Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers
Des Moines Register. May 15, 2019
Hundreds of Iowa adults die by suicide annually; increasing minimum wage could help
There are few things sadder than a young person taking his or her own life. The issue of teen suicide is finally getting more attention in Iowa, and Gov. Kim Reynolds recently signed legislation intended to improve mental health services for youths.
“It’s vital that steps are taken to identify the early signs of depression and mental health challenges in children,” she said. “Through early identification and intervention, we can help prevent the loss of a child to suicide.”
This is a good step forward, assuming there will be adequate funding and Iowans have health insurance to pay for help.
But state leaders need to focus their attention on adults, too.
Of the 476 Iowans who died by suicide in 2017, 437 of them — more than 90% — were over the age of 18. Suicide accounted for 16% of deaths in 25- to 44-year-old Iowans, more than cancer or heart disease, and 5% of deaths in 45- to 54-year-olds.
Federal data show suicide rates in rural areas of the country are nearly double those in urban areas, and suicide deaths in middle-age, white Americans have risen dramatically the past two decades.
Iowa is largely rural and white, and our suicide rate has increased faster than that of most states, according to 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many people who attempt suicide do not seek help. Almost half of those who try to kill themselves do so impulsively, according to a 2016 study. An earlier study of suicide survivors found roughly a quarter considered their actions for less than five minutes. These people were likely not on the radar of a mental health professional, let alone a family member or friend.
Access to mental health services cannot be the only focus in suicide prevention. What can Reynolds and lawmakers do to reduce deaths in adults? Raise Iowa’s minimum wage.
Suicide rates grow more slowly in states that increase their minimum wage, according to a study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Researchers, who examined data in all 50 states, concluded every $1 increase in a state’s minimum wage was associated with a 1.9 percent decrease in its annual suicide rate.
Increased wages tend to improve life satisfaction and reduce stress, which may lead to fewer deaths.
A study published in April by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed increasing the minimum wage and expanding a tax credit for low-wage workers may prevent more than 1,200 suicides each year.
“In short,” one researcher concluded “our study shows that higher minimum wages are likely to save lives.”
Yet elected officials in Iowa have refused to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, even as numerous other states have done so. Voters in Arkansas and Missouri, which are hardly bastions of liberalism, approved ballot measures to phase in wage increases to $11 and $12 per hour.
Iowa does not have such voter referendums, but if it did, a measure would have a good chance to pass. Roughly 70% of Iowans support an increase in the state’s minimum wage, according to a 2016 Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.
Access to counseling and antidepressants is important. But they do not pay rent, buy food or reduce daily economic stress that may lead to people giving up on life.
Quad-City Times . May 19, 2019
Faced with the worst, Quad-Cities shows its best
For a few hours on Thursday, things seemed almost back to normal. More businesses were re-opening after the devastating flood. River Drive in Davenport was road-block-free all the way from Bettendorf to downtown, and Moline’s River Drive was mostly open except for a small stretch along Ben Butterworth Parkway.
The sun was out, the weather was warm, and life looked a bit like it was returning to normal for the companies, residents, volunteers, cities, counties and commuters whose lives have been altered by this unprecedented flood.
And then on Thursday night, it started to rain.
By mid-morning Friday, the City of Davenport announced not only was it suspending cleanup efforts, it warned that temporary flood barriers that have been removed over the past week may have to go back up. Folks all over the Quad-Cities stopped emptying sandbags and started filling them again.
Sadly, for the time being, it’s back to gray skies and another risk of flooding with rain in the forecast throughout this week. The weather is fickle in Iowa, and whether it floods again - and how high it might go - only Mother Nature knows.
But as we chatted Friday with city officials, business leaders and aid groups, we couldn’t help but be inspired, again, by the community spirit, teamwork and goodwill that’s been spread these past few weeks. It’s certainly true here in the Quad-Cities that the worst can sometimes bring out our best.
Tens of thousands of dollars have been collected to put toward recovery efforts. From the city council to the federal government and everywhere in between, aid and emergency-response have been swift. Low-interest federal loans have been made available to businesses that were directly affected by floodwaters - plus businesses that weren’t directly affected but still lost revenue from decreased sales.
Especially impressive have been the stories of neighbors helping neighbors, businesses helping their own competitors stave off water or find work for employees not receiving a paycheck, and the overwhelming Quad-City spirit shown by community groups and some of the region’s most prominent businesses and leaders.
It continues. Flood Fest, a benefit concert planned for June 7 at the RiverCenter in Davenport, is expected to be a major fundraiser for the downtown businesses. Other recovery funds are focused on homeowners - if you’re in need, there are people working now to raise money. If you can give, please do so.
