has entered the picture, and it’s equally as lethal to a much wider variety of trees.

Rhonda Santos, a spokesperson for the USDA, says it’s the ideal time of year for Iowa homeowners to examine their trees for the Asian longhorned beetle and to report any clues they find about the invasive pest. The beetle has been found in New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio and South Carolina, but all states are at risk.

Santos says the wood-boring beetle attacks many types of trees, and is a threat to shade trees, recreational areas and forest resources.

Unlike the emerald ash borer, the Asian longhorned beetle likes to feed on a host of trees, including ash, birch, elm, sycamore, maple, buckeye, poplar and willow. The bug has distinct markings and leaves behind a series of holes and other signs in trees that make it quick to identify.

“The beetle is easy to recognize with [its] black and white antennae, shiny black body with white spots and six legs,” Santos said. “The beetles create round holes and scars in the tree bark, sawdust-like material around the tree and can cause branches to fall.”

The beetle is not native to the U.S. and has almost no natural predators. Santos encourages Iowans to take five minutes and give your trees a close inspection for round holes or sawdust.

Iowans are encouraged to take photos of signs of the beetle and capture them to help the USDA with identification.The beetle was first spotted in the U.S. in New York in 1996 and spread quickly. It’s one of a group of invasive pests and plant diseases that costs the nation some $40 billion each year in losses to trees, plants and crops.

IPR News

Special election to be held for Des Moines City Council seat 

Posted September 12, 2023 at 9:39 AM CDT

A special election for an open Des Moines City Council seat will be added to the November ballot.

On Monday, the council unanimously decided to allow voters to fill the position vacated by Indira Sheumaker’s recent resignation.

The racial justice organizer defeated a council incumbent to win the seat in 2021, but submitted her resignation this month after a six-month absence from meetings and work sessions.

Any candidates running to represent northwest Des Moines have 10 days -- or until Sept. 21 -- to file their candidacy paperwork.

IPR News

‘Greater Iowa City’ forming to boost Johnson County businesses

Posted September 12, 2023 at 9:38 AM CDT

Johnson County’s economic development group and chamber of commerce have merged to form Greater Iowa City, a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs, industry and investors looking to do business in the region.

Services range from helping clear the regulatory environment for restaurants to locating a facility for a manufacturer.

Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth is helping lead the transition for the merger. He says the organization is structured to support small entrepreneurs to large industries.

I think you’re going to just see that continue to grow and prosper as they are willing to work with everybody no matter how big or small or what type of business you have,” Hayworth said. “They’re going to be able to provide services and I think that’s critical.”

Jennie Wunderlich, a co-owner of two small businesses in Iowa City and a member of the organization’s board, says having a common point for the business community is essential for markets that struggle to keep talent and bring in capital.

“We’re a fourth generation business. So that was a heavy baton being passed,” she said. “And never have we had such challenges with workforce over the years from my great grandfather down to me.”

Rather than charging dues for access like a typical chamber, the organization says it’s opening membership to all businesses trying to make it in Johnson County. Part of that vision also includes local advocacy with institutions like the city council.

IPR News

UI launches nurse-midwives program to address maternal health care shortage

Posted September 11, 2023 at 4:07 PM CDT

The University of Iowa has launched a new program to train nurse-midwives and help address the shortage of maternal health care providers in the state, particularly in rural areas.

The program admits four students every fall. To qualify, students must have a bachelor’s degree and be a registered nurse. The program has four clinics – two of which are located in rural areas in Muscatine and Washington.

After the five-semester program, students will obtain a master’s degree in midwifery, which will allow them to take the necessary board exam.

Lastascia Coleman, a clinical associate professor at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, says nurse-midwives can provide health care in many areas.

“Most people associate nurse-midwives with pregnancy and birth, but midwives can also provide primary care, regular gynecologic care -- really care throughout the lifespan.”

Coleman says the application cycle for next year starts in mid-December and ends in February.

IPR News

State climatologist says recent rain wasn’t enough to ease drought

Posted September 11, 2023 at 3:58 PM CDT

Iowa’s state climatologist Justin Glisan says the rain that fell overnight Sunday into Monday was welcome, but won’t put much of a dent in Iowa’s long-standing drought.

Glisan says rainfall amounts ranged from a quarter-to-half inch in the northern parts of the state, to an inch or more farther south.

“These are the types of rains that we need several more of to really start to put a chip in the deficits we’re seeing, especially in drier parts of the state… looking at eastern Iowa.”

Glisan says northeast Iowa just had its tenth-driest summer and would need six-to-eight inches of rain above the average to make up for this year’s rainfall deficits. He says the current drought hasn’t been quite as bad as droughts in 2012 or 1988, because this summer was cooler overall than those were.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report says 91% of Iowa is in moderate-to-extreme drought.

Glisan made his comments on IPR’s River to River.

Radio Iowa

Walk remembers victims of 9/11 terrorist attacks

Posted September 11, 2023 at 1:00 PM CDT

The terrorist attacks of 22 years ago are being remembered in central Iowa with a long walk.

The March to the Capitol started at 9:11 Monday morning at Centennial Park in the Des Moines suburb of Waukee and will end at the Iowa State Capitol. According to the walk’s website, the event was started in 2015 by Bob Lyons. Lyons now lives in Des Moines but worked in New York City in 2001, about 10 miles from the Twin Towers.

The walk is being led by two Des Moines area firefighters and will stop at seven fire stations along the route and Glendale Cemetery. The full walk is 21 miles, a nod to the 21-gun salute for fallen heroes.

Radio Iowa

Iowa takes back CY-Hawk trophy with win in Ames

Posted September 11, 2023 at 12:58 PM CDT

The Iowa defense held Iowa State out of the end zone until late in the game while blocking a field goal and scoring on an interception to win 20-13 in Ames Saturday. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says they expected a hard-fought game.

“I’m really thrilled to get the win, really proud of our players and the coaching staff,” he said. “We knew coming in here it’s gonna be really tough, I can’t remember a time when that hasn’t been the case, so we knew that.”

Linebacker Sebastian Castro picked off Cyclone quarterback Rocho Becht in the second quarter and returned it for a 30-yard touchdown.

The Hawkeye defense ended the game by stopping Iowa State on downs as they were trying to get the tying score.

“I couldn’t ask for a better ending, a better moment, for the defense to have the game, for us to be on the field in that moment, you couldn’t ask for a better story,” Castro said.

Iowa’s offense got 17 of its 20 points in the first half and couldn’t complete drives in the second.

Quarterback Cade McNamara says he missed some throws, and there were some mistakes, but he says the offense is getting better.

The win gave Iowa the Cy-Hawk trophy back after a loss last year in Iowa City. Hawkeye lineman and Cedar Rapids native Connor Colby says that’s a great feeling.

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell says he thought this was the best game his team has played in the series since he took over. He said he was proud of the way his team battled back after getting down early.

Iowa State falls to 1-1 and is at Ohio on Saturday. Iowa Moves to 2-0 and returns home to face Western Michigan Saturday.

IPR News

South Dakota rejects Summit’s application to build carbon capture pipeline

Posted September 11, 2023 at 12:56 PM CDT

South Dakota regulators have rejected Summit Carbon Solutions’ application to build a carbon capture pipeline through the state.

It’s part of the same pipeline system that would run nearly 700 miles across Iowa.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission voted on Monday to deny Summit’s permit in large part because the company’s proposed route would violate some counties’ rules for setbacks from homes and other structures.

The commission says Summit could renew its application once it has resolved the conflict with the counties.

The Summit project has now been denied on its first applications in both North and South Dakota.

The final hearing for the pipeline before the Iowa Utilities Board continues on Tuesday in Fort Dodge.

The Associated Press

Trump stops at a fraternity house on his way to Iowa-Iowa State football game, outdrawing his rivals

Posted September 11, 2023 at 12:12 PM CDT
Former President Donald Trump holds a football before throwing it to the crowd during a visit to the Alpha Gamma Rho agricultural fraternity at Iowa State University before an NCAA college football game between Iowa State and Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023 in Ames.
Charlie Neibergall
AP Photo
Former President Donald Trump holds a football before throwing it to the crowd during a visit to the Alpha Gamma Rho agricultural fraternity at Iowa State University before an NCAA college football game between Iowa State and Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023 in Ames.

Former President Donald Trump stepped out of a fraternity house to the cheers of hundreds of Iowa State University students and tossed autographed footballs into the crowd.

“I guess the youth likes Trump,” he said over the cheers of the students, speaking to the Right Side Broadcasting Network, which supports his candidacy.

Then, the former president entered a motorcade to head to a private stadium suite where he watched the school’s annual football grudge match Saturday with the University of Iowa.

The pregame campus stop was a reminder of Trump’s dominant position atop a crowded Republican field both in Iowa and nationally. Several of his rivals also attended the game, mingling with fans at pregame tailgates outside the stadium. But Trump got by far the most attention and hasn’t paid a price yet for skipping the closer interactions with voters that are a cherished Iowa political tradition.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has struggled to position himself as a potent foe to Trump, came to Ames to attend the game with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has not endorsed a candidate but often has appeared with DeSantis and his wife, Casey.

