Iowans remember Donna Red Wing

Iowa progressives have been mourning the loss of a longtime advocate for justice and LGBTQ equality this week. Since Donna Red Wing passed away on April 16, Iowans who knew her well have shared their reflections and stories. With permission, I’ve posted some of those comments below.

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Jonathan Narcisse, Remembered

State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad’s tribute to his friend Jonathan Narcisse. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Jonathan Narcisse, advocate, media presence, and publisher of several newspapers, including “The Bystander,” Iowa’s most enduring publication geared towards an African American audience, died last Saturday, February 17. He was 54–young, but not unusual for a black man in America.

He was also my former campaign manager, business associate, peer, and friend. So I write this with sadness in my heart for the loss Iowa experiences as a result of his death, and with joy in my soul that he is no longer in pain.

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Rest in peace, Scott Galindez

“Private insurance has failed me all of my life,” wrote Scott Galindez in his final commentary, a passionate call for single-payer health care. Two days later, the longtime progressive activist and journalist passed away, having ceased dialysis treatments for complications from diabetes. His insurance carrier, Aetna, had refused to cover kidney transplant surgery at a local hospital.

Galindez had lived in Des Moines since 2015, when he moved here to cover the Iowa caucuses. Though he and I occasionally interacted on Facebook, I didn’t know him personally and had no idea he was gravely ill. He landed on my radar through his writing for Reader Supported News, where he worked as political director. He wrote on his bio page for that website,

Over the years I have worked with many Heroes in the fight for Peace and Justice. Phillip Berrigan and Mitch Snyder taught me that it wasn’t about what I could do alone, but what we could do together. Phil was more patient than Mitch, he knew that victory was a long way off, and that each changed mind put us one step closer to a peaceful, just world. That is one of the reasons I am at Reader Supported News, because I can reach more people than I could by organizing a protest. I am committed to fighting for a world without war, poverty and injustice.

Many of my acquaintances knew Galindez well through Bernie Sanders supporter circles and Our Revolution–Iowa, for which he was an early and active organizer. Despite chronic health problems, he continued to write and advocate and cover events, like this health care rally last winter.

I admired his commitment and encourage Bleeding Heartland readers to join me in donating to Reader Supported News in his memory. Friends can attend a visitation for Galindez on October 9, starting at 1:00 pm at Dunn’s Funeral Home, 2121 Grand Avenue in Des Moines. A memorial service will follow at Glendale Cemetery, 4909 University Ave.

Excerpts from Galindez’s final post and obituary are after the jump, but please click through to read both pieces in full.

UPDATE: Added below more details about the planned memorial service and call to action. Many activists will be there, along with at least two Democratic candidates: gubernatorial contender Cathy Glasson and Pete D’Alessandro, who’s running in the third Congressional district. LATER UPDATE: Jon Neiderbach, another candidate for governor and supporter of single-payer health care, will attend the memorial.

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Throwback Thursday: When Greg Forristall fought against putting commerce ahead of education

Republican State Representative Greg Forristall passed away yesterday at the age of 67. First elected to the Iowa House in 2006, he was most recently vice chair of the Education Committee and also served on the Human Resources, Labor, and Ways and Means committees. He had been battling cancer for some time and was too ill to participate in the last few weeks of this year’s legislative session.

In a written statement, Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kaufmann described Forristall as a “friend to conservatives across our state” and a “happy warrior” in the Ronald Reagan tradition. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said Forristall “was a dedicated public servant to the people he represented and an advocate for the arts and education, two issues that he was incredibly passionate for.”

I never met Forristall, but one episode stands out for me as I think about his legislative career. The first two years after Republicans regained their Iowa House majority, Forristall chaired the Education Committee. House leaders reassigned him to lead the Labor Committee in 2013, a position he retained through the 2016 legislative session.

Why did then House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Majority Leader Upmeyer take the Education Committee away from Forristall, knowing how much he cared about that issue? I never saw any public confirmation, but the Iowa political rumor mill pointed to Forristall’s stance on one controversial bill.

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Friends and former colleagues remember Rich Olive

Former State Senator Rich Olive died of cancer yesterday at the age of 66. He represented Wright and Hamilton counties, along with some rural areas in Story and Webster counties, from 2007 through 2010. During that time, he chaired the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee.

Many Iowans who knew Olive through his work in the legislature agreed to share some of their memories with Bleeding Heartland readers.

Photo of Rich Olive at the capitol taken by Senate Democratic staff; used with permission.

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Rest in peace, David Hurd

Broken Kettle Grasslands near Sioux City, Iowa–photo by Matt Hauge, used with permission

David Hurd passed away in Des Moines this weekend at the age of 86. Police have ruled out foul play in his deadly fall from his condominium building but have not announced whether he took his own life or fell accidentally. He had been suffering from Lewy body disease, a progressive condition.

Hurd was a legendary figure in local business circles, a past CEO of Principal Financial and member of the Iowa Business Hall of Fame since 1994. He left a bigger mark on the capital city than most people of comparable wealth have done. The Des Moines Register’s Lissandra Villa wrote about some of his philanthropic contributions here.

Many progressive organizations benefited from Hurd’s generosity, but it would be particularly hard to overstate how much he did for Iowa’s environmental community. Morgan Gstalter reported for the Register on Hurd’s gift that allowed the Nature Conservancy to acquire the first portion of the Broken Kettle Grasslands in the Loess Hills area: “Now at 3,217 acres, Broken Kettle is Iowa’s largest remaining native prairie and is home to bison and rattlesnakes.” The photo at the top of this post shows a tiny part of the stunning landscape. That gift alone would have secured Hurd’s legacy in the environmental world, but he was just getting started.

I became acquainted with Hurd during several years when we served together on the Iowa Environmental Council board. He was a co-founder of the organization. A few qualities stick out in my mind. First, he was attentive but generally quiet during meetings–the opposite of some business types who tend to dominate group conversations. Possibly reading my mind, Principal’s current CEO Dan Houston told the Register that Hurd was “one of the smartest guys you’d ever meet” but also “a very humble man, very capable, diverse, global, international and kind. He listened so, so very well.” Yes. Hurd was frequently the smartest guy in the room, but he never made a big deal about being the smartest guy in the room.

Hurd didn’t throw his weight around. He never pulled rank on any other board member, despite having given more money to the council than anyone else. I never heard of him trying to interfere with staff work, which large benefactors of many organizations have been known to do. When new ideas or programs were floated, he wanted to know about real-world impact: how would doing this thing potentially make Iowa’s water cleaner, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Even more unusual for a prominent person in the business community, Hurd did not restrict his giving to environmental organizations I consider “politically correct,” such as the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation or the Nature Conservancy. He supported non-profits that opposed powerful corporate interests in our state. I’m thinking not only of the Iowa Environmental Council, which pushed for water quality rules that Big Ag groups fought all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court. He was a consistent donor to 1000 Friends of Iowa (on whose board I also serve), and our sustainable land use agenda is not popular with developers.

During his retirement, Hurd helped create the local Scrabble club. When people who had played against him would talk about how competitive he was at the game, I was always amused. In other contexts, he came across as laid back and didn’t give off a competitive vibe at all–which also struck me as atypical for a major corporation’s onetime CEO.

At the CNN Democratic candidates’ town hall a few days before the Iowa caucuses, I spotted David and his wife Trudy in the audience and went over to say a quick hello. I wish I had known that was my chance to say goodbye.

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