Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Dubuque Telegraph Herald. April 14, 2021.

Editorial: Exciting developments evolving in Peosta

When 100 residents show up at a meeting to weigh in on the city’s long-term planning and review designs for future parks and trails, that’s solid community engagement.

When the community in question has a population of just more than 2,000, the turnout is even more impressive. That’s the track Peosta is on these days, and there are good things coming the way of this growing Dubuque County town.

Peosta caught statewide attention following the 2000 Census when it was deemed to be Iowa’s fastest-growing city. In 1990, Peosta had no more than 130 people — just 30 years ago. By 2000, it had jumped to more than 1,000. Twenty years later, that population has doubled, and the vibrancy of the community is obvious.

Developers are doubling down on that anticipated growth and community engagement with several new projects in the works. Construction kicked off recently to transform a vacant lot on the west end of the Northeast Iowa Community College campus into a four-story complex that will house about 190 students. The $14 million project is expected to be completed in August 2022.

The building will include 82 living units as well as a commons area, study rooms, a fitness area, outdoor parking and storage space for bikes, skis and snowboards. The one- to four-bedroom apartments only will be available for students attending NICC.

As that development took shape, City Administrator Whitney Baethke told the TH: “We are working really hard to position Peosta as a community of choice.”

Indeed, it seems to be working.

More than 100 people came in person and another 40 or so virtually to hear more about planned hiking trails and a park on 95 acres in the area. Just as Peosta Community Centre has become a community hub, officials and citizens alike know that more amenities for families on the go will continue to grow the community.

All that dovetails well with Dave and Tracie Pettera’s plan to open a bowling alley and community center in Peosta. Dubbed an entertainment venue, in addition to a bowling center, there’s an arcade, an outdoor patio and planned outdoor athletic activities.

Round Two opened late last year and also boasts a full bar, lunch and dinner menu and private party rooms.

And there are more plans in the works. Two beverage brands well known in Dubuque are making plans for a collaborative effort to open in Peosta later this year.

Jumble Coffee Co. owners joined forces with the owners of Dimensional Brewing Co. to announce they will open two new businesses on Thunder Valley Drive in Peosta.

It’s exciting to see so much development in Peosta as it grows from a “bedroom community” to a community of choice. That the residents of Peosta are engaged and involved will help bolster this town with true community spirit.


Des Moines Register. April 13, 2021.

Editorial: A humanitarian crisis involving children at the U.S. border is every state’s problem, Gov. Reynolds

Thousands of migrant families fleeing violence and poverty in Central American countries are seeking asylum at the southern U.S. border.

Some are turned back to Mexico. Some are released in Texas, Arizona or California before traveling elsewhere to stay with relatives or friends. Some are arrested. Some are given instructions to check in with immigration officials later so the government can keep track of them during the years-long asylum process.

The arrival of migrants is a problem. And it’s not a new problem.

Everyone understands that President Joe Biden, like previous presidents, must do what he can to stop the flow of people before they get to our border. That means working with other world leaders, perhaps providing foreign aid, and cracking down on human smugglers. Those things take time.

Yet this country has an immediate moral obligation to humanely deal with arriving migrants, and particularly the thousands of unaccompanied children. These include, for example, two girls from Ecuador, ages 3 and 5, who were dropped by smugglers over a 14-foot border wall near El Paso in late March.

A civilized country does not drop a toddler back across a wall. It does not lock her in a cage.

We deal with the crisis the best we can in the moment. We house, feed and care for the children in now overcrowded shelters. Government workers embark on the arduous task of tracking down families to reunite kids with parents or find sponsors.

Nearly 3,000 federal employees recently answered a plea from the Biden administration to take leave from their regular jobs to help.

Responding to a humanitarian crisis requires people and their time. Is Iowa going to provide any?

No, according to Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Her recent statement on this issue was perhaps the lowest moment of her career as a public official. Yes, it was worse than her insistence that Iowa should have signed on to an attempt to reverse the presidential election. Her extreme partisanship descended into moral bankruptcy when WHO Radio host Jeff Angelo asked her if any of the migrants or migrant children are being moved to Iowa.

She said the state was asked by the federal government for assistance but refused.

“We don’t have the facilities. We are not set up to do that,” she said, opening with an ostensibly pragmatic concern before moving on to her real answer. “This is not our problem. This is the president’s problem. He is the one that opened the borders. He needs to be responsible for this, and he needs to stop it.”

First, let’s get the facts straight.

Biden has not “opened the borders.” That’s evidenced by the fact that immigration officials have taken thousands of people into custody the past few months. The president has said clearly that migrants should not come to the United States; his immigration policy can be considered permissive only in comparison with the previous White House’s.

In any case, it’s Reynolds’ messaging and apparent lack of empathy that are so hard to stomach.

Where are the Christian principles she espouses? Where is the compassionate conservatism we used to see from GOP politicians?