As he moved from one tailgate to another, DeSantis was flanked by fans cheering and waving campaign signs from a booth hosted by the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC.

“We’re having a good time,” DeSantis told reporters. “It’s quite an atmosphere, probably a little bit more civilized than the Florida-Georgia game.”

Trump has made a habit of visiting Iowa on the same day as DeSantis, whom Trump treats as his main threat. Their dynamic Saturday was similar to last month when Trump drew huge crowds to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines while DeSantis addressed smaller audiences and hit the midway rides with his family.

Read the full story fromThe Associated Press.

IPR News

So far this year, abortion in Iowa has increased 11% compared to 2020 data 

Posted September 11, 2023 at 9:57 AM CDT

New data shows that abortion in Iowa increased 11% in the first half of this year as compared to 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit policy group that supports abortion rights.

Kelly Baden, vice president of policy at the organization, says neighboring states like Minnesota and Illinois saw a greater increase in abortions because their lawmakers have passed additional protections for the procedure.

“So while abortion remains legal in Iowa right now, the legal and policy back-and-forth really creates headlines that lend themselves to a lot of confusion for people; the special session, the abortion ban, the lawsuits,” Baden said.

In July, a Polk County judge issued a temporary injunction that blocked a new law that bans abortion at around six weeks of pregnancy as it faces legal challenges.

Abortion remains legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

IPR News

Pipeline disputes in South Dakota could derail Summit's plans

Posted September 8, 2023 at 4:19 PM CDT

A dispute over how far a pipeline must be set back from homes could lead regulators in South Dakota to deny a construction permit for Summit Carbon Solutions’ carbon capture project.

The Summit pipeline is also proposed to cross Iowa. A final hearing before the Iowa Utilities Board is wrapping up a third week of testimony in Fort Dodge.

But in South Dakota, staff members with the state public utilities commission filed a motion on Friday to deny Summit’s construction permit.

They claim the pipeline’s route does not meet setback laws in several counties.

If the motion is granted, Summit could renew its application after getting waivers from the counties or changing the route.

The motion comes just days before Summit is scheduled to begin the final hearing process before the South Dakota PUC.

IPR News

Enrollment is up at all three state universities this fall

Posted September 8, 2023 at 3:09 PM CDT

Iowa State University gained 208 students, the University of Northern Iowa gained 72 and the University of Iowa gained 27. UNI has been trying for several years to keep numbers up, and spokesman Pete Moris says this is good news.

“Our biggest increase here at UNI in over a decade, and you know in addition to that increase in our total enrollment, our freshman enrollment is over 1,500, which represents an 8% increase.”

Moris says they’ve had to counter some of their own success in keeping enrollment up.

“One in 11 UNI students graduates in only three years,” Moris says. “So we’ve got to really work hard to continue to bring new students in on the front end because we’re very good at graduating students on time or ahead of schedule.”

The school has also worked to adjust its strategy in the face of national and state labor trends. Moris says that with low unemployment and the availability of quality paying jobs, some people have been more on the fence about attending college.

Meanwhile, ISU reported an increase of more than 2% for first-year students. The UI reports this is the fourth-largest incoming first-year class ever with 5,064 students.

IPR News

ISU expands security for Cy-Hawk game with Trump, other GOP presidential hopefuls visiting Ames

Posted September 8, 2023 at 1:44 PM CDT

Extra security will be on hand this Saturday in Ames as former President Donald Trump and other GOP presidential contenders join the crowd on hand for the Iowa-Iowa State football game.

Vivek Ramaswamy, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also have plans to be in Ames on gameday.

Michael Newton, the ISU Chief of Police, says law enforcement, security and medical staffing at the annual Cy-Hawk matchup will be even greater with the high-profile politicians attending.

"It's the Super Bowl of Iowa. It brings in so many people, we're already upping staffing. And so this we just, you know, almost comes close to doubling some of our efforts."

He says security teams will try to minimize the disruption to football fans coming and going from Jack Trice Stadium. However, he says people should expect to spend some extra time in the gameday traffic.

Newton made his comments on IPR's River to River.

IPR News

Davenport City Council removes alderman over inappropriate behavior

Posted September 8, 2023 at 11:05 AM CDT

On Thursday night, the Davenport City Council removed an elected member from the council based on his documented history of unacceptable behavior.

Over the course of a two-hour special meeting, the city attorney’s office argued that 7th Ward Alderman Derek Cornette showed an unacceptable trend of behavior. This ranged from harassing female staff members, showing up to council meetings intoxicated and making offensive voicemails.

“Alderman Cornette claimed to the media that he had talked to those two female staffers, who were offended by his language and conduct. And that he had apologized and made amends," said Brian Heyer, an assistant city attorney. "Is that true? There are two empty work stations upstairs that I believe say, 'That’s not true.'”

Cornette said after the meeting he’s planning to run for reelection. His attorney told IPR News they plan to challenge his removal in district court.

Read the full story.

Law enforcement

Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center won’t open on time

Posted September 7, 2023 at 4:17 PM CDT

The opening of Woodbury County’s new law enforcement center has been delayed.

Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Matthew Ung says so far, he hasn’t received an official reason to why the $69 million LEC won’t open Sept. 14.

Ung admits that the project, approved by voters in 2020, has faced significant challenges, including an extra $15 million in costs.

“Ever since the pandemic supply chain historic inflation.... We've had a lot of... a lot of people protest it, for a lot of different reasons. But at the end of the day, the community supported the decision to build a new jail.”

Ung says the county estimated bringing in $1.2 million through the end of the fiscal year by housing federal inmates, but that is on hold for now.

“Every month that's delayed is another month of lost revenue, that we’ll have to... find in the general fund or in reserves. We have an agreement with the Marshals to house inmates.”

Voters approved the project to replace the current jail, which officials say needed significant repairs and failed to guarantee safety of staff and inmates.

Ung says he can’t confirm news reports that point to litigation as the reason the jail won’t open on time.


Lack of clarity around new education law causes new challenges for schools

Posted September 7, 2023 at 3:44 PM CDT

With a new school year only a few weeks old, many districts in Iowa are struggling with how to interpret the state’s new and wide-ranging education law.

File 496, which looks to regulate public schools’ curriculum, libraries and other parts of the student experience, has received sharp criticism for its perceived targeting of LGBTQ and at-risk youth, as well as the vagueness of its language.

Waterloo Community Schools Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Gina Weekley says that after multiple conversations with staff, at-risk students and the district’s legal team, gray areas mean solutions are infinite and nonexistent.

“When we think about ‘gray,’ it leaves people to their own interpretations. It leaves them to seek out and create stories and information on their own. And right now, without solidified answers from the state level, that’s exactly what people are doing.”

She also says the wording of the bill has created a disruption in the learning environment.

“It has set up a high level of anxiety for our teachers, our staff, and with our leaders. With this file, it seems as if there’s a barrier in that ability to form and build relationships where it feels like they aren’t damaging that child or how that child identifies.”

The Waterloo Community Schools are currently consulting with other area districts, Iowa’s Urban Education Network, and its legal team to figure out the best path forward.


Older adults encouraged to get new RSV vaccine

Posted September 7, 2023 at 3:30 PM CDT

Experts are encouraging Iowans 60 and older as well as children under 8 months to get vaccinated against RSV.

The respiratory virus can cause severe lung infections in young infants, who have not yet built up immunity against it

But Pat Winokur with the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine says numbers show elderly people are more likely to be hospitalized with the virus.

Winokur says a new vaccine for those 60 and older has been shown to prevent severe illness in 85% of people.

“That's a pretty good track record—85%. And they watched people for multiple seasons, the immunity seemed to last pretty well for two years. So that's really encouraging.”

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control recommended a new vaccine to help protect infants eight months and younger.

Winokur made her comments on IPR’s Talk of Iowa.

IPR News

Report says bad practices led to preventable Davenport building collapse and deaths

Posted September 7, 2023 at 12:24 PM CDT

Since May, the cause of the Davenport building collapse has been under investigation. A new report says bad practices across the board led to its fall, killing three people.

The firms that investigated the collapse, White Birch Group and SOCOTEC Engineering, said in their report that failures in engineering and repair practices, as well as deferred maintenance, caused the collapse.

During the three days leading up to the collapse, repair crews advised by a professional engineer removed layers of brick from the western wall. The report says the supports they put in place were "grossly inadequate."

They say with the right supports, the collapse would not have happened.

While the contractor's shoring failed to meet professional standards, the report also says the direction from Professional Engineer David Valliere of Select Structural did not offer adequate direction for the repairs.

Further, the report says building owner Andrew Wold's chronic delays in repair work led to long-term water infiltration that further destabilized the building.

In a release that included the full report, Davenport Mayor Mike Matson said, "our hearts and thoughts" remain with families of the dead.

Read the full story.

