Iowa remains among worst states for racial disparities

Midwestern states continue to have greater “racial disparities in economic opportunity and economic outcomes” than do other regions of the U.S., while “policy interventions designed to close those gaps are meager,” concludes a new report by Colin Gordon of the University of Iowa and the Iowa Policy Project.

Gordon’s findings are consistent with past research showing that African Americans in Iowa face pervasive barriers in many areas of life. By some measures, our state’s racial disparities are among the worst in the Midwest region and the country.

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Why we need Cory Booker in this race

Ryan Stevenson is a field organizer for Cory Booker’s presidential campaign in Waterloo. -promoted by Laura Belin

I first heard about Cory Booker in my political communications class in 2012. We watched a documentary about a young man, eager to change his community while battling a political machine. Looking back, Newark is a lot like Waterloo: a large minority population without a lot of opportunities for those minorities. Just last year, it was said that Waterloo is the worst place in America for African Americans.

It was difficult for me to get through that class and the rest of my classes, because I knew at the end of the semester I would be turning myself in to the Federal Bureau of Corrections.

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Twelve quick takes on the third Democratic debate

First disclaimer: I don’t agree with the Democratic National Committee’s debate criteria and encourage Iowans to keep listening to all the presidential candidates.

Second disclaimer: I doubt anything that happens more than four months before anyone votes will significantly affect the battle for the Democratic nomination. As Dan Guild has shown, history tells us more than half of Iowa Democrats who participated in the 2004 and 2008 caucuses decided in the final month.

That said, here are my thoughts on last night’s three-hour debate at Texas Southern University in Houston.

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Newest Iowa House member Ross Wilburn on his work, inspiration

State Representative Ross Wilburn took the oath of office on September 6 to represent Iowa House district 46, covering part of Ames in Story County. Republicans did not field a candidate against him in the August 6 special election to fill the seat vacated by Story County Supervisor Lisa Heddens.

In a September 6 telephone interview, Wilburn said he hasn’t been assigned to committees yet and probably will not know those assignments until November. He’s interested in many aspects of the legislature’s work, including human services (he has a master’s degree in social work), local government or transportation (he’s a former Iowa City mayor and city council member), and veterans’ affairs (he served in the Army National Guard). Education is also a high priority for Wilburn and of great importance to his constituents. Iowa State University is the dominant employer and community presence in Ames. Wilburn is diversity officer and associate director for community economic development at ISU Extension and Outreach.

Wilburn told me he’s looking forward to returning to public service and getting to work for constituents. The issues that came up most often during his conversations with voters this summer were mental health care, Medicaid privatization, public employee collective bargaining rights, and adequate funding for K-12 as well as higher education.

During his swearing-in ceremony, Wilburn recalled that when he first decided to run for city council, he was visiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and was near the marker where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Reflecting today on the Iowa legislators who came before him, Wilburn recalled the example set by Willie Stevenson Glanton. The second African-American woman admitted to the Iowa bar, Glanton was the first woman to serve as assistant Polk County attorney and in 1964 (the year of Wilburn’s birth) became the first African-American woman elected to the Iowa House. Wilburn had the opportunity to meet Glanton during his time on Iowa City’s council and was inspired by her.

The Iowa House now has a full complement of 100 members again: 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats. Wilburn is one of five African Americans serving in the chamber, along with fellow Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, and Phyllis Thede. This year’s House Democratic caucus was the first in Iowa legislative history to have a majority of women, but Andy McKean’s party switch in April, Heddens’ retirement, and Wilburn’s election shifts the balance back to 24 men and 23 women. (Ten women and 43 men are part of the Iowa House Republican caucus.)

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Tribal sovereignty and Elizabeth Warren's problem with her Cherokee heritage claim

Tom Witosky is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and was a longtime investigative reporter for the Des Moines Register. -promoted by Laura Belin

Much has been written about U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and her most recent apology about her Native American heritage claim.

The Massachusetts senator opened her presentation at last month’s Native American presidential forum in Sioux City by acknowledging that the controversy over her claims of Cherokee heritage had caused harm.

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Solutions to bullying needed now

Iowa Safe Schools executive director Nate Monson has been hearing more reports of bullying incidents in Iowa schools since the 2016 election. -promoted by Laura Belin

The end of August means the start of another school year. For many students, it is a time of reconnecting with their peers, teachers, and engaging in the educational process.

But for some students, school can be a terrifying experience because of bullying.

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