Pat Blank

All Things Considered Host

Pat Blank has been with Iowa Public Radio for 27 years. She was hired as a reporter and eventually was chosen to host Morning Edition at the Cedar Falls studios in 1986.  She has been host of All Things Considered since 1995. She is a nationally award-winning reporter who has also worked in commercial radio and television. Pat has served as a part-time instructor at Wartburg College and at the University of Northern Iowa, where she teaches journalism classes.  She is on the Board of Control for UNI’s student run radio station, KULT. She is currently serving a second term on the  Iowa Archives of Broadcasting National Advisory Board. Most recently, Pat was honored by receiving the Jack Shelley Award for Broadcast Excellence, in 2014.

Pat has a bachelor’s degree in radio-television broadcasting from the University of Northern Iowa.

Pat's favorite public radio program is This American Life.

Pat Blank/IPR

A year after one of their classmates died in a firearms accident, junior high students at Clarksville in northeast Iowa are enrolled in the school’s first hunter safety education program. Superintendent Joel Foster says 15 year old Cain Schild’s death in an accidental shooting last May helped set the curriculum in motion. 

Courtesy photo

A southern Iowa woman is part of a canine search and rescue team that will likely be deployed to Nebraska to help with flood recovery.

Robin Greubel of Lucas works with a group of volunteers who are often called with little notice.

"We do that in a variety of different capacities whether it’s in a disaster or a lost or missing person such as a hunter or even, we work with law enforcement to work on criminal cases," Greubel said.

Pat Blank / IPR

The inscription just above the sun visor in William Burt’s mini-bus reads, “Life is a journey, and only you hold the map.”  Burt’s journey began when as a child, he moved with his family from Mississippi to Iowa.  He became a father for the first time at the tender age of 14 and was soon in his words, “making money the easy way” by dealing drugs.

He was eventually arrested and sent to prison.  At the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, Burt gave haircuts to the other prisoners, and realized he had pretty good skills.

Iowa DNR

A pilot program in its first year at Big Creek State Park near Des Moines is using black locust trees to build wooden chairs.

Department of Natural Resources Park Manager Chad Kelchen says the trees are considered an invasive species so it’s a bonus to be able to make use of them in a worthwhile fashion.

"It’s not the furniture component I’m after, I’m after the whole end user, that’s the ultimate goal," he said. “I’m tired of just piling the stuff and burning it, somebody’s got have a use for it.”

Courtesy Cris Bro Hospitality

In less than a year, the Cedar Falls will likely have two convention centers.

Chris Bro Hospitality Monday broke ground on an expansion to its existing Hilton Garden Inn.  The project will add 92 rooms and include meeting space for 700 hundred people.  A second proposed development just a mile away includes a new hotel and banquet seating for one thousand.

Cedar Falls Tourism Bureau spokesperson Becky Wagner says the new development will compliment a second proposed development just a mile away.

Courtesy: Brandon Pollock/Waterloo Courier

A Wisconsin couple with a passion for horses is keeping alive a one-of-its-kind operation in Waterloo: The Jerald Sulky Company -- world famous for its products in the show ring and on the race track.

A group of ten highly-specialized workers is putting the finishing touches on a busy season. They’re handcrafting something that resembles a one horse sleigh, called a sulky. 

IPR/Pat Blank

According to two term Republican Rep. Rod Blum, health care is the number one topic of discussion when he talks with constituents.  He admits what’s in place now is not working but he thinks it can be made better.

IPR/Pat Blank

Although much of the talk in the state’s agriculture sector centers on trade tariffs between the U.S and China, stalled negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA are also causing concern.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig says dairy farmers are continuing to struggle. 

Pat Blank/IPR

A Midwest summertime tradition is in full swing -- corn detasseling.  Seed corn companies hire thousands of mostly teenagers for about 20 days to remove by hand the very top of the corn plant to produce hybrid varieties. DuPont Pioneer is one of Iowa’s largest companies. Production Manager Colby Entriken oversees facilities in Dysart, Toledo and Reinbeck in northeast Iowa. He said the company has added more safety experts in 2018. 

