Monthly Archives: February 2009

Be the Poll — LOST

I know this local option sales tax thing is being voted on town-by-town, but this is a chance for you sound off, regardless of where you live.

Vote, make a comment. Get it off your chest. It will all be over Tuesday.

Still undecided?

The Cedar Rapids Tea Party  (Opposes)

Vote Yes for Our Neighbors. (Supports)

The Gazette’s Adam Belz has been answering questions all week at his County Supervision blog.

Last week’s poll: Gov. Chet Culver’s Job Performance: 65 percent disapprove, 28 percent approve, 7 percent don’t give a lug. (119 votes cast as of Friday afternoon)


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DNR: CR Tea Party Must Be Tea-Free – Updated

Anti-tax activists known as the Cedar Rapids Tea Party were hoping to channel their revolutionary Boston brethren Saturday by dumping tea into the Cedar River. They’re seeking to defeat the local option tax that’s on the ballot here Tuesday.

(UPDATE — Tea Party’s Jeremy Cobert tells his group’s side of the story below)

But, according to The Des Moines Register, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources considers tea a pollutant:

Tea, although natural and quite tasty, is considered a pollutant that can’t go into a body of water without a permit, said Mike Wade, a senior environmental specialist at the DNR’s Manchester field office.

“Discoloration is considered a violation,” Wade said.

Although not as steeped in history, the Cedar Rapids Tea Party will dump dechlorinated tap water or riverwater from buckets labeled “tea,” said Tim Pugh, the group’s founder.

“We don’t want to hurt the river,” said Pugh, 32, of Cedar Rapids.

 I’m not sure tap water carries the same symbolic potency of tea, but rules are rules. Civil disobedience ain’t what it used to be.

It’s also sort of ironic to worry about pouring a little tea in the Cedar after the muddy noxious muck  the river left in hundreds of homes. Which reminds me of the reason we need the penny tax, which is probably not what the Tea Party folks were going for.

My column on the tax issue can be found here.

UPDATE — Here’s the comment posted by Jeremy Cobert from Cedar Rapids Tea Party:

this is Jeremy Cobert from and the sites administrator. i cant believe how outrageously inaccurate this story is.

First of all on our website we posted back on the 17th plans to have a “SYMBOLIC TEA DUMP” symbolic being the key word. here is a link
and explanation that we were calling the DNR before any plans were finalized. we knew we would not be allowed to dump actual tea, but thankfully we called to confirm and have also informed everyone that they are not to dump anything but water. its easily found on our sites announcements under “TEA DUMP”
now to address the others on this site.
1. yes I was affected by the flood. my job was displaced. I was off work and when I went t back to work we had massive clean up. I work for the school district, and its funny that I never got attacked when I was down there in the mud getting Taylor, or the ESC back online.
2. yes this is a publicity stunt as we are a TRUE grassroots organization. We have very limited funds and work on this at night after we ******* work. we cant afford to hire a PR firm,televison or newspaper ad’s all we have ever asked from our supporters is for some of their time.
3.Tim and I have never asked for money/donation as we felt it would be inappropriate when we are calling for a thinner city budget. The other side (voteyes) has released their donors list and its no surprise who is on that list. Needless to say who benefits from a tax hike, just look on their list.
4. this is an emotional issue and those who do privately support our efforts can not come out and say so, without being crucified by the other side. So I’ve done my best to protect those.
5.the other side and those in the media like Mr. Dorman are portraying us as Kooks or that we don’t want to rebuild the city. When in fact the opposite is true. I just want the city’s officials to act more responsible with their current budget (as we all are already doing)
I just ask that people keep an open mind as Tim and I are probably just like you. I work, I have a family and times are tight. like many of you I have finally had enough of this city council and want to hold them accountable .
Sincerely Jeremy Cobert

Not sure where he got that I think they’re kooks. He also took issue with my headline, so I changed it. He says they contacted the DNR first.

I actually thought the main reason this story is interesting is because the DNR says tea is a pollutant. I wasn’t looking to poke fun at the tea party. They’re going on all over the nation this week.


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Friday Reads — Condemn, Hug, Pedal, Speed, Repeat

Gov. Chet Culver totally said what we were thinking, didn’t he?

The past few days, reading developments in the Atalissa bunkhouse saga, we kept thinking, hey, for decades, bureaucracy at all levels failed these mentally disabled workers. Then, on Thursday afternoon, the governor issues a statement saying the exact same thing. Spooky. The Register carries news of the governor’s strong words and his promise to launch a new investigation:

Culver said that “while it’s hard to second-guess what did or did not take place in the past, one thing is clear: Every level of government bureaucracy has failed these men since 1974 … The fact that this was allowed to go on for decades is completely unacceptable. However, I will do all I can to make sure it will never happen in the future as long as I am governor.”

