Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Sept. 3, 2021.

Editorial: Brain health services in Dubuque schools a wise use of relief aid

It’s entirely fitting that Dubuque Community Schools officials have determined that brain health issues among students will be a key area in which schools will spend federal COVID-19 relief dollars. The pandemic and all the challenges it brought about, after all, took a decidedly significant toll on students.

District officials surveyed parents, teachers and other stakeholders about where schools should focus the nearly $23 million in relief aid. More than 1,800 responded to the survey, and support for mental health services was the most frequently selected option with 67%.

It isn’t difficult to understand. Parents and teachers saw firsthand students struggling on multiple fronts. Students dealt with transitioning to virtual learning and fewer hours in the classroom along with isolation from friends and some family members. Many fell behind academically. For perhaps the first time in their lives, students faced a real and present health risk that threatened them and their families. They witnessed business closures and job losses throughout the community.

All this piled onto the normal anxieties and concerns that can be a part of growing up. Swirling political turmoil didn’t help.

Thankfully, district officials are making plans to combat these challenges. One initiative would establish brain health rooms at the district’s high schools to give students a space to work on self-regulation, reduce their anxiety and talk with a qualified support person.

Another is creating a community resource center to help coordinate educational, developmental, health and other services for families.

Initiatives aimed at addressing unfinished learning include the addition of Core + teachers to support elementary students who need it and the operation of the district’s virtual learning program this year.

All of these ideas require resources, and with millions in federal aid rolling in, shoring up mental health services in the district is a sound and logical top priority.

A salute to the University of Dubuque for its Captain Robert L. Martin Black Heritage Tribute Initiative honoring the Tuskegee Airman who hailed from Dubuque. The effort will include a series of public events from September to February celebrating Black lives, creativity, ingenuity and contributions to American heritage.

That few people in his hometown knew of Martin’s historic heroics until recent years is a testament to the need for greater education.

This effort coincides with an ongoing fundraising campaign to build a memorial honoring Martin at Dubuque Regional Airport. Martin served as part of the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group during World War II. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Purple Heart for his service. He was present when the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.

It’s great to see more acknowledgment and storytelling around a true local hero whose history was long overlooked.

Folks in Fennimore, Wis., are doing their part to make sure the life and legacy of local Vietnam servicemen remain a visible part of the community.

Last weekend, the community rededicated Veterans Memorial Drive for three young men who grew up on the street in Fennimore and died within eight months of each other in connection with their U.S. Army service during the Vietnam War.

When Staff Sgt. Donald “Butch” Smith, Cpl. Francis Mulvey and Pvt. Allen “Pete” Novinska died in 1969, the Fennimore City Council designated 12th Street as Veterans Memorial Drive in their honor and to honor all Fennimore veterans.

Now, with help from an anonymous donor, new signs recently were installed and unveiled last weekend in a public ceremony brought together by Fennimore Chamber of Commerce, city leaders, family of the soldiers and members of Fennimore’s American Legion Post 184.

Fifty years later, it’s great to see this community preserving the memory of these soldiers and retelling the history behind Veterans Memorial Drive.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. Aug. 31, 2021.

Editorial: Security camera system will benefit downtown Fort Dodge

Burglars and other bad actors are going to have even less ability to get away with something in downtown Fort Dodge.

That’s because very soon a camera system will be keeping an unblinking eye on activity downtown 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

On Aug. 23, the City Council hired Iowa Fire Control, of Fort Dodge, to install the system at a cost of $195,176.29. Everything is to be set up by Oct. 20.

The system is being paid for in part by Main Street Fort Dodge. It is perhaps a little different from the usual Main Street initiatives that focus on historic preservation and economic development to create a more vibrant downtown. But it is also a project very in tune with the big picture of Main Street projects. After all, deterring crime is a pretty good way to create a more vibrant downtown.

The concept of security cameras often prompts criticism that somehow they will be used to invade people’s privacy. The reality is that such cameras already exist in all kinds of places. Many private businesses have them inside and outside of their buildings. What is happening now is that a camera system will be able to view a bigger area, rather than just the sidewalk outside one business.

Nationally, incidents of anyone improperly using video or images from these kind of security cameras seem to be few and far between. But videos and images of people and vehicles recorded by cameras have repeatedly been used to solve crimes and make arrests.

We believe the benefits of having this new camera system in place will far outweigh any perceived negative aspects.

We thank the leadership of Main Street Fort Dodge for helping to make this possible.

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Quad-City Times. Sept. 5, 2021.

Editorial: Recognize the stress

On this Labor Day weekend, as we pause to appreciate the American worker, we are nearing the second autumn of a public health emergency that has upended workplaces around the country. And with the fourth wave of infections in full swing, including in Iowa, it is easy to see how workers are feeling the pinch.

The evidence is abundant. All you have to do is listen. People have experienced months of uncertainty, as they seek to balance work and home life amid the ever-changing world of Covid. Their stories are abundant. But if that’s not enough, a raft of surveys also offer clear evidence a large part of the American workforce is under an incredible amount of stress.

Consider a Society for Human Resource Management report on a survey of 1,099 workers earlier this year. It found that 40% of those polled were feeling “hopeless, burned out or exhausted” as they deal with the pandemic’s multiple stresses.

A WalletHub survey done just before this weekend said that nearly 1 out of 3 workers are worried about job security.

Meanwhile, a McKinsey survey this summer said that, as workers were shifting to go back to their offices – when it appeared the pandemic was getting under control – a third of them said the changes still were negatively affecting their mental health. This was especially true for workers with children at home.

These aren’t the kind of worries that disappear over a three-day weekend.

The good news is that more and more workers, and employers, recognize that these problems can’t be ignored or swept under the rug.

Employee Assistance Programs, typically underutilized before the pandemic, are seeing more workers asking for help. In addition, most employers recognize that mental health matters. In June, The Hartford, the large worker compensation and disability insurance firm, reported that 70% of employers said they realize mental health is a significant workplace issue.

More employers also are saying these issues are negatively affecting their finances.

These are issues that are playing out in our culture, too.

One of the biggest stories over the summer was when gymnast Simone Biles decided to withdraw from several events during the summer Olympics in Tokyo, sparking a broad discussion of mental health issues in the world of sports. Her decision led to an outpouring of understanding among those who saw what she did as a breakthrough moment, as well as a courageous personal decision.

Even for those of us who can’t identify with the stresses that come from competing on a world stage, instinctively we know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and recognize it in others. Perhaps as more athletes and bold-faced names speak out, everyday workers who often have felt ashamed of admitting they need help will do so, too.

These are trying times. But America needs a thriving and healthy workforce. It is vital if our economy is to emerge from this pandemic in better condition; it’s also important for American workers whose labors are often more than just a way to earn a paycheck, but also our unique way of contributing to the world.

On this Labor Day weekend, we hope that all of us – employers and employees alike – figure out how to recognize and deal with these stresses so that our labors are ever more fruitful.

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