"We also bring in a field nurse as a resource,” Entriken said. “Each of the three sites also has an EMT on staff.” 

Matthew McGuire/ Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers

Discovering a large swarm of bees in a hollow tree or in an abandoned building can be unnerving. For many people the first instinct is to destroy them, but there are alternatives.

Jeff Becvar of Indianola is a bee removal specialist. He says it’s not an easy task, but the honey comb and its residents can be relocated.

Michael Leland/IPR

Despite this past winter’s extended stretch of extreme cold, Iowa’s honey bee population is in good shape.

State Apiarist Andrew Joseph says he’s impressed with the numbers.

"Well I’m happy to say that things are going pretty well right now in this blink in time," he said. "There’s a lot of bees out there that are building up quite nicely through this spring and there are a lot of plants that are coming into bloom for them."

Pat Blank/IPR

In the early morning hours of May 12, 2008, large numbers of U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents moved in on a kosher meat processing plant in the small northeast Iowa community of Postville. They carried military-style weapons and some wore riot gear, carrying out what remains the nation's largest immigration raid. Postville businessman Aaron Goldsmith says he was awakened by the sound of helicopters.

Mercy Corps

Recovery from a very active hurricane season continues in Texas and Puerto Rico. Iowan Jill Morehead has seen the devastation as part of her work with the global humanitarian aid organization Mercy Corps.

Morehead says although restoring power to Puerto Ricans is getting significant attention, she says clean, affordable water is a more immediate need.

IPR/Pat Blank

A collaboration of food producers in North Iowa has resulted in the opening of one of the area’s first farm to table restaurants. That means as much of the menu as possible is locally grown.  

Joshua Frederick is so passionate about his new venture that his steel blue eyes fill with tears as he talks about it.

IPR/Pat Blank

The nonprofit organization Joppa continues to receive tiny houses for its proposed community village for the homeless in Des Moines. Earlier this month, three of the shelters built by Drake University alumni, students and volunteers were donated. Three more are on their way to the capital city from the University of Northern Iowa.

UNI Senior Baily Abbott says he jumped at the chance to get hands-on experience helping build the houses.

Alliant Energy photo

Several hundred utility workers from Iowa have been among the army of workers trying to restore power to millions of people cut off after Hurricane Irma swept through Florida and Georgia this month.  Mid-American Energy sent 250 employees and contractors, including 150 tree trimmers.

Twenty-six vehicles from Iowa’s Association of Electric Cooperatives are there along with 46 linemen. And Alliant Energy dispatched 200 workers and equipment from Iowa and Wisconsin.

IPR/Pat Blank

An Iowa Army National Guard medical helicopter unit based in Waterloo will leave Saturday for a mission that will eventually take its members to the Middle East and nearby regions.

National Guard spokesperson Greg Hapgood says this assignment will be familiar for many of the 35 soldiers who are part of the group known as the Detachment 1, Company C, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion.

Iowa DNR

Next week as classes begin, Northwood Kensett secondary principal Keith Fritz will include something in his fall assembly speech that’s not heard often in Iowa schools.

“I mention, in addition to ‘we have the right to search your lockers, guys, we’re going to have a great year this year,” he says. "Those of you who hunt, federal firearms regulations prohibit you from having those on campus.’ And that’s all it takes, they just comply.” 

University of Northern Iowa photo

In the first of three meetings to be held this month by Iowa’s Regents institutions, University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook Monday unveiled UNI’s five year tuition plan. Nook told a group of about 50 people on the UNI campus that in order to attract and retain students, any increases must be reasonable and predictable.

Pat Blank/IPR

Forty-three year old Diana Staver worked on the assembly line at a John Deere factory in Waterloo. When she got her pink slip in 2015, she wasted no time in figuring out what her next move would be.

“I got the layoff notice and when I got the layoff notice, I just dreaded going out and finding another job so I came to Hawkeye [Community College] that same afternoon I was here by 8:15 in the morning I wanna say and they weren’t quite open”, Staver explained.