 “Unacceptable,” again, exactly what we thought.

Around these parts, just a few weeks ago, failing to return a library book was an offense worthy of cuffing and stuffing. Now, it’s provided a chance for the tardy borrower to meet and get a hug from the book’s nationally known author. It goes to show you never can tell.

The Gazette fronts news of the hug, between Shelly Koontz, who failed to return “The Freedom Writers Diary,” and Erin Gruwell, the book’s author. They met at a school gymnasium in Independence, where Gruwell talked to students and gave Koontz an inscribed copy of the book. Theft charges have been dismissed against Koontz. Her arrest, which made national headlines, prompted Gruwell to visit.

Years ago, my wife and I bought brand new bikes. We were going to tour the countryside, ride trails, shed unwanted pounds and wear dorky but necessary helmets. A few days later, we found out my wife was pregnant. The farthest those bikes have ever cruised was in a moving truck. Sigh.

But now, from Radio Iowa, comes word of Senate passage of the “Bicyclists Bill of Rights.” I might just have to take those bikes down, dust them off and hit the road.

The bill seeks to raise the profile of bicycle safety, with a few teeth. Motorists, for instance, could be fined for not giving bikes a five-foot berth on the road or for tailgating. Republicans complained that the bill gives rights with out adding responsibilities, like drunk biking penalties etc.

Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, said he and his 11-year-old son ride their bikes together nearly every night in the summer, but Zaun thinks the bill is silly. “What’s next — the motorcycle bill of rights?”

Great transition, senator. Thanks.

A motorcyclist in Nebraska had his rights read to him. And he’s lucky to be around to hear them. The Omaha World-Herald reports  on Billy Flynn’s wild ride, a high speed chase that hit 145 mph:

Imagine what would have happened had the Lincoln motorcyclist accused of going 145 mph up U.S. Highway 77 hit a patch of gravel or a dead raccoon.

Authorities said the motorcyclist refused to pull over and led a Nebraska state trooper on a five-minute, eight-mile chase north of Lincoln.

That’s a rate of one mile every 37.5 seconds, an average of 96 mph.

During the chase, speeds reached 145 mph – 80 mph over the limit.

Dr. Robert Muelleman, director of the emergency department at the Nebraska Medical Center, said that if someone were thrown from a motorcycle at 145 mph, “it would most likely be nonsurvivable, helmet or no helmet . . . It would be a miraculous thing if somebody survived it.”

Your body stops, but your organs keep moving, he said.

 That last line sounds like me on the weekend. Have a good one.

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Beer Taxes



This morning, as I noted in my previous post today, The Gazette fronted news that Iowa politicians have little or no interest in raising the state’s tax on beer. Alcohol taxes will remain unchanged, despite deepening budget woes.

Carla Keppler’s well done story makes mention that other states are considering beer tax hikes. But the track record is mixed, and most have been met with opposition.

A measure in Idaho that would raised the tax on wine and beer was handily defeated in a House committee, according to the AP. Opponents argued that a tax hike in the middle of a recession is a bad idea.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick wants to put a 5 percent sales tax on beer. Worcester Telegram columnist Clive McCFarlane doesn’t think much of the idea. He recommends the governor visit a bar:

First and foremost, he will find that the dependable taste of his favorite beer is one of the few things that provide the American worker with a good feeling these days.

He will learn that a couple of beers often cause people to speak freely and frankly, and it is not unlikely that he will run into patrons who believe that rather than their beer, it is their government, through years of incompetence and greed, that is being more of a detriment to the health and well-being of their families.

 I smell a Boston Beer Party brewing.

Many Oregonians are hopping mad about a proposal there to hike the beer tax from less than a penny per glass to 15 cents.  Oregon’s robust brewing industry is lobbying against the plan.

New York state is considering Gov. David Paterson’s plan to more than double the excise tax on beer.

Even in bourbon country, the booze tax is rising.

But in other places, there’s no hike on tap.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle wants to raise the tax on smokes, but isn’t touching a beer tax that hasn’t gone up in 40 years.

And across the pond, Tories in the UK want to cut the tax on beer to help struggling pubs.

Maybe they remember the old proverb attributed by many to the Czechs:

“Any government that raises the price of beer cannot last longer than the next plum harvest.”


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Thursday Reads — Who’s Side Are They On?

In some instances, politicians/elected officials are sort of like whitetail deer. When a threat to the herd appears on the horizon, they flash a warning sign and bound for safety. It’s instinct. They stick together. Safety first.

