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Vilsack doesn’t intend to retire, but no firm plans yet

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 8th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack plans to “run through the tape” when his eight-year tenure as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture draws to a close. Vilsack’s the only member of President Obama’s cabinet who remains in the office where he started in January of 2009. “One of the reasons why I stayed in the job that I stayed in for as long as I did, which is unusual in this day and age, is because of the people I worked with and the people I worked for,” Vilsack says.

Vilsack made two speeches in Des Moines yesterday (Wednesday). He addressed delegates at the Iowa Farm Bureau’s annual convention. Vilsack referred to the 1986 shooting at a city council meeting that killed the mayor and wounded two others. “A tragedy actually almost 30 years to the day in my small hometown of Mount Pleasant created an opportunity for me to get in public service,” Vilsack said. “You all have given me just an incredible opportunity. You’ve allowed me to realize every dream I ever had as a kid. You didn’t have to do that. You didn’t have to give a guy from Pennsylvania the opportunity to be a mayor…to be a state senator. You certainly didn’t have to give me the opportunity to be the govenror of this great state for eight years and because of that I had the opportunity to serve you as the secretary of agriculture for eight years.”

Vilsack also was honored Wednesday by the Des Moines-based World Food Prize. The Norman Borlaug Medallion is awarded to individuals and institutions which cannot win the World Food Prize. Both Vilsack and the U-S-D-A were presented with medallions. Borlaug is the Iowa native who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work in plant genetics. Vilsack salutes Borlaug’s vision of “using science in order to improve the lives of all people.”

“Norm was about feeding people. Norm was about helping people,” Vilsack says. “And he never stopped.” Vilsack, who will turn 67 on December 13th, isn’t planning to retire after he leaves the U-S-D-A in January, but Vilsack told reporters yesterday that he has no firm plans yet. “I want to be involved in one way, shape or form of advocating for agriculture, for rural America and I have, obviously, an affinity for young people so it’s an opportunity potentially for Christie and me to team up with some young folks,” Vilsack says.

The Vilsacks have two married sons — one in Iowa, the other in Colorado. The former governor says “family is important” and he and his wife want to “spend time” in both states with their four grandchildren.

(Radio Iowa)

No word yet on when Branstad exits and Reynolds takes over

News

December 8th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Officials say details on the transition of power at the Iowa capitol “will be forthcoming,” but whenever Governor Terry Branstad leaves to become U.S. Ambassador to China, Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will become the first woman to serve as Iowa’s governor. Joni Ernst — the first female from Iowa to be elected to the U.S. Senate — says she is thrilled. “I could not think of a more appropriate person to take on this responsibility,” Ernst says. “She has served Iowa in so many ways and has been such a strong and graceful leader.”

Reynolds has been Iowa’s lieutenant governor since 2011. Reynolds was elected to four terms as treasurer in Clarke County before winning a seat in the state senate in 2008. Branstad asked her to be his lieutenant governor runningmate in 2010. Ernst says Reynolds has been a “wonderful advocate” for HER political career. “We began corresponding when I was serving overseas with the Iowa National Guard during my deployment and she was encouraging me to run for county office and she provided a lot of wonderful guidance for me,” Ernst says. “All through my career she has been very, very helpful to me.”

Reynolds and her husband, Kevin, live in Osceola. Iowa Senator Ernst says Branstad’s opportunity is good news for Iowa. “I know that he will excel and give this new role all of his full attention and provide a great line of communication between our two countries,” Ernst says. Senator Chuck Grassley says Branstad’s “reputation as a straight shooter” will serve the U.S. well and Grassley predicts Branstad will get senate confirmation to the post of ambassador “very easily.”

Economic Development Authority director Debi Durham of Sioux City, shares a Des Moines apartment with Reynolds when they are both at work in the capitol city. “As someone that knows the lieutenant governor very well, not only from working with her on so many initiatives that she has led, but obviously being a friend, I can’t be more pleased,” Durham says. “I don’t think we’ve had someone more ready to be governor from day one than Kim Reynolds.”