Pat Blank/IPR

The longest serving mayor in the history of Cedar Falls, Jon Crews, has died. He passed away Thursday after a bout with liver cancer over the past several months.

Crews held public office most of his adult life. He was mayor for a total of 30 years, serving three separate terms.  In an interview with IPR shortly before his retirement in 2015, he reflected on his years of public service.

Brice Gibson/K-State Research and Extension

Iowa cattle producers are gathering donations of cash, feed and supplies to help farmers and ranchers in four states who’ve fallen victim to wildfires in the past two weeks.

Iowa Cattlemen’s Association president Matt Deppe says the fires killed seven people. They also wiped out thousands of cattle and burned an estimated two million acres of pastureland in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Dean Borg

Iowa’s Fourth District Republican Congressman Steve King says he’s not overly concerned about a Mexican senator’s bill that could halt U.S. corn exports.

King says it’s one of the first signs of concrete action from Mexico in response to president Trump’s threats to impose high tariffs on Mexican goods..

City of Dubuque

A suspicious package caused the Dubuque Regional Airport to evacuate some passengers from the terminal this morning.

Transportation Security Administration spokesperson David Dailey says the item was found at a checkpoint during passenger and baggage screening.

“Sometimes routine things that people bring through can often look funny on the x-ray and so out of an abundance of caution we needed to clear the area before we continued with the resolution process of this item,” he says.

Michael Leland/IPR

The below-normal temperatures across Iowa the last week or so have done a good job freezing many of the state’s smaller lakes and ponds.

Iowa DNR Fisheries Chief Joe Larscheid says that means the ice should be thick enough for activities like skating or fishing, especially in the northern part of the state.

“We’ve got a good solid five to ten inches across Iowa, the more north you go, the better the ice. Up north I don’t see any problems,” he says.  “If ice just recently formed in southern Iowa, that would be the places to be careful of."

Jerry Slykhuis Facebook page

A longtime Cedar Falls High School basketball coach and his wife have been killed in a car accident in Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol confirms that 73-year old Jerry Slykhuis and his wife Jane were killed Tuesday when a truck ran a stop sign and hit their SUV on U.S. 54 near the town of Liberal.

Former player and now Tigers head coach Ryan Schultz says Slykhuis will be remembered for his accomplishments both on and off the court.

Pat Blank/IPR

It was a banner year for Iowa’s 100 or so Christmas tree farms, but some producers worry the future may not be as bright.

It’s been a busy month for the Wickiup Hill Tree Farm near Toddville in Eastern Iowa.  Operations manager Tim Andrews says they sold out of trees almost two weeks ago, but the work continues year round.

“This year the weather was warm, so it was enjoyable," he says.  "Some years it’s downright cold, the opposite of it is during the summertime when we’re shearing the trees, the heat index can be 110 or 115, so it’s not for the weak or faint of heart.” 

Michael Leland/IPR

The man in charge of administering Iowa’s low income heating assistance program, known as LIHEAP, says the cost of staying warm this winter may become a public health emergency. Jerry McKim says he is especially worried about some of the state’s older citizens.

“In an effort to better afford their utility bills, a lot of those elderly households will cut back on their prescribed medicine or they set their thermostats too low risking their already insecure health,” he says.

Pat Blank/IPR

Corn and soybeans weren’t the only bumper crops in Iowa this year.

State Agriculture Department officials say pumpkin production was the best it’s been for many seasons.

Specialty crops expert Maury Wills says the number of local growers who allow customers to pick their own produce has tripled.

“When you can go out and actually pick the pumpkin off the ground, put it in a wagon and haul it up to the apple barn and pay for it there," he says, “It gives the family really good experience up close on the farm."

The latest report by Iowa’s largest utility companies shows more than 40 million dollars in past due bills.  Iowa Human Rights Department spokesperson Jerry McKim says he’s troubled by other information contained in that document.

“Just for September and October, there were 8,896 disconnected, so going into November even though the weather was mild, (it doesn’t look like it coming out) we have nearly 9,000 households at least without power,” McKim says.

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