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Iowa unemployment rate down to lowest level since 2000

Iowa ended 2017 with an unemployment rate it has not seen since late 2000.

The state’s jobless rate fell to 2.8 percent in December, down from 3.5 percent a year prior, Iowa Workforce Development reported Tuesday. The last time the rate was that low was in October 2000.

Nonfarm companies added 28,300 jobs during the year, with large increases for the Iowa’s manufacturing (11,700 jobs added), financial activities (4,600 added), and education and health services industries (6,900 added).

“All of those categories are high-pay, high-quality and high-multiplier jobs. In and of itself, this stands out as a relatively good employment year,” Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson said.

Some of the gains were offset by a 7,500 job loss in Iowa’s construction sector.

While the latest numbers show good news for much of Iowa’s economy, the state will need to keep an eye on how many people are actually participating in the workforce.

In 12 months, 8,800 people left Iowa’s labor force, the state numbers show. That means Iowa has fewer people actively looking for work.

“Labor contraction is going to be an issue. It’s going to constrain the state’s ability to grow and the only way for us to deal with that … we have to promote in-migration,” Swenson said.

Fewer people searching for jobs can also contribute to the lower unemployment rate, Swenson noted.

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend used Tuesday’s report to plug Future Ready Iowa, an initiative by Gov. Kim Reynolds to increase the number of Iowans with post-high school training.

“With an unemployment rate at 2.8 percent, Iowa must address the shortage in skilled workers,” Townsend said. “It will take all hands on deck to sustain economic growth, including support from our partners in K-12, community colleges, universities, business and industry, economic developers and nonprofits — all of whom participated in writing the Future Ready Iowa strategic plan.”

Swenson said more job training and higher credentials can help, but Iowa mostly needs more people.

“Everything that the governor’s office said that it’s trying to do to ready up the workforce, that’s all fine and good, but we need warm bodies and these warm bodies, they’ve got to come from someplace else,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

Should ‘USDA Organic’ seal require better animal welfare standards?

A Trump administration decision aimed at scrapping higher animal welfare standards for organic poultry and meats has created a rift in the farm industry.

At issue, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has withdrawn its support for a rule that would have, among other things, required more outdoor space for hens on organic egg farms.

The rule would have closed a loophole in the current regulations that allows large poultry farms to use screened-in porches as outdoor access. It also would have prohibited some practices such as “tail docking,” in which a cow’s tail is partially removed.

The rule was adopted two days before former president Barack Obama left office, in January 2017. But Trump’s Agriculture Department called for further review, saying the rule exceeded its statutory authority.

Last week, a public comment period ended with more than 47,000 comments received by the USDA, and all but a few favoring the changes that would require “USDA Certified Organic” meat and poultry producers to abide by stricter animal welfare standards.

Still, large farm groups said the proposed changes went too far in dictating how farmers must treat their livestock, and the Agriculture Department seemed to agree.

“With USDA’s wise decision to withdraw this rule, organic livestock and poultry producers can rest assured that they will not be forced out of business by another costly and burdensome regulation,” Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said in a statement.

“By withdrawing this rule, the Trump administration is again demonstrating its commitment to deregulate rural America,” Roberts said.

Yet some of the rule’s strongest supporters are in the $43 billion organic food industry.

Consumers expect higher animal welfare standards from organic agriculture, said John Brunnquell, founder and president of Egg Innovations, a network of 65 farms in five states and headquartered in Warsaw, Ind.

“This is about consumer confidence,” Brunnquell said, adding that most people who buy organic eggs believe the chickens have access to the outdoors, fresh air, sunshine and a natural diet of things such as bugs and worms.

Much of the debate has been centered on organic poultry and eggs.

“People buy organic because they think these birds are living a better life, and that they’re not in a cage, but some of these aviary systems are nothing more than glorified cages,” said Mark Kastel, director of the Cornucopia Institute, which closely follows the organic industry.

“The USDA has never enforced language in its rules that says all organic livestock must have access to the outdoors,” Kastel said.

The U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, based in Tucker, Ga., did not return Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calls asking about its position on the organic rule.

