Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Des Moines Register. Aug. 13, 2021.

Editorial: Kim Reynolds must use her power to keep the coronavirus delta variant in check, protect Iowans

Many Iowans are worried about the illness and death the coronavirus delta variant will wreak here in coming weeks. The many Iowans who are not worried probably should be.

“Worried” is not the same as “timid” or “petrified.” “Worried” is the sober, solution-seeking place where people wind up after considering:

— The sudden reversal of the downward trend of COVID-19 cases in the state.

— The research showing delta to be many times more transmissible than the virus we became familiar with for over a year.

— The transformed landscape for mitigation, with uneven vaccination rates and such worthwhile, less-invasive measures as mask requirements made illegal by the Iowa Legislature.

When hospitals are strained in places like Arkansas, Florida and Missouri, the prospects that something similar could happen here are all too real. The good news is the state government can make a beneficial difference, if officials want.

For roughly six months, the numbers of positive tests, hospitalizations and deaths in Iowa fell. We shared the hope that they would continue that trend, until Iowa’s insistence on declaring the pandemic over could no longer be seriously questioned, but that optimism hasn’t panned out. So it’s again time to decide what combination of choices best protects public health.

It’s unhelpful to pillory Gov. Kim Reynolds for voicing considerations beyond the highest numbers of COVID deaths or infections that could be prevented. She, others in government and thousands of residents have argued correctly that strategies that marginally reduce spread might not be prudent if they come at big costs to mental health or livelihoods.

The situation that confronts us now, though, is not the situation that confronted us in May or early summer, when the state tied the hands of state and local officials. In particular, the inability of schools to provide any significant mitigation is unacceptable, and Reynolds should take immediate action to fix it.

The problems are obvious to observers of almost any urban school board meeting, where parents have noted the significant dangers of COVID-19 in children, even if they rarely die. No vaccines are authorized for people younger than 12.

“My younger two, who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated, would have been safer going to school last year” than this fall, Linda Reddy of Clive told the West Des Moines board Aug. 9, referring to the state’s hostility toward masks, the state-imposed abandonment of contact tracing, the state’s indifference toward procuring testing supplies, and state-rescinded authorization for online learning (even if a building has a spike of sickness).

The superintendent, Lisa Remy, said the district’s plans reflect what is permissible under state guidance: “We are not able to do everything that our families would like to see.”

The governor talks repeatedly about choice, but has left few for school districts and parents.

She can restore some choices whenever she wishes, and she doesn’t even have to contradict the philosophy she’s touted throughout the pandemic. Reynolds has suspended the requirements of numerous state laws for all or part of the past 17 months. She should respond to the data about delta and do the same with Iowa Code 280.31 — to let schools enact mask mandates. She imposed a mask requirement herself in November to protect health care systems. Today’s conditions pose a similar threat.

Reynolds should also permit schools to notify students and families when they have been exposed to COVID-19 and give schools latitude to impose quarantines for exposed students and staff. And she should order the Department of Public Health to go back to reporting statistics every day.

These steps would help worried Iowans believe that their leaders have their best interests in mind in responding to the delta variant.

Bring back daily COVID-19 statistics

The state’s shift in early July to share public updates on COVID-19 statistics once a week instead of multiple times a day was defensible, given declining trends in those statistics.

Several weeks earlier, this newspaper’s editors made a similar choice about their summaries of the numbers.

But now the trend has switched, and no matter the behind-the-scenes costs, it’s time to bring back at least daily reporting.

Gov. Kim Reynolds insists she trusts Iowans to do the right thing, but outdated information hinders knowing what the right thing is.

People deciding on a Tuesday what to do about plans for a concert or a sleepover deserve to know what trajectory positive tests and hospitalizations have taken in their county since the Wednesday before.

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Quad-City Times. Aug. 11, 2021.

Editorial: A bipartisan achievement

It took longer than it should have, but the U.S. Senate proved Tuesday it still can do big, important things.

By a 69-30 vote, the Senate approved a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that now will go to the House of Representatives. (About $550 billion of this is new funding.)

With a Democrat in the White House, the Senate has usually been a place where the president’s priorities go to die. But not this time. The work of roughly 10 senators from each party, along with the White House, stitched together an investment plan that will boost spending on things like bridges, transit, broadband, waterways and airports — the very things Americans in both parties have said for years they wanted Congress to fix.

It’s not a done deal yet, but Senate approval was a major hurdle.

In Iowa, the investment is badly needed on aging bridges. For years, the state has ranked among the worst in the country for the share of its bridges in poor condition. In a 2021 report, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association said 19% of the state’s bridges (nearly 4,600 altogether) were in poor condition.