Radio Iowa

Canadian wildfire smoke worsens air quality in western Iowa

Posted September 7, 2023 at 11:19 AM CDT
A map of Iowa showing worsening air quality in the western portion of the state and good to moderate air quality as it moves east.
Air Now
Iowa air quality as of 9 a.m. on Sept. 7, 2023. Orange is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.

The wildfire smoke from Canada is back over Iowa once again. Brian Hutchins at the DNR Air Quality Bureau says the hazy conditions are visible in parts of the state.

“Looking at some of the forecasts, it looks like it’s primarily going to be western to central Iowa. So it’s right now looking like it won’t be as bad in eastern Iowa."

Hutchins says there’s enough concentration of the smoke that it's impacting air quality.

“The levels around Des Moines are considered unhealthy for sensitive individuals,” Hutchins says. “And what we’re seeing currently out towards the west, northwest, can be unhealthy for all.”

He says you should take note of your tolerance and make adjustments to how much time you will be outside.

“So we recommend that people kind of reduce the amount of time spent outdoors. And take more breaks during outdoor activities. That’s important for individuals that have like pre-existing conditions, whether that be heart or lung disease, or older adults, children,” Hutchins says.

He says a visible haze is expected.

You can check current conditions in Iowa at the EPA website called AirNow.

IPR News

Absent Des Moines city councilmember resigns

Posted September 7, 2023 at 10:19 AM CDT

A Des Moines city councilmember who hasn’t attended meetings or work sessions since March has resigned.

Mayor Frank Cownie says Indira Sheumaker’s father, Randy, delivered her resignation letter Wednesday. The resignation was effective Aug. 31.

Sheumaker was elected in 2021. City officials say the last council meeting Sheumaker attended was on March 6, 2023.

In April, Randy Sheumaker told the Des Moines Register his daughter had been hospitalized, but city officials said she had not responded to their questions about her absence.

Last month, Mayor Cownie wrote Sheumaker, asking her to communicate her intentions or the council would presume she’d abandoned the office. She represented Des Moines' Ward 1, which covers the city’s northwest side.

IPR News

Subcommittee proposes eliminating more than a quarter of Iowa's boards and commissions

Posted September 6, 2023 at 4:46 PM CDT

A state subcommittee that has proposed the elimination of more than a quarter of Iowa’s boards and commissions heard around two hours of public testimony on Wednesday.

The proposal from the Boards and Commissions Review Committee is part of a government reorganization law signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier this year.

It proposes eliminating or consolidating more than 100 Iowa boards and commissions. It also recommends eliminating a gender balance requirement for boards.

Keenan Crowe is with One Iowa, which advocates for LGBTQ rights. He says the requirement has been shown to greatly help balance county boards and commissions, but they still haven’t achieved gender parity.

"Getting rid of the gender balance requirement right now, it'd be like standing in a rainstorm with an umbrella and concluding that you aren't currently getting very wet at the moment, so maybe we can just ditch the umbrella altogether."

The public has until Sept. 17 to submit testimony to the subcommittee, which will issue a report to lawmakers later this month.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Free, city-wide dental clinic coming to Waterloo in October

Posted September 6, 2023 at 3:59 PM CDT

The city of Waterloo has announced a free, city-wide dental clinic.

The full-service clinic has been rotating throughout the state since 2008. It provides free, certified, volunteer-led dental care to thousands of Iowans each year.

Nearly 50% of the clinic’s patients earn $20,000 or less per year. Waterloo dentist and clinic co-chair Dr. Chris Aldritch says that in his experience serving Waterloo, there are several barriers to getting care.

"Financial barriers, one. But they could also be due to education, transportation or unemployment. A person could have had insurance through an employer, and they no longer have that. The barriers to care can be complex sometimes."

The Mission of Mercy clinic has provided dental care to nearly 1,500 in its two visits to Waterloo. Oct. 13 and 14 will mark the clinic’s third stop in Waterloo.

Radio Iowa

American Lung Association encourages fall vaccines

Posted September 6, 2023 at 2:53 PM CDT

The American Lung Association is urging Iowans to get an array of vaccinations this fall to protect against the flu, RSV and a resurgence of COVID-19.

Pulmonologist Dr. Jamie Rutland says flu cases spiked in Iowa last year, compared to previous pandemic years, as most people were no longer masking or keeping practicing social distancing. He says this year will likely be similar.

Flu vaccines are already available in Iowa, so he’s hoping people will get their shots now so their immune systems are ready. Rutland says people with conditions like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes should especially seek out vaccinations.

“... when they are infected with a virus like influenza, it leads to an extreme amount of inflammation and it can lead to organ failures and things of that sort."

The Centers for Disease Control estimates there were as many as 54 million flu cases nationwide last year and between 19,000 and 58,000 deaths due to the flu. Iowa health officials reported 366 flu deaths statewide in 2021.

Tri States Public Radio

Department of Energy awards $2.3M to accelerate hydropower in Keokuk

Posted September 6, 2023 at 2:42 PM CDT

The U.S. Department of Energy will invest $2.3 million in a Keokuk project that is advancing hydropower as a source of clean energy.

It’s one of seven projects the Biden administration is targeting to accelerate technologies to generate power at dams that currently do not.

Fewer than 3% of the nation’s 90,000 dams currently produce power. The Department of Energy says they have the potential to add thousands of megawatts of clean energy to the grid.

In Keokuk, the California-based Electric Power Research Institute will test two models of a turbine system designed to add power-generating infrastructure to non-powered dams.

Radio Iowa

Lack of severe weather is likely to continue

Posted September 6, 2023 at 10:21 AM CDT

State Climatologist Justin Glisan says a tornado outbreak is unlikely this month because Iowa is in a severe weather drought.

“When you don’t have thunderstorms to drive rainfall, you don’t get a lot of severe weather and you get into pervasive drought.”

There have been 63 confirmed tornadoes in Iowa so far this year. Glisan says September tornadoes typically only account for about 4% of the state's total for the year.

And the drought it likely to persist. The mid-Atlantic and southern states are getting a lot of rain right now during hurricane season, but Glisan says those storm systems rarely bring beneficial rainfall to Iowa.

“We did have a June tropical system back in 2019 that made it into eastern Iowa,” Glisan says, “and that had been the first time since 1900 that we had seen a tropical system actually make it into Iowa.”

He says a “moisture gate” from the Gulf of Mexico is blocked off right now, preventing the development of thunderstorms.

Despite the low risk, Glisan cautions that tornadoes can occur year-round.

IPR News

Iowa Utilities Board says Summit must share information about high-risk areas for its proposed CO2 pipeline

Posted September 5, 2023 at 4:11 PM CDT

The Iowa Utilities Board says Summit Carbon Solutions must share information about the areas it has determined are at highest risk if there is a CO2 release from its proposed pipeline.

The issue came up in the Iowa Utilities Board hearing that will decide the fate of Summit’s carbon capture pipeline. That hearing entered a new phase on Tuesday, with the company presenting testimony in support of the project.

Chief Operating Officer Jimmy Powell says Summit has run its own analysis of where carbon dioxide would go if the pipeline breaks.

"Of the 686 miles of pipeline proposed, there are 1.13 miles of direct impact to high consequence areas in a worst-case scenario."

The IUB says the results of Summit’s analysis must be shared with other attorneys involved in supporting and opposing the project, but will not be made public. The board has not decided whether the information shall be entered as evidence regarding Summit’s permit application.

IPR News

Iowans are vulnerable to long COVID as national cases rise

Posted September 5, 2023 at 4:06 PM CDT

As the country is seeing an increase in COVID cases, more Iowans are vulnerable to experiencing long COVID, or persistent symptoms that last at least four weeks.

Many Iowans suffer from long COVID symptoms, but experts say it's still unclear why some people develop persistent symptoms.

Lauren Graham is the director of the post-COVID clinic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She says experts don’t know why some people develop ongoing symptoms.

"I also see perfectly healthy 30-year-olds, and you know, 75-year-olds have many chronic conditions. So it can really affect anyone, and the severity is not often matched with the severity of the illness or the number of chronic medical conditions they have."

Graham says long COVID is generally defined as someone who has symptoms lasting at least four weeks.

"So really, really significant fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, and then persistent change in taste and smell. Those are the most common symptoms of long COVID that we see."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one in five people who get COVID develop some kind of long-term symptoms.

Graham says it’s important to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations and talk to your doctor about possible treatments like Paxlovid if you do get COVID.

IPR News

Trump to attend Cy-Hawk football game

Posted September 5, 2023 at 4:06 PM CDT

Former President Donald Trump will be at this Saturday’s Cy-Hawk football game at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, according to a release from his campaign.

The Cyclones and Hawkeyes are scheduled to kick off at 2:30 p.m.

The in-state rivalry draws tens of thousands of fans. Iowa State University announced in early August that this year's game had sold out.

Trump attended the Cy-Hawk game in 2015, before he was assigned a Secret Service detail in November.

IPR News

New solar project regulations pass first hurdle in Linn County

Posted September 5, 2023 at 4:06 PM CDT

New large-scale solar project regulations got their first approval by the Linn County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. New rules range from large setback requirements to adding more expansive neighbor notification for potential projects.

