# Local Government



If Grandma can Zoom, so can the government

Randy Evans: Too many government boards refuse to offer the virtual access that has become a part of everyday life for many Iowans.

In my day job, I wear the hat of the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has been around for 40-plus years.

We advocate on behalf of the public and journalists for government transparency and accountability to the people of this state.

Periodically, I speak to groups of government employees and elected officials. One question that often comes up in those settings and in individual conversations with government leaders is some version of, “How are we doing?”

These days, this is what I tell them if they ask.

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Board to scrap proposed open records rules, for now

UPDATE: The Iowa Public Information Board voted on August 18 not to proceed with these draft rules. They may look at open records rules again in the future but did not schedule a date for beginning the process. Original post follows.

The Iowa Public Information Board will not move forward with proposed administrative rules regarding open records requests, the board’s executive director Margaret Johnson told members of the Iowa legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee on July 19. Instead, the board’s rules committee will consider feedback next month and put the matter on the agenda for the full board’s September meeting.

Board members have not yet determined whether to let the proposed rule die by taking no action, or whether to post a formal notice of termination. Nor have they decided whether to draft a new version of open records rules after scrapping their first effort.

Johnson said the board had heard from eight speakers at a public hearing on July 11 and received nineteen written comments on the draft rule. (Board staff provided copies of those comments to Bleeding Heartland.)

When summarizing for state lawmakers the criticism the information board received, Johnson did not mention transparency advocates’ concerns about language that would create new excuses for officials wanting to delay providing records. Rather, she highlighted three objections offered by those representing government bodies.

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Linn County supervisors approve conversion therapy ban

The Linn County Board of Supervisors voted on June 13 to “prohibit any efforts by service providers to change sexual orientation and/or gender identity of minors, including conversion and reparative therapy,” in unincorporated areas of the county.

“Conversion therapy” refers to efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and has been widely discredited as ineffective and traumatizing for youth. Associations representing medical professionals, counselors, and therapists have denounced the practice for many years.

Supervisor Stacey Walker led efforts to pass the ordinance, and Supervisor Ben Rogers (also a Democrat) provided the second vote in favor. When the board considered the third and final reading, Walker said the policy “will save lives” and described it as “a moral imperative for all policymakers who take seriously their job of protecting the health and welfare of the people.”

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Fairfield, Iowa declares second annual Pride Month

Dominica Borg is perpetually enamored with the Midwest’s landscapes, people, and wind driven weather. Their interests are food, farming, conservation, small business, and equal rights.

Supporters of Fairfield’s second annual Pride Month gathered at City Hall an hour before the May 23 city council meeting. By the time Mayor Connie Boyer arrived, a large circle had formed. The mayor greeted the group and stepped in with a smile, confirming she had the proclamation and would read it.

Once City Hall was unlocked, the meeting room filled quickly. All available chairs were brought out until the room was at maximum capacity.

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George Flagg Parkway must be renamed

The Des Moines Black Liberation Movement and Des Moines People’s Town Hall co-authored this piece. Des Moines BLM can be reached through Facebook, Twitter, or email: contact@desmoinesblm.org. Des Moines People’s Town Hall can be reached through Facebook, Twitter, or the group’s website.

The City of Des Moines will soon begin plans to make major alterations to George Flagg Parkway on the south side. The road grade will be raised several feet above the floodplain. Part of the road will also be realigned to connect to SW 30th St to avoid flooding on this heavily-used truck route.

The investment of millions of taxpayer dollars into this project should not happen without conversation around the road’s current namesake. We created our petition to showcase public support for changing the name.

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Pott Co residents deserve a say in spending pandemic funds

Linda Nelson is a retired school teacher of 37 years, a past president of the Iowa State Education Association, and a former member of the Iowa House.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. This familiar adage – like all of the good ones – rings true far too often in everyday life. We’ve all had experiences that make us shake our heads and think, “I should have known better.” 

Luckily, in Pottawattamie County, we do know better. In fact, if we act now, we have an opportunity to learn our lesson and stop the County Board of Supervisors from fooling us twice.

As you read this column, decisions about how to spend $9 million in second round American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds may very well be happening. If they aren’t, they’ll be happening soon. And it’s up to county residents to demand a say in how these funds are spent.

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