Events coming up this week

Public hearings are scheduled today through Thursday in Council Bluffs, Bettendorf, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines to discuss the Legislative Services Agency’s redistricting proposal. Citizens will be able to listen in to some of those hearings at other locations around Iowa. Times and places are after the jump, along with details on other events taking place around the state this week.

As always, post a comment or contact me by e-mail if you know if a public event worth adding to this calendar.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

The days are getting warmer and longer, early wildflowers are starting to come up, and two of my favorite spring events in Iowa are happening the next two weekends. The Planned Parenthood spring book sale starts this Thursday and continues through Monday at the State Fairgrounds (4H building). This semi-annual sale supports the education and community outreach programs of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, covering most of Iowa and part of Nebraska. Come Thursday night or Friday for the best selection, Sunday or Monday for the lowest prices.

The sixth annual Natural Living Expo will be held April 2 and 3 at the Polk County Convention Complex in Des Moines. This free event showcases more than 100 natural and/or environmentally friendly Iowa businesses and community organizations. I’ll be helping staff the tables for a couple of non-profits, but I always look forward to browsing during my break times.

Like many in the Bleeding Heartland community, I’m excited to see the new map of Iowa political boundaries, which the Legislative Services Agency will release on March 31. The LSA will hold public meetings around the state on April 4 to discuss the proposed map.

Details on those events and much more are after the jump. As always, please post a comment or send me an e-mail if you know of an event that should be added to this calendar.

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Events coming up this week

I couldn’t keep up with posting weekly calendars at the height of campaign season, but I’m determined to get back on track.

Events that got lost in the shuffle include the 1000 Friends of Iowa annual meeting in late October, where the 2010 Best Development Awards were announced, and the grand opening of the Roshek Building in Dubuque on November 9. This historic building holds several local businesses and offices for about 1,300 IBM employees. The redevelopment project earned the city of Dubuque a U.S. Commerce Department award for economic development excellence.

I also wish I’d flagged the recent groundbreaking of West Union’s Green Pilot Streetscape.

“Today is certainly a milestone, not only for the people of West Union and Fayette County, but for all Iowans and, in fact, much of the nation,” David Yocca, senior partner of Conservation Design Forum, later agreed. “The reconstruction of a significant portion of the public realm of West Union as planned is one of, if not the most integrated, wholistic, forward-looking efforts that has been done on any street anywhere in this country.”

He explained that the future West Union downtown district will represent an emerging example of green infrastructure, which will serve communities by creating safer, more comfortable, walkable and bikable streets; improve the health of local water, air, and soil;

Restore hydrology and the natural environment; provide long-term cost savings and value over convention infrastructure; support local businesses and job creation; and provide a more beautiful, authentic setting for outdoor use and enjoyment.

The improvements in downtown West Union will be fantastic. Unfortunately, Republican candidates all over Iowa misrepresented this project to spread lies about Democrats funding “heated sidewalks.”

Details on some of this week’s events around the state are after the jump. Pleast post a comment or e-mail me directly about other events worth noting.  

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So-called energy package a disgrace for Democrats

If the “energy package” about to emerge in the Senate looks anything like what Kate Sheppard is hearing, Senate Democrats should be ashamed. I threw in the towel on the climate bill a long time ago, because it was clear no serious attempt to address global warming could gain 60 votes in the Senate. Still, I thought some decent provisions might survive in a scaled-back energy bill.

Not so, according to Sheppard, who’s among the best reporters covering climate legislation. Sources from “several Senate offices” told her what’s likely to be in the new bill, and what will be conspicuously absent:

Obviously, there’s no carbon cap, that much we already knew. But there’s also no other major energy efficiency standards, and, perhaps most importantly, no renewable electricity standard -not even the weak one included in the energy bill last year. […]

Senate aides hoping to put a positive spin on the package note that it at least does not include any of the really bad measures that progressive senators were worried about, including major incentives for coal and nuclear power and the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

Are we supposed to be impressed that the largest Democratic Senate majority in decades won’t press ahead with “really bad measures” for the environment?

