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Cass County School Districts receive supplemental school supplies from County Dem’s


February 24th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

Cass County Democratic Party Chair Sherry Toelle reports each of the three Cass County school districts has received a supplemental distribution of school supplies from the Cass County Democratic Party. “Some very generous monetary donations came into our office after the autumn drive was over,” Toelle said. “It was decided to wait to distribute them until the second semester to fill in any gaps that students might have in their supplies,” she explained.

Nigel Horton, Griswold Elementary School Principal, and Sherry Toelle, Cass County Democratic Party Chair

Dorene South, CAM Middle School Secretary, Sherry Toelle, and Cheri Chester, CAM South Elementary School Secretary

Washington Elementary School Staff and Sherry Toelle

Toelle went on to state that the annual school supply drive would be held from mid-July to mid-August so that Cass County children would be able to start the new school year with new supplies. She said “This is something we do every year and it is great to see how the community supports the cause.”

Board of Regents discusses free speech


February 24th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – The board which governs the three state universities received recommendations from its Free Speech Committee during its online meeting today (Wednesday). The action comes as bills that would strip tenure from the three schools have cleared the House Education Committee and a Senate subcommittee. Lawmakers say the issue has been discussed but not acted upon — but Board of Regents president Michael Richards disagreed with that.

“The Board will not tolerate violation of anyone’s free speech on our campuses. This is a constitutional right that must be preserved and is sacred on our campuses. The Board of Regents and our universities absolutely support free speech and open dialogue,” Richards says. Richard says there have been some issues.

“We must be honest and recognize that there have been several recent events when this expectation has not been met,” according to Richards. “In these cases we have, and will continue to act quickly to recognize what has occurred. And take corrective action and educate those involved.” Richards says the recommendations from the Free Speech Committee make this clear and lay out some key things the schools must do.

“Preventing punishment for expressing a certain viewpoint, and annual training for all faculty, staff, and students,” he says. Richards says they will continue to ensure that free speech is preserved. “We will be creating a permanent Free Speech Committed of the Board where complaints from faculty, staff, and students can be submitted and reviewed by the Board,” Richards says. He says they do not want to shut down discussion about different ideas and opinions.

“Disagreeing on issues and having a respectful debate about those issues should happen on our university campuses. What should not happen is preventing another person or group’s opinion from being expressed or threatening those opinions with possible repercussions,” Richards says. Richards says tenure has become a focus of this conversation and he says it should not be removed from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

“Tenure is not granted to all faculty — and to receive it — one must go through a rigorous and multi-year-process. It is not a job for life,” Richards says. He says removing tenure will hurt the ability of the schools to attract the best faculty and provide the best opportunities for students. “All faculty — including tenured faculty — are evaluated annually,” Richards says. “Poor performance, violations of policy, and other misconduct could be grounds for discipline. Up to and including termination.”

Other recommendations from the Free Speech Committee include requiring each syllabus have a statement comparable to the I-S-U on supporting and upholding the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech and the principle of academic freedom. Universities will be required to post the Board’s and university policies and procedures on their webpage, including instructions on how to appeal to the Board regarding violations of free expression.

GOP senators reject call to abandon crackdown on big tech companies


February 24th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – A law professor who’s a leader in the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council is urging Republicans in the Iowa Senate to table a bill targeting big tech companies. The legislation would withdraw state and local tax incentives from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google if a court rules the companies illegally removed online content from conservatives.

Attorney Carl Szabo says the bill upends the conservative principals of limited government and free enterprise. “Look, I agree. I’m worried about the silencing of conservative voice as well,” Szabo said. “I mean, heck, I’m a conservative, but unfortunately this is not the right approach.” Szabo says these are private companies enforcing contracts with users who are not abiding by community standards.

“I understand that there’s a feeling that there are a lot efforts to stile conservative speech, but forcing these platforms to host content that they don’t think is best for their users and their advertisers is not the right approach,” he says. “It violates every notion we have when we support the rights of private businesses to decide what’s best for them.” Szabo made his comments today (Wednesday) during a senate subcommittee hearing on the bill. Tyler Diers of TechNet, a bipartisan group representing technology company executives, says if the bill becomes law, business leaders will have to weigh whether it’s worth expanding in Iowa.

“We believe policymakers should be encouraging incentive programs and tax policies that attract and grow jobs in the state of Iowa,” he said. “It would be bad public policy for the legislature to weaponize economic development programs in order to forward a political agenda at expense of the state’s economic interest.” Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, says he can agree with some of the arguments against the bill — up to a point.

“These platforms have become weaponized by professive ideology,” Schultz says. “…They will leave anything inappropriate up on the progressive side…but seem to jump immediately, like a guard dog, against anything that moves toward the conservative side.” Senate President Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, is the bill’s lead sponsor and he says it’s not being tabled.