Former Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station sold to commercial real estate company

CEDAR RAPIDS — A 118-year-old building in downtown Cedar Rapids that formerly housed the Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station has been sold to a commercial real estate company that plans to use it for offices.

GLD Commercial Real Estate Advisors will be purchasing the roughly 9,000-square-foot building at 427 First St. SE that housed the Cedar Rapids Science Station from 2000 until it was damaged by the 2008 flood.

The structure, built in 1900, served as the city’s fire department headquarters and downtown fire station, from 1918 to 1985.

The building, with brick Mission and Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.

David Drown, president of GLD Commercial, said remodeling has begun on the interior of the building, which was cleaned out after the 2008 flood and has remained vacant. Drown said his agency plans to use the second floor for offices and lease the first floor to a tenant.

“We currently lease from Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust at 500 First Ave. NE,” Drown said. “With its recent acquisition of Guaranty Bank and Trust and the additional staff that it will have, the bank wants to use the floor where we are for additional bank and employee services.”

Drown said his agency wanted to stay in downtown Cedar Rapids and explored owning a building, rather than continuing to lease office space.

“We approached the owners of the building, Duane and Anne Jasper, who also had purchased the building next door at 419 First St. SE for their business, Destinations Unlimited,” Drown said.

GLD Commercial expects to move in in mid- to late February.

Drown said about 13 people will work in the building. He believes it will be the last building along First Street SE that has been renovated since the 2008 flood.

“It’s really a neat old building,” Drown said.

Hearing to determine whether animals found in Vinton home were threatened

VINTON — A hearing has been scheduled for next week to determine the status of hundreds of animals seized from a Vinton home earlier this month.

According to court records, Benton County Attorney David C. Thompson on Monday requested a hearing to determine whether approximately 1,000 animals taken from the home of Marshall and Barbara Galkowski have been abused or neglected. Thompson has also ask a judge to assess costs incurred by three area animal shelters for the care of the animals.

The hearing has been set for Jan. 29 and the Galkowskis have been informed of the hearing, court records show.

On Jan. 16, Vinton police, the city’s building inspector and code enforcement officer and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office served a warrant at the Galkowskis’ home at 607 W. Sixth St. in order to determine whether they had violated city ordinances related to “dangerous and vicious animals” and nuisance abatement. Approximately 1,000 animals, including rabbits, mice, hedgehogs, chinchillas, turtles, fish, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils and a ball python were found inside the home and a detached garage. The carcasses of dead animals were found throughout the home and stored in a freezer, authorities said.

At the suggestion of a veterinarian and the Cedar Valley Humane Society, the animals were removed from the home “due to their poor health, housing and sanitary conditions,” court documents state. They were taken to area animal shelters, assessed and given medical treatment, documents state.

“The County believes the animals in question are ‘threatened animals,’” Thompson’s request for a hearing states.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

Conquering college can be stressful

IOWA CITY — Throughout her career as a counselor, Iowa City West’s Kelly Bergmann has noticed a growing trend of perfectionism among high-achieving students toward college applications, and the consequences and myths that come along with it.

“A lot of our kids are going for Ivy League schools,” Bergmann said. “That’s (the) kind of the culture we live in.

“A lot of the time, it’s the luck of the draw. Everyone has a bunch of fives on their (AP) exams, perfect scores on (SAT) subject tests; everyone has everything perfect. When it comes down to it, you can be perfect and still not get in.”

The idea of perfectionism has led students to think in a closed mind-set, where they believe a successful future lies only in going to their dream school. This mind-set, along with the fear of failure, leads to students striving toward perfection in a variety of ways, such as spending hundreds of hours pouring over test-prep books, pushing parents to shell out hundreds of dollars on expensive programs and coordinating every action to what they believe an admissions officer would find appealing.

“I think now we’re living in this age where everyone wants to have a tutor, and they feel like if they don’t score anywhere from a 30 to 34, somehow, they’re a bad test-taker and they’re never going to get into college,” Bergmann said.