The kinds of efforts will reap massive dividends when all is said and done, and it shouldn’t be all that surprising to see our community come together. It’s what Quad-City residents do.
Still, much about the Flood of 2019 sets it apart from some of the worst of our previous natural disasters.
This flood topped 1993′s as the highest on record, but back in ’93, almost nobody lived downtown Davenport. Now, about 1,500 residences (and climbing) are occupied downtown.
Remember the city’s downtown business district also is different. This time around, the floods hit more than $500 million in new economic downtown development that’s popped up since 2000. Kyle Carter, the executive director for the Downtown Davenport Partnership, noted three businesses had grand openings planned for the week the flood barriers failed.
Remember the National Guard being deployed in 1993? That didn’t happen to the same extent. No one has been seriously hurt - despite tsunami-like conditions when the flood barrier failed, sending cars floating and people literally running for their lives. And there have been no reports of flood-related thefts.
Perhaps the biggest difference is how Davenport approaches floods. Stung by 1993 and the lesser but nearly annual spring flooding, the city began using HESCO barriers, a brand-name temporary flood-wall system, to selectively create buffers around potential flood points.
Major questions remain about why those failed this time, especially since their manufacturer claims they were sound. City officials have suspected the ground under the barriers may have eroded, triggering the breach, but inspections have shown that was not the case, according to Carter. Surely, such prolonged water pressure against the barriers played a role - one of the many records this flood set was for days above flood stage.
And what was known about the stability of these barriers before the breach? Did officials give residents and shop owners enough warning? With scientists predicting floods of this scale will come with more frequency, as we stated previously there must be a serious investigation into what went wrong - and, more importantly, whether these barriers remain the best option going forward.
The same discussion needs to happen around a permanent flood wall. There are good arguments for and against, but times clearly have changed since the last time the city had a serious debate about a permanent barrier. As painful as it may be, it’s time to revisit the issue.
Those discussions can come later, once our cities can finally pivot from fighting back water and the Flood of 2019 comes to an end. For now, our primary focus remains on the immediate needs of the victims, and as a newspaper, our role in helping the community.
We’re thankful to see that remains a focus, too, for so many others in our Quad-Cities.
Fort Dodge Messenger . May 15, 2019
Legislative session was good for ag
Agriculture long has been at the heart of our state’s economic well-being. The state’s farms and those industries related to agriculture remain absolutely vital to the Hawkeye State’s continued prosperity.
Whenever the Legislature convenes issues pertinent to agriculture get especially careful consideration. The 2019 session was no exception. Much that will position the farm economy to thrive in the years ahead was accomplished.
Shortly after the Legislature adjourned, Mike Naig, who heads the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, expressed satisfaction with the work the lawmakers had completed this year.
“I’m proud to have worked with the Legislature to pass several bills that create new opportunities and provide additional protections for agriculture,” the Iowa secretary of agriculture said.
Here are some of the highlights of the Legislature’s record this year as it pertains to agriculture:
. The governor’s request that the Iowa Water Quality Initiative be given priority attention was heeded. This crucial program received more than $10.5 million in funding. This support will make possible accelerated implementation of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
. The infrastructure for renewable fuels got a boost. Cost-share grants were funded to help stimulate the installation of E85 dispensers, blender pumps, biodiesel dispensers and biodiesel storage facilities. Making it easier for consumers to access biofuels is vital to the continued growth of the renewable fuels industries.
. Protecting Iowa’s livestock and farm animals from disease is crucial. Lawmakers enhanced the department’s ability to provide safeguards by funding preparations to address outbreaks of disease. Additionally, more money was provided to strengthen the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
. Making it possible for Iowans to become farmers is important to the future of agriculture in our state. The Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program created by the Legislature will make it possible for more people to consider becoming farmers.
Looking to a possible new crop for future development, the Legislature passed and the governor signed the Iowa Hemp Act. It gives IDALS regulatory authority regarding hemp to the extent that growing hemp is permitted by federal law. Upon signing this law, the governor issued an important cautionary statement:
“But Iowans should be aware that this bill does not legalize the sale or manufacturing of all hemp-derived products . And Iowans should be aware that nearly all of the provisions of this bill will not go into effect until the federal government approves our state hemp plan. . As federal regulatory bodies approve additional hemp-derived products and the hemp industry evolves, it is imperative that our state agencies and the Iowa Legislature remain vigilant in evaluating the effects of this legislation and the need for additional changes to ensure that our laws protect the health and safety of all Iowans.”
This cautious approach makes sense.
The Messenger welcomes that progress lawmakers have made this year in helping position agriculture in our state for continued success.