The moral leader America needs

Bryce Smith chairs the Dallas County Democrats. -promoted by Laura Belin

With the Iowa caucuses less than a month away, and millions of future voters relying on Iowa to help shape the future of the Democratic field, now is the time to hear why Cory Booker has a rapidly expanding network of caucus goers, the largest number of local endorsers in Iowa, and is ready to heal our nation.

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Part 5: How to corrupt Dallas County

Latest deep dive by Tyler Higgs. -promoted by desmoinesdem

If you’ve followed part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 of this series, you get the drift. I create a short guide about how to corrupt some aspect of local government to hopefully hook you into reading on as I nerd out on a bit of campaign finance disclosures or local political controversies.

But this time, I’ll provide a little bit of good news and relief: many Dallas County political campaigns have clean finances.

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Good riddance

cross-posted at La Vida Locavore

Sometimes one small step against confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) leads to another.

Over at Iowa Independent, Jason Hancock reports that

A member of the state’s Environmental Protection Commission who has been labeled by critics as “pro-factory farms” has stepped down.

Ralph Klemme, a former Republican state representative from LeMars, resigned from the nine-person oversight panel, which is part of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, late last week. He told the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers that the commission’s “increasing tilt against agriculture” was his main reason to step down.

The commission’s recent vote to reject permits for two hog confinements in Dallas County appears to have been a major factor in Klemme’s decision.

I was against Klemme’s appointment to this commission in 2007 because of his involvement with corporate agriculture groups.

My suspicions were warranted. In a statement welcoming Klemme’s resignation, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement recounted his record of looking out for agribusiness instead of the environment:

Klemme voted in May to approve a large hog factory in Greene County that was overwhelmingly opposed by local residents, county officials and local business leaders. He also voted against a common-sense rule that would have limited the amount of manure that factory farm owners could be spread on soybean crops.

Governor Chet Culver should replace Klemme with someone committed to protecting the environment. Otherwise why call it an Environmental Protection Commission?

I am hopeful because several of Culver’s appointments to this body have been quite good.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t underestimate the clout of corporate agriculture groups that will lobby the governor to replace Klemme with a person who is equally sympathetic to their interests. We saw this summer that agriculture trumped the environment on the task forces associated with the Rebuild Iowa Commission.

Whoever takes Klemme’s place on the Environmental Protection Commission, I view his resignation as a healthy sign. The majority of commission members are not willing to look the other way regarding the environmental impacts of CAFOs.

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EPC moves to block two new CAFOs in Dallas County

cross-posted at La Vida Locavore

The Iowa legislature and state agencies have notoriously failed to do anything to address the pollution problems stemming from confined-animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

But the Environmental Protection Commission took one small step in the right direction:

The state Environmental Protection Commission today rejected previously approved permits for two large hog confinements in Dallas County.

The surprise move came after a two-hour meeting in Urbandale at which commissioners said rules drawn up to dictate approval of large-scale confinement permits leave out important environmental considerations and neighbors’ quality-of-life concerns.

“There are battle lines being drawn on this, and it creates a political situation that the Legislature cannot ignore,” commission chairman Henry Marquard said.

Only a handful of permits have been denied in Iowa, but rarely has one been turned down after it met approval from the Department of Natural Resources and passed a complicated scoring system adopted by counties, including Dallas.

The nine-member commission voted to block these permits on a strong 6-2 vote. I wouldn’t be surprised if the matter ends up in court, however.

Noneed4thneed wrote about the controversy over the new Dallas County CAFOs in late July:

The proposed hog confinements would have a total of 7,440 hogs in rural Dallas County, which is the fastest growing county in the state. These confinements will produce as much waste as a town of 30,000 people and it will go untreated.

Earlier this month, Dallas County Supervisors voted against allowing these proposed hog confinements, but in reality there isn’t much the local people can do about the hog confinements that will be owned by the out of state company, Cargill.

We need federal legislation to make CAFOs pay for the harm they cause, because our state legislature has shown itself to be unwilling to act to protect air and water quality in Iowa.

But in the absence of federal action, a state law giving counties “local control” (agricultural zoning rights) would at least offer some protection. Some county supervisors would rubber-stamp every proposed CAFO, but others would follow the lead of the Dallas County supervisors.

For all I know, Cargill will sue to reinstate their permits to open these hog confinements. But however this story ends, it’s good to see the majority of the Environmental Protection Commission’s members doing something to protect the environment.

UPDATE: I learned from the online newsletter of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently denied a permit for a different proposed CAFO.

Because of the efforts of CCI members and other local residents, the DNR recently denied a 4,900-head hog factory proposed for southern Appanoose County. The permit application did not meet legal requirements, nor did their master matrix pass muster. Although the applicant for this proposed confinement is a local resident, the 4,900 hogs would have been owned by Cargill. Cargill, one of the largest privately-held corporations in the world, has been behind a number of proposed factory farms around the state, including two proposed 7,440-head hog factories in northwest Dallas County.

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Project Destiny Vote Today

(8:43 PM--Polk County voters have rejected Project Destiny. Now we're waiting on Dallas and Warren county results. Could be slow coming from Dallas County, as I've heard they had ballot machine problems.

8:31 PM--Destiny appears to be losing badly, track the news over at Iowa Independent.

7:57 PM--Bumped back up to the top for discussion as the polls start to close. - promoted by Chris Woods)

If you’re a Bleeding Heartland reader in Polk, Warren, or Dallas counties make sure you get out and vote today on the 28E Agreement, more generally known as Project Destiny.

Both desmoinesdem and myself have urged a no vote in previous posts (see here, here, here, and here) but if you want more information before you head out to your polling place, you can read information from Yes to Destiny (supporters) here and from NoLocalOption.com (opponents) here.

Finally, to find your polling location, click here.

Oh, and let us know what turnout is like in your area after you’ve voted.  I’m curious.

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Union leaders to oppse "Destiny" tax proposal

Desmoinesdem has previously written about Project Destiny–a tricounty joint venture between Polk, Dallas, and Warren Counties to increase the sales tax in the three communities by one cent–and urged you to vote against the plan.  And now the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, will announce on Thursday that they plan to oppose the sales tax increase as well.

From an advisory put out today:

“Union leadwers say voters should consider that “basic needs” are not being met in the three-county area. A regressive tax to finance so-called “quality of life” efforts such as bicycle trails, they say, should not take precedence over citizens’ fundamental needs.”

With strong labor opposition, who knows how the effort will fare on election day, July 10th.

Discussing and talking about the proposal is no easy subject.  Almost two weeks ago, CityView’s cover story was dedicated to the debate over Project Destiny.  The story offered more insight on the project, its supporters and opponents than the Register or any other local news stations have offered.  I recommend reading the full story to truly understand the debate behind Project Destiny.

The biggest opposition to the tax comes from taxpayers groups and citizens who feel that the sales tax increase is a regressive move that hits the poorest residents in these three counties the hardest.  And they’re right.  The fact is, the fundamentals for citizens in these areas aren’t even being provided and that is something that local government leaders should focus on first and foremost.

While I’m all about lowering property taxes in the area–because we could certainly use the decrease–the problem is that current tax revenue isn’t being spent wisely.  Not to mention that we’re already giving out large property tax breaks to the corporations who would receive the most benefit from the proposal were it to pass and they were to have their property taxes reduced further.  Inherently, the system is complex and difficult, but the focus should be on infrastructure priorities and essentials.

I want more trails, culture, and focus on the arts in the region.  But I can’t write off a disproportionate tax increase on the low-income and poorest people of the community to make our region better.  I just can’t.

For more information on the proposal, check out the supporters’ website and the opponents’ website.

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