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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 27, 2016

Elections have consequences for children

Sep 15, 2016

Des Moines Register, September 8

Elections have consequences for children

 

Children cannot vote. They do not contribute big bucks to political campaigns. They are not represented by high-profile lobbying organizations. There is no AARP for the under-18 crowd in this country.

Yet kids may have more at stake than adults in state and federal elections. They are not only among the "future generations" that will deal with everything from the national debt to the health of the environment. Their daily lives, right this minute, are affected by what elected officials do.

When lawmakers don't adequately fund education or human services, children suffer. When politicians starve or "reform" government safety net programs, children feel the impact.

Each year about 410,000 Iowans are lifted out of poverty by tax credits for low-income families and government programs to provide food, income and housing, according to a July report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Of those Iowans, 93,000 are children. Safety-net programs reduce the child poverty rate in this state from 18.1 percent to 5.2 percent.

When members of Congress complain about food stamps, they want Americans to envision a "welfare queen" mother who drives a Cadillac and "sponges off the system." What should come to mind is an image of a child. Of the 390,000 Iowans each month who rely on food stamps, 180,000 of them are youth, according to CBPP.

Then there's Medicaid, the single largest health insurer of children in the country. About 300,000 Iowa youngsters rely on it and its companion, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for coverage. Turning over management of the government program to for-profit insurers, as Gov. Terry Branstad recently did, is not only disruptive to poor, elderly constituents and health care providers who aren't being paid. It is disruptive to kids.

In fact, Iowans should take note of a June report from Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families.

It examined specifically how children have fared during the first two years of statewide Medicaid privatization in Florida, a move spearheaded by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Two-thirds of Florida pediatricians reported an increase in patients reassigned to new health plans without their knowledge. "Some of our patients keep getting switched to plans where they have to go all the way across the state for primary care," said one doctor. More than 80 percent said patients experienced difficulty accessing medications. Under private Medicaid management, only six in 10 infants are receiving the recommended number of well-child visits. The majority of adolescents are not receiving these visits at all. Only 27 percent of children covered by Florida's managed care programs received a preventative dental visit, compared with 48 percent of Medicaid- and CHIP-covered children nationwide.

The lesson: Elections have consequences for those too young to vote.

This country's safety net programs separate impoverished children in the United States from impoverished children starving and dying from diseases in Third World countries. Those of us eligible to cast ballots must do so with an eye to protecting these government programs.

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Quad City Times. September 9, 2016

Debate minimum wage, Scott County.

Come January, the new-look Scott County Board can't avoid the minimum wage question that's sweeping Iowa.

Linn County supervisors on Wednesday approved the second of three readings for local legislation that, in steps, would boost the hourly wage to $10.25 by 2019. Polk County also is in the process of tackling what state lawmakers refuse to do. And it's not just urban counties, either. A proposed minimum wage hike to $10.10 by 2019 is moving in rural, poor Wapello County.

Fighting about floating zoning has been fun. But, like it or not, movement is bubbling among Iowa's local governments, which is no longer isolated to those lefties in Johnson County. Iowa's two largest counties are actively pursuing boosting the wage above the federal and state minimum of $7.25 an hour. It's becoming increasingly impossible for supervisors in Iowa's third-most populace county to continue ignoring it.

The minimum wage is politically treacherous and philosophically controversial. Dissenters of the increase fall into two camps: Either it's only for teens or a boost will destroy small business. Both demonstrably false.

Yes, minimum wage earners tend to be young, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But half of those earning the federal minimum in 2014 were older than 25. The federal minimum is especially prevalent in the hospitality industry, say federal data.

As for the claims about a rotting Main Street, they said in 2007, too, the last time the minimum wage was boosted.

It's unclear if a minimum wage boost is right for Scott County. It's unknown if local wage hikes in Iowa would even be enforceable. And, as shown by the cautious process in other counties, minimum wage increases are hugely controversial.

But that doesn't change the reality. Congress won't touch the minimum wage. Nor will state lawmakers. Neither deliberative body has the wisdom to tie the wage to inflation, either. So, every year, those making the lowest legal wage get a little poorer. A single adult without children must earn $9.68 an hour just to survive in Scott County, say researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

At some point, it becomes a disincentive to work. At some point, welfare is the better option.

We hear constantly from chambers of commerce and marketing types about a "cool" and "hip" Quad-Cities. They describe a tolerant, progressive town that draws young professionals. The minimum wage issue could be the moment to prove the hype. It's especially true when, according to federal data, Scott County residents earned the lowest weekly wage among Iowa's large counties in 2015, just $783 a week.