So it wasn’t surprising Wednesday when a legislative subcommittee shot down a bill that would have given voters the power to remove local government officials through recall. The Gazette/Lee’s James Lynch reports that the bill fell after lawmakers heard from groups representing local government officials. Stunning.

…bad policy decisions shouldn’t be enough to get local elected officials thrown out of office between scheduled elections, representatives of the Iowa State Association of Counties, its county supervisor association and the League of Cities said.

They said voters can remove elected official at elections and allowing recall would lead to more elections at a significant cost to taxpayers.

 Yes, of course. We don’t want to give taxpayers more power because we care about them so much.

Elsewhere in the Capitol, lawmakers are reviving pieces of a bill killed last year by the same groups representing local governments. Rod Boshsart reports that lawmakers are taking another stab at toughening the state’s open meetings/open records laws. Last year, legislators delivered a last-minute punt to a bill that would have set up a new enforcement arm to handle citizen complaints. Local government groups lobbied hard against the bill, arguing that transparency is just so hard.

Well, you can forget about the enforcement panel. Instead, we might get an “advisory panel” that would be dominated by, you guessed it, government officials. Swell.

The bill is probably worth salvaging as an incremental step. It toughens definitions of open meetings and strikes at “walking quorums” where small groups of officials huddle in an attempt to skirt the law. But you have to wonder why local governments are so adamant that these laws aren’t rigorously enforced.

Actually, it’s no secret. It’s the same as recall. They want to do whatever they want and not get in trouble. Same with my three-year-old. But you can’t take away a county supervisor’s binky.

At least they’re not going to raise the beer tax. Several other states are, Iowa isn’t, according to The Gazette.

And just when you thought the Atalissa bunkhouse story couldn’t get any more troubling, The Des Moines Register’s Clark Kaufman reports  that mentally retarded plant workers “allegedly had sex with or were physically abused by their caretakers, company officials have told state investigators.”

Dru Neubauer, employed by Henry’s Turkey Service as one of the primary caregivers at the 106-year-old bunkhouse where the men lived, told The Des Moines Register on Wednesday that in 2005, the company fired a female caretaker after one of the bunkhouse residents alleged he was paying the woman for sex.

 Unbelieveable. What will they dig up next?


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Smuggler’s Boots

Reputed Smuggler

Reputed Smuggler

Imagine my surprise this week when I found out my youngest daughter is a well-known smuggler.

I was informed by daycare security experts that my 3-year-old daughter has been smuggling contraband into the building and under my nose. In recent weeks, she’s been caught with unauthorized coins, a tube of lip gloss, some of her sister’s jewelry and, on Tuesday, a small, red felt-tipped marker.

Maybe you’re wondering how she got these objects past my watchful eye.

Exhibit A, Cowboy Boots, Red

Exhibit A, Cowboy Boots, Red

It turns out she hid the contraband in her red cowboy boots.

And to think, I was actually pleased when I’d hurry down the stairs in the morning and find her already wearing her boots, ready to go. What a big girl.

It was all a clever ruse. A calculated diversion.

Now, one more thing has been added to my already too-busy morning routine. A boot check.

I can’t wait for sandals weather.


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News of the Party

Iowa politico Craig Robinson is starting “The Iowa Republican,” which will be offering “News by Republicans, for Republicans.”

You can take a peek, but it won’t start dishing up the party line until March 4 at 7 a.m. I say the more the merrier on this big runaway train we call the media. Welcome aboard, right-leaning truth-seekers.

There’s always room for more perspectives. Yep, a wide array of viewpoints, that’s what I like. But of course, I’m biased.

 The news release:

For years, many of us have complained about the liberal bias that is so prevalent in our traditional media outlets. While some are worse than others, conservatives and Republicans alike find it difficult to get the important news of the day without it being skewed by the bias of a particular news organization. So, instead of bemoaning the fact the Iowa lacks a center-right news organization, I’ve decided to create one:

I’m excited to tell you that will launch on Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 at 7:00 am. The site will contain original news articles, editorials from our elected officials and candidates, press releases, various conservative blogs, and much more. I hope you will check it out.

In addition, the site will also contain a message board where you can interact with people from all across our state regarding the issues that you are passionate about and that you want to see discussed. Whether it is the gas tax, fair share, or even letting people know about a local county GOP event, your participation will help build an online political community like no other.

While we are making the final last minute touches to the site, I encourage you to check out our video and splash page at

I wonder if they’ll have a fashion section. “Flag Pins and the Pool, Be Patriotic without Getting Stuck.” Or food? “Surrender that French Silk, Comrade, and try some Apple.”

Sorry. I kid because I care. Welcome, and good luck.


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