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Preparing for the worst
Emergency agencies participate in active killer drill at North High

SIOUX CITY -- Local emergency personnel on Wednesday practiced their response to a scenario they hope they never see.

The Sioux City Police Department, Sioux City Fire Rescue, Woodbury County Sheriff's Office and Woodbury County Emergency Management, in cooperation with the Sioux City Community School District, conducted a full-scale active killer exercise at North High School after classes had dismissed for the day.

In the scenario posed to emergency responders, a student's father who was upset with another student entered the school with firearms and began shooting. Police and specialists practiced their response to such an emergency, and rescue personnel were able to gain experience in removing victims and transporting them to the hospital.

"I think it went well," Sioux City Police Lt. Chris Groves said. "In the next couple weeks we'll critique it."

Each agency will evaluate its response, and together the agencies will determine if any changes are needed to their emergency procedures.

"There are things we can do better," Groves said.

School district spokeswoman Mandie Mayo said numerous school staff and students were involved in the exercise to help provide first responders with a more realistic scenario. Earlier in the school year, district staff received training in how to respond to a school shooting, and Wednesday's drill allowed them to practice what they learned, Mayo said.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

A student is being helped by first responders at an active killer exercise at North High School in Sioux City on Wednesday.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

SWAT team members are seen at an active killer exercise at North High School in Sioux City on Wednesday.

Despite farm worries, Steve King says it's too soon to reverse Trump tariffs

SIOUX CITY -- Rep. Steve King acknowledged Wednesday that China's retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans and pork threaten to harm many young farmers in Iowa's 4th District, but warned it wouldn't make sense for the Trump administration to "surrender" in its trade talks with the Asian nation.

In an interview with the Journal editorial board, the veteran GOP congressman made it clear he was not in favor of President Trump's decision to start a trade war with China. But now that the two countries are engaged in negotiations, it's incumbent for the U.S. to strike the best deal possible. 

"There's no guarantee the Chinese will say, 'We can go back to the way we were,'" King told the editorial board. "If we call a truce, that might mean the Chinese will say, 'Now we really have you on the run and we're going to start slapping more retaliatory tariffs on you until we find out what the U.S. limit is.'" 

King added the U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports are putting pressure on China to ratchet down its theft of U.S. intellectual property, which is estimated at more than $5 billion annually.

Trump has complained about America's gaping trade deficit — $336 billion last year — with China, its biggest trading partner. The trade war escalated further in September, with China announcing retaliatory tax increases on $60 billion worth of U.S. imports. The increases were in response to the U.S. announcing it will impose tariffs of 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese-made goods.

King's opponent, Democrat J.D. Scholten of Sioux City, has made the trade war with China a top issue in his bid to upset the eight-term incumbent in the heavily Republican district, which is also the most rural of Iowa's four congressional districts. Scholten has warned many district farmers and ag businesses could go bust due to the tariffs, which have sent soybean and pork prices spiraling downward.

King said he believes older farmers with cash reserves are in a position to withstand the trade dispute until a deal is reached, which he predicts will happen in the next few months. But he worries about younger farmers who rent farmland and also have borrowed heavily to finance machinery. 

The Trump administration announced a plan in June to provide $12 billion in aid to help farmers hurt by tariffs. While King has spoken in favor of the proposal, he realizes it's not a popular option with producers.

"What they are saying is, we need trade, not aid," he said. 

Photos: Steve King Editorial Board

King said he has been buoyed by other trade deals the Trump administration has brokered in recent months that will create new markets for U.S. agriculture products. He mentioned a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, and new agreements with the European Union and Taiwan. 

The additional exports to those nations could approach the lost trade with China in the short term, King said. After negotiating a new deal with China, the ag sector could end up "better off," he said.

On another ag-related topic, King praised Trump for his administrative order to allow sales of gas blended with 15 percent ethanol to be sold at the pump year round, not just in the summer. King said increased E-15 sales could lead to the processing of an additional 700 billion bushels of corn.

Trump touted the new policy during a campaign stop Tuesday night in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where the president gave a shout out to King, saying he "may be the world's most conservative human being."

King said he likes Trump's achievements during his first two years in office. In April, he told a Journal reporter that Trump was performing at a nine on a scale of 10. On Wednesday, King raised that score to a 9.5.

He said people get wrapped up trying to judge Trump on his history or personality, but should instead review his accomplishments.

"We have tax cuts and we have deregulation, and we have a much, much stronger foreign policy that is moving in the right direction in a significant way. Our military is being restored," King said.

King also raved about Trump's interpersonal skills.

"He's got a good memory and he's got a quick recall. But his instincts are the piece that people have misjudged on him. He operates with confidence on his instincts, just in a moment, which means he can address a lot of subject matter quickly," the congressman said.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks Wednesday with the Journal editorial board in Sioux City.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Spirit Lake's Kourtney Delperdang runs during Marsha Koebernick Cross Country Invitational in South Sioux City

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Medicaid, taxes dominate gubernatorial debate

ANKENY, Iowa -- When debating Medicaid, Fred Hubbell accused Kim Reynolds of failing to make necessary changes, and Reynolds accused Hubbell of promising more than he could deliver.

Reynolds and Hubbell, the Republican and Democratic candidates for Iowa governor, participated in the first of three televised debates on Wednesday night on the Des Moines Area Community College campus.