There's a lot of sausage to make prior to any wage hike. Studies must be commissioned. An investigatory committee must be convened. Stakeholders must be engaged.

And it's up to Scott County Board to organize the process. And that's why any movement should wait until January. The five-member board is set to lose two of its most experienced members to retirement. Four candidates are vying to replace them.

When seated, the new supervisors will immediately face a mounting mental health crisis. They'll have to learn the budget and navigate internal politics.

But that doesn't change the political reality that's happening in Iowa. County's are stepping up and, at the very least, protesting the Legislature's inaction. At the most, they're forcing change, even if it creates an undesirable regulatory patchwork.

Scott County can't afford to fall behind. Supervisors have no choice but to give minimum wage the attention and consideration it deserves.

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The Sioux City Journal. September 8, 2016

King, Weaver need to debate.

Today we revisit a position we have taken in this space on multiple occasions in the past: Support for debate between candidates in a campaign for public office.

In this case, the candidates are Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve King and Democratic challenger Kim Weaver. The office is Iowa's 4th District U.S. House seat.

As of today, no debates are scheduled.

In his first four campaigns for re-election, King did not debate his opponents. In 2012, King and opponent Christie Vilsack debated seven times. In 2014, King debated Jim Mowrer once. in June, King debated Republican primary challenger Rick Bertrand.

How many times should King and Weaver debate? We suggest no specific number. We won't argue seven in 2012 was excessive, but we believe having no debate is unacceptable to 4th District voters.

Let's just say we hope the King and Weaver camps reach agreement on at least one.

As we have said before, the time-honored tradition of debates demonstrates respect for voters, respect between candidates and respect for the election process itself. Face-to-face debates represent unique, invaluable tools in helping the voting public make informed election decisions.

We believe voters in our district want, expect and deserve to see these two candidates standing side by side on a stage in discussion of issues facing the 4th, our state and our nation.

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Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. September 9, 2016

When the University of Northern Iowa football team defeated Iowa State in its season-opener, head coach Mark Farley became the winningest coach in UNI football history.

It's a great achievement, and his team and staff let him know that, chanting his name in the locker room at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames following the game.

Farley has taken the Panthers to great heights during his tenure. However, while talking with the press he took substantial time to talk about the man whose record he had just broken by notching his 130th win at UNI. That man was Stan Sheriff.

Sheriff, whose teams had tasted success in the 1960s, also served as UNI athletic director and he later took on that post at the University of Hawaii.

He passed away in 1993.

He knew UNI's rapid growth in the '60s had stretched existing facilities to capacity, and construction was the only answer. The old stadium, O.R. Latham Field, seated only 7,200.

It's now very difficult to imagine UNI football, and the university itself, without the UNI-Dome.

"I came here when Stan was leaving, his last semester," Farley said. "I always felt Stan Sheriff left a legacy forever with the UNI-Dome. It is what UNI is kind of represented by . it is our landmark. Without the Dome we are not the size of football team we are and we are not the caliber of football program we are. He took UNI from Division II to I-AA and built a dome in the 1970s which was probably unheard of. It's not that I passed him, but to be mentioned with him . he was such a great visionary and he was the one to allow this to happen today."

Sheriff was the driving force behind the construction of the UNI-Dome.

A fact-finding committee of 10 faculty members and administrators was formed in early 1971 and plans for the covered multipurpose coliseum, with its initial Teflon-coated fabric roof, were announced Dec. 15, 1972, along with plans for a 10-year, $10 million fund drive by the UNI Foundation.

Ground was broken July 26, 1974. The final cost when the building opened in 1976 was $7.4 million. That was financed with bonds, $2.5 million from the UNI Foundation, $1.9 million from institutional funds and $330,000 from the state Legislature for movable equipment.

The UNI-Dome was on its way to becoming only the fourth air-supported, fabric-covered structure in the world, similar in design to the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.

Funding was not without controversy. In September 1974, a university student filed suit in small claims court seeking return of his $15 athletic fee. He contended the fee was a breach of contract, in that the university catalog said athletic fees were included in the activity fee payment. His suit ultimately failed.

The UNI-Dome officially opened with a Feb. 7, 1976, UNI-University of Iowa dual wrestling meet attended by 10,000 people.

One man's dreams and vision have indeed paid off big time for the Cedar Valley. It is entirely appropriate the Dome's football playing surface, Stan Sheriff Field, bears that man's name.

That said, Farley is in the midst of creating his own legacy at UNI.

We appreciate his nod to UNI history. Along with all the sports fans in the Cedar Valley, we congratulate him on this latest milestone.

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