The meeting was packed. Solar developers including NextEra Solar argued regulation reduces Linn’s advantage in recruiting new projects. Some landowners said the projects could damage valuable cropland.

Charlie Nichols, Linn County’s director of Planning and Development, said this reception might just mean it’s a successful compromise.

“Every statement was a compromise. So nobody’s completely happy with those statements, but they do represent people with different views on these projects trying to work together and come up with something they can all be a little bit unhappy with but nobody is completely unhappy with.”

The plan will require two more yes votes from the board to go into effect.

IPR News

Fortepan photo project awarded national grant

Posted September 5, 2023 at 3:02 PM CDT

An ongoing archival photography project in Cedar Falls has been awarded a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities grant to help its users see the big picture.

The Fortepan Iowa project, based at the University of Northern Iowa, will use the $149,000 to develop an augmented reality app called “Mainstreet 360º” that will allow users to interact with the archive’s 160 years of photographs as if standing where they were taken.

Fortepan Iowa founder and professor of interactive digital studies Bettina Fabos says the app will help Iowans engage with their local history and become a part of its telling.

"This is one great way of helping people interpret their own local history and really appreciating change over time. Looking at how vibrant a community was 50 years ago; it might provide some incentive to bring it back."

The app is anticipated by spring, with the grant’s second year devoted to outreach in libraries and schools in and beyond Iowa.

Read more about the project.

IPR News

Iowa superintendent sees less change than anticipated with new education savings account program

Posted September 5, 2023 at 11:45 AM CDT

A northwest Iowa school superintendent who worried his district might lose students to private schools didn’t see any changes in enrollment due to the state’s new education savings accounts.

Chad Shook oversees Lawton-Bronson Community Schools, just east of Sioux City. With up to 100 students open-enrolling in his district each year, he felt vulnerable some of those students would choose to go to nearby parochial schools instead. But that didn't happen.

"I'm not aware of a single one.”

Even though his district is stable, Shook remains critical.

“The Iowa Legislature really had a chance to do something very cool for Iowa's public schools this year and instead, they gave the money away. So, you know, did nothing to solve the teacher shortage.”

Shook considers himself a lifelong conservative, but he doesn’t back the Legislature’s move to put public money into private schools.

The Iowa Department of Education says the final number of students receiving ESAs will not be available until later this fall when school enrollment numbers are certified. In July, the state reported that 40% of students who applied for ESAs planned to move from public to accredited nonpublic schools.

Read the full story.

IPR News

State health data show Iowa’s syphilis rates continue to climb

Posted September 5, 2023 at 10:54 AM CDT

Iowa had 877 syphilis cases in 2022, marking the fourth year in a row that cases have increased and mirroring a nationwide trend. Meanwhile, Iowa’s rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea dropped last year.

State Medical Director Robert Kruse says the reason is unclear, but it could be because those STIs have early symptoms that are easier to detect. He says syphilis usually begins with a painless blister that goes away on its own, so it can be harder to detect in earlier stages.

Kruse says that’s why it’s important that Iowans recognize signs and symptoms of STIs and go in for testing if they think they have been exposed.

There's also been a rise in congenital syphilis — cases in which a pregnant person passes the illness to a child during pregnancy. Kruse says doctors should consider additional screenings for their pregnant patients at risk.

"We've also recommended screening at increased intervals for the infection. So not just during the first prenatal visit, but at that 28- to 32-week gestational visit, and then again, at delivery."

IPR News

Last known Iowan to survive the Holocaust dies

Posted September 5, 2023 at 10:11 AM CDT

A Des Moines man who survived the Nazi Holocaust during World War II has died.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines says 95-year-old David Wolnerman died Monday at his home in Des Moines.

Wolnerman was born in Poland and survived nearly six years in the Nazi concentration camps. After the war, he lived in Germany, Ohio and Indiana before settling in Des Moines.

In his later years, Wolnerman shared stories of his liberation with schools and community groups. He would tell each audience: “Forgive, but not forget.”

The Jewish Federation says Wolnerman is the last known Iowan to have survived the Nazi concentration camps.

IPR News

Iowans reflect on labor organization efforts

Posted September 5, 2023 at 9:07 AM CDT

Monday's Labor Day holiday fell during a time when many labor organizers are finding plenty to celebrate.

The National Labor Relations Board says both unfair labor practice filings and petitions for union representation are up, and big work projects from the infrastructure bill and Inflation Reduction Act are fueling demand for the trades.

Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, said unions benefit Iowans.

“We want them to be good green jobs. Not just jobs. And what we’re seeing is, when these projects are done, and they’re being done union, they are massive and they are great for a state like Iowa.”

Gallup polling suggests two-thirds of Americans approve of labor unions – the highest percentage since 1965.

Union membership has been rising, but it's still just half what it was 30 years ago. Iowa has a long history of union representation in its workplaces, but for decades, union membership has declined.

ISU Labor economist Peter Orazem says no amount of enthusiasm reverses decades of fewer union members in fewer shops.

“I’m not sure that is changing the longer term trajectory, which is the share of Iowa workers represented by unions has decreased by almost half.”

Jennifer Sherer, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s State Worker Power Initiative, says union membership numbers won’t jump overnight. But with a tight labor market making it harder to replace striking workers, unions have more bargaining power.

Sherer says numbers reported by the LRB are a sign of interest in growing labor power.

IPR News

US Labor Dept. says federal protections remain in effect for minors affected by loosened Iowa child labor laws

Posted September 4, 2023 at 9:21 AM CDT

The U.S. Department of Labor says while the Iowa Legislature may have loosened the protections for minors working hazardous jobs, federal protections remain in effect.In a letter last month, the department said Iowa’s 16- and 17-year-olds still cannot work in certain hazardous occupations, whether state leaders say so or not.

In May, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill that would allow teens to work a range of jobs that include operating power saws and joining demolition crews so long as they were part of a work-based learning program. The bill would even allow them to serve alcohol in restaurants.

But Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda writes “states cannot nullify federal requirements by enacting less protective standards.”

She says the Department of Labor has enforcement provisions for child labor including monetary penalties and that it will be watching the state and the extent to which it is complying with Fair Labor Standards Act protections.

IPR News

Several Iowa lakes under E. coli advisories 

Posted September 1, 2023 at 12:27 PM CDT

With the long Labor Day weekend on the horizon, many Iowans will be heading to lakes in the state’s parks, several of which are under an E. coli advisory.

Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources has advised against swimming in 13 lakes across the state since last week. The return of wildlife and agricultural runoff toward the end of the season has created an elevated risk for all types of harmful bacteria.

Jason Palmer of the DNR’s Water Quality division explained that Natural Resources uses E. coli as a gauge for even harder-to-spot -- and even more dangerous -- microorganisms.

“We use E. coli bacteria primarily as an indicator of conditions where we might also see other pathogens or virulent bacteria that are of human health concern.”

The DNR has maintained last week’s advisories since suspending collection due to the recent heatwave. Sample collecting resumed within the past few days and have been collected for next week.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Sioux City photographer focuses on changing perspectives about his hometown

Posted September 1, 2023 at 12:03 PM CDT
Photographer Britton Hacke's work humanizes homeless people in Sioux City.
Britton Hacke
Photographer Britton Hacke's work humanizes homeless people in Sioux City.

Photographer Britton Hacke is gearing up for Sioux City's annual ArtSplash festival. Even with a hot forecast on the way, thousands are expected to attend.

"I've been going to this since I was a kid. I mean, it's in its 29th year this year,” Hacke said. “And I'm 42."

Hacke, a photographer, is this year's featured artist. The event hosts 70 artists from across Iowa and almost a dozen other states.

Hacke's photography highlights the landmarks of Sioux City, from historic buildings to the War Eagle Monument.

He also documents the lives of the people who occupy the town. Part of his perspective is photography that humanizes people experiencing homelessness. He often donates money to a local shelter through print sales, including one he plans to feature during ArtSplash.

Hacke hopes to change perspectives about the city through his photography.

“You know, growing up here, I've heard a lot of negative stuff about Sioux City, and of course, online,” he said. “I try to challenge that and challenge people's view of society and try to show it in a better light.”

Read the full story.

Radio Iowa

Drought conditions reported in 99% of Iowa

Posted August 31, 2023 at 4:23 PM CDT

The latest Iowa Drought Monitor shows drought conditions have worsened. There’s been an 18% increase in extreme drought conditions since last week’s report.

“The big standout that we see on the map this week is a big expansion of that D3 extreme drought category across north central into northeastern Iowa,” State Climatologist Justin Glisan said.

There’s a persistent area of extreme drought in southeast Iowa as well. Some farmers have begun chopping corn for silage because most leaves on the stalks have died.

“Corn is drying up out there. Soybeans are dropping pods because of the heat and the dryness. Harvest is going to come at us fast given the drier conditions and the warmer temperatures that we’ve seen.”

Small sections of Fremont and Ringgold Counties are the only areas of Iowa considered to be drought-free. Glisan says 99.49% of the entire state is now in some level of drought.

