Michael Leland

News Director

Michael comes to IPR from Wisconsin Public Radio, where he led an award-winning news staff for nine years.  He has also worked as a News Director at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor.  Before getting into management, Michael’s reporting career took him to a variety of places, from Chicago City Hall, to a former coal mine 600 feet under southern Illinois, to an Inuit community in far northern Canada.

Michael is a New Englander who came to the Midwest for graduate school  in the mid '80s and decided to call this part of the country home.  He has a master’s in Journalism and Mass Communication from Kansas State University.  His undergraduate degree is in Communications and Business Administration from Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts.

Michael’s favorite public radio program is On the Media.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

The House of Representatives is debating a civil contempt resolution against Attorney General William Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn. House Democrats want access to materials related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Grant Gerlock/IPR

Many Democratic presidential candidates have offered their reaction to Thursday’s release with redactions of the Mueller report investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 election. 

Campaigning in Des Moines, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said she feels the special counsel should testify before Congress.

“The most important thing is that Bob Mueller come before Congress so that we can get to the bottom of why there’s this difference between his interpretation of the law and the Attorney General of the United States,” Klobuchar said.

Clare Roth / IPR file

Iowa’s 2nd District Congressman Dave Loebsack says this will be his last term in office.  Loebsack, a Democrat, published a statement on his website Friday saying he will not run for reelection in 2020 to represent the district in the southeast quarter of the state. 

Iowa DOT website

Floodwaters in western Iowa are affecting a big section of I-29 in the southwest part of the state.  The road has multiple closures between the Missouri state line and I-680 in Loveland, north of Council Bluffs.  The Iowa DOT is recommending long-distance travelers get around the closed section by using I-35 between Kansas City and Des Moines, and I-80 and 680 between Des Moines and Loveland.  I-29 is open north of that point.

Michael Leland/IPR

A bill that would have cut the use of state dollars to help acquire public lands ran into a roomful of opposition at the Statehouse Monday.  People representing various conservation groups, as well as private citizens, spoke out against the bill, which was filed last week by Rep. David Sieck, R-Glenwood.

Iowa DOT

After being closed by a blizzard for more than 24 hours, the northbound lanes of I-35 between Ames and the Minnesota border reopened at 5pm Monday.  The southbound lanes reopened at noon Monday.  I-35 had been closed all the way north to Owatonna, Minnesota, about 40 miles north of the border.

Even with the roadway open, officials are warning the conditions that forced the closing Sunday will continue to cause traffic headaches.

John Pemble / IPR

Representatives of Iowa’s lottery, casino, and horse-racing industries were among those making a case to lawmakers to let them handle sports betting in the state.  Pro sports leagues are also making a bid to run sports betting.

A Senate subcommittee Wednesday took testimony on four sports betting bills that favor different stakeholders.  Casino representatives say they have a long and successful track record handing betting in Iowa, and they’re already regulated by the state’s racing and gaming commission.

National Weather Service, Johnston, Ia.

Iowa’s coldest air in more than 20 years moves into the state Tuesday night. The National Weather Service says wind chill values by Wednesday morning will range from -30 in southern Iowa to -50 in the northern part of the state.  Wednesday morning will see the coldest temperatures and wind chills of this winter blast.

Michael Leland/IPR

If you don’t mind the cold, tomorrow could be a good day for a hike.  More than two dozen Iowa state parks are hosting so-called First Day Hikes New Year's Day -- free hikes guided by park staff. Hikers will get the chance to experience the quiet beauty of nature in winter, spectacular views, and a host of cultural treasures offered by Iowa’s state parks.

Iowa DOT map

One of Iowa’s 14 Sears stores will close in late March, as part of the company’s latest round of reductions announced Friday.  Sears Holdings says the store at the Southern Hills Mall in Sioux City is among 80 Sears and K-Mart stores throughout the country that will close, as the company fights to stay in business. 

The company has told its employees liquidation sales will begin in about two weeks. 

The Sioux City location includes an auto center, which will close in late January.

Michael Leland/IPR

Iowa’s legislative leaders say they’re not expecting to have to make mid-year budget cuts in the legislative session that gets underway in January.  But Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, says there won’t likely be a big increase in spending, either.  He told a forum at the Iowa Taxpayers Association conference in Altoona Friday that’s because of tax cuts lawmakers passed in the last session.

Michael Leland/IPR

The Iowa secretary of state’s office says voter turnout has been robust so far today, and it’s possible Iowa could top its record of 1.13 million votes cast in a midterm election, set in 2014.  The state did set an early voting record for a midterm election: 529,000 votes cast. That’s about 57,000 more than in the 2014 midterm.  Secretary of State Paul Pate, who is running for reelection against Democrat Deidre DeJear, says both Republicans and Democrats had more early votes this year than in 2014.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him of sexually assaulting her in high school, Christine Blasey Ford, are testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Watch the proceeding live.

Kate Payne/IPR file

Update at 4:37 p.m.

Officials say first degree murder charges have been filed against a Poweshiek County man in the disappearance and death of 20-year old Mollie Tibbetts.  A body authorities believe to be Tibbetts was found early this morning in a rural part of the county, south of her hometown of Brooklyn.  Rick Rahn with the state Department of Criminal Investigation said Tuesday afternoon they’re still working to confirm her identity.

Rahn says charges were filed against 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera after a long interview.

