Rest in peace, David Hurd

Broken Kettle Grasslands near Sioux City, Iowa—photo by Matt Hauge, used with permission

David Hurd passed away in Des Moines this weekend at the age of 86. Police have ruled out foul play in his deadly fall from his condominium building but have not announced whether he took his own life or fell accidentally. He had been suffering from Lewy body disease, a progressive condition.

Hurd was a legendary figure in local business circles, a past CEO of Principal Financial and member of the Iowa Business Hall of Fame since 1994. He left a bigger mark on the capital city than most people of comparable wealth have done. The Des Moines Register’s Lissandra Villa wrote about some of his philanthropic contributions here.

Many progressive organizations benefited from Hurd’s generosity, but it would be particularly hard to overstate how much he did for Iowa’s environmental community. Morgan Gstalter reported for the Register on Hurd’s gift that allowed the Nature Conservancy to acquire the first portion of the Broken Kettle Grasslands in the Loess Hills area: "Now at 3,217 acres, Broken Kettle is Iowa’s largest remaining native prairie and is home to bison and rattlesnakes." The photo at the top of this post shows a tiny part of the stunning landscape. That gift alone would have secured Hurd’s legacy in the environmental world, but he was just getting started.

I became acquainted with Hurd during several years when we served together on the Iowa Environmental Council board. He was a co-founder of the organization. A few qualities stick out in my mind. First, he was attentive but generally quiet during meetings—the opposite of some business types who tend to dominate group conversations. Possibly reading my mind, Principal’s current CEO Dan Houston told the Register that Hurd was "one of the smartest guys you’d ever meet" but also "a very humble man, very capable, diverse, global, international and kind. He listened so, so very well." Yes. Hurd was frequently the smartest guy in the room, but he never made a big deal about being the smartest guy in the room.

Hurd didn’t throw his weight around. He never pulled rank on any other board member, despite having given more money to the council than anyone else. I never heard of him trying to interfere with staff work, which large benefactors of many organizations have been known to do. When new ideas or programs were floated, he wanted to know about real-world impact: how would doing this thing potentially make Iowa’s water cleaner, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Even more unusual for a prominent person in the business community, Hurd did not restrict his giving to environmental organizations I consider "politically correct," such as the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation or the Nature Conservancy. He supported non-profits that opposed powerful corporate interests in our state. I’m thinking not only of the Iowa Environmental Council, which pushed for water quality rules that Big Ag groups fought all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court. He was a consistent donor to 1000 Friends of Iowa (on whose board I also serve), and our sustainable land use agenda is not popular with developers.

During his retirement, Hurd helped create the local Scrabble club. When people who had played against him would talk about how competitive he was at the game, I was always amused. In other contexts, he came across as laid back and didn’t give off a competitive vibe at all—which also struck me as atypical for a major corporation’s onetime CEO.

At the CNN Democratic candidates’ town hall a few days before the Iowa caucuses, I spotted David and his wife Trudy in the audience and went over to say a quick hello. I wish I had known that was my chance to say goodbye.

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How to write an Iowa caucus party platform resolution

Many Iowans leave their precinct caucuses after the presidential selection process, but the caucuses also provide an opportunity for politically-engaged people to influence their party’s platform. If you bring a resolution to your precinct caucus, you have a good chance of getting it approved and sent to the county platform committee, which decides what will come to a vote at the county convention.

Little-known fact for those who want to exercise this option: platform resolutions should be written in a different format from other political resolutions you may have read. Follow me after the jump for details and examples of resolutions you can bring to your caucus on Monday night.

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A Record of Leadership: Why I Support O’Malley

An Iowan too young to caucus explains why he is urging others to stand in Martin O’Malley’s corner. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I was just ten years old when the unthinkable occurred. A man brought four semiautomatic weapons to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and started firing. Shooting over 150 rounds in a few minutes, he killed sixteen six-year-olds, four seven-year-olds, and six adults. As horrifying as this massacre of first-graders and their teachers is, similar assaults have occurred throughout our country on an almost daily basis. The unthinkable has now become a regular event—a church in Charleston, a movie theater in Louisiana, a community college in Oregon, a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino, and in so many other places all around the country. We need common sense gun reform to stop this extreme violence, and that’s one of many reasons why I’m supporting Governor Martin O’Malley for President.

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Keystone Killer to Headline Climate Caucus

"Without Jane Kleeb, the Keystone XL pipeline might be a done deal right now." -promoted by desmoinesdem

Keystone Killer to Headline Climate Caucus

by Ed Fallon



The movement toward climate sanity has had plenty of set-backs over the years. But the tide is turning, and our recent victory with the defeat of the Keystone Pipeline is indicative of momentum swinging our way.



No one has been more instrumental in the fight to block Keystone than Jane Kleeb, the Nebraska activist who fired-up the national effort by building a powerful coalition of rural folks not typically involved in these types of struggles.

So, as folks across Iowa find themselves battling the Bakken Pipeline (truly, Keystone’s replacement), what better person to headline the Climate Emergency Caucus on Friday, January 29th from 7:00-9:00 p.m. in the auditorium of Central Campus at 1800 Grand Avenue in Des Moines?


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Why I encourage Iowans to caucus for Bernie Sanders

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts on topics of statewide, local, or national importance. -promoted by desmoinesdem

My name is Aaron Camp. I’m not an Iowan, in fact, I’m a lifelong resident of Vermilion County, Illinois who has never been to Iowa. I’m a staunch supporter of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, although I am not officially affiliated with the Sanders campaign in any way. With the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses just days away, I’ll take this opportunity to encourage Iowans to participate in the Democratic caucus and caucus for Bernie Sanders.

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How the Governor Could Invest in Water without Raiding Other Priorities or Raising Taxes

Governor Branstad deserves credit for his proposal to provide significant resources to address water quality in Iowa. The proposal is an acknowledgment that water pollution is a serious, immediate problem that will take a major investment of resources to solve. It’s an acknowledgment that the drinking water in communities from Boone to Des Moines is at risk of being unsafe to drink because of high nitrate levels. It’s an acknowledgment that Iowans deserve better than a record number of public beach warnings caused by toxic algae and nutrient pollution. It’s an acknowledgment that while the voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy may provide a framework for solving our water quality problems, without the resources and urgency to implement it, the voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy won’t get us there.

Proposing a significant investment in water quality acknowledges the seriousness of our water quality problem and opens the door for serious discussions about how to find the resources to solve the problem. The Governor demonstrated leadership in starting the conversation, and it will take continued leadership to be open to input to improve the proposal and get buy in from legislators and the diverse constituencies that care about solving our water quality problem.

The leadership of an open mind is critical, because Governor Branstad’s proposal is not without its flaws.

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