Gilsan says the statewide average rainfall is about 3.25 inches in August -- about an inch below normal, but he says there is wide variation in sections of the state.

“If you look at the climate divisions in eastern Iowa, so climate Division 3 is the northeastern corner and then east central is where the nose of Iowa is — it’s the top 10 driest August on record, so that statewide average is skewed where we see higher precipitation totals across the southern part of the state.”

The southern two tiers of Iowa got an average amount of rainfall during the past month.

Radio Iowa

ISU taking comments on removal of Carrie Chapman Catt’s name from building

Posted August 31, 2023 at 12:52 PM CDT

An Iowa State University committee’s first vote would keep Carrie Chapman Catt’s name on a campus building.

Nine members of the committee voted to keep Catt’s name on the building and six voted to remove it. The building was named in her honor in 1990 for her efforts to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

The committee was formed in 2021 after accusations that Catt used racist language and tactics in her push to get the issue passed.

The committee met 27 times to review multiple documents surrounding the 1880 ISU grad. There is now a public input period that will last through Oct. 29, and the committee will then take a final vote.

IPR News

Hinson meets with NAIFA to discuss financial health

Posted August 31, 2023 at 9:45 AM CDT

Iowa’s 2nd District Rep. Ashley Hinson landed in Cedar Falls for a meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss Iowans’ financial health.

The Republican representative met with the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and addressed the group’s concerns about youth financial literacy, inflation and the existing governmental red tape she thinks should be heavily scrutinized going into the next congressional session.

“Some of them are designed to be in place to protect against bad actors, but I think what we’ve seen across the board is that they are heavy-handed. I think that we need to be taking a serious look at whether those regulations are needed or if we need more accountability regarding the rules and regulations that are already in place.”

Hinson has sponsored two bills aimed at scaling back regulation: 2021’s Red Tape Reduction Act, and the REINS Act, which passed in the House earlier this year.

IPR News

Attorney general appeals court ruling permitting voting materials to be printing in languages other than English

Posted August 30, 2023 at 4:05 PM CDT

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird has filed an appeal to a recent court ruling clarifying that some voting materials can be printed in languages other than English.

Iowa’s English Language Reaffirmation Act was signed into law in 2002 by then-Gov. Tom Vilsack. It requires all official documents representing the state be in the English language.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, or LULAC, sued the Secretary of State’s office in 2021, asking that voting materials like ballots and voting notices be exempt from the law. The organization sought to overturn a previous court decision barring the state from printing registration forms in languages other than English.

Bird says her office is appealing the Polk County judge’s decision in favor of LULAC to “secure the integrity of our elections.”

According to U.S. Census data, around 9% of Iowans ages 5 and older speak a language other than English at home.

Harvest Public Media

SNAP remains GOP target even as farm bill deadline looms, food insecurity rises

Posted August 30, 2023 at 4:04 PM CDT

As part of the farm bill, some Republican lawmakers want more changes for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Congress expanded work requirements for SNAP earlier this summer.

The negotiations come at a time when food insecurity is on the rise. About 27 million people are living in households that haven’t had enough food in the last week, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, up more than 11% from January.

Thomas Gremillion, the food policy director for the Consumer Federation of America, says if Congress cuts SNAP, low-income households will have to spend even more of their tight budgets on food.

“Cutting back on SNAP benefits, right at a time when food prices have really skyrocketed over the last couple of years, yeah, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Lawmakers have until Sept. 30. to hammer out a new Farm Bill, but officials are already talking about an extension.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

Radio Iowa

Three counties testing Iowa United First Aid program

Posted August 30, 2023 at 4:03 PM CDT

Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg says a pilot project in three Iowa counties may be a way to provide quicker emergency responses in rural areas.

“A heart attack, a choking incident, a stroke — if that happens to happen in one of the outlying parts of a county, even under the best circumstances despite the hard work of volunteers, geography may just dictate that it’s going to be 20-25 minutes before somebody can arrive,” Gregg told Radio Iowa.

Beyond the ambulance crews and EMTs already in place around the state, the Iowa United First Aid program will train new groups of volunteers in Cass, Calhoun and Van Buren Counties in what Gregg describes as “CPR Plus,” which includes the use of an AED, basic first aid and an app that allows 911 to alert the volunteer closest to the emergency.

Gregg got the idea for the program when he visited Israel last year and learned about a smart phone app that alerts medical professionals if there’s an emergency nearby.

Earlier this week, Gregg was in Keosauqua to meet with over 30 people starting volunteer orientation for the program in Van Buren County.

“I had the opportunity to say ,’Thank you,’ to them, for being willing to try something new. For being willing to step up and serve their community in this way.”

Gregg is also urging the group to provide feedback about how the program works and if changes may be needed.

The three counties involved in the pilot program have each gotten a $50,000 state grant, which is being matched with $25,000 in local resources. Nearly all the money is being used to buy the bags and medical equipment for each of the volunteers.

Radio Iowa

Fareway to move corporate headquarters

Posted August 30, 2023 at 12:01 PM CDT

The Des Moines Register is reporting Fareway plans to move its corporate headquarters from Boone to the Des Moines metro.

Fareway CEO Reynolds Cramer told the Register he didn’t make the decision lightly, as it was his great grandparents who opened Fareway’s first store in Boone in 1938. Cramer said Fareway’s headquarters in Boone is out of space and many of the people who work there live in the Des Moines metro.

According to the newspaper, Fareway is buying a building in Johnston that had been the Iowa Bankers Association headquarters. One hundred employees will move into that building next spring.

In a statement provided to KWBG Radio, Boone Mayor John Slight said Fareway will remain a vital corporate citizen of the city and 600 Fareway employees will still work in Boone.

Slight said while disappointing, moving Fareway’s corporate headquarters to Johnston is important to Fareway’s continued expansion, and that’s beneficial to Boone.

According to the company’s website, Fareway operates more than 130 stores in Iowa and six other states. It has over 12,000 employees.

IPR News

Warren County ousts interim county auditor in special election

Posted August 30, 2023 at 11:05 AM CDT

Unofficial results from a Tuesday vote in Warren County show Interim County Auditor David Whipple, a Republican, was defeated by Democrat Kim Sheets in a special election.

Sheets held the position of deputy auditor, but when the previous officeholder retired, the county board chose to appoint Whipple, who works as a construction manager.

There was a petition drive to force the special election after social media posts surfaced where Whipple shared false conspiracies about election fraud.

Sheets received 67% of the vote. Whipple received 33%.

In a statement, Sheets said the results show voters “trust competence over conspiracies.”

Read the full story.


Judge hears closing arguments in Dinkins murder trial

Posted August 30, 2023 at 11:05 AM CDT

The case of Henry Dinkins is now in the hands of Scott County District Judge Henry Latham. The judge heard closing arguments on Tuesday in the murder and kidnapping trial of the Davenport man accused of killing 10-year-old Breasia Terrell.

Scott County Attorney Kelly Cunningham gave a lengthy review of the evidence presented over the past few weeks.

During his closing arguments, Dinkins' attorney, Chad Frese, accused the prosecution of spinning a "fairytale" that Dinkins ever intended to hurt the girl. He says the state can't prove its claim that she was sexually assaulted, and that the case is full of serious and reasonable doubt.

In her rebuttal, Assistant Scott County Attorney Elizabeth O'Donnell said the evidence points to the guilt of the last person to have been with the girl when she went missing and when she died.

IPR News

Cedar Rapids gets tax credit boost to revitalize historically diverse Oak Hill neighborhood

Posted August 30, 2023 at 11:03 AM CDT

The City of Cedar Rapids has just received $1.8 million in workforce housing tax credits to help revitalize one of its most historically diverse neighborhoods.

Oak Hill neighborhood will soon be home to four new two-story townhomes as part of a $3.8 million package from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

The credit comes as the city continues ongoing efforts to revitalize the neighborhood 15 years after the flood of 2008.

Cedar Rapids Economic Development Manager Caleb Mason says the homes are the result of a collaborative neighborhood plan between the city and its residents.

“One of the things we’ve done is a neighborhood plan. We’ll go in and engage residents and businesses, ask them what they want and tailor our incentives to that. So the neighborhood, the city and the community has a vision of what that should look like.”

The remaining money will go to five other projects, all of which are intended to meet demand for the city’s growing workforce.

IPR News

Corn, soybean crops suffered during heatwave

Posted August 29, 2023 at 4:39 PM CDT

Summer is almost over and it’ll soon be harvest time for the state’s main commodity crops: corn and soybeans. But the recent bout of extreme heat that blanketed the state could have a negative effect on this year’s yields, according to Chad Hart, ISU professor of agricultural and natural resources economics.

Hart says crops had a hard time during the heatwave.

“The idea is that anytime we see temperatures north of 95 or 100 degrees, it definitely stresses the crops, especially at this time of year when we’re basically in the critical grain fill period. The idea is the crops are sort of like us: they need to rest at night, need those cooler temperatures. And that helps extend what we call the grain fill period.”