This mind-set can lead to other harmful effects, such as excessive competition and stress.

“(West) has an extremely competitive academic environment. A kid can have a 3.9 (GPA) and be ranked 200th in their class,” Bergmann said. “That’s low, and that’s crazy because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a 3.9. It makes you human.

“I believe a little bit of competition is good, but when the norm is perfection, that’s where things get to be a little much.”

This can make what is mostly an independent process encompass the results of others, creating an environment of comparison and tension.

“It’s very nitty-gritty. (Counselors) hear gossip a lot,” Bergmann said.

However, during the application process seniors are usually full of stress, balancing their busy school coursework with auditions, essays, testing and extracurricular activities. At times, students may be overwhelmed and don’t know how to deal with the pressure.

“I think (stress) is generally healthy,” Bergmann said. “When you’re stressing yourself out so much that it starts to hinder your quality of life, that’s when it starts to become bad. Should you be a little stressed and anxious? Yes. But can you breathe? Can you focus? Are you having a good quality of life? That’s where the barrier is.”

Bergmann realizes, as a part of perfectionism in the college process, the numbers in the applications are extremely important. However, she recommends showing colleges the more human side of a person instead, observing if everyone is trying to become perfect and doing the same activities, everyone blends into the masses and no one truly stands out.

“A lot of the high school experience is pushing yourself academically and (finding) what also makes you you,” Bergmann said. “Everyone else is perfect, so stop trying to be perfect and be a good person, and show that you have something to give the school because of who you are, not what your grades or test scores are.”

One of the most important parts in showing the more human aspect is through recommendation letters. Bergmann emphasizes relationships — when teachers and counselors write letters, the best letters they write are for students they genuinely know as a person through conversations, showing their interests and their personality rather than their grades.

“Just be a good person and we’ll notice that,” Bergmann said. “We can tell a difference between the kids that ... have this human aspect to them versus the kids that are 4.0 perfect for this, tutor for that. We see those things. That’s what you apart from everyone else.”

The combination of perfectionism, competition and stress comes into play mostly during decision day, which can make or break a student’s aspirations.

“If some kids don’t get into the school they’ve been dreaming of forever, that’s a huge shot to what they feel like they’re going to be able to achieve going forward,” Bergmann said. “It’s going to be really hard and they’re going to struggle for a long time. People that you feel like you need to deliver the news to are going to love you no matter what.”

In the end, no matter the result, a successful future still lies within sight.

“There’s a plan out there for you and it doesn’t depend on the school you’re going to. A lot of the times it has nothing to do with who you are or what you’re capable of doing,” Bergmann said. “Talk to the people that you really love and know you well. Focus on the other things going good for you. It’s a school’s loss and another school’s gain.”

LAUREN ERNST

Just last year, more than 38,000 hopefuls from around the world applied to Stanford University, marking the record for the largest application pool in Stanford history.

Only about 2,000 were offered the coveted acceptance letter. It’s no surprise Stanford’s acceptance rate is the lowest of all colleges in the U.S. at 4.8 percent.

That’s enough to scare even the most qualified applicants.

However, this prospect didn’t prevent senior Lauren Ernst from applying early to her dream school. In hopes of making the cut, Ernst started preparing freshman year.

“I took the hardest classes available.” she said. “Whenever there was an AP class, I took it. I think I took the courses that I enjoyed and at the same time were most challenging to me.”

Ernst has committed herself to five AP classes this year, making it difficult at times to focus on applications. Additionally, the competitive and stressful environment among seniors during college applications can make it just as hard to focus. Ernst has experienced this firsthand on a day-to-day basis.

“I’ve talked to a couple of people and they’re like, ‘Well, if I don’t get in and this person does, I’m going to be kind of upset because I feel like we have very similar applications,’” Ernst said.

With tension among students, the demanding pressures of perfection and comparison can lead to secrecy, as acceptance letters can become the definition of success among high-achieving students today.

“I think some people don’t outwardly tell people because ... if it’s your number one school and you don’t get in, then your confidence (is hurt),” Ernst said. “But then there’s people who are really excited about it, like me.”

