Resolved: Iowa communities want piece of clean energy future

This commentary by Andy Johnson and Jim Martin-Schramm first appeared in the Cedar Rapids Gazette on October 13. -promoted by Laura Belin

At last count, a precedent-setting 61 city councils and county boards of supervisors in Iowa have passed resolutions asking the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to deny most or all of Alliant Energy’s proposed increase to base electric and gas rates.

IUB dockets aren’t generally on local government agendas, so what’s happening across eastern and northern Iowa?

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Iowa Senate district 28 preview: Michael Breitbach vs. Matt Tapscott

A few words about the title: Republican State Senator Michael Breitbach has told some constituents and people connected to the legislature he does not plan to seek a third term in 2020. So Matt Tapscott may end up running for an open Iowa Senate seat.

In response to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiry, Breitbach commented via e-mail on October 14, “There is plenty of time for me to make my decision whether to run again in 2020. I was very happy with the support I received in my last election and I feel I have been successful during my time in the Senate.”

Having covered the Iowa legislature for more than a decade, I’ve learned to be skeptical about retirement rumors. Party leaders have a way of talking reluctant incumbents into seeking re-election. Breitbach has good committee assignments; not only does he chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, he also serves on the Commerce and Transportation panels.

So until Breitbach publicly announces he’s done, I assume he will be on the ballot next November in one of eighteen Iowa Senate districts where voters favored President Barack Obama in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016.*

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David vs. Goliath: Reflections on a special election in Decorah, Iowa

Community organizer Tabita Green provides a fascinating inside view of a hard-fought local referendum. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In a northeast Iowa town known for its Norwegian heritage, eagles, and beer, a grassroots effort to “topple Goliath” (aka Alliant Energy) almost succeeded—even in the face of extreme opposition from the corporate energy giant. A special election on May 1 to authorize the City of Decorah to establish a municipal electric utility (MEU) resulted in a three-vote win by the Alliant-funded “No” campaign. That is the good news.

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Decorah recognized as Iowa River Town of the Year

The Winneshiek County seat of Decorah has a well-deserved reputation as one of Iowa’s most environmental-minded towns. Organic farmers and gardeners from all over the country have long relied on Seed Savers Exchange as a source for heirloom vegetable seeds and herbs. Two years ago, Luther College installed Iowa’s largest solar array. Small-scale renewable energy allows a growing number of people in the Decorah area to live “off the grid.”

This month, the non-profit group Iowa Rivers Revival honored Decorah for “efforts by the city and its many partners to make the Upper Iowa River the heart and soul of the community and a focus for recreation, economic development, and environmental stewardship.” The news release I’ve enclosed below highlights an impressive range of programs and projects, which have made the Upper Iowa River both cleaner and more usable for locals and tourists. Here’s hoping many other city leaders and Iowa school districts will learn from Decorah’s success.

UPDATE: The April edition of Smithsonian magazine ranked Decorah as number 19 on its list of America’s 20 “best small towns” to visit. The story noted, “Decorah sits in the heart of Iowa’s bluff country, an area heralded for scenic beauty and wildlife. Dunning Springs, just minutes from downtown Decorah, is a 200-foot waterfall-visitors can explore the area by bike or via a network of hiking trails.”

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