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Iowa abandons unemployment kiosk system

News

February 10th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa officials have confirmed that the state has stopped servicing or tracking the more than 700 self-help computer kiosks installed to replace dozens of unemployment offices closed in 2011 as a money-saving effort.

Iowa Workforce Development spokeswoman Courtney Greene told The Des Moines Register that it’s unknown how many kiosks in the virtual access points program are still dedicated to helping the unemployed. Initially the kiosks were placed in public places such as libraries and homeless shelters.

Greene says improved technology that lets Iowans file for weekly unemployment claims by smartphone has made the kiosks less essential. She says the kiosk system was discontinued as part of the department’s efficiency efforts. It’s unclear when the department ended the program.

Effigy Mounds quarter now in circulation

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 10th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

The new U-S quarter featuring Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeast Iowa near Harpers Ferry is now in circulation. The quarter is part of the U-S Mint’s “America the Beautiful” series and Effigy Mounds park Ranger Bob Palmer says it fits the beautiful description very well. “Oh, it’s amazing. In terms of being able to depict Effigy Mounds on something that small — to be honest with you — I was pretty skeptical when this whole process started some time ago,” Palmer says.

He says his skepticism about the quarter quickly changed. “When I saw the coin for the first time I was absolutely blown away that the essence of the Effigy Mounds could be captured on something that’s a little more than an inch in diameter,” according to Palmer. There are some 200 burial mounds at the monument along the Mississippi River Valley, and the coin shows one grouping.

“What it depicts are three mounds, two of what we tend to call bear mounds and then one bird mound. And the orientation of those three mounds represents three mounds that are found up in the south unit of the park,” Palmer says. “So, anyone who is very familiar with the park and very familiar with the various mound groups looks at that and immediately knows what that’s depicting. So, it pretty neat that it’s actually depicting something that is true to life.”

The mounds were believed to have been built by American Indians around one-thousand years ago. President Harry Truman signed the proclamation that created Effigy Mounds National Monument on October 25th, 1949. The quarter was designed by Sioux City native Richard Masters , who is an associate professor of art at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Palmer says there’s been a lot of local buzz since the coin was officially released Monday, and he says it could lead to more attention as people across the country discover the coin.

“I would think that if somebody would take a coin out of their pocket and see Effigy Mounds that might lead to a little more interest,” Palmer says. He says the amount of attention they get remains to be seen, but there is certainly a lot of interest in northeast Iowa. Palmer says they get 80 to 85-thousand visitors to the monument every year — and for those Iowans who have never been there — the scenery itself is worth it.

“This part of the state is very different than the rest of the state,” Palmer explains. “And the Effigy Mounds are primarily found…in southern Wisconsin and the do reach into extreme northeast Iowa. And the geography and topography here more represents what you’d find in Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota and northwestern Illinois. So, it is a place that is special unto itself.”

The visitor center at Effigy Mounds is open year round except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and during extreme weather conditions. The hours vary and you can check them on their website: https://www.nps.gov/efmo/index.htm

(Radio Iowa)

Ernst urges Trump to be ‘tough-minded’ with Russia

News

February 10th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Iowa’s Joni Ernst has joined with seven other Republican senators in urging President Trump to “pursue a principled and tough-minded Russia policy.”Ernst and the other senators cited Russia’s “aggressive behavior” in Ukraine and Syria as well as Russia’s “warfare” in “cyberspace.” The group said “Russia’s cooperation is desirable” on issues like nuclear arms control and attacking terrorism. But Ernst and the seven other Republicans warned Trump against pursuing cooperation with Russia “at the expense of our fundamental interests of defending our allies and promoting our values.”

Ernst has often said visiting the Ukraine as a college student and seeing the Soviet system up close prompted her to join the military. In the letter to Trump, Ernst and the other senators asked him to “condemn” Russian aggression in Ukraine and “take…steps” to stop it. The group of senators also urged Trump to maintain current U.S. sanctions against Russia.

The statement from Ernst and the seven other G-O-P senators comes a few days after Trump’s Super Bowl interview on Fox News. The network’s Bill O’Reilly labeled Vladimir Putin “a killer” and Trump replied that there are “a lot of killers” — then Trump asked: “You think our country’s so innocent?”

