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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Outliers

Stacey Walker has chaired the Linn County Board of Supervisors since January. He delivered this State of the County Address on May 8. -promoted by Laura Belin

It is with great pride that I stand before you today, with the awesome task of presenting the state of the county address: an occasion I’m sure everyone here has been looking forward to since the date was announced. I know in my heart that you’re all here because you want to be, and not because your employer bought a table and needed it to be filled.

My sincere thanks to the women and men of the League of Women Voters for doing the hard work of organizing this event – and many others – designed to keep the general public informed of and engaged in the happenings of our democracy. You all are heroes.

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Iowa Privatized Medicaid: It Has Been A Disaster. Here’s Why.

By Simon Davis-Cohen for Tarbell.org

This is a reprint from Tarbell.org, a news website pioneering journalism that reveals who runs America and empowers readers with solutions. Read this on Tarbell.org.

If you have any feedback on this piece, please contact Tarbell’s engagement editor, Danielle Keeton-Olsen, at danielle@tarbell.org.

In 2016, Iowa privatized Medicaid under then-Governor Terry Branstad. He was a founding member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). “Obamacare” is often attacked by the David and Charles Koch-backed group that opposes government action in health care or the economy.

Branstad claimed outsourcing Medicaid would save the state and taxpayers money. However, Iowa has not been able to provide any data that shows privatization saved the state money. In fact, privatization is now costing Iowa money. (Branstad resigned the governorship in 2017 to become the U.S. Ambassador to China.)

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A 2 percent solution to a nonexistent problem

ISU economist Dave Swenson exposes how a Republican property tax bill relies on flawed assumptions and would make the “important job of governing harder” for cities and counties. -promoted by Laura Belin

It is a common canard among the anti-property taxers that city and county governments, those closest to the electorate, are gouging unsuspecting taxpayers. It is their rallying lament, and it requires no substantiation, just confident assertion.

As is frequently the case with made-up woes like this, Iowa House Republicans have a solution. The remedy is House Study Bill 165, a bill to place limits on city and county government property tax growth.

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County treasurers' debacle is teachable moment for Iowa officials, attorneys

Top officials in the Iowa State County Treasurers Association voted on March 27 to discontinue a controversial scholarship program, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press.

Earlier this month, all 99 county treasurers received the latest call for scholarship applications. Since then, longstanding doubts about the program’s legality reached a wider audience after Foley revealed that two county treasurers had vacationed last fall with the owner of a company doing business with their offices.

The bad publicity could have been avoided if treasurers and those advising them had been committed to complying with Iowa’s gift law, even when no one was looking.

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Some county treasurers have flouted Iowa gift law for years

Enforcement of Iowa ethics law is a joke.

Dubuque County Treasurer Eric Stierman and Winneshiek County Treasurer Wayne Walter stayed for free in a vendor’s Florida condo a few months ago, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on March 13. The condo’s owner is Marc Carr, whose company GovTech Services collects local taxes for most of the state’s counties. The officials “denied any wrongdoing, describing Carr as a friend with whom they had previously vacationed in Florida.”

Iowa gift law does not exempt friends or vacations. While Stierman and Walter committed a particularly outrageous violation, their disregard for the code is hardly surprising.

For years, the Iowa State County Treasurer’s Association and the Iowa State Association of Counties have enabled and encouraged gifts to county treasurers from GovTech and SRI Incorporated, which handles online tax auctions. Since 2014, the two companies have paid for scholarships available only to children and grandchildren of county treasurers or their employees.

The mission of the association of counties is “to promote effective and responsible county government.” Yet the group’s top attorney Kristi Harshbarger helped devise a scheme to offer the scholarships despite the apparent gift law problem. Later, Harshbarger pushed back hard against an ethics board opinion that the program did not comply with the statute.

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