In the meantime, more temperatures in the upper 90s are on the way this holiday weekend. Hart made his comments on IPR’s River to River.

IPR News

Spring test scores show Iowa students improved in math, but not reading

Posted August 29, 2023 at 3:46 PM CDT

Test scores from last spring show Iowa students made some improvement overall in math proficiency, but there was little change in reading.

The Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress samples the grade level achievement of students in 3rd through 11th grade.

After falling during the pandemic, the share of students performing at grade-level in math either matched or exceeded 2019 levels in most grades.

Statewide reading proficiency for 2023 was mostly even with last year, but has been trending downward overall in ninth grade and above.

The Iowa Department of Education also released district and school specific data on student proficiency.

IPR News

Grassley calls Biden’s Medicare price negotiations the ‘wrong way’ to lower drug costs

Posted August 29, 2023 at 3:45 PM CDT

On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced plans to negotiate Medicare drug prices for ten medications, including treatments for diabetes.

The plan faces legal action from pharmaceutical companies and criticism from Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who, during a visit to the Siouxland Community Health Center, called the plan “the wrong way” to go about lowering costs.

Grassley, who has worked on legislation to fight escalating drug prices, says the government should not dictate payments.

“I believe drug prices are too high, but we ought to do it through the marketplace,” he said. “Do I believe costs for pharmaceuticals are too high? Yes, I do. The drugs for diabetes should not be more than $35 a month, for example.”

Grassley says taking decision-making away from pharmaceutical companies will result in less money going into the research to develop new drugs.

The negotiated prices are expected to start in 2026.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Englert union ends dispute 

Posted August 29, 2023 at 3:13 PM CDT

Production staff at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City say they’ve resolved a contract dispute. It’s the first major grievance since stagehands and technicians at the theater voted to unionize last November.

This month, the Englert signed onto an agreement that clarifies minimum pay requirements for technicians and stagehands. Union steward and lead production tech Ioannis Alexakis says he’s proud of the unit and the process their contract established.

“Obviously, this is a first contract. So it’s kind of an educational experience for the Englert and the bargaining unit too.”

Executive Director John Schickedanz says he’s excited to see the grievance resolved.

The Englert Theatre is a financial supporter of IPR.

Radio Iowa

Meals from the Heartland begins with packaging competition

Posted August 29, 2023 at 3:13 PM CDT

Tuesday morning marked the start of the 16th annual effort to package millions of meals to help feed the hungry in Iowa, across the U.S. and in countries around the globe.

Meals from the Heartland launches the massive mission with Tuesday’s corporate contest, where Hy-Vee spokeswoman Nola Aigner Davis says dozens of volunteers will be pitching in to assemble the meals in plastic bags, which are then packed into cardboard boxes.

“We have more than 30 company teams, which is the most we’ve ever had,” Aigner Davis said. “During this competition, teams will need to package two boxes of food as fast as they can.”

That event, the One Step Challenge, is being held at the MidAmerican Energy RecPlex in West Des Moines.

The larger “Hunger Fight” event runs Wednesday through Saturday, as many thousands of volunteers package meals at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines. The goal is to produce and package four million meals by the end of the day on Saturday.

There are two basic meals that will be assembled, a Hearty Pack, with rice, soy protein, vitamins, minerals and dried vegetables; and a Taco Mac, which contains enriched pasta, soy flour and vitamin- and mineral-fortified cheese mix.

Individual and group registrations are being welcomed for shifts Wednesday through Saturday. Hairnets and gloves will be provided. Since 2008, Meals from the Heartland has provided more than 183 million meals to the hungry in Iowa, across the U.S. and around the world.

Radio Iowa

Drought hitting apple orchards in eastern Iowa

Posted August 29, 2023 at 10:06 AM CDT

The drought in eastern Iowa is taking its toll on apple orchard owners.

Chris Gensicke has owned Allen’s Orchard in Marion since 2010 and says the drought and excessive heat have made this one of his strangest years.

Gensicke told KCRG TV the derecho killed about half of his tree canopy. Many of the trees he replanted are still new and struggling from excessive heat and a lack of water.

“They’re quite stressed, and I’m quite stressed too, having to move around thousands of gallons of water a week,” he said.

Gensicke has an irrigation system that waters most of the new trees he replanted following the derecho, but he says even that hasn’t been enough.

He says the trees haven’t grown as fast, the fruit might not be as big and the flavor may be stronger than normal.

The trees have seen so much stress, he says people who want to pick apples this year might want to come out earlier than usual.

“If you think you’re going to be putting on your flannel shirts this year and your long-sleeved coats and having your mittens and your hats on and drinking hot cider while picking apples, the apples will be gone by then this year.”

Gensicke said if Iowa doesn’t get some rain soon, it could start to affect next year’s apple crop.

IPR News

Warren County special election could unseat interim county auditor

Posted August 28, 2023 at 4:17 PM CDT

Voters in Warren County are headed to the polls on Tuesday for a special election challenging the appointment of the interim county auditor.

In June, the Warren County supervisors selected Republican David Whipple for the job overseeing elections.

Democrats condemned the pick because of Facebook posts Whipple shared in 2020 that made false claims of fraud in the presidential vote. Whipple has said he does not believe the claims he shared and that he accepts the vote was valid.

Deputy County Auditor and Democrat Kim Sheets is running to unseat Whipple. She’s campaigned on her experience serving in the auditor’s office and other roles in local government over the last 20 years.

The winner of the special election will be on the ballot again for a full term in the 2024 general election.

IPR News

Early study suggests ties between teargas exposure and reproductive system issues

Posted August 28, 2023 at 3:19 PM CDT

A new study has found a correlation between tear gas exposure and effects on the reproductive system.

The study was conducted by Planned Parenthood North Central States and researchers at the University of Minnesota. It was published inFrontiers in Epidemiology.

Researchers conducted a survey of more than 1,200 people nationwide following the protests over George Floyd’s murder in 2020, where police routinely used chemicals against crowds, like tear gas.

Asha Hassan, a research manager and scientist for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said 83% of those surveyed had at least one adverse reproductive health outcome, including uterine cramping, early or delayed menstrual bleeding and breast tenderness.

Hassan calls this study an exploratory first step and says more research is needed into the connection between tear gas and reproductive health.

Side Effects Public Media

Here’s how to protect yourself as fall, winter bring more respiratory virus activity

Posted August 28, 2023 at 3:18 PM CDT

Many respiratory viruses circulate year-round in the United States, and more activity is typically seen during fall and winter.

The public is likely to be exposed to coronavirus, flu and RSV in the coming months.

Read this story from Side Effects Public Media on what people should know about these viruses and the available vaccines.

Harvest Public Media

Midwest farmers aren't allowed to fix their own tractors. And many right-to-repair bills are stalled

Posted August 28, 2023 at 3:18 PM CDT

For years, farmers and ranchers have argued they should have the right to fix their own equipment and not be solely reliant on authorized dealerships.

The right-to-repair movement has resulted in the introduction of several bills across the country. They seek to require equipment manufacturers to hand over software, codes and tools to farmers and independent service technicians, enabling them to fix their own equipment.

Yet, so far, only one state has succeeded.

In April, Colorado passed the nation’s first farmer’s right-to-repair law, which will go into effect at the start of 2024. Four other states in the Midwest introduced similar legislation, but bills in Iowa, Missouri and South Dakota all failed to make it out of committee. A bill in Michigan remains active as the state’s Legislature heads into its fall session.

Read the full story from Harvest Public Media.

IPR News

Sioux City pushing for diversity in police force

Posted August 28, 2023 at 9:29 AM CDT
Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller welcomes four news officers to the police force.
Sheila Brummer/IPR
Sioux City Police Chief welcomes four news officers to the police force.

There’s been a push across the country to recruit more minorities for careers in law enforcement.

Bayron Ordonez is one of four new officers taking the oath to serve and protect Sioux City.

Ordonez, who was born in Honduras, is one of two new officers representing the Hispanic community that makes up about 20% of Sioux City’s population. Eight percent of the city’s officers are Hispanic.

“Unfortunately, in the society that we live in today, some people don't trust police officers, if they see somebody that is more of what they're used to, it's easier for people to open up and trust us,” Ordonez said.

Police Chief Rex Mueller said it’s important to recruit officers who look like the community the police serve.

“That's what we constantly strive to do. We want good people, but we also want people that will be able to relate to the community and them,” he said.

Of the 127 police officers on the force, more than a quarter are minorities, including women. There are no Indigenous officers.

Read the full story.

Radio Iowa

DeSantis stops by Field of Dreams, Rock Rapids in post-debate Iowa campaign swing

Posted August 25, 2023 at 2:49 PM CDT

Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis says he chose to emphasize his record as Florida’s governor, rather than quarrel with the other candidates at this week’s debate.

“The thing about the debate you know is nobody hit me, so I wasn’t going to get involved in that scrum. I know those guys were going back and forth,” DeSantis said Thursday night in northeast Iowa. “What I did with 100% of my time was to speak directly to the American people about our vision to reverse the country’s decline.”

