Wayne Ford announces retirement; House district 65 open

State Representative Wayne Ford announced today that he will not seek an eighth term in the Iowa House. He plans to “to devote more time to expand statewide, nationally, and internationally” the non-profit organization Urban Dreams, which he founded 25 years ago. After the jump I posted Ford’s press release, which recounts some of his accomplishments. His work on a 2007 law requiring blood screenings for lead poisoning has benefited thousands of Iowa families and will spare many children from the many harmful effects of lead exposure, which may even emerge decades later.

During this year’s legislative session Ford introduced a bill to restore the use of Tax-Increment Financing to its original intent: redeveloping urban, blighted areas. Unfortunately, it didn’t go anywhere, but it was a great idea that would also have saved the state money.

Yesterday Ed Fallon alleged that Iowa Democratic Party officials were trying to keep Ford’s retirement secret in order to avoid a competitive primary in House district 65. Candidates have until Friday to file nominating papers with the Secretary of State’s office. The Democratic primary will in effect determine Ford’s successor because of the district’s strong partisan lean.

UPDATE: Former Iowa teacher of the year Ruth Ann Gaines becomes the first declared candidate to succeed Ford.

LATE UPDATE: IowaPolitics.com covered Ford’s farewell speech to the House. Worth a read.

For Immediate Release                      

March 10, 2010

Representative Wayne Ford Announces Decision to Retire from Legislature

Des Moines, Iowa – Representative Wayne Ford announced today that he will not seek reelection to a eighth term in the Iowa House of Representatives.  Ford, who is now serving his fourteenth year as a State Representative, is the longest serving African American in the history of the Iowa General Assembly.

“It has been my great pleasure to serve the people of Des Moines for this long and to be a voice for minorities, the disenfranchised, and the underserved throughout Iowa.  We have now gone from one African American in the House when I was first elected to six this year, more than many states in the Midwest.  I can leave knowing that they will continue the work that I and the other nine black legislators who served before I started,”

“I am proud of all that I have accomplished during my time in the Iowa House.  My goal when I first ran was to improve the lives of average Iowans, including minorities, and I believe that we have made some progress,” Ford noted.  “I have been called the father of the lead paint prevention movement and I know that screenings are improving the lives of young children throughout Iowa. Improvements to our Targeted Small Business programs have helped minorities, women, and the disabled in starting their own businesses.”

“This session, I am really excited about two pieces of legislation that I am working on. HF 2432, a bill that will help recruit ethnic and minority teachers to teach here in Iowa. As well as HF 2509, a bill that would increase minority and female firms’ participation in securing bonding and pension contracts with the state of Iowa. This legislation could be the first in the nation, and will support Governor Chet Culver’s state motto, “One Iowa”.

The list of issues that Ford has successfully worked on is long and includes the following:

*         Making the penalty for crack cocaine and powder cocaine more equitable.

*         Co-Chaired the Commission on the Disproportionate Incarceration of Blacks in Prison under Governor Vilsack resulting in legislation sponsored to ascertain the impact on minorities whenever new criminal penalties are considered.  Iowa was the first state in the country to do this.  

*         Required training for nightclub bouncers in Polk County, Iowa bars following the death of Charles Lovelady in, the only such law in the country.

*         Decreasing classroom sizes in Iowa schools. Increasing the minimum wage.

*         Co-Chaired the Job Training Needs Interim Committee, with the goal of looking at various programs to get job training to Iowans who earn $20,000 per year or less.

*         Serving on the Housing and Employment Reentry committees – programs for individuals coming out of prison so they can better integrate into society and avoid re-incarceration.

*         Sponsored the Child Abuse Prevention Checkoff on Iowa Income Tax forms – funds go to much needed services to protect children

Ford has served on almost every committee in the Iowa House and has chaired subcommittees on standing committees such as; Drop Out Prevention, Community Outreach, and Job Training.  He is a member of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and is vice-chair of the committee on Business, Finance and Insurance and also serves on the NBCSL Broadband and Sports & Entertainment Committee.  

“I will miss serving in the Iowa House, It is one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever had. Now I want to devote more time to expand statewide, nationally, and internationally the non-profit, Urban Dreams that I founded and have served as its executive director since 1985,” Ford said, “Also, in regard to Urban Dreams, some communities in the state of Iowa are going through a rural to urban transition. That is presenting new and unique challenges. Urban Dreams has received inquiries from some of the biggest communities in this state and other communities through out the Midwest to assist these municipalities in making the transition easier for people who are moving from large urban communities. I will always continue to fight for the people of Iowa especially those who need my voice to make their concerns heard. I love Iowa, and I thank God for the opportunity to serve the people of this great state.”

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