Abby Finkenauer can build a winning coalition

Mary Jo Riesberg chairs the Lee County Democratic Party.

Abby Finkenauer is the Democrat who can defeat U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. Many factors make her candidacy not only stronger than the other Senate candidates, but one that can offer a boost to those down ballot.

She will represent Iowans as we sit at our kitchen tables discussing the struggles we face in our day-to-day lives. She will be the senator we need to help Iowa and the United States adjust to the “new normal” after the COVID-19 pandemic and to prepare for the many changes needed for the future.

No matter how much people say they are ready to have Grassley out of office, it will still require a coalition of voters to defeat him.

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Why we must elect people who understand the literacy crisis

Shelley Skuster: We can interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by supporting Kimberly Graham for Polk County Attorney.

The largest school district in the state is in the middle of a full-blown literacy crisis, and every candidate running for an elected office should be talking about it.

In Des Moines Public Schools, less than half of all students in grades K-3 know how to read. When it comes to Black children, the statistics are even more alarming. In fact, only 36 percent of Black boys enrolled in Des Moines Public Schools know how to read at a third-grade level.

If we don’t interrupt this literacy crisis right now, you might as well polish off a set of handcuffs because there’s a clear correlation between one’s ability to read and the likelihood they’ll end up in jail.

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Build back something

Charles Bruner: Taxes, inflation, and essential services … there’s an obvious solution for Democrats.

President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress have done much to support essential workers and provide economic help to working and retired Americans during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several of those actions were designed to become permanent: improvements to the child tax credit, investments in child care, and expansion of home and community based services and the direct care workforce.

Established in the American Rescue Plan Act through a process known as reconciliation (which requires only a simple majority vote and therefore could be enacted without Republican support), these policies have proved both popular and effective.

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Iowans facing big cuts to food assistance

Approximately 290,000 Iowans living in some 141,000 households will receive less food assistance beginning in April, due to Governor Kim Reynolds’ decision to declare the COVID-19 state of emergency over.

Leaders of area food pantries are expecting a surge in demand, as Iowans’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will drop by at least $95 per household, and in some cases by more than 90 percent.

According to the Iowa Hunger Coalition, “The average SNAP benefit for individuals will drop from $2.65 per meal to an estimated $1.52 per meal. Total SNAP benefits issued in the state of Iowa will decrease by an estimated $29.5 million,” a 42.6 percent reduction.

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COVID-19 divisions undermine support for other vaccinations

Governor Kim Reynolds and top Republican lawmakers have repeatedly bragged about protecting Iowans’ freedom not to get vaccinated for COVID-19, saying that getting a shot should be a matter of personal choice and not government mandate.

Now the latest Iowa Poll by Selzer & Co indicates that support for other required childhood vaccinations has dropped sharply since the last time Iowans were surveyed on the issue.

Republican respondents in particular are now less likely to support mandatory vaccinations against diseases like polio and the measles—a finding that suggests the misinformation campaign some have waged against COVID-19 vaccines has affected how many conservatives view all immunizations. When Selzer asked Iowans a similar question in 2015, there was no significant difference in views based on political affiliation.

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Cheerful cruelty belies governor's concern over kids' mental health

Self-awareness has never been Governor Kim Reynolds’ strong suit.

So it was that just this week, Reynolds asserted in an interview with the Des Moines Register that mental health “has been so important to me.” The governor lamented the pressures kids have faced over the past two years, “the depression, the anxiety,” adding, “We’ve seen suicide rates among young girls up over 50 percent” during the COVID-19 pandemic. She bragged about “working on mental health for five years” and “standing up a children’s mental health system.”

You’d never guess she just signed a bill that is guaranteed to increase depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation among some of Iowa’s most vulnerable youth.

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