SERGEANT BLUFF | Sergeant Bluff city officials have opted not to lift the city's 14-year-old ban on pit bull ownership, citing a lack of community support to make the change.
The Sergeant Bluff City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to keep the ban in place. The decision culminated a nearly six-week process exploring possible changes and soliciting community feedback.
"Based on everything we've discussed over the past several weeks, I just think we need to leave it alone," said Councilwoman Carol Clark. "It seems to be working."
City officials Tuesday detailed how a majority of the several dozen community members they and other city officials had talked with over the past weeks -- nearly 70 percent -- favor keeping the ban as-is.
Ron Hanson was the lone council member voting no, saying he wanted to see provisions that would allow for temporary foster care of pit bulls within city limits.
Sergeant Bluff officials began revisiting the city's ban on pit bulls in October. after the council held a hearing for Nikko, a 7-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier owned by residents Sam Vice and Alyssa Stankoski, who was found loose by police this year. American Staffordshire terriers are among a handful of dog breeds categorized as pit bulls.
The council then began considering whether changing its vicious and dangerous animal ordinance to allow pit bulls that meet certain conditions to live within city limits.
On Tuesday, Greg Trucke, of Trucke Heating & Air Conditioning in Sergeant Bluff, voiced support for keeping the ban. He said he spoke on behalf of local service and delivery people, who he said often deal with dogs and bad pet owners.
"It's bad enough dealing with owners that won't restrain the dogs that are allowed," Trucke said. "It just takes one to make this be a bad deal for everybody involved."
Sergeant Bluff Police Chief Scott Pack also advocated to keep the ban, detailing an incident Monday night in which police responded as backup to a call in Woodbury County where two pit bulls attacked a German shepherd. One of the dogs ended up dead, he said.
Vice told the council any type of breed can be vicious depending on its upbringing, and he said different breeds have been targeted with bans over the years.
Councilman Bill Gaukel said while he believes socialization of pit bulls matters, he isn't sure the council could put in place restrictions that would adequately ensure safety.
"One of my concerns that lingers is can we control -- can we trust the environment that the animal's going to be in?" he said.
Council members expressed sympathy for Vice and Stankoski, saying they seemed to be responsible owners but that the council had to do what was best for the community.
After the meeting, Vice told the Journal he respects the council's decision. He added that a more thorough poll of the city may have provided the council the fullest picture of what people wanted, mentioning that many younger people seemed to him to favor lifting the ban.
"For the month-and-a-half time span they went through this, they did a great job, honestly," he said.
Vice and Stankoski said if tests show Nikko meets the threshold of pit bull prohibited by the city, they plan to keep the dog and move outside city limits or to another community where he is allowed.
DENISON, Iowa | When Jared Beymer won the mayoral election in Denison last month, he popped the cork on a bottle of champagne.
And while he looks youthful, he's 23 and of legal age.
Beymer assumes office at Denison City Hall in a couple of weeks, likely among the youngest to serve in this capacity in Siouxland.
"When I was getting texts from classmates (Denison-Schleswig High School Class of 2012) after the election, I took the opportunity to ask them about Denison and what we needed to do here," he says. "I was quite surprised at how many of them said they were interested in moving back."
Beymer won the election with 288 votes, defeating Bruce D. Musgrave and Esteban Martinez, who earned 218 and 137 votes, respectively.
It's a wonder Beymer will stand before the city council when it meets on Jan. 2, 2018. It's a wonder Beymer stands at all. This is a young man who used a walker to get around a couple of years ago, his body ravaged by pseudotumor cerebi, a buildup of spinal fluid on his spinal column and brain.
"I lost muscle control and used a walker for eight months," he says. "I had stages of blindness due to stage IV papilledema (swelling of the optic nerve), which is how they discovered what I had."
The disease mimics a tumor on the brain, he says, but the brain cannot find the tumor as it's in a liquid form, not a mass.
The illness forced Beymer, a computer science major, to leave Iowa State University during his junior year.
"Once it was diagnosed, I got two spinal taps and then was good to go after physical therapy to rebuild muscle," he says.
The diagnosis period, unfortunately, took 18 months.
