COVID-19 crisis underscores how vital information is

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. -promoted by Laura Belin

We have all become acutely aware in the past few weeks why masks and face shields, respirators and ventilators are so important for hospital workers and their patients.

The supply is not keeping up with the need, and that could have dire consequences for the doctors, nurses, and patients.

Likewise, the novel coronavirus crisis has underscored the importance of another valuable commodity — access to accurate, authoritative information.

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How delaying property tax enforcement affects Iowa taxpayers, local government

Jon Muller is a semi-retired public policy analyst and sporadic blogger at jonathonmuller.com.-promoted by Laura Belin

Governor Kim Reynolds’ March 20 proclamation related to the COVID-19 pandemic suspended provisions of Iowa law imposing penalties and interest on late property tax payments.

Iowa’s 99 county governments collect property taxes and distribute the funds to themselves and other taxing authorities, such as school districts, cities, community colleges, or townships. The taxes paid by property owners are technically due on March 1 and September 1 of each year. Normally, penalties and interest begin to accrue on April 1 and October 1, respectively.

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Republican bill to protect housing discrimination part of a pattern

Matt Chapman closely follows Iowa legislative happenings. -promoted by Laura Belin

The Iowa Senate Local Government Committee has approved a bill that would prevent municipalities from banning discrimination against tenants based on their source of income.

Senate Study Bill 3178 is yet another attack by the majority party on some of the most vulnerable Iowans. Section 8 housing vouchers are for those with nowhere to go, and they only cover half of the rent on apartments or houses.

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Des Moines City Council members flouted gender balance requirement

Two Des Moines City Council members seeking re-election on November 5 used their appointment powers to perpetuate a gender imbalance on a key board in the state’s largest city, despite a state law requiring certain local boards to have no more than a simple majority of male or female members.

Joe Gatto, who represents Ward 4, and Linda Westergaard (Ward 2) both named men to fill vacancies on the Des Moines Plan and Zoning Commission when state law indicated a woman should have been appointed. Gatto has done so twice. The second time, his choice worsened the commission’s imbalance and happened well before the end of a statutory period during which officials are supposed to make a “good faith effort” to find someone from the underrepresented gender.

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Des Moines takes courageous first step to a Climate Action Plan

UPDATE: The council approved the ordinance by 5 votes to 2, with Mayor Frank Cownie, Connie Boesen, Chris Coleman, Bill Gray, and Josh Mandelbaum voting yes. Joe Gatto and Linda Westergaard opposed the ordinance.

Sheila Knoploh-Odole is an attorney and local sustainability consultant who served on the advisory committee for the Des Moines Energy Policy Task Force. -promoted by Laura Belin

With a surprising vote of 7-0, the Des Moines City Council voted on April 22 (Earth Day) to advance a proposed ordinance for energy- and water-use benchmarking in buildings over 25,000 square feet throughout the City. On Monday, June 3, they will take the final vote to make this ordinance city policy.

By measuring the energy and water use of large buildings, Des Moines is poised to address its goal of lowering citywide greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent by 2025. This ordinance won’t cover the entire goal, but will put the city on a path of reducing up to 16 percent overall – IF certain unpopular parts of the ordinance are maintained.

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