DeSantis and his family stopped at the Field of Dreams last night and DeSantis spoke to a crowd in Rock Rapids this morning.

“I was proud to be able to, at that debate, muscle in issues that maybe the moderators didn’t necessarily want to talk about and one of those issues was the issue of our southern border. I am going to be the president who finally puts this issue to bed. We are going to solve the problem.”

Former Iowa GOP co-chair Cody Hoefert also spoke to the crowd in Rock Rapids, and said after watching Wednesday’s debate, he decided to endorse DeSantis.

Radio Iowa

Clinton High School using new AI weapons detecting system

Posted August 25, 2023 at 1:09 PM CDT

Clinton High School students returned to class this week with a system that uses artificial intelligence to detect concealed weapons in use. Clinton Superintendent Gary DeLacy thinks it will really improve safety.

“I believe with this technology Clinton High School will be the safest school campus in the state of Iowa,” he says. It is not a metal detector, it looks at the density and shape of items to determine if they are guns or knives.

DeLacy says there will be some education involved as they use the system.

“If you’re carrying something that might be real straight that it could detect that, is that a knife, it could go off. “We’ll take a look at that, pull it out of your bookbag or whatever and have you walk through and then make sure that it doesn’t go off."

The system is designed so it recognizes the shape of a cell phone and keys, so it doesn’t go off when they are detected. DeLacy says the new machine will allow high school students to carry their bookbags between classes.

Students returned to class in Clinton Wednesday.

Radio Iowa

New series of postage stamps honors two Iowa bridges

Posted August 25, 2023 at 1:09 PM CDT

The U.S. Postal Service is issuing a new set of four stamps depicting the architectural beauty of bridges, and two of those bridges lead to Iowa.

The series is simply called “Bridges,” and one of them shows an aerial view of the recently-completed Interstate 74 bridge over the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities, officially known as the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge, which connects Bettendorf and Moline.

Another stamp in the series depicts a span at the other end of the state: The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which links Council Bluffs to Omaha, Neb.

The 25-cent stamps are for Presorted First Class Mail and they went on sale Thursday.

IPR News

Black Hawk County turning greenhouse gas into transportation fuel

Posted August 25, 2023 at 1:08 PM CDT

Iowa’s 4th largest landfill will be implementing a program that will convert its methane and other emissions into transit fuel starting in November.

Black Hawk County Solid Waste Management Administrator John Foster says that its size could help it set a national trend for similar programs.

"The coolest thing about this project is that there are only five landfills in Iowa who are recycling their gas beneficially, and only two of us are using it for transportation fuel. And that’s pretty much the trend nationally: only about 10% of landfills are using the program."

The program will send the emissions off-site to be cleaned and reused as fuel. Foster expects that the project will be ready to go by November, adding that the sale of the recycled gas could yield $70,000 in revenue in its first year.

Midwest Newsroom

Midwest states break records for heat related illnesses

Posted August 25, 2023 at 1:05 PM CDT

As heat index levels hit more than 100-degrees this week, emergency rooms in the region have seen higher than usual numbers of heat-related illnesses.

In fact, the CDC reports that the combined number of cases in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska broke records on Monday and again on Tuesday.

On those days, about 6% of ER visits were patients suffering from heat-related illness (HRI). That’s far more than normal for this time of year.

Rish Vaidyanathan of the CDC says case numbers started to climb over the weekend.

“On August 21st we had seen the highest ever daily HRI that region ever recorded in the last five years or six years of data, our data since 2018. And then on August 22nd that was surpassed.”

Vaidyanathan says heat-related illnesses are not going away.

“Extreme summer heat is increasing in the United States... All climate predictions indicate that extreme summer heat events will become more frequent, more intense in coming decades.”

Heat-related illnesses include cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Iowa is set for a cool-down this weekend.

IPR News

ISU classes go online after fire at university power plant

Posted August 24, 2023 at 4:07 PM CDT

Classes at Iowa State University are going online after a fire at the university’s power plant caused an outage of the main cooling system. The university is asking students to leave campus to beat the heat.

The fire disrupted the cooling system as temperatures in Ames approached triple-digits and with an excessive heat warning in effect. A note to faculty says it is up to each instructor to determine whether a course can go online or must be canceled.

Students who live on campus are being told to leave for the weekend if they’re able to. The university says it's working on ways to offer assistance to students who cannot leave.

Check for updates here.

IPR News

Nonprofit shelter helps homeless in excessive heat

Posted August 24, 2023 at 3:40 PM CDT

As Iowans experience another day under an Excessive Heat Warning, there are some who don’t have a place to protect themselves from stifling conditions. One nonprofit is helping homeless people get through the week more safely.

The Warming Shelter serves the homeless in Sioux City, including former resident Tammy Bursell, who uses the facility to do laundry and stay cool.

“It's hard. I mean, I'm thankful that I got an apartment, but I have no air conditioning. I live on the top floor. And you know, heat rises. So, it's very hot.”

To help during the heatwave, the day shelter stayed open seven days a week instead of a few.

Brittney Wilson is the assistant director. She worries about others who don’t utilize the shelter.

“But a lot of shade has been cut down, their trees, so a lot of their refuge or methods of reprieve have been dwindling... We had a lot of donors graciously donate packs and packs of water, so hopefully, we’re keeping everyone hydrated.”

The Warming Shelter offers respite for Bursell, who is thankful for her new apartment and a job she starts next week.

Report for America

New Latin drag night a safe space for Iowans and Nebraskans following anti-LGBTQ bills

Posted August 24, 2023 at 3:38 PM CDT

Nebraska and Iowa lawmakers each passed bills this spring to restrict gender-affirming care and ban transition surgeries for minors. Both states also introduced legislation to ban drag shows for minors, but neither passed, keeping drag shows as safe spaces for all people to enjoy performances.

In Omaha, there's a new drag show for adults that aims to celebrate and support queer Latin people in the Midwest. Juan Valdovinos is the 22-year-old producer of Noche Latina at Flixx Lounge, who performs as Juanna V Mii.

Valdovinos decided to start a drag show for Latin entertainers when he noticed that many performances only had music in English and lacked diversity. He hopes Noche Latina can be a safe space to celebrate and support queer Latin people in the Midwest.

“I'm also really hoping that we start cooperating with some more nonprofits and being able to raise funds for people, especially Latin, queer and trans people... Because right now, we still have legislation, especially against trans people. And they need support."

You can read the full story here.


Flood mitigation limited damage in Quad Cities

Posted August 24, 2023 at 12:50 PM CDT

Flood mitigation projects and a little bit of help from the Mississippi River seem to have limited damage from this year’s flooding in the Quad Cities.

Matt Wilson is a hydrologist with the National Weather Service office in Davenport. He says the crest of 21.5 feet was the region’s seventh-highest, but the waters receded fairly quickly.

“We were really only at the high flood thresholds for about a week and a half. So that alleviates a lot of the extra pressure that goes into our levee systems and our protections that we have against floods.”

Local communities have done a lot to protect themselves, like buying out homes in the floodplain. Wilson says that’s important because big floods are happening more often.

“What used to be maybe only a once a couple decades problem has become not a yearly problem, but every three or four years we are getting another significantly impactful flood here on the Mississippi River.”

Wilson says eight of the 10 highest flood crests in the Quad Cities have happened since the 1993 flood.


Public spaces offer relief from excessive heat

Posted August 24, 2023 at 12:35 PM CDT

As high temps continue statewide, some Iowans who don’t have air conditioning are turning to other options. In northeast Iowa’s Delaware County, emergency management coordinator Mandy Bieber says public spaces are available to cool off.

“Most public libraries are available during the regular business hours... Manchester Public Library is available and then Edgewood Fire and Delhi Fire are available if needed, and then if anyone else needs cooling information, they can contact their local city hall for information.”

Bieber offers a few more precautions you can take during this oppressive heat.

“Drink plenty of fluids, make sure you’re staying hydrated. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing when possible... Obviously, stay indoors if you can. If you can’t, be sure you’re taking lots of rest breaks in an air-conditioned environment, and then make sure you know what the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are, and if you believe you’re suffering from that, go ahead and call 911.”

Experts suggest you skip outdoor activities unless you absolutely need to be outside, or do those chores early in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler.


Humans may be able to handle the heat, but it can be fatal for furry friends

Posted August 24, 2023 at 12:34 PM CDT

As extreme heat continues, people - and pets - are feeling the effects. At this stage, some people may be getting used to the steamy weather, but it can still be deadly, quickly, to enclosed animals.

Joe Stafford, Director of Animal Services at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, says if you leave a pet in a parked car, cracking a window open does virtually no good, and neither does parking in the shade.

“Anything over 80 degrees, just leave your furry family members at home where they’re safe and they’re comfortable... Take them on a car ride to the dog park or something if we’re looking to go for a car ride but just do not leave animals unattended in a vehicle.”

In his 20-plus years in the industry, Stafford says he hears about such cases every summer, and he’s confounded as to why some pet owners don’t ever seem to get the message.

