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Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

August 20, 2018

Fort Dodge Messenger. August 16, 2018

Let’s support Backpack Buddies

In our affluent society, it is unacceptable for any children to be hungry or lack regular access to nutritious food. Making sure that local young folks do not experience hunger is the mission of Backpack Buddies.

The Backpack Buddies initiative supplements school breakfast and lunch programs. It supplies elementary-school-age children from low-income homes with nutrient-rich foods for consumption on weekends. It thus helps guarantee that these youngsters will not go hungry. It also is committed to ensuring that their dietary options won’t be limited to unhealthy choices.

Backpack Buddies began distributing food in 2010. The project has grown rapidly since then in response to identified community needs.

According to data collected in March, the Fort Dodge Community School District had 3,977 students enrolled and about 58 percent of those children were eligible for free or reduced cost meals. According to Terry Moehnke, program director for Backpack Buddies, elementary and middle school children show a higher rate of dependency on assistance for their school lunches. About 63 percent are eligible for the free or reduced fee structure, he said.

An important Unite to Fight fundraiser to support this key local initiative will take place Friday at Fort Frenzy, 3232 First Ave. S. It costs $20 to attend. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. Dinner and a silent auction are part of the evening’s proceedings as is a keynote address by V.J. Smith of Brookings, South Dakota.. All proceeds will be used to purchase food for Backpack Buddies. Unite to Fight is a combined effort between Noon Sertoma and NEW Cooperative Foundation.

Over the years Backpack Buddies has widespread support. Noon Sertoma has played a crucial sponsoring role. In addition to backing from the NEW Cooperative Foundation, help has come from the Walmart Foundation, Valero Energy Foundation, Study Club, Junior Women’s Club, First Covenant Church, First Presbyterian Church, the Fort Dodge Community Foundation, 100+ Women Who Care and individual donors.

The Messenger has long admired and championed Backpack Buddies. It continues to deserve the strongest possible community backing. We urge readers to show their enthusiasm for this project by taking part in the Unite to Fight fundraiser.


Quad City Times. August 16, 2018.

Could Niabi officials be more tone-deaf?

They were like kids running through the cemetery toppling headstones. And, like those impertinent teens, leadership at Rock Island County’s Niabi Zoo will struggle to restore the confidence among those they scorned.

Long-time zoo supporters were rightfully angered when they realized that, over the past year, dozens of memorial plaques, purchased to raise funds for the public zoo, were removed. Many were discarded.

The plaques — dotting benches throughout the complex — memorialized dead loved ones. They were intended to bolster a cash-strapped public entity. They were an attempt to turn grief into hope.

And, like many of the 77 plaques, tone-deaf zoo officials tossed all that goodwill in the trash.

Zoo Director Lee Jackson this week admitted he screwed up. But he and other county officials attempted to pin much of the blame on the sour relationship between the zoo and Niabi Zoological Society, which had operated as a not-for-profit fundraising arm until the toxicity of Rock Island County politics turned friends into foes. The Zoological Society sold the plaques.

Yet Jackson didn’t bother asking the defunct non-profit for a complete list of donors who purchased memorials over the years. His staff didn’t keep detailed records about each plaque that was removed as part of the zoo’s face lift. Neither zoo officials nor county politicians that oversee them attempted to contact the donors and explain the plan. And that’s because their wasn’t one. Talks about a centralized memorial garden — an appropriate response — only commenced after donors themselves discovered the missing plaques. What’s less clear is where the money comes from to fix the zoo’s self-imposed black eye.

At a purely contractual level, Niabi Zoo was party to selling memorial space with the expectation that those small golden plaques would remain in perpetuity. And then, without thinking, zoo officials unholstered their screwdrivers and purged the place of the remembrances for which people paid good money.

It was an unacceptable display of bad faith, especially from a taxpayer-funded institution.

County and zoo officials can deflect all they like. They can point fingers at the Zoological Society.

But the removal of those plaques was thoughtless, and says something about the myopia among Niabi brass. Those little metal memorials — some in admittedly poor condition — might have been just an eyesore to officialdom. But they held symbolic and emotional value to those who purchased them. It’s only reasonable for any future benefactor to think twice before writing a check in support of the zoo.

Not a single plaque should have been touched until the families had been contacted and engaged. Not marker should have been removed until a complete list of names had been amassed and verified.

Make no mistake, Jackson and his staff have a lot on their minds. The health of the animals is no small concern. Nor is operating on a shoe-string budget.

But ultimately, Niabi Zoo is a public institution funded with public cash. The zoo’s viability hinges on the continued support of that very public. And a small segment of that population thought so highly of the zoo that they wove it into their grieving process, only to get burned.

