# Polk County



Why we must elect people who understand the literacy crisis

Shelley Skuster: We can interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by supporting Kimberly Graham for Polk County Attorney.

The largest school district in the state is in the middle of a full-blown literacy crisis, and every candidate running for an elected office should be talking about it.

In Des Moines Public Schools, less than half of all students in grades K-3 know how to read. When it comes to Black children, the statistics are even more alarming. In fact, only 36 percent of Black boys enrolled in Des Moines Public Schools know how to read at a third-grade level.

If we don’t interrupt this literacy crisis right now, you might as well polish off a set of handcuffs because there’s a clear correlation between one’s ability to read and the likelihood they’ll end up in jail.

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Don’t let Polk County politicians pick their voters

Matt McCoy is a Polk County supervisor representing District 5.

For decades, Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting process has been the gold standard for congressional and legislative districts. This has been the fairest way to redraw district boundaries and prohibit the practice of gerrymandering and political bias.

A recent change in state law has brought the Iowa gold standard redistricting process to counties. Polk County received a non-partisan plan that is compact, contiguous, and most importantly nearly equal in population with a standard deviation of 0.03 percent to 0.28 percent. 

While Iowa has passed a non-partisan map for decades, Polk County has gerrymandered to favor incumbents and allowed them to pick their voters.

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Interview: John Norwood outlines his vision for Iowa agriculture

Polk County Soil and Water Commissioner John Norwood announced on February 7 that he will run for Iowa secretary of agriculture as a Democrat. In a news release enclosed at the end of this post, Norwood promised to “protect urban and rural consumers, expand economic opportunities around diversified food and agricultural production, and advocate for the needs of ALL food, grain, and livestock producers.”

He added that he wants to create a “a modern vision for Iowa for its highly productive but “unbalanced” agricultural system,” in order to provide “healthy soil, clean air, swimmable/fishable waters and safe drinking water for everyone.”

Norwood expanded on his vision in a recent telephone interview with Bleeding Heartland. (Disclosure: I have known the candidate since before this website existed and consider him a friend.)

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A new vision for Iowa agriculture and Iowans

John Norwood is a Polk County Soil and Water Commissioner.

These are my prepared remarks from the June 17 event announcing the Central Iowa Water Quality Infrastructure Project. I initiated a new bundled approach with the help of many others after attending an agricultural field day several years ago, where I wondered, how we could improve our effectiveness? Polk County, state, and federal government agencies are involved with the project; Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig also spoke at Thursday’s kickoff.

The program is novel because Polk County is moving from single installations that used to require each landowner hiring a contractor, to batch installations of 50 and next year more than 100, using a general contractor bidding approach run by the county. The Soil and Water Conservation District actively targets sites using mapping technology and direct landowner outreach to secure participation, as opposed to waiting for landowners to come forward. The county, state, and municipal sources provided 100 percent cost share, and the installation is largely turnkey for the participants.

Secretary Naig, my fellow commissioners, partners, members of the media, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen:

I appreciate the opportunity to join you all today to celebrate this innovative ground-breaking, systematic approach to getting things done. This strategy was born from a chance meeting with Charlie Schafer at a field day several years ago, me asking a lot of questions out of curiosity, followed by several coffee conversations, where together we began to reimagine a new way for delivering conservation infrastructure at scale. And then we widened the circle to include other key players in the conversation who built on the vision and drove it forward with the help of many others. Two of whom you will hear from in a few minutes.

First let me note that this type of locally led effort can be tailored whether we are delivering water quality infrastructure or soil health systems. If the strategies are scalable, turnkey, and targeted, the impact can be magnified many times. What we do in Polk County can be replicated in any of our other 98 counties, and as a “learning organization” that is how my District can support a larger effort. Stay tuned.  

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Rest in peace, Mary Maloney

Democrats all over Iowa were saddened by the news that Polk County Treasurer Mary Maloney died unexpectedly on January 29. Many who offered their condolences on social media described Maloney as a true public servant. Her work since 1989 to modernize the treasurer’s office and keep it running smoothly was highly regarded. She was often the highest vote-getter in Iowa’s largest county when she was on the ballot, even outperforming other Polk County officials who ran for re-election unopposed.

Many personal friends and colleagues remarked on how kind and caring Maloney was. I’ve enclosed some remembrances below. Although I didn’t know Maloney well, her kindness came through in all of my interactions with her over the years.

The Bleeding Heartland community sends healing thoughts to all of Mary Maloney’s loved ones, especially her husband and four children.

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