Friday, March 26, 2010

Crushing religious freedom

The case of a 13-year-old Old Order Mennonite boy's violation of Mitchell County's Ordinance No. 41 will be facing a constitutional challenge. The ordinance outlaws the use of steel wheels on county roads, like the ones on the tractor driven by the boy. But the Groffdale Conference of Old Order Mennonites --- also known as Wenger Mennonites --- are following a prohibition against rubber tires in their church law. Thus, the ordinance appears to interfere with their freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The response from county supervisors has been less than gracious. To read more about this controversy, follow these links from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Texting, driving and the law

After approving a texting-while-driving ban for everyone, the Iowa House of Representatives last week passed a revised measure that applied the prohibition only to teen-agers. A House-Senate conference committee has since proposed a compromise that would ban all cell phone use for new drivers and prohibit texting-while-driving for most others. Follow these links to read more about this:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gaming the system

Don Hoth may head a gaming association, but handing out a percentage of the Isle Casino's profits has nothing to do with gambling. The Black Hawk County Gaming Association has been buying the good will of needy organizations in the region by dispersing 5.75 percent of its profits quarterly since opening. A portion of these profits are typically earmarked for organizations outside of Black Hawk County. But Hoth proposed the board suspend those grants and only make them to Black Hawk County while the association gears up for a November referendum that residents must approve for it to continue operating the casino. Sounds a lot more like vote buying than gambling. Read more at the following link from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier:

Arrested development

Three Waterloo Community Schools employees were arrested within 1-1/2 months. They included East High School coach and administrative assistant Ed Madlock, East coach Antonio Mays and West High School teacher Larry Twigg. Mays was also coordinator of the Iowa Jobs for America's Graduates at East, a position the school contracted with the organization to provide. Both coaches were arrested for marijuana possession. Twigg was charged for five counts of lascivious acts a minor, a 17-year-old male student. To learn more, click on the links below from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

Kerry's rocky road to re-election

After a drunken driving arrest and being identified as dodging Price Laboratory School tuition payments, freshman Rep. Kerry Burt could find a lack of support for running in the Democratic primary. Sen. Bill Dotzler warned that he could be a distraction for other Cedar Valley Democrats seeking re-election. Burt responded to Dotzler's concerns, but has generally been scarce and quiet since the scandals began pelting him. He wouldn't want to start an avalanche. Dotzler's comments and Burt's response can be found in the Jan. 13 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

Hitler vs. Satan

The deadlock between cable provider Mediacom and Sinclair Broadcasting Group was looking pretty ugly. The fee Sinclair was demanding to allow Mediacom to carry its 22 TV stations across the U.S. was more than the cable company was willing to pay. Those stations include Cedar Rapids-based CBS affiliate KGAN and Fox affiliate KFXA plus Des Moines Fox affiliate KDSM. The disagreement festered and threatened to keep fans from seeing the Iowa Hawkeyes play in the Orange Bowl until the two sides reached a temporary agreement. Pile that on top of the less-than-positive feelings viewers have for these two companies and you come up with a Hitler vs. Satan situation. To read more, follow this link to the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

Running in Terry's shadow

Ever since Terry Branstad mentioned the possibility of running for governor again, it seemed inevitable that he would get into the race and most of the other Republicans would subsequently drop out. Even in his exploratory phase, the focus seemed to be solely on Chet Culver, not his Republican competitors. After all, he was the only one with any experience as governor --- and has much more than Culver. News that he would consider running caused a lot of excitement and got more attention than any of the candidates who had already been campaigning for a while. To read more about the GOP field of candidates, follow this link to the Sioux City Journal:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sandbagging his way to victory

Cedar Falls Mayor Jon Crews' made a strong reelection bid in November 2009, except for in North Cedar. That area of the city suffered heavy damage in the floods of 2008. Some attributed that to a poor handling of the flood situation and a lack of compassion for those residents. At the same time, a mammoth effort was mounted to protect downtown --- across the river from North Cedar. That success was trumpeted by city officials on national TV as North Cedar was submerged. Here's the link to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier story:

Sholom is nobody's fool

The defense in Sholom Rubashkin's 91-count financial fraud trial was at its most disingenuous when the former top executive at Agriprocessors in Postville took the stand and pleaded that he was doing his best to follow the law. He portrayed himself as a clueless bumpkin. Read the story at the link below from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Much more coverage of the Agriprocessors raid, Rubashkin's arrest, this trial and what's happened since can also be found at The Courier's Web site.

Suck out the fat

Gov. Chet Culver's October 2009 announcement of 10 percent across-the-board cuts in state budgets was the second year this had happened, and was much higher than the 1.5 percent cut in 2008. In the caption where this is called an "emergency" clinic, I'm playing off Republican rumblings that Culver and the Democrats could have avoided such a massive cut by passing and signing a more responsible budget earlier in the year. In other words, this didn't have to be the crisis it turned out to be. Read more in the Cedar Rapids Gazette story at the link below.

Tax money for nothin'

The Iowa film tax credit program had been bringing movie production to the state due to its generous terms. That generosity also made it ripe for abuse. In this cartoon, I'm focusing on the way some out-of-state film makers abused the program in purchasing vehicles. Read an editorial about the scandal from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier at the link below. Many other articles about this unfolding and ongoing scandal can be found at The Courier's Web site.