Iowa City recognized for strong LGBT equality policies

Iowa City received a perfect score and four other Iowa cities above-average scores in Human Rights Campaign’s new Municipal Equality Index. The LGBT advocacy group evaluated 353 cities across the country to see how inclusive their “laws, policies, and services” were for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people “who live and work there.” You can read more about the ratings criteria here. According to KCRG, the national average score was 59.

Iowa City was one of 38 municipalities to receive a perfect score of 100. Human Rights Campaign awarded scores of 86 to Davenport, 85 to Des Moines, 68 to Cedar Rapids, and 61 to Sioux City. Council Bluffs was not rated, but just across the Missouri River, Omaha received a score of 51.

KCRG noted in its report,

Iowa City did lose points in several areas, including not having transgender-inclusive health benefits or an ordinance requiring equal benefits from city contractors. However, the city also scored well in the bonus point system that was also part of the Human Rights Campaign’s rating.

You can view the detailed Municipal Equality Index ratings on Iowa City here, Davenport here, Des Moines here, Cedar Rapids here, and Sioux City here.

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FAA closing Dubuque air traffic control; Waterloo, Sioux City spared for now

The Federal Aviation Administration announced yesterday that beginning on April 7, it will close 149 air traffic control towers across the country. The Dubuque Regional Airport tower is the only Iowa facility on the list (pdf). An airport official told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald that service in and out of the airport will continue. I haven’t seen any reports confirming which facility will route air traffic in and out of Dubuque after April 7.

The cuts are related to the “sequester” of federal budget funds, which began last month. Originally the FAA had planned to close more air traffic control towers, including those in Waterloo and Sioux City. However, a press release stated that the agency decided “to keep 24 federal contract towers open that had been previously proposed for closure because doing so would have a negative impact on the national interest.” Another salient fact is that Dubuque “hires privately contracted employees,” whereas “Waterloo and Sioux City employees are unionized FAA workers.”

I’ve posted the whole statement from the FAA after the jump, as well as Representative Bruce Braley’s comment. The first Congressional district includes Dubuque and Waterloo. Braley voted against a continuing spending resolution on Thursday, in part because it did not reverse the “sequester” cuts.

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Sequester could shut down Waterloo, Dubuque, Sioux City air traffic control (corrected)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned yesterday that air traffic control across the country may be severely disrupted if the “sequester” goes into effect. Budget cuts may prompt the Federal Aviation Administration to shut down air traffic control towers at three Iowa airports as early as April.

CORRECTION: Closing the air traffic control towers would not necessarily shut down all traffic at the affected airports. On the other hand, “many corporations won’t fly into airports that don’t have an active tower.”

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Fertilizer company plans $1.7 billion expansion in Woodbury County

After landing significant state and local tax incentives, a large corporation confirmed plans yesterday to expand its fertilizer plant in Port Neal (Woodbury County). Officials hailed the “single largest capital investment” in Iowa history, eclipsing the $1.4 billion fertilizer plant project announced in September for Lee County.

More details and reaction to the CF Industries project are after the jump.

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