Jackson and his staff didn’t consider any of this when they decided to toss memorial plaques in the trash or stash them in a closet.

County and zoo officials have a plan to make this right going forward, and that’s a laudable goal. But no amount of apologies and deflections can completely repair the damage zoo officials brought upon themselves and the institution they serve.


Sioux City Journal. August 16, 2018

Here’s another round of applause for Parkland students

After horrific violence was visited upon their school, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School responded in extraordinary fashion.

In the six months since a gunman took the lives of 17 students and staff members at the Parkland, Florida, school, student survivors of the shooting have, through interviews, walkouts, rallies, protests, and a national bus tour, immersed themselves in the national debate about guns and created a remarkable national movement of activism.

The bus tour, Road to Change, began on June 15 in Chicago, visited more than 50 cities in 20 states, and ended on Sunday in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 children and six adults died on Dec. 14, 2012, when a shooter opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (The tour stopped in Sioux City on June 20).

Certainly, the Parkland students wish the nightmare of Feb. 14 never happened and they could have spent the last several months of the school year and this summer in pursuit of activities and interests more enjoyable to and customary for teens.

However, the fact they refused to accept the status quo after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting and seized the moment by embracing their constitutional rights as American citizens to challenge leaders deserves another round of applause from us — indeed, from all of us — today.

We believe the Florida students and the students they have inspired across America (like 10-year-old Langston Saint, son of Sioux City Board of Education President Jeremy Saint and his wife, Amelia, who spoke at the final bus tour stop in Newtown) not only provide important voices to our country’s dialogue about gun violence, but will make valuable contributions to discussions on other issues, too.

America should welcome input today from those who will be among its leaders tomorrow.


Des Moines Register. August 15, 2018.

Trump should support ‘chain migration,’ which his in-laws used to become citizens.

n 2016 more than 2,800 people became naturalized citizens in Iowa, and many more are desperately needed to fill jobs that include caring for aging residents.

Earlier this month, Viktor and Amalija Knavs were sworn in as U.S. citizens. While such naturalization ceremonies are usually large events where groups of immigrants recite an oath and say the Pledge of Allegiance, the Knavses had a private ceremony in Manhattan.

That’s because the couple’s son-in-law is President Donald Trump.

Yes, that’s the same president who has repeatedly denounced so-called “chain migration,” the process by which U.S. citizens, green card holders and other legal residents may sponsor a family member for immigration to the United States.

Yes, that’s the same president whose wife sponsored her parents so they could benefit from this family-based path to citizenship.

Yes, that’s the same president who tweeted in November: “Chain migration must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!”

Unless, apparently, they’re the in-laws.

The couple’s attorney acknowledged they used the immigration method her husband has criticized. Yet he said the term chain migration was a “dirtier” way of characterizing “a bedrock of our immigration process when it comes to family reunification,” according to the New York Times.

The Knavses, who are in their 70s, like the president, can now vote, travel with a U.S. passport, receive protection from deportation and apply for some federal jobs.

But will Trump change his tune on the most common legal form of immigration to the United States?

According to the Department of Homeland Security, 238,087 immigrants were categorized as a “family-sponsored preference” in 2016, and 566,706 came as “immediate relatives of U.S. citizens” (spouses, children or parents).

These people are not “evil.” They are the parents of the country’s first lady. They are desperately needed doctors. They are our neighbors. They are frequently lower-wage workers employed in jobs native-born Americans will not fill.

Of the more than 2,800 people who became naturalized citizens in Iowa in 2016, only about 400 were considered “management, professional and related occupations.” Many more were employed in lower-skilled jobs in service, farming, construction, production and other occupations. In some states, more than half of aides who provide care to elderly and disabled people were not born in the United States.

Though Iowa does not track the number of caregivers who are immigrants, these individuals “fill important caregiving and other jobs and are vital to our economy,” said Di Findley, executive director of Iowa Caregivers. “There are simply too few people . to fill caregiving jobs to meet the increasing demand for their services.”

John Hale, who owns a consulting firm focused on issues affecting older Iowans, agreed.

“Across the country, direct care employers are seeing foreign-born workers as part of the solution. These workers are willing to do the difficult work and will accept the low pay, poor benefits and the lack of appreciation that comes along with it,” he said.

Iowa, like many other states, needs more workers to fill these and numerous other jobs.The country needs more workers to pay taxes that fund Social Security and health care for an aging population.

Immigration is the only realistic way to get these workers. And when these immigrants become citizens, they put down roots, plan for the future, buy houses and become more invested in their communities.

So a big welcome to the first lady’s parents. Hopefully, her husband will now welcome all the other people using a family-based immigration method to become citizens.


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