Beymer's big break came when Dr. Scott Bowker, an optometrist in Denison referred his patient to a neuro-opthamologist in Omaha.
"The neuro-opthamologist had a four-month waiting list, but he saw me immediately and sent me right away to the ER for a spinal tap," Beymer recalls, noting how he spent a portion of July 2016 in the hospital recuperating.
In the spring of 2017, Beymer returned to his old self. He began working full-time for the Crawford County Abstract Company that summer. He keeps busy helping with abstracts and recording legal transactions in a six-county area. While it's not computer science, Beymer notes there are similarities in that he's working to automate the company's reports while vertically integrating the abstracting process and data collection.
Oh, and he's also preparing to preside over his hometown as mayor, succeeding Dan Leinen, who decided against seeking re-election.
"Dan and Brad Bonner, the mayor before Dan, were such forward thinkers and so pro-Denison," Beymer says. "I wanted to continue what they had done."
Beymer almost unwittingly ran against Leinen in the mayoral election two years ago. When no candidate filed papers in the fall of 2015, Beymer conducted a write-in campaign. Leinen did likewise. Leinen, a retiree who taught for 31 years at Harlan High School in nearby Harlan, Iowa, won that election, 665 votes to Beymer's 120.
"When I took out papers this fall, part of me wanted to redeem myself for getting clobbered the first time around," Beymer says while laughing.
And, part of Beymer simply wanted someone -- anyone -- to be listed on the ballot in the mayoral race. Beymer says it doesn't look good to have a city of 8,308 residents with nary a soul willing to serve as mayor.
When I ask if age became an issue in the campaign, Beymer nods and says it did. Surprisingly, he thinks his age -- or lack thereof -- worked in his favor. "Age may have benefited me as some people see Denison as aging," he says. "I represent a younger generation."
The night of the election, Beymer, who had posted signs and gone door-to-door a few times, gathered with a few friends at Majestic Hills Golf Course in Denison. They monitored results from a source at the Crawford County Courthouse and ordered the only bottle of champagne on-hand once victory was assured.
Beymer says he'll work with council members to accept bids on a housing study that's sorely needed in this community. He also seeks to get RAGBRAI, the Des Moines Register's Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa, to return to Denison. The country's largest bicycling party hasn't rolled through Crawford County since the county's Board of Supervisors, in so many words, told RAGBRAI to take a hike in 2007. The decision followed a fatality that occurred on RAGBRAI in 2004 as a rider fell while pedaling between Mapleton and Schleswig on Crawford County Road E-16. Crawford County's insurance carrier settled a 2006 lawsuit filed by the rider's family, and paid out $350,000.
"The Crawford County Board of Supervisors last year said they want RAGBRAI to come back," Beymer says.
He'd also like to see Denison finish its dog park. Additionally, he seeks to house a business incubator in the Denison Community Room, a site adjacent to city hall. Finally, the new mayor hopes to use the housing data from the study to attract developers intent on creating more housing options for the city.
"Housing here didn't keep up with Denison's growth," says the mayor, who turns 24 just two weeks into his tenure. "It surprised me, but I learned in texting my classmates after the election that there's a real desire to come back. Housing is a big issue."
As Beymer turns to leave the loft area his office occupies above the Donna Reed Theatre on Broadway Street, he pauses to pump the breaks. Discussions about housing, business incubators and the return of young professionals must be tempered with issues like barking dogs and utility rates, the every-day machinations of city government.
"I am a big-picture guy," the incoming mayor says. "I'll have to remember to keep taking small steps."
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SIOUX CITY | Republican State Rep. Jim Carlin narrowly defeated Democrat Todd Wendt in a special election Tuesday for a vacant state Senate seat where GOP voters dominate.
In unofficial results with all precincts reporting, Carlin, of Sioux City, outlasted Wendt, of Le Mars, by 603 votes in the district, which includes the western two-thirds of Plymouth County and northern and western areas of Woodbury County, including Sioux City's Morningside neighborhood.
Carlin totaled 3,591 votes, or about 54 percent, to 2,988 votes, or about 46 percent, for Wendt.