Of course the United States cannot accept everyone seeking asylum. No state’s child welfare system is “set up” to handle a temporary influx of migrant children.

But we can try to be part of the solution. We can try to help. By offering staff. By calling on churches and other nonprofits to assess whether children could be taken in here or help could be sent to the border. By at the very least publicly recognizing that a humanitarian crisis, particularly one involving children, is everyone’s problem. (Which would remain true even if the problem was unequivocally Biden’s fault.)

Contrast, as many Iowans already have, Reynolds’ mindset with that of Gov. Robert Ray, also a Republican, over a generation ago.

He took much pride in helping settle Southeast Asian refugees in this state after the Vietnam War. He responded to human suffering with compassion. And he understood the economic importance of attracting newcomers.

Contrast Reynolds’ attitude with that of former President Ronald Reagan. In a 1982 Christmas Day radio address, he read a letter a U.S. soldier had written to his parents about rescuing refugees.

“I hope we always have room for one more person, maybe an Afghan or a Pole or someone else looking for a place where he doesn’t have to worry about his family starving or a knock on the door in the night,” wrote the young man.

“Well, I think that letter just about says it all,” said the Republican president. “In spite of everything, we Americans are still uniquely blessed, not only with the rich bounty of our land but by a bounty of the spirit — a kind of year-round Christmas spirit that still makes our country a beacon of hope in a troubled world and that makes this Christmas and every Christmas even more special for all of us who number among our gifts the birthright of being an American.”

Now here we are.

Migrants presenting themselves to border agents tell stories of watching family members murdered and daughters raped. They are starving. They are fleeing violence. They are toddlers dropped over 14-foot walls.

But they are “not our problem,” according to Iowa’s chief executive.

Iowans are better than that. Our leader should be, too.


Iowa City Press-Citizen. April 14, 2021.

Editorial: Relaunching the Truth and Reconciliation Commission demands focus on its goals

Iowa City’s Truth and Reconciliation process has been fraught from the beginning, and if the City Council does not get a handle on things immediately, it runs the risk of a completely ineffective process with no results. The recent pause provided a good opportunity for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to reorient itself and its goals, and its members to learn what is and is not possible. While the Iowa Freedom Riders are forming their own independent commission — which is their right — we encourage them to keep the lines of communication open with the City Council’s TRC, because working together is the only way we can ensure that needed, lasting change is achieved.

In order to move forward, it’s important to understand the history of truth commissions, both internationally and in the United States. Not all truth commissions include a reconciliation portion. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions were established to create a safe forum to air grievances rather than hard findings of guilt or innocence. The purpose was to enter collected findings into the public record, ultimately forcing changes and accountability. The first truth commissions began in the late 1970s in Latin America to uncover truths about dictatorships and military juntas. Argentina’s 1983 National Commission on the Disappeared is considered the first well-publicized commission. South Africa’s seven-year process was an example of a hoped-for, successful truth and reconciliation commission, with emphasis on reconciliation. The commission was not entirely a success since South Africa’s police force still disproportionately brutalizes Black citizens.

There is some stigma in the West attached to truth commissions. The United States established few commissions including:

In 1980, Congress set up the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians to investigate the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals during World War II. It culminated in reparations of $20,000 paid to each survivor, education initiatives and a public apology from Congress.

The formal domestic national model in the U.S. so far was the Initiative on Race, initiated by former President Bill Clinton in 1997. Unfortunately, it was dismissed and labeled as symbolic.

The 2004 Greensboro Commission investigated the death of five protesters during an anti-KKK rally in 1979. But its 500-page report was rejected by the predominately white city council that only offered its regret.

Maryland’s Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2019 with bipartisan support in the Legislature.

The most recent example was in Evanston, Illinois, which granted reparations to its community of color.

While learning important lessons from some of these previous efforts, Iowa City is now presented with a challenge and an opportunity to approach social and racial justice In an innovative way. The Iowa City Council needs to work together with its own created TRC to ensure its members understand its goals and what can be accomplished within the legal and political purview of a City Council’s advisory committees and commissions. This will also include the City Council being open to new ideas, even if they are not expressed in the manner it would prefer. The newly founded Shadow TRC members need to understand that, while withdrawing from the City Council’s process gives them the freedom to express their views independent of the city, it also means the effectiveness of their ability to see their demands met may be compromised.

Nonetheless, the two commissions may find opportunities to collaborate toward similar goals. We need to regard truth and reconciliation commissions as a model to help us heal from persistent racism and injustice. For a truth and reconciliation commission to be successful anywhere, it needs a clear structure, the orientation of commissioners, and a balance between assuring public input while facilitating ongoing candid and respectful exchanges between members. It is vital that victims of injustice and city government communicate to find the best way to go about healing, whether it be through truth-sharing, meaningful policy changes, reconciliation or reparations.