In situations where students always pressure themselves to get the best grades, take the hardest classes for the sake of college or study for countless hours, Ernst has come to realize that essays, in fact, are one of the most important parts of the process but certainly not the easiest.

“A lot of the prompts are like, ‘Why this place?’ I’m like, ‘Well, it’s pretty and they have a good academic program, and that’s about it.’ That’s not going to be sufficient to get me in,” Ernst said.

With multiple essays to be written, Ernst has frequently had to look back on her life for the perfect idea. Along the way, she’s come to realize things she could have done differently in her underclassmen years.

“The only thing I regret is stressing out about grades. Learning for a grade sucks,” Ernst said. “Learning for the sake of learning and having fun ... is so much better. I wish I had started out with that perspective in freshman year and hadn’t been so grade-centric.”

ZACH RING

Around college application season, most high school students are stuck indoors at home, busily trying to finish the many applications for the multiple colleges they’ve applied for. It’s a whirlwind of essay writing, late nights, stress and procrastination.

For one student however, college applications are a breeze.

Senior Zach Ring has only applied to one school — the University of Iowa — and he won’t be applying to another.

“I think the main reason for me was because there’s so many perks of going to the Iowa and what I want to do that it made sense to go to Iowa,” Ring said.

The benefits of having cheaper in-state tuition, access to the U of I’s new music building, the marching band and being a big fan of the Hawkeyes persuaded him he didn’t need to waste time on applying to other places when he was sure the U of I was the right school for him.

“(The process) was very simple. I did one application and it was great. I’m accepted,” Ring said. “I know of some people who are applying to an insane amount of colleges and are stressed and taking up entire weekends just for college stuff. I kind of understand, but not really.”

Because of his light course load and being done with college applications, Ring devotes all of his free time to his extracurricular passions and what makes him happy.

“Extracurricular activities are the big thing for me, and it’s fantastic,” he said. “The time people are putting into college apps, I’m putting into extracurriculars.”

Being involved in many extracurriculars has helped Ring decide his career path. Throughout his high school and junior high years, he has been an avid choir, show choir and band member. Because his mom also is a teacher, he’s combined both influences in wanting to become a choral director.

This wasn’t always the case, however. Like most students, Ring didn’t know what he wanted to do as a career for most of high school years.

“College really hasn’t ever crossed my mind. For a long time, I’ve been really adamant on, ‘I’m a freshman and I shouldn’t know where I want to go for the rest of my life and so I’ve kind of been putting it off until senior year,’” he said.

At one point, he was sure of becoming a chemical engineer because he believed it was a stable job and provided good pay. It wasn’t until he decided to take a Futures class at West, a class designed to help students explore career options, that he made an important realization.

“I took Futures here as a senior, which is kind of weird because it’s mostly a freshman and sophomore class, but the class talked about how the majority of people don’t end up doing what they love,” he said. “I love music and I didn’t want to end up in the majority for this so I decided to totally switch it up. I dropped physics to add on AP Music Theory so I could get more prepared for college. Futures was definitely a rude awakening for me.”

Because Ring always focused on what he loved to do, grades and classes were never a big focus, but he always believed in a mind-set his parents instilled into him.

“It’s ‘we don’t care what grades you get as long as you’re trying your best’ and I think that’s the correct mentality to have because if you force your kids to have straight As they’re going to end up getting into great schools but even if your kids get straight Bs that’s still going to be good,” Ring said. “The lack of pressure to do my hardest in school made me much more appreciative of my role in school versus, ‘oh, you have to get an A’ because then I would feel miserable.”

In an academic and moral sense, Ring represents a stark contrast from the perfectionist applying to many elite colleges

“There are a vast amount of students who are like (the perfectionist) and who am I to say that’s good or not because you could end up having a lot of choices,” he said. “However I personally feel like it’s a lot easier to say this school’s pretty neat and I’m going to just apply to this one.

“Dream school for me would probably be Iowa. It sounds weird, but my entire life I’ve never been totally focused on colleges and part of that is I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And then I’m like, I have all these of perks of going to Iowa so I might as well do that. There are so many plus sides to it. I’m so ready for college.”

