Culver holding rail event in DSM on Saturday

This should be a good event and a great way to show support for passenger rail service across Iowa. From the Gov's office:

GOVERNOR’S TRAIN DAY SPECIAL WILL ROLL INTO DES MOINES SATURDAY
 
DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver will mark National Train Day this Saturday by bringing the Governor’s Train Day Special from Valley Junction in West Des Moines into downtown Des Moines, where he will hold a public event with local leaders and transportation officials promoting the benefits of passenger rail to the state, and read a proclamation declaring National Train Day in Iowa.
 
“Restoring passenger rail service to some of Iowa’s largest cities has been one of my key priorities as governor,” said Governor Culver.  “I look forward to leading this special train into Des Moines on Saturday, and highlighting the economic benefits of passenger rail to our state.  I invite Iowans to come to downtown Des Moines Saturday and celebrate National Train Day in Iowa.”
 
National Train Day is designed to highlight the need for expanded passenger rail service across the country.  Iowa currently is served by two passenger trains – the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief – both of which serve southern Iowa.  Efforts have been taken in recent years to bring passenger rail service back to other portions of the state, with current proposals to bring service to Dubuque, the Quad Cities and Iowa City and longer term plans to bring service to other communities such as Des Moines and West Des Moines.
 
To help spur efforts, Governor Culver’s signature legislative accomplishment – the I-JOBS Initiative — includes $10 million for multi-modal transportation projects in Iowa, including $3 million for expanded passenger rail service in the state.  In addition, the Iowa Department of Transportation will be competing for federal passenger rail funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  All of these steps position Iowa to work with Illinois and Amtrak to bring new passenger rail lines to the state that connect more Iowa communities with Chicago.
 
The Governor’s Train Day Special is being provided thanks to the generous efforts of the Iowa Interstate Railroad, Ltd., and logistical support has been provided by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.  The Governor’s event will coincide with the Downtown Farmers Market, a popular summer event that features locally made goods and products.
 
Saturday, May 9, 2009
 
WHAT:               Governor Culver will celebrate National Train Day by leading the Governor’s Train Day Special for a special ceremony in Downtown Des Moines
 
WHERE:             Outside Des Moines Historic Depot
                           4th Street South of Court Avenue
                           Des Moines, IA
 
WHEN:                10:00am

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Will Culver face a Democrat in a Primary?

In a recent article in the Sioux City Journal Ed Fallon calls out Governor Culver’s lack of returning messages. Not returning calls is not the issue. Is Fallon’s complaint just the tip of the iceberg and are other Iowa Democrats not happy with the Governor? I am sure there are some, but is there enough to actually try and primary the sitting Governor. The Des Moines Register did have some so-so poll numbers the other day. What are your thoughts?

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Global climate change and Iowa's severe storms/flooding

It is probably still an inconvenient or touchy time to be talking about this with all of the truly disastrous flooding coming to an end in Iowa and the cleanup just beginning.  But it has to be said: we weren’t truly prepared for this kind of disaster and we have to take steps to prevent it from happening in the future.

Brad Johnson, a research associate at the Center for American Progress and a blogger at their Wonk Room policy blog, brought my attention to a couple of his posts on the terrible flooding and storms in the Midwest this summer, particularly in Iowa.  And in those posts he makes a couple of fascinating points.

First, he notes Sen. Chuck Grassley’s hypocrisy in calling attention to the complacency over severe weather (speaking on the Senate floor about the deadly Parkersburg tornado) yet voted to filibuster the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.

Second, he notes an unfortunate quote from Gov. Chet Culver about our inability to “anticipate or prepare for” these types of events.  The facts are that reports since at least 2000 have been forecasting the types of weather patterns Iowa has been experiencing over the last couple of years.  See the link above for more information at Johnson’s post.

It seems clear that leadership on both sides of the political spectrum in Iowa have failed us.  They are not considering the big picture when it comes to environmental concerns in the state of Iowa.  And statewide environmental groups aren’t putting the pressure on local and state officials to keep them accountable either.

We need better and bolder leadership on the broad issues of global climate change and environmental issues in Iowa.  Whether or not you want to attribute the cause of these terrible weather patterns to global climate change, call them a natural aberration, or simply just call them normal, our leaders should be considering some important things when moving forward with reconstruction.  Bill Becker at Climate Progress offers more details, but here is his list which he deems lessons from an angry planet:

  1. We need to put unprecedented pressure on our national leaders to get serious about mitigation and adaptation.
  2. It’s past time to rethink national flood control and water management strategy.
  3. When we repair and rebuild disaster-damaged buildings and infrastructure, we should do so with cutting-edge mitigation and adaptation in mind.

Groups like the Iowa Global Warming Campaign, the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Iowa Environmental Council, and any other group committed to protecting and defending Iowa’s environment should be tackling issues like this.  Granted, there are concerns about hog lots, Iowa’s waterways, and coal power plants to be concerned about as well.  Heck, even 1000 Friends of Iowa should be concerned about future development that not only is environmentally-friendly but that protects families and businesses on or near flood plains.

The state needs leadership on these pressing issues.  We call events like these “100 year floods” and “500 year floods” for a reason.  The frequency with which they occur is not what is implied, but the the likelihood that they will.  In just a 15 year period of time, we’ve experienced drastic periods of extreme drought and extreme precipitation.  You can even go back to periods in the 1980s (particularly around 1984) and see the same type of patterns, but with less severity.  We are certainly experiencing more severity with more frequency.  This is a result of global climate change.  We aren’t taking the threats seriously and we aren’t preparing ourselves for the future–either by accommodating the tragic effects that are likely or by acting to stop these events from happening in the first place.

The big debate in Iowa that is now emerging as the flood waters head downstream and leave the state is how to pay for all of the destruction and prepare for the reconstruction.  Some want to use the state’s rainy-day fund and others are looking at incurring state debt as an option.  In the end, the debate will be politically charged about fiscal issues and not the bigger picture.  Democrats and Progressives in Iowa have to think big picture or our meager political gains (and the state itself) will be washed away, no pun intended.

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