(Radio Iowa)

Lenox man arrested Friday morning for Carrying concealed weapon

News

February 10th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

A traffic stop early this (Friday) morning in Adams County resulted in a man being arrested on a weapons charge. The Adams County Sheriff’s Department says deputies stopped a vehicle about three-miles northwest of Lenox, near the intersection of 265th and Quince Avenue at around 12:25-a.m. Upon further investigation, Deputies located a loaded revolver under the passenger seat of the vehicle. 21-year old Bryan Garcia, of Lenox, was taken into custody for Carrying Weapons (Concealed). Garcia was brought to the Adams County Jail and held on a $2,000 bond.

AFSCME responds to Iowa prisons budget cuts

News

February 10th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

The union that represents the largest group of state employees has issued a response to budget cutting maneuvers by the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC). Iowa’s prison system was ordered to trim $5.5 million from its budget after Governor Branstad signed a measure that slashes more than $100 million from the current state budget to deal with lower-than-expected state tax revenue.

On Wednesday, the DOC announced plans to shut down programs tied to prison operations in Anamosa, Clarinda, Fort Madison, and Sheldon. Corrections director Jerry Bartruff said the cuts would result in “an estimated reduction in staff positions of three-percent.” AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued a statement on Thursday saying it’s unclear exactly how many layoffs there will be, but he knows eight probationary correctional officers from Fort Madison and nine officers from the Iowa State Penitentiary have already been terminated. He fears “there may be many more.” Homan says the Branstad administration has decided to “balance a failed budget on the backs of public employees.”  (Radio Iowa)
……………..
FULL PRESS RELEASE FROM AFSCME:

DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement in response to the facility closures and Correctional Officer layoffs announced by the Iowa Department of Corrections:

“It’s a scary time for correctional employees across Iowa. The Iowa Department of Corrections informed us that they would be laying off a number of probationary Correctional Officers, though it is unclear exactly how many that will be. Eight officers from Fort Madison and nine officers from the Iowa State Penitentiary have already been terminated, though I fear there may be many more. DOC also announced plans to close down the Luster Heights Camp at Harper’s Ferry, the Lodge at Clarinda, the John Bennett Unit at Fort Madison, and the Residential Treatment Services at the Sheldon Community Based Corrections facility. Contrary to the Department’s statement, this was not done collaboratively; it was an arbitrary announcement. AFSCME wasn’t notified of these actions until after they were put in place.

“At a time when our prisons are severely understaffed, this is the last place that the State of Iowa needs to be cutting corners. Branstad and Reynolds have given away our state’s massive surplus in the form of tax credits and giveaways to big businesses while underfunding public services. When the budget disaster they created came back to bite them, rather than borrowing from the maxed-out rainy day fund or ending some tax cuts, they decided to balance their failed budget on the backs of public employees. These layoffs and closures are completely avoidable under responsible leadership, but unfortunately that’s something we’re lacking. I invite Governor Branstad and soon-to-be Governor Reynolds to spend a day in an understaffed prison; maybe then they’ll reconsider where cuts should be made.”

Legislators consider regulating drones flying in Iowa

News

February 10th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Legislators have begun discussing new legal limits for where drones may fly in Iowa and who may have access to drone video. State lawmakers considered regulating “unmanned aerial vehicles” in 2014, ultimately passing a narrow law that bans police and state troopers from using drones to catch speeders. Republican Representative Jarad Klein, of Keota, is leading the discussion on drones.

“You see how much the technology has advanced, beyond where we thought it would ever be,” Klein says. “I don’t anticipate rushing this by any means, but we’re going to keep it moving along. We’re going to address the concerns that everybody’s bringing up and make sure we’re good to roll.”

