DAVENPORT --- Iowans who remain undecided on which of a half-dozen Democrats to vote for in next month’s gubernatorial primary got their first look at the candidates on a debate stage on Sunday.
Voters who have been following the race may not have learned much new about Nate Boulton, Cathy Glasson, Fred Hubbell, Andy McGuire, John Norris or Ross Wilburn, the six Democrats vying to be their party’s nominee for Iowa governor.
Voters who are just now tuning into the race were introduced to the candidates, who stressed their professional experiences and differed on precious few policy topics.
“We have great candidates. I would tell you any one of us would be better than Kim Reynolds is right now in that governor’s office,” McGuire said in her closing comments.
The six Democratic candidates fielded questions on mental health care, sexual harassment, collective bargaining laws, rural Iowa issues, immigration and abortion.
By and large, the candidates did not diverge much on the issues, although there were subtle differences.
Glasson, a registered nurse and local labor leader, continued to call for a state-run universal, single-payer health care program. She is the only of the six candidates to take that stance, and made the pitch in her opening comments and again in responding to a question of whether the state can afford returning Medicaid management back to the state, which all six candidates support.
“I support Medicare for all on a federal level to cover all Americans. But we can’t count on Washington to get that done. So we need a universal, single-payer plan right here in Iowa, and we wouldn’t have to deal with this mess that’s been created by this governor and her predecessor,” Glasson said. “And that’s the clear difference from my Democratic colleagues here, is transitioning to single payer so we don’t have to continue to go down this path and Iowans get the care they need, we reduce costs and it covers everyone.”
The candidates agreed the state should devote more funding to mental health care services, but only Glasson and Boulton, a labor attorney and state senator, suggested state-run mental health care facilities that were closed in 2015 by former Gov. Terry Branstad should be re-opened. The other candidates stressed a focus on community-based services and a need for more mental health care beds.
Hubbell, a businessman, said six years ago he worked with a coalition to help increase the number of mental health care beds and psychiatrists at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines.
“That’s what leaders do: they step up, bring people together, address problems and get results,” Hubbell said. “That’s what we need in our state.”
Each Democratic candidate reiterated their opposition to the collective bargaining changes implemented in 2017 by the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature and Branstad, but few offered detailed responses to how they would work with what is likely to be at best a split-control Legislature to undo some of those changes.
“If we use the bully pulpit of the governor’s office, that will help us to get people from both sides, Republicans and Democrats, to sit down and talk about how we don’t want to hurt our teachers, we don’t want to hurt our public service employees,” said McGuire, a physician and former state party chairwoman.
Glasson said she would use her executive authority to appoint labor-friendly Iowans to state boards and commissions.
Sunday’s debate was hosted by KWQC-TV in Davenport and the Quad City Times.
The six candidates are scheduled to debate again Wednesday on Iowa Public Television.
SIOUX CITY -- Jose Ayala Garcia, 18, would like to, some day, work alongside Elon Musk.
Garcia, a West High School senior, has long admired Musk, the entrepreneur in charge of aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and energy storage corporation Tesla, Inc.
"I'd love to work at either one of (Musk's) companies," he said, inside a conference room at his high school's counseling office. "But going to work for Google and NASA would also be nice."
There's a good reason for Garcia to sound confident. Once he sets a goal for himself, he generally achieves it.
When he was still in middle school, Garcia decided his post-high school career would include attending a top university, preferably an Ivy League school.
Sure enough, he recently won acceptance into Princeton University. This fall, he plans to study mechanical and aerospace engineering in the the Ivy League school in New Jersey.
"Admission to any top university is such a weird game," Garcia remembered. "But when I heard Princeton wanted me, I cried because I was so happy."
His parents also shed a few tears.
"My mom and dad were very excited for me," Garcia said. "That was until my mom asked, 'Remind me, which college was Princeton, again?'"
"This was when I had to tell her Princeton was the school that was a five-hour plane trip or a 22-hour road trip from Sioux City," he noted. "That's when it dawned on us what a big adjustment this will be."
You see, Garcia will be the first person in his family to go to college.