With his House district taking in large portions of the Senate district and with 17,677 registered Republican voters, compared to 8,719 registered Democrats and 13,117 no party voters in the district, Carlin was a heavy favorite. But Wendt was well known in the district as a longtime superintendent with the Le Mars public school district and as the son of the late Roger Wendt, a former Democratic state legislator from Sioux City.
Both candidates lost their home counties Tuesday. Wendt won Woodbury County by 56 votes while Carlin captured Plymouth by 659 votes in unofficial results from the Iowa Secretary of State's office.
The Senate District 3 vacancy was created by the resignation of two-term Sen. Bill Anderson, a Pierson Republican who in September accepted a job heading the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation.
Carlin will serve the remaining year of Anderson's seat, which will be up for election in November 2018. Carlin's victory means there will be another special election early next year to fill his House seat once he resigns it to move to the Senate.
Carlin said on Tuesday night that he is looking forward to promoting his agenda in the Senate, which, like the House, Republicans control.
"I'm going to advocate that have meant a lot to me since the beginning, you know, tax reform. Iowa has some of the highest personal and corporate tax rates in the country," Carlin said.
"Iowa needs to be more business-friendly," he added.
Carlin plans to work on social and medical issues as well.
"I'm going to work on advocating for more pro-life legislation," he said.
In addition, Carlin wants to look into stopgap measure on Iowa health insurance premiums, and wants to see more "choice in education."
Carlin, 55, has practiced law for 25 years in Sioux City. He decided to run for the open seat since the terms run for four years instead of the two-year House terms, which Carlin said means he can focus less on campaigning and more on representing people.
Wendt, 56, who retired from the Le Mars school district, said on the campaign trail he's seen goodwill by people who liked his late father and hoped that regard could help him in the race.
Both candidates previously said they had concerns about the compressed timeframe for the special election, which came just two weeks before Christmas Day.
DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she “completely” disagrees with U.S. Rep. Steve King on comments he made recently about diversity, but she plans to keep him as a co-chairman of her 2018 gubernatorial campaign while staying focused on the issues Iowans see important to the state’s future.
King, a Kiron Republican who is Iowa’s 4th District congressman, drew criticism last week when he twice declared that diversity is not an American strength and endorsed a European leader's view that “mixing cultures” leads to a lower quality of life.
King, a conservative Republican and leading critic of U.S. immigration policies, also tweeted, “Assimilation has become a dirty word to the multiculturalist Left. Assimilation, not diversity, is our American strength.”
On Tuesday, Reynolds distanced herself from King’s remarks, telling Statehouse reporters during her weekly news conference: “I’m not going to get involved in the Twitter war, I’m not going to participate in that.”
Reynolds said she has a number of statewide and county co-chairs associated with her 2018 election bid, and she is certain she does not agree with them on every topic.
“I’m not going to agree with everything that they have to say, and I can certainly make it known when I don’t agree with a comment that they make. But I also want to be able to work with them on really important issues for Iowa,” Reynolds said in response to questions about King’s social media posts.
“I strongly, strongly disagree with that statement. I don’t believe that that’s reflective of Iowans, I don’t believe that that is reflective of Iowa values. I believe that diversity has made this state and this country stronger, and so I completely disagree with what he said,” the governor told reporters.
But instead of focusing on divisive issues, Reynolds told reporters, “we need to focus on what we need to focus on, and we need to make sure that we get tax reform done at the federal level so we can create a simpler, fairer tax environment that inspires and doesn’t inhibit growth — that’s what I’m focused on.”
Reynolds, who became governor last May when Terry Branstad vacated the post to become U.S. ambassador to China, faces challenges from two Republicans and a number of Democratic, independent and third-party candidates as she gears up for her first statewide bid as a gubernatorial candidate in 2018.
After her news conference, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price issued a statement criticizing the governor for “putting partisanship ahead of Iowa values,” noting the King has exhibited a pattern of what he called “divisive and vile behavior.”
“By keeping Steve King on her campaign team,” Price said in his statement, “Kim Reynolds is sending the message to all Iowans that she thinks his unpatriotic ideology is okay as long as it helps her politically.”