Durham says Reynolds “has been involved in every decision” made in the Branstad Administration over the past six years. “When Governor Branstad recruited her to run with him, he told her from the beginning it was going to be a partnership,” Durham says, “and it truly has been.”

Durham has been in New York City this week, with Branstad, prospecting with businesses that might expand or relocate in Iowa — just as President-elect Trump’s team revealed Branstad will be the next ambassador to China.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa early News Headlines: Thursday, Dec. 8th 2016

News

December 8th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press at 3:40 a.m. CST

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — If Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad becomes the next U.S. Ambassador to China, he may want to leave any Masonic symbols at home. That’s because the Freemasons group Branstad belongs to is banned in mainland China. Brent Morris, who wrote “The Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry,” says masonic groups often run into trouble in Communist countries because of their secret meetings.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds is cutting short a family vacation to appear alongside Gov. Terry Branstad at an Iowa rally for President-elect Donald Trump. Ben Hammes, a spokesman for Branstad, says Reynolds will attend a Thursday night rally in Des Moines that will feature Branstad, Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Hammes says Reynolds is traveling to Des Moines sometime between Wednesday and Thursday.

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — A judge has determined that a Dubuque woman is now mentally fit enough to stand trial for the beating death of her ex-husband. The Dubuque Telegraph Herald reports that Iowa District Court Judge Michael Shubatt ordered Wednesday that 62-year-old Dolores Flynn stand trial on a charge of second-degree murder in the January death of 72-year-old Gary Breckenridge. Police say Flynn beat Breckenridge with a baseball bat, which officers say they found in a Dubuque ditch.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa dental office chain has settled a whistleblower lawsuit alleging Medicaid fraud. The Des Moines Register reports that Lifepoint Dental Partners, which has five clinics in Iowa, agreed to pay $300,000 to settle the lawsuit filed in April by federal prosecutors and the company’s former chief financial officer, Todd Willson, and a former financial coordinator, Peggy Lemley. Willson and Lemley say they were fired after reporting the fraud.

Atlantic City Council News: No rate hike for AMU; Gray water for ethanol plant approved 5-1

News

December 7th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

There was good news for customers of Atlantic Municipal Utilities during last night’s meeting of the Atlantic City Council. AMU General Manager Steve Tjepkes said their calendar year budget was recently approved by the AMU Board and a public hearing was held. The final step, which was merely a formality, was to make a report to the City Council. He said they’re not anticipating any extra expenditures or other changes this year, therefore “There’s no rate increases proposed for this next year.”

And, representatives with the Iowa Municipalities Workers Compensation Association (IMWCA) spoke with regard to Loss Prevention Controls initiated by the City, as it pertains to Worker’s Comp claims. Ed Morrison, the City’s liaison with the IMWCA, works with the City’s Department Heads and City Administrator John Lund. He  told the Council that the City’s Experience Modification Factor  — which is an important factor used to adjust workers’ compensation premium and is determined by comparing actual losses to expected losses for the experience period based on the employer’s industry — at .71, is at the lowest point it’s been for nearly the last 11-years.

He says “In essence what that means is your Work Comp premium is reduced…I would say…dramatically. What that tells me as your Loss Control Rep…I’m assigned to your City, is you have very strong management commitment here to having a safe and healthy work environment.”

Morrison, and the IMWCA’s Tim Kirgan, both commended the Department Heads, Safety Committee and Safety Coordinator Amanda Martin for the hard work and efforts they’ve put in creating a safe and healthy work environment. Morrison said the City has had only 13 claims in the past four-years, which he said was “Remarkable.”

Tim Kirgan said programs initiated by the City has saved 29-percent in the cost of premiums. He said before the changes took effect, the Loss Ratio was more than 100-percent. That meant the City was paying a premium in excess of $117,000 per year.  Currently the premium is right around $64,000. And, while the City is saving money, Kirgan said more importantly, its employees “Are getting home safe at the end of the day.”