Two legislators met with critics and supporters of the proposed bill Thursday morning. Thirty-three states have some sort of law that addresses the use of drones.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa early News Headlines: Friday, Feb. 10th 2017

News

February 10th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press at 3:20 a.m. CST

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa House panel has approved a minimum wage bill that could result in pay cuts for tens of thousands of workers. The Local Government Committee approved the bill Thursday. It would ban Iowa’s counties and cities from increasing their local minimum wages and cancel higher wages already implemented in Polk, Linn, Johnson and Wapello counties. All Republicans on the committee supported the bill while all Democrats were opposed.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Federal officials say a former eastern Iowa police chief has pleaded guilty to charges of stealing a police gun and lying to a federal agent. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa says 47-year-old Jeffrey Filloon, of Toledo, Iowa, pleaded guilty to the counts Thursday in Cedar Rapids’ federal courthouse. In exchange, other counts were dropped.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republicans on a legislative committee have approved a bill that would make big changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining law for public employees. The Senate panel approved the bill Thursday after hearing strong opposition from Democratic lawmakers. Iowa’s current collective bargaining law allows public sector employees like teachers, nurses and correctional officers to negotiate job benefits, including health insurance, extra pay and seniority. The bill would prohibit those discussions.

ADEL, Iowa (AP) — Iowa election officials say nearly 6,000 Dallas County absentee ballots went uncounted from the Nov. 8 election because of several mistakes by local election officials. A letter from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office says a total of 5,842 ballots went uncounted, but the office acknowledges the missed votes did not change the outcome of any election on the ballot in the central Iowa county.

Iowa House ready to debate pay cuts to low-wage workers

News

February 9th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A House panel has approved a minimum wage bill that could result in pay cuts for tens of thousands of Iowa workers. The Local Government Committee on Thursday approved the bill that bans local governments from increasing the minimum wage and cancels higher wages already implemented in Polk, Linn, Johnson and Wapello counties.

All Republicans on the committee supported the bill while all the Democrats were opposed. It now moves to the full House. The bill, introduced by Johnston Republican Jake Highfill, would force all counties to adhere to Iowa’s minimum hourly wage of $7.25.

Bill supporters say wages should be set by the state. Others argue the legislation infringes on local governments. Polk and Johnson county officials say they are exploring possible legal action if lawmakers approve the bill.

Atlantic Chamber Director announces her resignation

News

February 9th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ouida Hargens, Thursday afternoon, announced she has resigned from her position. She has reportedly decided to resign to help her husband focus on his grain and livestock hedging business, and to pursue some other possible, future opportunities within the community.

In a statement, Hargens said “After careful consideration, I have decided to resign from my position of Executive Director of the Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce.  I moved to Atlantic in March of 2013 to take the position of the Programs Director. By April my passion for the community resembled that of a long-time resident.  In October, the same year, I took the position of the Executive Director. The community and membership has embraced me with open arms.”

Ouida Hargens

She went on to say “Your support helped me to reach many of my career goals. Strengthening partnerships within the community through the collaborative website www.atlanticiowa.com.  Growing the resources within the organization by securing three new Community Investors. Engaging members and volunteers in the Total Resource Campaign creating the most successful campaign two years in a row.”

“The goal of $90,000 was surpassed by $20,000, tripling the amount of funds previously raised. The $110,000 sponsorship campaign included participation of over 60% of our members.” The success of the campaign she said, has allowed for the addition of new programs and events to the community, as well as new memberships.

“All of these goals,” she said, “Were accomplished because of the support of the membership, community, and volunteers. Also, the time and dedication given by staff especially Chelsea Cousins, Alli Krogman and Bailey Smith, our current Program Director. All three were amazing, creative and talented women to work side by side with.”

Hargens closed by saying “Thank you again for all the opportunities and support.”

(Updated) Iowa county sees thousands of Election Day ballots uncounted

News

February 9th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

ADEL, Iowa (AP) — Iowa election officials say nearly 6,000 Dallas County absentee ballots went uncounted from the Nov. 8 election because of mistakes by local election officials. A letter from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office says a total of 5,842 ballots went uncounted, but the office acknowledges the missed votes did not change the outcome of any election on the ballot in the central Iowa county. The office says local officials tallied the votes, but failed to upload those tallies to software that compiles vote reports.

The omission of the ballots wasn’t discovered until Feb. 1. In the letter to Dallas County officials, Deputy Secretary of State Carol Olson said while the omissions were due to mistakes, “it is chilling to contemplate the possibility that winners could easily have been affected.”