“It’s shameful,” Chapman says. “These liberal executives out of Silicon Valley are not going to control what Iowans hear, what they see and they’re not going to censor them.” Education groups warn the bill endangers contracts Iowa schools have with the big tech companies. A lobbyist for the three state universities says utility plants, the University of Iowa hospital, the campus computer, email and phone systems AND the scoreboard at Kinnick Stadium could be shut down if the bill, as written, becomes law.

City of Atlantic Audit released


February 24th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

Officials with the City of Atlantic today (Wednesday), said Gronewold, Bell, Kyhnn & Company, CPA’s have released an audit report on the City. The auditors said the City’s receipts for its governmental funds total more than $11.8-million ($11,881,149) for the year that ended June 30, 2020. The receipts included:

  • Over $3.7-million ($3,718,868) in property tax
  • $111,895 in other city taxes
  • $917,068 in local option sales tax (LOST)
  • $182,411 in tax increment financing (TIF) collections
  • $1,870,432 from intergovernmental sources
  • $210,223 from use of money and property
  • $98,837 from licenses and permits
  • $430,002 from charges for services
  • $55,835 from sale of assets
  • $3,775,000 from debt proceeds
  • and $510,578 in miscellaneous revenues.

The City’s receipts for its proprietary funds total over $1.87-million ($1,878,569), of which $1,809,937 was from charges for service. Disbursements for its governmental funds totaled more than $12.2-million ($12,293,176), and included:

  • $2,179,566 for public safety
  • $1,450,931 for public works
  • $12,985 for health and social services
  • $997,761 for culture and recreation
  • $233,538 in community and economic development
  • $594,493 in general government
  • $1,497,296 for capital projects
  • and $5,326,606 for debt service.

The auditors noted disbursements of the City’s proprietary funds totaled $1,686,323, of which $996,300 was attributable to its business-type activities, and $690,023 was for debt service. The report contains recommendations to the City Council and other City officials. The City has responded that corrective action is being taken for each item.

A copy of the Auditor’s report is available for review in the office of the Auditor of State and the Office of Atlantic City Administrator John Lund.

Reductions in unemployment benefits proposed


February 24th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Republicans in the legislature are considering changes they say will ensure the taxes businesses pay into the state’s unemployment trust fund don’t go up. The bill would impose a one-week waiting. “Do we really want to go after these workers? Do we want to take a week’s worth of pay because they were laid off through no fault of their own during a time when unemployment funds are not depleted?” she asked.

Carrie Duncan, a union member at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant in Middletown, says if the bill were law today, about 90 workers at the plant just laid off for a week would be ineligible for unemployment. “These are my coworkers, some that have family at home to financially support that are counting on that 40-hour paycheck, as the bills will continue to come regardless,” she says.

Republican lawmakers are also considering changes for workers laid off by companies that go out of business, limiting unemployment benefits to a maximum of 26 rather than 39 weeks. Scott Punteney, of Council Bluffs, president of the Western Iowa Labor Federation, was among 300 workers laid off due to a plant closure in 2014. “I was very lucky. I was the fortunate one. I was able to transition into a new line of work…Many of my coworkers were not,” he says. “…These benefits, these extra 13 weeks to some of my friends and co-workers were life saving. They needed that money to survive, to put food on the table, to put a roof over their head.”

The bill calls for ending jobless benefits for someone who fails to accept a job that pays less than the one they lost. Business groups say Governor Reynolds used federal CARES Act money to cover skyrocketing unemployment claims during the pandemic, but that’s a lifeline that may not be available in the next economic downturn and the bill will help shield Iowa businesses from significant tax increases to cover unemployment benefits. Republicans on the House Labor Committee approved the bill after a nearly six hour meeting this week and Democrats vow to an even longer debate if the bill comes up for a vote on the House floor.

Lawyer hired by Democratic AG defends Iowa’s GOP governor


February 24th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s Democratic attorney general has installed the Republican governor’s lawyer into a high-level job in which he is defending his former boss’ policy agenda and management decisions in court. Weeks after joining Attorney General Tom Miller’s staff, Sam Langholz has participated in cases defending Gov. Kim Reynolds’ coronavirus restrictions, her law requiring a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, her denial of overtime pay to some nurses, and her administration’s ouster of a longtime public health spokeswoman.

Miller and Reynolds announced Langholz’s appointment as an assistant attorney general for civil and appellate litigation in November.