In other business, the Atlantic City Council voted 5-to 1, with Councilperson Kathy Somers the lone “No” vote, to enter into a 99-year agreement with Elite Octane for the delivery of gray water from the Wastewater Treatment Plant. The treated water would normally be discharged into the Nishnabotna River next to the plant. Somers’ objection to the agreement, was with regard to the fact the City was locked-in to the long-term agreement to supply 100-percent of the gray water, when other, future businesses looking to locate in Atlantic, may also require a supply of the water.

City Wastewater Superintendent Tim Snyder said that was of concern to him also, but there are terms in the contract that allow for some flexibility in the amount of gray water, especially in times of drought, when the ethanol or water plant is off-line for repairs or otherwise, and other contingencies. Elite Octane’s Nick Bowdish said that while they do have eight private wells that tie into the City’s aquifer, gray water is critical to the plant’s operation. It costs the citizens of Atlantic nothing, and without it, he warned, the project cannot move forward, and that “The City can wait for the next economic opportunity to come down the road to use that water.”

Atlantic City Council approves appointment of Erickson as new Chief of Police

News

December 7th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic City Council, Wednesday evening, unanimously approved Mayor Dave Jones appointment of Lt. David Erickson as the City’s new Chief of Police, effective January 1, 2017. Erickson succeeds Chief Steve Green, who is retiring at the end of the year. Green’s last official day on the job is Dec. 13th. Afterward he will be on vacation until the end of the year, but still available to handle the duties of his office.

Mayor Jones said he’s known Erickson for more than 25-years. He said Erickson is “Very capable, not afraid to make decisions. He’s hard-nosed, but he’s fair. He’s active (in the community), and (his selection as Chief), is a no-brainer.” Jones said also, that Erickson has essentially been groomed for the Police Department’s top job for the last three-to four-years, and making him the successor to Green “Has been talked about for a while.”

Atlantic Police Lt. Dave Erickson - soon to be Chief Erickson.

Atlantic Police Lt. Dave Erickson – soon to be Chief Erickson.

Erickson joined the Atlantic Police Department in January, 1997. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 2008. Previously, he’s served as a Sergeant in the U-S Marine Corps’ Military Intelligence Division, attached to the Corps’ Sniper “Surveillance and Target Acquisition” (STA) Platoon. While in the Marines, he served in Central America and Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War, and after leaving the service worked for Atlantic Coca Cola Bottling company as a salesman/territory supervisor, and with the Atlantic Police Department’s Reserve Unit. Erickson is a graduate of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy and is a certified firearms instructor, field training officer and has been in charge of numerous children’s programs associated with the Police Department.

Branstad formally accepts offer to become China ambassador

News

December 7th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump has announced his choice of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to be the next U.S. ambassador to China. Trump announced his pick of Branstad on Wednesday at a Manhattan fundraiser. A Trump transition spokesman confirmed that Branstad had accepted the nomination. Branstad aides didn’t respond to questions Wednesday about the matter.

Branstad will face a U.S. Senate confirmation process that could take weeks as Trump himself prepares to be sworn in as president. When Branstad resigns as governor, he’ll be replaced by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, making her the first female governor of Iowa. Branstad will join Trump at a rally in Des Moines on Thursday.

If Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad becomes the next U.S. ambassador to China, he may want to leave any Masonic symbols at home. That’s because the Freemasons group that Branstad belongs to has been banned in mainland China for decades. Branstad accepted President-elect Donald Trump’s offer of the ambassador post Wednesday.

Tim Anderson with the Grand Lodge of Iowa says the group’s belief in freedom of speech and expression probably isn’t popular in China. Masonic groups often run into trouble in Communist countries because of their secret meetings. Brent Morris, who wrote “The Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry,” says Communist governments generally don’t want citizens meeting in secret.

