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Vilsack visits Ankeny picket line; Reynolds confident Deere strike to be resolved soon

Ag/Outdoor, News

October 20th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has visited the picket line outside the John Deere plant in Ankeny. Vilsack told the U-A-W members he’s there for them because they were there for him 23 years ago. The union endorsed Vilsack’s successful 1998 campaign for governor when he was trailing in the polls and Vilsack says that’s something he won’t forget. Vilsack later told reporters he hopes the strike is resolved quickly and fairly. Current Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says she’s confident the union and the company will come to some resolution.  “John Deere is a great company with a phenomenal workforce,” Reynolds says, “and this is part of the collective bargaining process.”

More than 10-thousand John Deere workers went on strike last Thursday after rejecting the company’s first contract offer. Negotiations resumed Monday. “I’m just hopeful that we can find resolution sooner rather than later,” Reynolds says. Reynolds, who grew up in the St. Charles area, has family members who worked at John Deere during previous strikes.

“My dad worked for John Deere for 40 years. My dad’s dad — my grandpa — worked for John Deere for many years. My dad’s brothers, my grandpa’s brothers all worked for John Deere. It was a stressful time when they would go on strike,” Reynolds says. “I had family members on both sides of the issue, but eventually at every point they were able to reach a resolution that really benefits both sides.”

Reynolds made her comments inside a manufacturing facility in Adel. Deere and Company operates plants in Ankeny, Davenport, Dubuque, Ottumwa and Waterloo. The union is seeking better pay and health care benefits as well as an end to a two-tiered system that pays workers hired in the past 24 years less than those hired BEFORE October, 1997.

Atlantic man takes Councilman to task on suggestion to remove signs on private property


October 20th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Atlantic, Iowa) (Updated 10/21)- An Atlantic man spoke during the public forum portion of Wednesday evening’s Atlantic City Council meeting, and took Councilman Dick Casady to task for comments he made at a meeting two weeks ago. Justin Masker  – who resides on E. 21st Street – asked Casady to apologize for suggesting persons with vulgar signs (or flags) on their property and refuse to remove them – should be denied any requests they make to the Council in the future….

Masker said the theme he’s heard and comments he’s read from politicians, is for Americans to “comply,” in a Quid-Pro-Quo fashion (i.e.: “you to this and we’ll do that’).

He told Casady “You proved me wrong by saying something.”

He reminded Casady that an elected official works for the people, not the other way around.

Casady did not offer a response to Masker’s statements. In other business, the Atlantic City Council, Wednesday, approved a schedule of Adoption Fees for the Atlantic Animal Shelter. The current adoption fees for cats is $10.00, with an additional $55.00 to $130.00 for veterinary costs. For dogs, adoption fees are $25.00, with an additional $60.00 to $265.00 for vet fees. The resolution moves the fees to a flat rate, $100.00 for cats and $200.00 for dogs.


Avoca Mainstreet, Inc. awarded $100k Main Street Iowa Challenge Grant


October 20th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

October 20, 2021 (DES MOINES) — The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) today awarded $1,205,000 in Main Street Iowa Challenge Grants to 13 communities around the state. Among the grant recipients was Avoca Mainstreet, Inc., which was awarded $100,000 for Radberry’s Bakery and Cafe. The grant will allow for the transformation of a vacant office building in Avoca into a bakery and café for brick-and-mortar expansion of a popular farmer’s market vendor.
Each of the grants will benefit local building projects that contribute to the economic development of designated Main Street Iowa Districts, including:
  • Giving new life to a long-closed landmark restaurant building on the Washington Square, and
  • Activating an unoccupied upper story with four short-term stay units to meet local lodging and housing needs in Elkader.
The grants are administered through IEDA’s Iowa Downtown Resource Center and Main Street Iowa programs. The funding will be distributed in the form of matching grants to the selected Main Street programs. The estimated total project cost of these 13 projects is over $3.6 million.
Since the first Challenge Grants were awarded in 2002, approximately $12.8 million in state and federal funds have leveraged nearly $65 million in private investment.

