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Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

July 29, 2019

Quad City Times. July 24, 2019

Be upfront on Foxhoven, governor

t may be that the logjam is beginning to break.

Ousted Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven says he’s been talking to state and federal authorities about the circumstances of his abrupt departure last month.

That’s a good thing. It’s not right that the head of such an important agency as DHS can be pushed out the door and the public not get an explanation.

Yet, that’s the position Gov. Kim Reynolds and legislative Republicans are taking.

For more than a month, the governor’s office has been peddling the line that Foxhoven had to go because she wanted the department to go in a “new direction.” Which is about as truthful and informative as when a baseball manager or corporate executive leaves a job to “spend more time with his family.”

It’s a dodge, and everybody knows it.

We did get a small glimpse behind the curtain last week.

Foxhoven said he’d been asked to do something he considered illegal, he refused and then was asked to resign.

At the time, the former director was getting blitzed with questions about his affinity for the rapper Tupac Shakur, an oddity that was revealed in hundreds of emails sought by the Associated Press.

The AP, like other news organizations, has been seeking reasons for Foxhoven’s resignation. Instead, it got a quirky story that drew national attention. Which led to Foxhoven having a conversation with the national music publication Pitchfork. “Her staff asked me to do something I thought was illegal, and so I wouldn’t do it,” Foxhoven said. “And so they said, ‘OK, well, then you need to go.’”

Foxhoven wouldn’t elaborate. Meanwhile, the governor’s office said it had no idea what Foxhoven was referring to and that he “never raised a concern like that to us.”

Legislative Democrats have asked for hearings on the matter, but Republican leaders rejected the idea.

“The former director’s vague comment to a music publication has not come with any other details,” House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said Monday.

It seems to us that Foxhoven’s comments might be less vague if somebody asked him to clarify.

Still, Foxhoven appears to be talking — to state and federal authorities, so perhaps he isn’t being as vague as Upmeyer thinks.

Foxhoven told The Gazette in Cedar Rapids on Monday that he’d spoken with an agent from the inspector general’s office at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and has agreed to speak with State Auditor Rob Sand. He also said he’d talked with two Republican lawmakers, one in the House and one in the Senate. They were not identified.

We’re not sure where all this will lead, and we don’t know whether Foxhoven was asked to do anything improper.

What we do know is the governor’s office has gone to great lengths to keep secret the reason(s) he was asked to resign.

In fact, they were so careful that they didn’t put anything on paper, which allowed them to skirt a 2017 law that was passed to require disclosure in instances just like this.

Why?

Some have speculated this has to do with the Medicaid program, which just recently had to boost payments to the private insurers who run the program by more than 8 percent. They had to boost their pay in 2018, too.

Others have speculated it may have to do with problems at a state facility for the disabled, where there has been an increase in deaths. (Foxhoven has said he doesn’t believe poor care led to the deaths.)

We shouldn’t have to guess about this. Iowans deserve to know why the governor wanted one of the most important figures in state government gone.

The governor may be the chief executive, but she still works for the public.

She should have been upfront about this the day she asked him to resign. Iowans appreciate honesty.

It’s not too late.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. July 26, 2019

Wetlands are a natural for fighting pollution

Farmers, drainage districts should consider this option

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was something completely natural that could take care of at least some water pollution problems?

It turns out there are such things.

They’re called wetlands and they have the capability of removing nitrates from water. In simplest terms, the process works like this: nitrate-laden water flows into a wetland, where the vegetation takes out the nitrates, and cleaner water eventually emerges from the wetland.

Water quality has been an ongoing concern in Iowa. The magnitude of the problem was illustrated last year when a new law was enacted to provide $15 million annually over a decade to address water issues.

Last week, a project called Scaling Up Capacity for Implementation of Water Quality Wetlands was introduced during a presentation in Fort Dodge. It calls for creating small wetlands on farms to reduce the amount of nitrates in water. Representatives of the Agribusiness Association of Iowa made the presentation.

The wetlands proposed in that project would be specifically placed where they would receive large amounts of nitrate-laden water from tile lines.

Each of the proposed wetlands would encompass 10 to 12 acres, and could be smaller.

Obviously, such wetlands are not the final answer for all of Iowa’s water quality problems.

But they can be an answer to some of those problems. And they’re an all natural solution. After the wetland is created, the vegetation will work its wonders with no chemical or mechanical assistance.

Because of the advantages offered by such wetlands, we urge farmers and drainage district trustees to give them serious consideration.

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Dubuque Telegraph Herald. July 26, 2019

What a deal: Politicians agree to grow deficit

Democrats and Republicans in Washington found something to agree on this week: Nobody wants to be accountable for spending.

Leaders on both sides of the congressional aisle came together in an unusual show of bipartisanship. President Trump is on board, too. Their unifying cause? Circumventing the 2011 deficit reduction law.

A House bill calls for raising limits on discretionary spending by $321 billion over two years, blowing up the strict spending caps. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates this plan would add roughly $1.7 trillion to projected debt levels over the next decade.

Now, if you were dreading another round of government shutdown gamesmanship, and the debt-ceiling-sky-is-falling discussion, you’re in luck. You won’t have to worry about that for a while. Conveniently for the politicians, it won’t resume until after the 2020 election. The government shouldn’t be defaulting anytime soon.

And just for a little extra cushion, there’s $50 billion more in spending next fiscal year than this year.

But the flip side of that is soaring debt. No matter how you measure the pleasing growth of the U.S. economy, there is no denying that we are borrowing more than ever as we continue to spend more than we have.

The deficit will exceed $1 trillion every year beginning in 2022. That used to sound like a date way off in the future, but 2022 is now less than three years away. And 10 years from now, the federal debt will be 92% of the economy, according to the Congressional Budget Office report. Right now, it’s 78%.

Yet no one seems to be talking about the deficit or reining in spending — no one in Washington anyway. Even when the economy is strong, we can’t run the country without overspending by $1 trillion a year? What happened to all the deficit hawks? Where are those politicians that took the country to the brink of default in 2011?

Apparently, spending far beyond our means is no longer a problem our federal lawmakers worry about.

A silver lining is that this maneuver shows Republicans and Democrats in Washington really can negotiate. There was give and take in this deal. The president got more military spending, though not as much as he wanted. The Democrats were able to protect social programs from massive cuts. But it’s disheartening that what it took to motivate this collaborative effort was giving each other political cover so they could overspend and kick the debt ceiling “can” way down the road.

The bill passed in the House on Thursday with a 284-149 vote. Next week it will move to the Senate, where it is expected to pass. That will allow all members of Congress to safely skate out in time for their long August recess.

Whew! Spending caps lifted, can kicked safely into 2021, out in time for vacation. What else could an elected official hope for?

Americans should demand more. Like a debt burden that won’t crush their grandchildren. Democrats and Republicans alike need to explain why there is no longer any attempt to control spending.

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