Branstad isn’t new to China. He has led several trade missions there, and he has known China’s president since 1985 when he visited Iowa.

Woodbury County seeks to adopt 24-7 sobriety program

News

December 7th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Woodbury County officials are asking lawmakers to allow people convicted of drunken driving to stay out of jail if they pass twice-daily Breathalyzer tests. The Sioux City Journal reports that the program would allow people convicted of alcohol-related offenses to continue living with their families and go to work. Participants would pay for the tests, and the sheriff’s office would administer them.

Democratic Rep. Dave Dawson of Sioux City introduced legislation in 2014 and in 2015 specifying that sobriety testing would meet the standard of probation.

Woodbury County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeremy Taylor says the program has a better chance of passing in 2017, because the governor plans to make the fight against impaired driving a priority during the next legislative session.

IFA Awards more than $6.2 million to 25 Local Housing Trust Funds for Housing Initiatives

News

December 7th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Finance Authority Board of Directors today (Wednesday) approved a total of more than $6.2 million in grants to 25 Local Housing Trust Funds to support local affordable housing initiatives which will assist 2,326 Iowa families. The funding is provided from the State Housing Trust Fund’s Local Housing Trust Fund program.

Iowa Finance Authority Executive Director Dave Jamison. “The grants announced today are leveraging an additional $2.8 million in local contributions.” The grant funds will be used for initiatives such preserving aging housing stock, subsidizing local down payment assistance programs, providing low-interest loans or grants to assist Iowans in home rehabilitation, financing construction of new single-family housing for low-income Iowans and supporting housing for persons with disabilities and homeless assistance programs.

In southwest Iowa, grants were awarded to the following entities:

  • Council Bluffs Housing Trust Fund, Inc. – $146,565 for the City of Council Bluffs.
  • COG (Council of Governments) Housing, Inc. – $235,872, for Audubon, Carroll, Crawford, Greene, Guthrie and Sac Counties.
  • Southern Iowa COG Housing Trust Fund – $229,482, for Adair, Adams, Clarke, Decatur, Madison, Ringgold, Taylor and Union Counties.
  • Southwest Iowa Housing Trust Fund, Inc. – $289,324, for Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie (excluding the city of Council Bluffs) and Shelby Counties.

Bluffs Police warn about vehicles being stolen as they warm up

News

December 7th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Authorities in Council Bluffs say with the approach of winter weather, the City of Council Bluffs is experiencing an increase in stolen vehicles that are left running to warm up. The Council Bluffs Police Department would like to remind residents that if your vehicle is not equipped with remote start it is not advisable to let your vehicle warm up unless you stay with your vehicle.

They also remind residents not to leave valuables or items such as keys and remote garage doors openers in their vehicles. If your vehicle is stolen and you see it around town, do not approach the vehicle or attempt to block it in. That type of action typically leads to the car thief damaging both vehicles and rarely leads to their apprehension.

Police say you should just contact 911 and stay on the line and provide assistance for responding officers.

Branstad’s move to China means Iowa’s first female governor

News

December 7th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

(Update 11:50-a.m.) — President Elect Donald Trump, appearing at a Manhattan transition fundraiser today, announced that he had selected Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as the new U.S. ambassador to China. (Story edited to update)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The expected departure of the nation’s longest-serving governor to accept an appointment as U.S. ambassador to China means Iowa will likely be led by its first female governor. Donald Trump confirmed on Wednesday that he has selected Republican Gov. Terry Branstad for the ambassadorship, and that the governor is expected to accept.

If Branstad accepts and is confirmed by the Senate, Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would become Iowa’s governor. She would hold the position until Branstad’s term ends in January 2019, and she could run for governor in 2018.

The 57-year-old Reynolds was a first-term state senator when Branstad chose her to run for election as his lieutenant governor. Reynolds has focused on economic development and education during her six years as lieutenant governor.