Report from the Iowa Progressive Network/DFIA Conference

Yesterday, I attended the Progressive Iowa Network/DFIA conference in Iowa City. There were probably 50 people in attendence, mostly from Iowa City/Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities. There are representives from the Obama, Richardson, Biden, and Kucinich campaigns.

State Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) was introduced and as soon as he got to the podium Rep. Dave Loebsack came in and bumped Sen. Bolkcom. Bolkcom graciously gave up the podium and Loebsack promised this will be the only time this happens.

Loebsack thanked the people in attendance and said he knew a lot of the people here. Thanked Joyce Shulte, who ran against Steve King in 2006. Loebsack said…

I know some of you aren't happy with everything the Congress has been doing. If I was elected in a district where 60% of the people voted for Bush, it would be a lot harder to do what I have been doing. I don't have extraordinary political courage.

Loebsack will be speaking at the ceremony for departing troops in Ottumwa on Sunday. He said the war must come to an end and he is doing everything he can to end it. Bush is not treating properly. Democrats are trying to do that in House and Senate.       

Bolkcom came back to the podium. He spoke about the accomplishments that were made in the last legislative session. He said the progress began in previous sessions and we finally started to see them happen. He said we were disapointed on some of the issues. It was easy for him to support every Progressive issue because his district votes 60-70% Democratic, but reality is most districts are 50-50%. It is vitally important that the fiscal house is in order and manage the resources we have.

Bolkcom talked about starting the session in the Iowa Senate by passing a resolution against the troop escalation in Iraq. He said it wasn't picked up by the House, but it sent a message. Bolkcom sister chimed in that Joe won a national award and you can see it on YouTube (Blog for Iowa has the video here.).

Bolkcom went through the progressive accomplishments that were made and read of a list that included the tabacco tax, expanding civil rights, teacher's pay, anti-bullying in schools, cracking down on predatory lending, greenhouse gas registry and advisory council, and expanded the earned income tax credit.

One theme Sen. Bolkcom had was it takes time for issues to develop. He says every issue that was passed has been in the works for a few years. He said the issues need to be discussed around Iowa and not just in the progressive community. Fair share, clean elections, and health care reform are issues that would fit into this category.

Rep. Art Staed came up next. He talked about the makeup of his district that means he must more of moderate voice in the House. He said we must bring the progressive issues up at candidate appearences, both Democratic and Republican events. He said he is glad education and civil rights issues aren't part of the workshop events later because strong advances were made this year. He hopes more can be done on the environment and local control, health care, taxes, and highways and transporation. These issues need to be addressed in the next legislative session. Staed brings up the VOICE legislation and he thought it would be voted on in the House, but there were some problems in the funding aspect.

It was Ed Fallon's turn next. Ed said the best thing about not being in office is that he can wear whatever he wants to events like these. Ed has shorts and a Buy Fresh, Buy Local T-shirt on. Some issues that need to be addressed in Iowa are CAFO's. Fallon said we can't be spending more time in task forces, we need to take action on this issue and if not it might be a very, very short tenure for Democrats in the legislature.

Voluntary public financing is the key. If that is passed, we can see progress on many other issues because it cuts out the moneyed interests. Gronstal even voted for campaign finance reform 3 times back in the early 90's. Fallon thanks Rep. Pam Jocham (D-Dubuque) for her work on this issue. He says the VOICE bill has a chance to be the best law in the nation because it takes into account and fixes problems similar bills have had in Maine and Arizona.

Denise O'Brien followed Fallon. She said she loves to come to Iowa City and thanked the people here for their support. She said she was disapointed with the outcome of the election, but has recovered. She mentioned the nasty attacks that were made at the end of the campaign. She had been an activist for many years, but decided to make the change and run for office and she hasn't ruled out running again. That comment got large applause from the audience.

O'Brien disucssed the bill that gets local foods used in our schools. Agriculture is the environment issue in Iowa. This was a theme of her campaign and could have been a reason she lost. She stood up to the interests that are against family farming and the environment and other people can too. She went off on aside and asked what can we do about Sioux County. She said her opponent had 10,000 votes there. Back on topic, O'Brien said we must think about local economies, local food, and local businesses. These are our roots and where are values and families are and they must be strong for small towns to survive. She moved on to CAFO's. The only people in Iowa that are for large hog confinements are the big money. It is not agriculture, it is agribusiness. If North Carolina, which isn't a very progressive state, can have a moritorium on CAFO's, why can't Iowa. These agribusinesses have bought their influence and clean elections would help limit their influence.

That was all of the elected officials and former candidates that spoke. The attendees then broke up into workshops to discuss the issues of VOICE, CAFO's, Fair Share, health care, and media. My battery was running low, so I went to go charge up.


Originally posted at Century of the Common Iowan

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