Grinnell College National Poll finds Republicans lack trust in doctors, scientists


October 20th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – A new Grinnell College National Poll finds President Biden’s support among independent voters has fallen and his overall approval rating is just 37 percent. The poll was conducted by Ann Selzer, who does The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll. Grinnell College political science professor Peter Hanson, the poll’s director, says Biden’s approval rating is driven by economic concerns.

“We have 52% of Americans who believe the economy will be doing worse in 12 months than it is today. Now, that’s a turn around. In previous editions of our poll we found Americans to be more confident,” Hanson says. “…I think that’s rooted in the fact that there’s been a lot of concerns about inflation, continuing concerns about the job market as Covid continues to have this ripple effect throughout our economy.”

The poll found if the 2024 election were held today, it would end in a tie between Biden and former President Donald Trump. Seventy-one percent of Republicans who responded to the Grinnell College Poll said they feel democracy is facing a major threat, and 38 percent of Republicans nationally said they’re not confident the votes cast in the 2022 election will be counted correctly.

“Consistent with the broader mission of our poll, we asked a set if questions designed to assess the health of American democracy,” Hanson says, “so we asked people how they believe our democracy is doing and then different questions being who in society they trust and what some of their attitudes are about different kinds of freedoms they have.”

Only seven percent of all the Americans surveyed said they had confidence in the federal government’s ability to solve problems and only a quarter expressed confidence in their own state’s governor. The Grinnell College National Poll found large majorities of Democrats trust doctors and scientists, but fewer than a third of Republicans trust scientists and 48 percent of Republicans expressed trust in doctors.

Former SE Polk teacher given 24 years for enticing student into having sex


October 20th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – A former Southeast Polk High School teacher is sentenced to 24 years in prison for enticing a student into having sex with him. Thirty-nine-year-old Christopher Smith, formerly of Pleasant Hill, pleaded guilty to enticement of a minor.

Court documents show Smith used his cellphone and the internet in 2020 to contact a minor student while he worked full-time for Southeast Polk.

The information says he enticed the minor to engage in sex and also recorded sexual activity with the student on his cellphone. Smith will have to register as a sex offender once he is released from prison.

Iowa’s governor proposes changes in job-search requirements for Iowans receiving unemployment


October 20th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Governor Kim Reynolds plans to ask the Iowa legislature to approve new job-search requirements for Iowans who qualify for unemployment benefits. Reynolds is proposing that Iowans receiving unemployment checks be required to check in weekly with a state worker about job openings in their area and — with the exception of union members — unemployed Iowans will have to prove they’ve applied for at least four jobs.  “The agency’s primary focus will be on rapid re-employment,” Reynolds says. Reynolds says some of the changes will require legislative approval.

Iowa Workforce Development director Beth Townsend says her agency needs a re-set since Iowa is in the midst of a workforce shortage. “Our goal therefore must be to return unemployment to its original mission,” Townsend says, “a short term, transitory program with a focus on re-employment as quickly as possible.”

Iowa businesses have listed more than 86-thousand job openings on the agency’s website. Townsend says nearly 68-thousand Iowans are receiving unemployment benefits today. Townsend plans to hire 18 people to counsel unemployed Iowans and she will seek to redefine what qualifies as work search activities that are required of Iowans receiving jobless benefits.

“Utilizing new technology and additional career planners, IWD will provide one on one contact on a weekly basis to those on unemployment to help them find that next job in the shortest time possible,” Townsend says. “…(The agency) will compare individual work history with labor market information to proactively and systemically match claimants with open positions in their community.”

Townsend says the weekly check-ins would be able to happen on-line or in-person at 18 Iowa Workforce Development locations around the state. Reynolds and Townsend made the announcement this (Wednesday) morning during a news conference staged on the manufacturing floor of an Adel business. Senator Nate Boulton, the top Democrat on the Senate Labor Committee, says the state should focus on helping small businesses and expanding child care rather than having the government assign Iowans to specific jobs.

Law Enforcement in Iowa mourns the loss of a State Trooper


October 20th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa – The men and women of the Iowa State Patrol and Department of Public Safety, Wednesday, said they “are heartbroken to announce the loss of….” Trooper Ted Benda ISP #313. Trooper Benda was involved in a single-vehicle crash on Thursday, October 14th while in route to assist the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office with a wanted suspect. He succumbed to his injuries Wednesday (today), October 20, 2021.