Mills County Sheriff’s report (2/24)


February 24th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

The Mills County Sheriff’s Office reports four arrests over the past week. Today (Wednesday), at around 12:35-a.m., 25-year old Alexandria Gabrielle Miller, of St. Joseph, MO., was arrested at 195th and Highway 34, for Possession of a Controlled Substance. Her bond was set at $5,000. Late Tuesday night, 35-year old Zachary Joseph Heywood, of Omaha, was arrested at the Mills County Sheriff’s Office, for Public Intoxication. His bond was set at $300.

Saturday afternoon, 43-year old Heith Leroy Schmitt, of Council Bluffs, was arrested at the Pottawattamie County Jail, on a Mills County warrant for Violation of Probation. Schmitt was being held on a $5,000 bond. And, on the 17th, 36-year old Jessica Dawn Whetsel, of Glenwood, was arrested on a Mills County warrant for Violation of Probation. Her bond was set at $2,000.

Glenwood Police report (2/24)


February 24th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

The Glenwood Police Department reports 62-year old Kevin Harmon, of Glenwood, was arrested today (Wedneday), for OWI/1st offense. Harmon’s cash/surety bond was set at $1,000.

Adair County Board of Supervisors approve road rock, Budget Amendment & Max. Prop. Tax dollar Resolution


February 24th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

The Adair County Board of Supervisors, today (Wednesday), approved a bid of $465, 074 from Schildberg Construction, for Spring-Summer applied road rock (gravel). County Engineer Nick Kauffmann said the bid came in about $35,000 under the estimate. Kauffman said the County has received good news with regard to COVID Relief funding:

He said the another piece of good news was that the Farm-To-Market account will receive an additional $73,506. He said he’s not sure exactly when the County will receive the funds. The funds come in as State money into the Road Use account for the County to spend as it sees fit, as long as it’s on road infrastructure projects. Kauffman reported also that the shared Engineer’s Service Agreement with Union County expires in March. Kauffman has been serving the Adair-Union County Engineer since mid-September, following the resignation of Union County Engineer Zack Gunsolley at the end of August, 2020. He was told Union County has apparently lined-up their own engineer, now, and will have no further need for Kauffman’s services when the agreement concludes. The Board thanked Kauffman for be willing to work with the neighboring county in interim.

Kauffman concluded his report to the Board with an update on various bridge and other projects. And, he’s hiring for two openings in the Adair County Secondary Roads Department. In other business, the Adair County Board of Supervisors approved the renewal of an Amended 28-E agreement for the County Land Record Information System with Iowa Land Records, which was originally signed in 2005.

Recorder Janelle Schneider said the agreement is being amended due to some technical corrections discovered as a result of a State Audit. One of the corrections is to remove direct references to the Iowa County Recorders Association. The Board Wednesday, also held a Public Hearing on an FY21 Budget Amendment, during which there were no comments. The Board subsequently voted to pass a Resolution to that effect. And, a hearing was held with regard to the FY 22 Maximum Property Tax Dollars. Adair County resident Greg Cooper questioned what was being done and why. County Auditor Mandy Berg…

Cooper said he was under the impression wind turbines in the County would lower property taxes. Supervisor John Twombly explained it will be a few years before the levy goes down.

The last order of business, was setting March 17 at 9:15-a.m., as the date and time for a Public Hearing on the FY22 Adair County Budget.

Cass County BOS to hold a public hearing on FY22 Max. Property Tax dollars


February 24th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Board of Supervisors are set to meet both in-person and electronically on Friday (Feb. 26), beginning at 9-a.m.  On their agenda is a Public Hearing on the FY 2022 Maximum Property Tax Dollars, followed later, by action on passing a Resolution setting the FY 22 Maximum Tax Dollars, and the setting of a date for a Public Hearing on the FY22 Cass County Budget.

In other business, the Board will act on approving the appointment of a Sheriff’s Deputy, an additional member to the Cass County Local Foods Policy Council, and members to the Zoning Board of Adjustment and Zoning Commission. The appointees must be rural residents.

The Supervisors will act on approving Property Tax Exemptions (for Impoundment structures, Open Prairies, etc.) in accordance with the Code of Iowa (Chapter 427), and for Jan. 1, 2021 assessments, and, they are scheduled to receive regular reports from the County Engineer, as well as the Cass County Mental Health/General Relief Coordinator.

During their meeting last week, the Board approved a Class C Liquor License with Outdoor Sales and Sunday Sales privilege of Griswold Golf and Country Club. They also discusses how to handle leave, as it relates to COVID-19. Board Chair Steve Baier stated he had directed the payroll administration staff that starting with the pay period beginning Feb. 16th, all leave taken by an employee due to the coronavirus is to be tracked and charged to accumulated paid time off (beginning with sick leave).

Other related items, including working remotely if essential duties could be performed away from the courthouse, were discussed, but no official action was taken.