His roofer dad, Ambrocio Ayala and his housekeeper mom, Maria Garcia de Ayala, moved to America from Mexico to ensure a better life for Garcia and his three younger sisters.
"Our parents sacrificed so much and have been so encouraging of me and my sisters," he said.
Indeed, they encouraged Garcia's pursuit of music. As a tenor saxophonist, he's been selected to perform with the Northwest Iowa Bandmasters Association High School Band and at the Iowa All-State Music Festival multiple times.
He was also one of the high school students chosen to participate in a space settlement design competition head at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, earlier this year.
"There's a strong connection between music and science," Garcia said. "Both rely on formulas and theory and frequencies."
As Garcia walked into a science classroom, his teacher Shelly Nash can't help but smile.
"Every teacher wishes she has a student like Jose," Nash said. "Jose is both a good student and a good person. His classmates look up to him and he's become a role model to them."
This is something Garcia has always wanted to be.
"My advice has always been to discover what your passion is and go for it," he said. "Don't be afraid to aim high. It may take a lot of time and a lot of hard work to achieve your goal. but once you achieve it you realize it was all worthwhile."
Catholic groups gift artwork to Dubuque mosque
DUBUQUE, Iowa -- A newly painted piece of artwork framed the mihrab from which Adib Kassas spoke recently at the Tri-State Islamic Center.
The mihrab, an alcove in the wall that is considered the holiest place in a mosque, was surrounded by painted golden columns and an arch. A verse from the Quran was written in Arabic along the top.
The artwork was a gift from Dubuque's Catholic community, an emblem of solidarity meant to welcome the mosque that opened at the end of 2016.
With exposes, book and TV deals, Farrow on run of a lifetime
NEW YORK -- Perhaps the least surprising aspect of The New Yorker magazine's story on abuse allegations against New York's attorney general last week was Ronan Farrow's name on it as one of the authors.
Farrow has been on a head-spinning run that started in October with an expose on movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, for which he shared a Pulitzer Prize with Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of The New York Times.
The 30-year-old journalist has since written about Israeli operatives collecting information on former Obama aides, the National Enquirer buying stories to keep them quiet, a Playboy model's story of an affair with President Donald Trump and Weinstein's intricate efforts to conceal his behavior.
He also just released a book on international diplomacy and Rex Tillerson's tenure at the State Department. On Friday, Little, Brown and Co. announced it would publish "Catch and Kill," about efforts to silence women who accuse powerful men of sexual misconduct.
SIOUX CITY -- The city of Sioux City is seeking to use eminent domain to acquire about 7,000 square feet of land and a 22,000-square-foot temporary construction easement from Menards for a future road project.
Sioux City plans to realign a portion of Garretson Avenue near Siouxland Christian School in the summer 2019 but has "come to an impasse" in negotiations with Menard Inc. for a portion of property that includes part of the east side of its parking lot and road access, according to city documents. Documents say the city has been negotiating since August 2017.
The Garretson Avenue realignment project will shift the road to the south in order to allow traffic more room near the new signal on Gordon Drive, at the request of the Iowa Department of Transportation.
"The location where Garretson Avenue comes into the Menards parking lot is too close in proximity to the signal and doesn't allow cars to stack up near the signal," said city community development operations manager Jeff Hanson. "The DOT is requiring us to relocate Garretson to the south."
Hanson said the city needs to acquire the parcel from Menards to complete the realignment.
A request for comment from the Menards corporate office was not immediately returned.
If the city votes to move ahead with the process, a compensation commission would determine just compensation for the property owner. City documents say the city had last offered $46,000 for the land, $35,000 for the acquisition and $11,000 for a temporary construction easement.
Sioux City opted to use eminent domain once last year to acquire nearly 9,000 square feet of land and more than 15,000 square feet in easements on the property of Brad Lepper for the Big Sioux River Trail project.
After the Woodbury County Compensation Commission decided $34,000 would be an appropriate purchase price for the land, the city appealed that ruling, contending it should pay less. Lepper is now locked in a lengthy legal battle with the city to obtain what he believes is a fair price.