Michael Leland/IPR

The Libertarian candidate for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District seat says low income Iowans should be able to keep more of their money.  Charles Aldrich of Clarion is running against Republican incumbent Steve King.  Aldrich says people who earn less than $350 a week shouldn’t have to pay federal taxes. 

“These people are working for poverty wages, and they shouldn’t be having to fork over their money because the government thinks that they can spend it more wisely,” he said.

Michael Leland/IPR file

The Libertarian candidate for Iowa governor acknowledges he probably won’t win the election, but he says this political campaign is an opportunity to expand the party in the state.  Council Bluffs business consultant Jake Porter says Libertarians are on the ballot in about three dozen contests this November, including statewide offices and all four congressional races. 

Porter says there are about 11,000 registered Libertarians in the state, and he’d like to see that number reach 20,000 in part by getting out the party’s message.

Michael Leland/IPR

An Iowa State Fair tradition resumed on Thursday's opening day – political speeches at the Des Moines Register soapbox. First up Thursday was Abby Finkenauer.  She’s a Democrat challenging Republican Rod Blum for the 1st Congressional District seat in Washington.  In a brief speech to a few dozen supporters, Finkenauer said she’d like to get people talking more about values, and hope.

Iowa Environmental Mesonet

Gov. Kim Reynolds plans to visit the central Iowa cities of Bondurant, Pella, and Marshalltown Friday.  All three communities were hit by tornadoes late Thursday afternoon.  As of Thursday night, no deaths or serious injuries had been reported, but there was a lot of damage.

In Marshalltown, a large twister heavily damaged several buildings downtown, and knocked the spire off the county courthouse.  Also, the Lennox manufacturing plant was damaged, as were many other buildings in the area.

Iowa Secretary of State office

Former minor league baseball player J-D Scholten will face eight-term Republican incumbent Steve King in the November election for Iowa’s 4th District congressional seat. Scholten picked up about 51 percent of the vote in defeating two other Democrats: Leann Jacobsen and John Paschen. 

Scholten toured the expansive district in his RV, and says he believes can defeat King by continuing to meet voters face-to-face.

The polls are closed in Iowa's 2018 primary election, and we have results from the Democratic primary race for governor, as well as the primary elections in Iowa's 1st, 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts. 

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

We’re heading into the last few weeks of the legislative session, and there are still a few big things to be done before lawmakers go home, as we hear in a discussion between IPR's Joyce Russell and Michael Leland on Morning Edition.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Senate Republicans are proposing a tax overhaul plan that it says would provide $1 billion a year in individual and corporate tax relief. 

It proposes lowering the top individual tax rate from 8.98 percent to 6.3 percent beginning in 2019.

“Working families in Iowa deserve big, bold tax relief,” said Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull).

The proposal, called the Iowa Working Families Tax Relief Act, also lowers the state’s corporate tax rate, which is currently 12 percent.

You’ve probably noticed that IPR’s All Things Considered  host Pat Blank has been away from the mic recently.  Pat wants you to know that she’s working on a personal project these days, misses talking to you in the afternoons, and hopes to be back on the air again soon. 

Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III, seen as a rising political star with a famous last name, will deliver the Democratic response to President Trump's State of the Union. In announcing their decision, Democratic leaders in Congress called Kennedy a "relentless fighter for working Americans." Kennedy is the grandson of the late Robert Kennedy, the former U.S. attorney general and New York senator who was assassinated in 1968. He is also the great nephew of both the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy and the late president John F. Kennedy.

LIVE SPEECH:

President Trump is delivering his State of the Union address to Congress, which will be followed by a response from the Democratic Party. Journalists across the NPR newsroom will be annotating those remarks, adding fact-checks and analysis in real time. You can also watch the speeches live.

LIVE SPEECH:

FACT CHECKING:

Michael Leland/IPR / Iowa Public Radio

While millions of Americans are beginning their holiday shopping at big-box stores and online, some are also looking for something they won't find in larger stores.  About 75 artists and other creators from Iowa and nearby states took part in the annual "Market Day" pop-up market in downtown Des Moines. 

"We really exist to serve the people out there who are shopping on Black Friday anyway, and are looking for something that's sort of one-of-a-kind, and to support [the] local economy," says Cat Rocketship, the event's co-director.

Karen/Flickr

Postal workers in Des Moines are protesting what they say is a reduction in the number of people working in the clerical division, which processes mail.  American Postal Workers Union Local 44 says 36 clerical workers at the main Des Moines post office have been moved out of those positions this year.

“That is cutting jobs out of the clerk craft, who process the mail, and we’re seeing a problem with that with the mail service,” says local President Mike Bates.   

Michael Leland/IPR / Iowa Public Radio

Environmental lawyer Josh Mandelbaum has won a seat on the Des Moines City Council.  He won a three-way race with 56-percent of the vote over former Iowa Democratic Party Chair Michael Kiernan and Abshir Omar, the president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  Mandelbaum says his stand on water quality issues helped put him over the top.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa's U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she’s hopeful lawmakers will pass legislation she says will help people facing steep premium increases for individual health insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act.

About 72-thousand people in Iowa face increases of nearly 60% after the state withdrew its proposal for a stopgap plan that would have provided relief. In this interview with River to River host Ben Kieffer, Ernst says the current situation puts a lot of Iowans in a bind.

Romeo Durscher / NASA

It is indeed dark during the day as a total solar eclipse makes its way from Oregon to South Carolina. Eleven states are in the path of total darkness. Follow the astronomical phenomenon's journey across America along with NPR journalists and others experiencing the eclipse.

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