Trooper Benda joined the DCI in 2005, assigned to the Special Enforcement Operations Bureau in Marquette.  He transferred to the State Patrol in 2016, assigned to District 8 in Mason City and most recently working out of the District 10 office in Oelwein.  He is not only a valuable part of the Department of Public Safety, but he was more importantly a loving husband, father, son, and brother. Trooper Benda leaves behind his wife, Holly, and their four young children along with many family, friends, and colleagues.

Trooper Ted Benda ISP Badge #313

The Patrol asks you to “Please keep the Benda family in your thoughts and prayers as they face this unimaginable loss. “

State Auditor’s report finds surge in denied Medicaid claims


October 20th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – A report from the state auditor’s office has found that after private “managed care organizations” took over the state’s Medicaid system, the number of Iowans improperly denied medical care and services dramatically increased. State Auditor Rob Sand says this is the fourth Medicaid-related audit his office has released. “What we’re trying to do is figure out whether or not Iowa taxpayers are getting what we’re paying for with the MCOs,” Sand says. “The answer, pretty clearly, is that we’re not.” The state turned over management of Medicaid patients’ care to private companies in 2016. Auditors reviewed Medicaid files from 2013 through 2019.  “Comparing privatized Medicaid to non-privatized Medicaid, we have seen a 891% increase in judges overturning care denials,” Sand says, “meaning that care denial, for one reason or another, was illegal.”

State officials in charge of the Medicaid program say Sand’s report is flawed because it fails to account for changes made in the appeals process once private companies were in charge of approving or denying care. Governor Kim Reynolds says administrators of the program tell her the auditor has a fundamental misunderstanding of how the appeals process works. “They have spent a lot of time with his office walking through how it actually works,” Reynolds says. “He made the decision to disregard the information that they provided him and so I stand by Medicaid and believe that we’re still doing the right thing.”

More than 780-thousand Iowans are currently getting medical care or other services through Medicaid. Sand’s report found the two private companies managing the program violated contract provisions, for example, failing to pay for in-home services like wound care and help bathing if the Medicaid recipient was switching from managed care organization to the other.

Adair BOS recap,. 10/20/21


October 20th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Greenfield) – The Adair County Board of Supervisors, Wednesday morning, authorized County Treasurer Brenda Wallace to begin the process of hiring a replacement for an employee in her office who has resigned.

The Board passed a Transfer Resolution for Auditor Mandy Berg.

The Supervisors authorized Board Chair Steve Shelley to sign a Contract and Performance Bond for the Lakeview Drive culvert project. And, based on a recommendation by County Engineer Nick Kauffman, the Board rejected bids received for a reinforced concrete box (RCB) culvert project on W20 Jackson Road, after both bids came in at nearly one-half million dollars, or about 23.7% above the engineer’s estimate.

Kauffman said if they use a “Less conservative approach,” they could save around $100,000. The project will be re-let at a later date in hopes of receiving better bids.

Kauffman discussed also, a repair quote for the N35 Summit bridge.

And the Board spent time discussing with Adair County Sheriff Jeff Vandewater, FY2023 Sheriff’s Office wages.

2 injured when van and semi collide in Audubon County


October 20th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Irwin, Iowa) – Two people were injured during a collision late Tuesday morning east of Irwin, in Audubon County. According to the State Patrol, a 2010 Chevy Equinox driven by 44-year-old Tatum R. Schmidt, of Savannah, Missouri, was traveling south on Bluebird Avenue at around 11:55-a.m., Tuesday, when Schmidt failed to stop at the intersection with 150th Street. A 1997 Kenworth bobtail semi tractor driven by 42-year-old Nicholas Koeppe, of Exira, was traveling east on 150th, and was struck by the Chevy on the driver’s side in the intersection.

After the collision, the semi tractor left the road to the right and rolled over, coming to rest on its top in the south ditch off 150th. Koeppe was transported by Irwin Rescue to Myrtue Medical Center, in Harlan. Schmidt’s SUV traveled east following the crash, and came to rest facing northwest in the center of 150th. The Patrol says Schmidt was transported by LifeFlight to Methodist Hospital in Des Moines.

Both drivers were wearing their seat belts.