We’ve known for years this was a problem; now, there’s a chance to do something about it. The legislation the Senate passed Tuesday includes $110 billion for bridges and roads.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who voted for the bill, said, “Iowans have raised infrastructure concerns at nearly all of the 85 county meetings I’ve held so far this year, whether it be about roads and bridges, access to broadband or the locks and dams on the Mississippi River. ... This bipartisan bill fixes potholes, rebuilds bridges, upgrades water systems and brings broadband to rural corners of our state. Investing in Iowa’s infrastructure will pay dividends for decades to come.”

Grassley, along with Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., voted for the bill. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, voted against it.

We are sorry this legislation didn’t have the full support of our delegation, but there was bipartisan support, and this shouldn’t be lost on anyone. In itself, it is a major accomplishment. And it’s an accomplisgment many had lost belief was still possible in our hyper-polarized political environment.

It happened because Republicans and Democrats in both parties decided to work together on something big and important, no matter the voices in their parties urging them to do otherwise.

It also was possible because there was a president, Joe Biden, who made it a priority to do something big, even if it meant compromising with the other party.

Biden insisted that this be a bipartisan bill, and he delivered on the promises he made all the way back before the Iowa caucuses — that he would govern as a get-things-done Democrat.

This bill is much smaller than Biden initially proposed, and it doesn’t include the tax increases he initially wanted. Much of it is paid for by repurposing COVID-19 funding. Unfortunately, it also will add $256 billion to the debt over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That is disappointing, but we believe these investments in America’s infrastructure will achieve a long-term good.

As Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., pointed out, this bill will invest billions in clean water, including $15 billion for lead water line replacement, as well as $5 billion for small and disadvantaged communities to deal with lesser known contaminants, such as PFAS. This help is especially needed in Illinois, a state with more lead water lines than any other.

As we pointed out a couple weeks ago, this plan also raises the possibility that long-delayed investments in our lock and dam system might move forward.

The infrastructure plan now goes to the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats, and where one might think, it would be assured of passage. However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and progressive Democrats are demanding the Senate pass a $3.5 trillion social spending package before it will act on the infrastructure bill.

That battle has yet to be settled, but after years of watching the Senate stand in the way of practically every initiative of the last Democrat to occupy the White House, it would be quite the turnabout to see a Democrat-controlled House be the roadblock to this legislation.

No matter how it turns out, the Senate on Tuesday accomplished a bipartisan win for the American people, and it is worthy of praise.

(Editor’s note: Several hours after this was written, at 3 a.m. Wednesday, the Senate narrowly passed the $3.5 trillion social spending bill by a 50-49 margin.)

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Fort Dodge Messenger. Aug. 11, 2021.

Editorial: Nothing compares to the Iowa State Fair

What may well be the grandest of our nation’s state agricultural festivities — the Iowa State Fair – is underway.

Iowans gathered in Fairfield for the first state fair in 1854 — just eight years after achieving statehood. That fair boasted an attendance of about 8,000. In the early years, the fair’s venue changed frequently. It wasn’t until 1879 that Des Moines became its home. It took up residence at the present site in 1886.

The more than 160 years that have elapsed since the State Fair began have witnessed many changes, but agriculture was then, and remains today, central to the state’s economic life.

In the 21st century, the Iowa State Fair continues to celebrate agriculture, but also highlights in exhibits and through entertainment countless other aspects of contemporary American life.

For the many 4-H’ers and FFA members from all across Iowa who have worked hard throughout the year on assorted projects, the State Fair represents the final and most prestigious stage of exhibition and competition.

This year’s fair runs from Thursday through Aug. 22. The more than 1 million visitors expected to pay a call at the Iowa State Fairgrounds will not only be amused and entertained, but also will have ample opportunities for educational enrichment.

The 2021 Iowa State Fair has so much to offer that no preview can fully capture the variety. Among its features are:

• One of the planet’s grandest livestock shows;

• What organizers tout as the century’s largest state fair foods department — about 900 classes;

• Iowa’s largest art show;

• Literally hundreds of competitive events and contests;

• Well in excess of 600 exhibitors and concessionaires;

• Grandstand entertainment that covers an immense range of tastes.

The facilities are spread across 400 acres and include 160 acres of campgrounds. Some of the fair buildings are examples of classic, exposition-style architecture dating from the late 19th century and early 20th century. The mix of fully modern structures with venues that recall earlier eras gives the State Fair both a charm and functionality that are truly remarkable. Visits to many of its locales are a multigenerational family tradition. Fun coupled with nostalgia are very much the order of the day for countless visitors.

If you haven’t already made plans to head to the fair, there’s ample time to reconsider.

People travel from all over the nation and journey from many foreign lands to partake of the extraordinary experience that is the Iowa State Fair. Don’t miss out on a world-class event right in your own backyard.

See you at the fair.

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