He urges Iowans, if you see a pet (or a child) alone in a car, call 911, as your action could save a life. Many dogs love to go on walks, but during this heat wave, it’s wise to limit their time outdoors, perhaps just to walk in the morning and evening when it’s cooler.

IPR News

Rep. Hinson meets with pork producers following Prop. 12 upholding

Posted August 24, 2023 at 12:33 PM CDT

Rep. Ashley Hinson of Iowa’s Second District met with the National Pork Producers Council Wednesday to talk about several issues confronting the industry.

Topping the list was Proposition 12, a California initiative requiring farmers to meet minimum housing space requirements to sell their pork products in the state. The law was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hinson’s proposed solution is her Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression, or EATS Act, which she says would allow ag operations outside California more agency in their industry.

"There’s nothing prohibiting any producer from raising their animals in a certain way. That’s what we want to protect - is that choice. What I don’t want to see is a complete shut-out of a market. California produces a small percentage of pork consumed in this country but consumes 13% of pork in this country."

Hinson followed her stop in Manchester with a town hall meeting in Independence, where she discussed alternative energy sources, the Farm Bill and veteran affairs.

IPR News

How pennies keep students cool during extreme heat

Posted August 23, 2023 at 3:41 PM CDT

Several Iowa school districts called for early dismissals Wednesday due to the Extreme Heat Warning blanketing the state.

The Sioux City Community School District keeps kids in class thanks to a one-cent sales tax. The initiative first started in Woodbury County in 1998.

Superintendent Rod Earlywine says each year, the district receives more than $12 million.

“All of our buildings, our elementary buildings and middle schools are relatively new. So, all of those are air-conditioned, which just makes the learning environment so much more better.”

The local option sales tax was extended statewide in 2008. Iowa passed a law four years ago to keep the “Secure an Advanced Vision for Education” program until 2051. The governor estimated the program will provide an extra boost of $26 billion in revenue for school infrastructure projects.

IPR News

Heat warnings and high temps continue as kids return to school

Posted August 23, 2023 at 1:06 PM CDT

As kids return to school during an excessive heat wave, many districts are taking precautions like holding recess and sports practices inside.

Taylor Heitzman is with Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. She says they have not seen any heat-related illnesses yet, but urges everyone to take precautions.

"If your kiddos are just not seeming super active, it's because their bodies aren't able to be active at that time. So allow them to be inside if you can with air conditioning. If not, make sure that they have fans available and shade available if you do have to be outside."

Heitzman also urges families to make the most of libraries, malls and other public air conditioned spaces.

The Centers for Disease Control’s Heat-Related Illness and Temperature tracker shows a rate of 290 heat-related illnesses per 100,000 ER visits last week in the region, which includes Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas.


Drivers need to stay vigilant as school starts

Posted August 23, 2023 at 11:38 AM CDT

This is the first day of school in many Iowa districts, and motorists are being warned to slow down and stay alert for darting kids and for school buses. Hamilton County Supervisor Rick Young of Jewell says there’s been a recent rash of bad behavior from behind the wheel.

“We have been fielding several reports of inappropriate driving throughout the county,” Young says, “particularly on secondary roads, gravel roads and so forth.”

Speeding on gravel roads can be very risky, especially if a school bus is making a stop over the next hill, or as you’re approaching a rural intersection that’s partly obscured by crops.

“The public should know, first of all, the corn’s getting up there tall now. Heed those intersections where there’s tall corn and beans,” Young says. “Where you least expect it, we may be having measures out there to detect what’s going on.”

The Iowa Legislature unanimously passed Kadyn’s Law in 2012, targeting motorists who pass a stopped school bus with the stop arm extended. On the first offense, a conviction could bring a fine of up to $675, up to 30 days in jail and a 30-day suspension of the driver’s license.

In Sioux City alone, police reported issuing 32 citations last school year to motorists who passed a parked school bus with its stop sign extended.


July continued the trend of falling home sale numbers

Posted August 23, 2023 at 11:37 AM CDT

The Iowa Association of Realtors report for July says the state housing market continued to see sales and inventory drop.

Home sales were down by nearly 21% in July of 2023 compared to July of 2022. That’s a drop of 677 homes sold for a total of 3,011 in the month. The number of sales from June to July of 2023 mirrored the yearly trend, which was down by 20%.

The report says higher interest rates and a lower inventory led to the decline. The number of homes on the market this July decreased by a little more than 12% compared to July of last year. Homes sat on the market for 33 days this July before a sale — compared to the 23-day average of July 2022.


Projects in Pocahontas, Decorah, Centerville, Hawarden getting rural development funds

Posted August 23, 2023 at 10:24 AM CDT

The USDA is sending rural development loans and grants to four projects in Appanoose, Pocahontas, Sioux and Winneshiek counties. State Rural Development Director Theresa Greenfield says they work with the local rural electric cooperatives, or the city municipal cooperative or the telecoms.

“We provide pass-through loans to them that they in turn, then lend to local businesses within the community.”

A couple of the projects involved health care. The Corn Belt Power Cooperative received a loan of more than $1.2 million for the Pocahontas Community Hospital. The hospital plans to renovate 12 patient exam rooms, the pharmacy, reception areas and build an addition for a new public restroom and reception room. The other is a nearly $13 million loan and $1 million grant to Aase Haugen Homes in Decorah to build a nursing home with assisted living and dementia care units. Greenfield says these projects will help fill some voids in health care in rural Iowa.

Other projects include a $2 million pass-through loan to the Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative to fund a material flow system for animal and human products at a facility in Centerville. The Hawarden Municipal Utilities received a $124,000 grant to expand a revolving loan fund. This project will provide financing through the city of Hawarden to five businesses with the hopes of increasing local employment opportunities.

“One of the things I like best about our rural economic development program is that, one, it puts the decision-making in the local community’s hands and the local businesses’ hands. It’s not USDA in Washington trying to tell a rural community the best way to build their businesses and expand.”

Greenfield says Iowa has nearly 40 cooperatives across the state that they partner with.

IPR News

Iowa attorney general says state has reached settlement with tobacco manufacturers

Posted August 22, 2023 at 5:28 PM CDT

Attorney General Brenna Bird has announced the state has reached a settlement with the country’s four largest tobacco manufacturers to receive an additional $171 million.

Iowa had been just one of nine states that was still litigating a claim under the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Thirty-seven other states have already entered into the settlement.

The attorney general's office says the state will receive about $124 million in April of next year and the rest annually over the next five years.

The majority of the money will be used to pay down the state’s debt to bondholders. The rest will go into the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.

IPR News

Supreme cattle feedlot withdraws manure management plan 

Posted August 22, 2023 at 3:48 PM CDT

The owners of a large cattle feedlot in northeast Iowa have withdrawn their controversial manure management plan from getting approval by the state.

The Clayton County feedlot is near the headwaters of a prized trout stream. Earlier this month, Supreme Beef LLC sought approval of a plan for its feedlot for 11,600 cattle. In April, a Polk County judge reversed the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ decision to permit their initial plan.

The open feedlot is located in fragile karst terrain near the headwaters of Bloody Run Creek near Monona. The Iowa chapters of the Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited successfully blocked that initial manure plan in court, arguing the state agency used “illogical interpretations and applications” in its approval. Six people spoke against this new plan at a public hearing before the Iowa DNR earlier this month, citing many of the same concerns.

A spokesperson with the DNR expects Supreme Beef to submit yet another manure management plan.

IPR News

Summit holds first hearing ahead of decision to use eminent domain in pipeline project

Posted August 22, 2023 at 3:19 PM CDT

Landowners opposed to the Summit carbon capture pipeline filled seats at a key hearing on the project in Fort Dodge on Tuesday.

It was the first day of testimony as the Iowa Utilities Board approaches a decision on whether to approve the pipeline route and Summit Carbon Solutions’ use of eminent domain.

Speaking before the hearing, Denison resident Tim Baughman said the pipeline would cut through farmland that his family values as a model for soil conservation.

“Our soil has not been plowed for 47 years, and now Summit Carbon Solutions wants to target our land for their private profits.”

Summit’s proposed pipeline system would move carbon dioxide from ethanol plants in five states. The industry says the project is necessary to be able to market low-carbon fuels.

The IUB hearing could last weeks as board members hear testimony on more than 900 parcels of land where landowners oppose eminent domain.

IPR News

More than 160 rape victim emergency contraception reimbursement requests pending at Iowa AG office

Posted August 22, 2023 at 3:18 PM CDT

More than 160 reimbursement requests for rape victims’ emergency contraception are pending at the state attorney general’s office, totaling around $7,500, according to public records obtained by IPR.

The reimbursement requests come from hospitals and pharmacies statewide. The majority are from this year and are as recent as the end of June. Several go back as far as 2020 and 2021.

In April, Attorney General Brenna Bird’s office suspended emergency contraception reimbursements for rape victims made through the Crime Victim Compensation Program while it reviews the practice.

This month, Bird indicated on an episode of Iowa Press that she believes her office could make the move permanent.

Critics have called for Bird to reinstate the practice, saying cost for medical care should never be a concern for rape victims.

Read the full story.