YAJATRA KULKARNI

To many students, the mere idea of studying abroad with no parents for a year can be an unimaginable thought. For junior Yajatra Kulkarni, it is an opportunity that will soon become a reality.

It was just last year when Kulkarni found out about the Rotary International Student Exchange Program — a program that gives high school students the opportunity to apply for a chance to study abroad for one full academic year under a host family. He discovered the chance through a family friend, whose recent trip to Germany through Rotary convinced him to apply.

“(My friend) recommended I should go this year because it’s a good experience and it helps you to grow as a person.” Kulkarni said. “I decided to do it and I think my goal behind it is to develop a maturity for myself before I get into college and to explore. I’m hoping to get an adventure out of Rotary and learn about a new culture and language.”

No matter how fun the experience may seem, it wasn’t an easy decision for Kulkarni. He realized he would have to overcome many challenges, physically and emotionally. One of the biggest hurdles would be having to graduate early and travel to go to school in the foreign country, where he wouldn’t know the language or anybody there at all.

“All of the classes will be in that language that they speak so I probably won’t learn anything and I think there will be a lot of frustration for me to try to comprehend what is going on,” Kulkarni said.

Not only will he have to keep up with the classwork in the foreign school, he’ll also have to finish his college applications before he embarks on the trip, all while keeping up with the challenging AP course load at West. That means he has to decide which colleges he wants to apply as an 11th-grader and having to deal with the fact colleges haven’t released their essay topics yet. Because he needs the topics this year, he will have to contact each college explaining his situation while gathering teacher recommendations, maintaining both his grades and extracurriculars, and preparing to live internationally.

“As I get closer to that deadline I’ll probably really start worrying about it because that’s when AP testing, finals and writing college essays happens.” he said. “It’s going to be a really really bad process.”

Another aspect Kulkarni will have to prepare for is homesickness, one of the biggest problems for students his Rotary training sessions have pointed out. Having always lived with his family and among his friends, taking this trip is a huge step.

“I’ll definitely miss friends and family because the Rotary limits your access for social media,” Kulkarni said. “You’re not allowed to constantly talk to people at home because the goal of it is to talk to people you’re living with and learning new cultures. I think homesickness will happen but I’ll probably get over it pretty quickly.”

The training sessions Rotary offers are not only to combat homesickness, but other issues students may encounter by letting students spend the night for three days in a facility learning to encounter different trouble scenarios. However, what they won’t help with are the experiences that Kulkarni will possibly miss back at West High and at home.

“When you do something, there’s always something you miss out on doing,” he said. “I think if I do this student exchange, I will definitely miss out on that entire year of high school experience in the U.S. I would be missing out on courses I would have wanted to take and I’d probably miss out on spending an extra year with my friends and family before going to college. I won’t get to spend time with my sister, so that will kind of suck because she’s really young right now so I’ve oftentimes thought about if she would forget who I was if I was gone for a year and came back. It’ll definitely create differences and gaps in communication between me and people that I care about which will suck, but I think the benefits and experiences I get out of doing the exchange will outweigh the regrets that I get.”

Going forth with this decision hasn’t been a total personal decision. The opinions of his loved ones influenced how he felt on taking this leap.

“My parents definitely supported me, but my friends aren’t necessarily supportive of it because I think a lot of them don’t see the point in doing student exchange ... they think it’s a waste of money and I should just stay and not go,” Kulkarni said. “There were a couple of times where I think I kind of doubted myself for why I’m really doing it and if there was any point in spending the $6,000 on going abroad than saving it for college, but in the end it’s going to be worth it to go abroad so I’m sticking with it.”

As for anyone else who may be thinking about the program, Kulkarni has some advice.

“You really have to set in your mind why you want to do the student exchange because if you ... treat it like a vacation, it’s not worth doing,” he said. “I think it’s going to be more work than play.

“Make sure you are willing to do it and don’t have regrets later because a year is a long time and it will be really painful. It might be frustrating at times, but you have to be willing to stick with it and it will turn out to be a really fun experience.”