For all of President Barack Obama’s talk about our clean energy future, we won’t even get a renewable electricity standard to boost wind and solar production. We won’t get new energy efficiency standards, even though reducing demand for electricity tends to be faster and cheaper than building new facilities to generate electricity.

The American Wind Energy Association put out an action alert urging people to contact their senators demanding a renewable electricity standard in the energy bill. If you are so inclined, you can contact your senators through this page. I will contact the offices of Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley, although doing so probably won’t accomplish anything.

This disgrace gives me yet another reason not to donate to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the future. I don’t plan to waste my money or volunteer time on Organizing for America either. Obama failed to use his bully pulpit to produce a good climate bill and made stupid concessions to polluting industries along the way. He’s so afraid of losing a legislative battle that he didn’t even fight the good fight. But when he signs this worthless energy bill, he’ll probably declare victory in a very inspiring speech.

UPDATE: How pathetic–a White House official provides a blind quote to Politico blaming environmental groups for the Senate’s failure to pass a broad climate bill:

“They didn’t deliver a single Republican,” the official told POLITICO. “They spent like $100 million and they weren’t able to get a single Republican convert on the bill.”

Poor Mr. President. He could have delivered on one of his major campaign promises if the environmentalists hadn’t let him down.

SECOND UPDATE: I couldn’t agree more with Transportation 4 America: “With the Senate backing down on a real climate bill, it’s more important than ever that next transport bill helps make climate progress.”

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Our Senators, the Climate Bill, and Tying Your Shoes with One Hand

Last Thursday, the Senate voted 53 to 47 to defeat the Murkowski resolution that would have undermined the EPA's ability to reduce global warming pollution. The vote provides a useful guide to how senators might act on a climate vote.

Of course, it is not a clear-cut comparison because some people voted against the flawed resolution to make a point about process or simply to support the science. It is significant to note that we have 10 more votes in favor of reducing carbon emissions than we did the last time climate change was discussed on the Senate floor two years ago.

But here is what I find most interesting about last week's vote: the number of Senators who have all publicly exclaimed that global warming is a pressing problem but who voted to block the EPA from dealing with it. Are they sitting on an “election year fence” or are the deep pockets of Big Oil & Coal companies propping up their campaign contribution fences? The question must be asked – Why do these senators benefit from burning caveman fuels?

Senator Rockefeller, for instance, said: “I am not here to deny or bicker fruitlessly about the science… In fact, I would suggest that I think the science is correct. Greenhouse gas emissions are not healthy for the Earth or her people, and we must take significant action to reduce them. We must develop and deploy clean energy, period.”

And yet the man voted to hamstring the EPA. Indeed, Senator Rockefeller intends to push his own bill that would put the EPA's effort to confront global warming on hold–giving West Virginia's coal industry a free pass for two more years.

Senator Chambliss from Georgia, meanwhile, said, “I know the climate is changing.” And Senator Hutchison from Texas declared: “As a solution to climate change, we need to work together to promote the use of clean and renewable sources of energy….It is important that we work together. We are the elected representatives of the people.”

And yet both of them voted against one of our main tools for combating global warming pollution: the EPA.

I'm sorry, but if you really believe this is a crisis, why wouldn't you want to fight it with every weapon available? Why wouldn't you deploy the muscle of both Congress AND the federal government?

While I was listening to last week's debate, I couldn't help but be reminded of teaching my three-year-old how to tie her shoes. I showed her how to do it with two hands, of course. Why on earth would I suggest she do it with one?

Yet that is what these Senators seem to be proposing. Senator Collins from Maine said:
“I believe global climate change and the development of alternatives to fossil fuels are significant and urgent priorities for our country.”

Why would she want us to fight global warming with one hand tied behind our back?

On the one hand, these statements are good news – despite the yelping of Inhofe and Hatch, the Senate is not a bastion of climate deniers. There's even a consensus that something must be done. The bad news is they're still not doing it. What is it that these Senators actually would support that isn't just some vague theory?

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