Hubbell criticized Reynolds for sticking with private management of the state’s $5 billion Medicaid program, which serves roughly 600,000 disabled and low-income Iowans.

Former Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, in 2016 handed off management of the health care program to private companies.

Many disabled patients and their family members have said that under private management, services have been reduced and the quality of care has suffered. And providers have said they are not reimbursed sufficiently or in a timely fashion.

Reynolds has said private management remains the best course while acknowledging some changes are needed.

During the debate, Hubbell said Reynolds has not made sufficient changes.

“It is not working, and it is in fact getting worse. So we need to do something much different,” said Hubbell, who throughout the debate told stories of Iowans who have had issues with the Medicaid program. He then said to Reynolds, “You’re promising more of the same.”

Reynolds said “the bulk” of Medicaid patients are getting the services they need and acknowledged improvements could be made.

And Reynolds accused Hubbell of pledging to reform Medicaid without offering how the state would pay any cost increase as a result of taking on a larger role in managing the program.

“And you’re telling everybody what they want to hear and not talking about how you’re going to fund the system moving forward,” Reynolds said to Hubbell. “You have no details or no answers about how you’re going to fund the system.”

Hubbell said he would take Medicaid back to a system where the state has control, not the private companies.

Just as Hubbell sought to use the debate to highlight Medicaid, a central issue of his campaign, Reynolds challenged Hubbell to release more of his tax returns.

Reynolds released 10 years of full tax returns; Hubbell released just cover sheets from one year’s worth of returns, from 2017 -- the same year he announced his campaign for governor.

“I don’t know what you’re embarrassed of or what you’re hiding,” Reynolds said to Hubbell.

Hubbell said the information he released included total income, deductions, and charitable contributions. Hubbell also said the tax information he released included sources of income -- the released information noted income from various boards and investments, but not which specific boards and investments.

“All of the information is out there,” Hubbell said, comparing his level of transparency to former Republican Gov. Robert Ray.

On Iowans’ taxes, Reynolds said if elected she would examine the state’s myriad tax credit programs and consider reducing the corporate tax rate, which she said would make Iowa businesses more competitive.

Hubbell called tax cuts implemented this year by Reynolds and the GOP-led Iowa Legislature “fiscally irresponsible” with federal trade negotiations impacting Iowa’s agricultural economy.

“The governor wants to take more money out of taxes. That means more money out of education, more money out of health care, more money out of infrastructure,” Hubbell said.

Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford said he would give Reynolds the edge but he would not call her the winner.

“The main response would be -- to be continued,” Goldford said.

Goldford said Reynolds was much more aggressive in her approach and Hubbell struggled to make his case for change in the face of that aggressiveness.

“If you look at her campaign ads, she’s been running as everybody’s Iowa kid sister and tonight it became evident that Iowa’s kid sister knows how to use a knife and a baseball bat,” Goldford said. “She was very aggressive, at times rudely so -- interrupting -- but very well-rehearsed, very well-prepared.”

Hubbell was at his strongest when he responded to her claims about his wealthy background by saying he’s not seeking to be governor for the money but rather to make things better for all Iowans, Goldford said.

“A challenger has got to make the case that, No. 1, something’s wrong with the way that things are run and, No. 2, I’m the person that can fix that,” Goldford said. “While he’s got a different laundry list of things, his focus is her fiscal mismanagement. He needs to emphasize that a lot more I think, a lot more sharply.”

But there were times, Goldford said, that Hubbell had “a deer in the headlights” look in the face of Reynolds’ aggressive style.

“She came out flipping a knife and swinging a baseball bat and so in that sense I think she somewhat more dominated the theatrics of the debate,” Goldford concluded.

Reynolds and Hubbell will debate again next Wednesday, Oct. 17, in Sioux City, and a third time on Sunday, Oct. 21, in Davenport.

Election Day is Nov. 6. Early voting in Iowa is underway.

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Big Give raises $105,000 for Siouxland nonprofits

SIOUX CITY -- Siouxlanders pledged nearly $105,000 for more than 100 local nonprofit groups during a one-day fundraising blitz Tuesday.

The first-ever Siouxland Big Give matched donors with local charitable causes. Online and in-person donations totaled $104,966.05 from 1,538 contributors, according to preliminary numbers.

“We are so excited to have raised over $100,000 for these nonprofits," said Renee Beaulieu, board president of the Siouxland Community Foundation, which spearheaded the fundraiser. "Siouxland will benefit from these generous donors. Great projects will move forward because of this event.”

Coming out on top of the leader board was Bishop Heelan High School with $14,714 in pledges toward furnishing the Sioux City school's new gymnasium. 

"Supporting a dedicated day of giving says a lot about the heart of a community, said Janet Flanagan, director of special gifts for Heelan. “It was exciting to watch the numbers continually grow during our Big Give day. When we all support each other in the community great things can happen.”

Other organizations that topped the Big Give day included performing arts, animals and services for the needy.

The Siouxland Foundation accepts charitable gifts from individuals, families, private foundations and businesses who use the foundation to handle their charitable giving. It also annually awards scholarships and community grants.

“We wanted to do something to give back to the community in honor of 30 years in Siouxland,” Krohn said. “It was a great awareness event to connect people who care with causes that matter.”


Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal