Daily Archives: February 5, 2009

Paulsen’s Got Mail

House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, says he has a thick folder of e-mail messages to go through tonight.

The notes are from constituents who support his legislation allowing citizens to remove county supervisors, city council members and other local elected officials from office through a recall process.

Paulsen filed the bill this week just as the Linn County Board of Supervisors salary debacle hit the fan. Calls and e-mails have rolled in, Paulsen said, with all but one in favor of the legislation.

“I’m still waiting for the one that’s a folk song about me,” Paulson said.

Pauslen has no idea yet whether his bill will get a fair hearing in the Democratic-controlled House. Bills filed by minority party members on controversial topics usually don’t get a lot of floor time.

He’s more optimistic about a bill filed by Rep. Nick Wagner, R-Marion, that would allow supervisors across Iowa to cut their own pay without affecting the salaries of other county elected officials. Current law ties everyone’s pay together, so a cut in supervisor pay means a cut for the county attorney, auditor and recorder etc. It’s a lousy system.

Wagner’s bill, Paulson says, has a “no kidding shot” at becoming law.

I’d actually like to see a bill that eliminates compensation boards completely and hands supervisors sole power to set officials’ salaries, including their own.

That’s the way it works on city councils and in the Legislature, where members must take responsibility for pay raises and can’t hide behind the recommendations of an unelected board.

If you want to learn more about Paulsen’s bill, HF 205, there’s a good dissection atZach Peterson’s teardownwestdale blog.

Wagner’s bill is HF 217.


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New York Stinks, Too

Do you smell something?

Do you smell something?

Hey, remember the snooty travel writer who put Cedar Rapids on his list of five stinky places to avoid?

He’d better make room for The Big Apple. From the Daily News:

The Manhattan maple mystery has been solved.

“The odor in New York City was an ester associated with foenugreek seed processing,” Mayor Bloomberg said Thursday morning. “The Health Department confirmed that the odor does not probe a health risk.”

The sweet syrupy smell has occasionally wafted over the city for the last four years, prompting worry among New Yorkers and a frantic but fruitless search for the cause.

City agencies mapped wind patterns, odor reports and air samples to determine that food processing plants in New Jersey’s Bergen and Hudson counties were the likely cause.

 Hold it. Let me get this straight. Food processing sometimes causes odors? Shocking. How can people live like that?

But in New York, food processing odors are seductive according to the Times:

It wafted, seductively, over Staten Island, Brooklyn, then Manhattan, a smell that was sweet but indecipherable. And now the mayor has revealed that the likely source was fenugreek seeds used to produce fragrances at a plant in Hudson County in New Jersey.

The first wave arrived in October 2005, drawing thousands of New Yorkers onto the streets for a lively debate. Was it maple syrup? Caramel? A freshly baked pie? But as quickly as it arrived, it had vanished. Then, last month, the smell returned.

We need someone to write so poetically of our aromas.

Actually, fenugreek, which is an ingredient in the curry paste I make, does smell pretty good. But it’s no match for crunch berries.


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Supervisor Pay — Next Step is Friday

The Linn County Board of Supervisors will meet at 1 p.m. Friday (Feb. 6) at the Palmer Building downtown to take action on the County Compensation Board’s salary recommendations.

That includes the controversial supervisor pay freeze.

Normally, the board doesn’t act this fast on salaries. Evidently the sups want to put this in the rear-view mirror quickly.

Here’s the agenda and details.

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Thursday Reads — Called on the Carpet

The Gazette and Radio Iowa carry fascinating accounts of a legislative panel’s pointed questioning of officials with the Rebuild Iowa Office. First, lawmakers eager to ask questions were irked that they had to sit through a 45 minute presentation of questionable value.

Then there was the carpet. Apparently RIO spent $19,000 to re-carpet its office, an expenditure ordered by Lt. Gov. Patty Judge. This did not sit well with Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton:

That doesn’t pass the Iowa common sense test,” Kaufmann said. “That’s not an acceptable answer in Rochester, Iowa, where people are living in $20,000 trailers.” The average income in Rochester, a Cedar County town of 600, flooded last summer, is “way below” the lowest salary of RIO employees, he said.

Fine point by the gentleman from Wilton. Lawmakers also wondered whether RIO appointees got their jobs due to skill or political contacts. RIO chief of staff Emily Hajek was once a fundraiser for the Culver-Judge campaign.  Kaufmann noted that the lowest-paid job at RIO draws $47,600.

So where else are lawmakers unhappy with public officials? Linn County.

A day after the county compensation board approved a controversial pay freeze for supervisors, including three who promised to take a cut, House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen filed a bill allowing voters to remove county officials from office through recall. Paulsen is a Republican from Hiawatha. The three supervisors in question are Democrats.

Does the bill have a snowball’s chance? Probably not. But it got local officials’ attention. And it probably scored Paulsen some points with steamed local voters.

The Des Moines Register says the lottery lease idea is not as dead as the governor wants us to believe. Like the gas tax increase idea, lawmakers say it remains alive because Culver has never said he would “veto” it. And deep down, they know the cuts Culver announced last month won’t be enough to balance the budget. By around the second week of April, with lawmakers facing a huge budget hole, the lottery lease may look pretty good.

And yet, people are lining up to be in charge of this mess. Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, is considering a run for governor, according to Lee/Gazette’s James Q. Lynch. Conversations are taking place. No timetable has been set.

The Quad-City Times carries a front page centerpiece by Ed Tibbettson the latest U.S. agricultural census, which shows that the number of farms in Iowa actually grew between 2002 and 2007. That growth occurred among large farms and very small farms. The middle is still shrinking, and U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says that is a “troubling” trend.

So how about some good news? In this era of corruption and fiscal irresponsibility, it’s nice to know that Dunkerton is running smoothly. A state audit found no big problems. President Obama should dispatch a fact-finding team.

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