So here we are in 2019. I have been pondering what might be in store for us locally, statewide, nationally and on the world’s stage in this new year.
I join with this newspaper’s editorial board in looking forward to the beginning of restoration work on the downtown Warrior building and completion of the reconstruction of I-29 through Sioux City. Beyond that, it would be wonderful to have the city get serious about street repairs and finally do something about the completely inadequate street lighting in the older neighborhoods in Sioux City.
At the county level, after the ridiculous battle to leave the Sioux Rivers region, let’s hope improved mental health services become a reality and Sanford Center prevention programs are not abandoned.
And let’s hope ongoing volunteer efforts to address our homeless population continue and result in services from available housing to detox.
On the state level, a real commitment by the governor and the Legislature to halt their obsession with tax cutting and focus on the real needs of the average Iowan would be much appreciated. Enhanced funding for mental health care and public education would certainly be a beginning. Making sure that the privatization of Medicaid is monitored so that quality of care becomes the goal, not obscene profits for the mega companies that provide the so-called managed care.
Also, water quality must be addressed so that we preserve our agricultural resources and provide safe drinking water for our grandchildren. Furthermore, if we continue to underfund our courts and law enforcement, justice for all Iowans will suffer. As other states have done, Iowa should restore voting rights to convicted felons who have done well. Finally, stop treating hard-working state employees as a political football to be kicked around.
Nationally, a change in our political culture that accepts problem solving and compromise like that exhibited by our country’s founders would be the very best beginning. Beyond that, the issue of immigration needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. We all support border security, but a wall is only a symbol. The "Dreamers" deserve a path to citizenship, undocumented people need to be given a roadmap to citizenship and children at the border need to be protected. Asylum is necessary, but must be responsibly controlled.
A free press is our cherished heritage and needs to be valued and not demonized. We must have a foreign policy that promotes our self-interest, acknowledges our alliances and promotes a willingness to negotiate rather than threaten. America’s greatness has always been based upon our behavior as a model of freedom and decency and that is how it should remain now and forever.
On the world stage, the year 2019 offers a number of elections, events and gatherings that will have noticeable consequences.
I am an avid reader of the Economist magazine and I have selected to share a few of the coming year’s highlights it recently published. February will usher in the Chinese Year of the Pig, which is characterized as generous, honest and optimistic. Let’s all try to be that way. March brings the exit of Great Britain from the European Union, a potential self-inflicted wound from which it may never recover. The year also has several major elections. Three of the seven most populous countries in the world will vote: India (2nd), Indonesia (5th) and Nigeria (7th). Also, elections will be held in South Africa and Canada. All of these countries are more or less functioning democracies and that is a good thing. Let’s hope they have free and fair elections.
A number of world economic gatherings will take place promoting free trade and more equable distribution of the world’s wealth. Finally, throughout the year 2019, let’s hope that any and all international gatherings address and take positive action on the damage we continue to inflict on our Mother Earth.
I wish to conclude this article on a personal note. Come this April, my wife Bernadette and I will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our wedding day back in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. To say that I married up or that she is the better half of this relationship are understatements. She is a wonderful wife, the fantastic mother of three sons and a loving grandma to our nine grandchildren. Plus, she has helped countless people in our community through her volunteer efforts and, to steal a Jack Nicholson movie line, she has made me a better person.
Thank you, Bernadette, and God bless you.
Next week: Jim Wharton
A Sioux City resident, Jim Rixner is the retired executive director of the Siouxland Mental Health Center, is the current board chairman of the Winnebago Comprehensive Healthcare System and is a former member of the City Council. He and his wife, Bernadette, are the parents of three adult sons and the grandparents of nine.