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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