Iowa water quality legislation headed to Gov. Reynolds

DES MOINES — The Iowa House “receded” from its position on water quality legislation this morning and accepted a Senate-passed bill preferred by Gov. Kim Reynolds, who said she will be proud to make it the first bill she signs as governor.

Nine months after coming to a stalemate with the Senate that delayed adjournment of the 2017 session, House members approved Senate File 512. SF 512 is more or less the same bill the House approved in 2016, but replaced last year with House File 612 in 2017. It amended SF 512 to conform to HF 612, but the Senate refused to go along in the final hours of the 2017 session.

Today, the House voted 54-46 to recede from its position and then approved SF 512 59-41 with four Democrats supporting it and three Republicans voting in opposition.

Although opponents of SF 512 have called the bill weak and predict that its passage will be the end of the conversation on improving water quality in Iowa lakes and rivers, floor manager Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, promised to introduce additional legislation yet this session.

“I think this is a good bill,” he told reporters before the House began debate. “It’s a good, long-term, sustainable funding source for water quality, something that we have not had in the state Iowa. It’s something that, in the absence of anything else, is an awesome step up and it’s the beginning conversation of future conversations.”

Not everyone agreed.

“Why this? Why now?” Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, asked. Noting that the Legislature likely will have to make midyear cuts to the current year’s budget, she said lawmakers should balance the budget “before we start pulling revenue from schools and RIIF (Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund).”

The most passionate opposition came from Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, who last year was the floor manager of HF 612.

“I did not come down here to check a box,” he said. “Just because the words water quality are in the title of a bill does not make me proud to vote for it so I can put it on a postcard when I go campaigning.”

It was appropriate the motion was to recede, he said, because the House was going backward from its support last year of a bill that was “wildly bipartisan, was collaborative in nature, inclusive of most all of the interested parties.”

He doubts the Senate will have any interest in additional water quality measures because the he was told by key senators last year they had no interest in water quality legislation.

“If it wasn’t a priority to them last year, why in the heck would be a priority to them now,” Baltimore said. “I will literally be shocked if any substantive bill comes out this session in terms of improving SF 512 because if it could be done, it would be being done right now.”

The bill will provide $282 million over 12 years for water quality projects. In the first year, $4 million will be available and the funding will increase over time.

Wills, who is the water quality coordinator for the Iowa Great Lakes watershed, acknowledged that $286 million may not seem adequate to address what has been described as a $4 billion problems. However, he said, the state will be able to leverage the new funding to attract additional revenue.

Last year, Wills said, Iowa used $22 million in state water quality funding to leverage $400 million in state, federal and local money.

In 2017, House members insisted their bill, House File 612, had the potential to provide more funding because it gave would have the Iowa Finance Authority sell bonds to finance projects.

Wills pointed out that SF 512 includes a provision that would use revenue from a constitutionally protected conservation trust fund for water quality. In 2010, voters approved a constitutional amendment that called for using three-eighths of a cent on the next increase in the state sales tax for conservation and outdoor recreation. However, increasing the sales tax was not part of that ballot measure, leaving that decision to legislators.

“I am proud that the first piece of legislation I will sign as governor will be a water quality bill,” Reynolds said. “This will go a long way toward our goal of providing a long-term, dedicated and growing revenue source to help fund and scale best practices through the already successful Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”

Support for SF 512 came from not only the Farm Bureau, but a variety of farm-related groups, the League of Cities, the Association of Counties, county supervisors, Iowa Pork Producers, Corn Growers Association, Conservation Districts and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, according to lobbyists’ declarations.

Opposition came from the Farmers Union, Izaak Walton League, The Iowa Environmental Council, Sierra Club and American Heart Association.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

OPERATION QUICKFIND: Damontie Haggstrom-Wells

CEDAR RAPIDS — An Operation Quickfind has been issued for a missing teen.

According to the release, Cedar Rapids police say Damontie Haggstrom-Wells, 15, was last seen at 2060 Edgewood Rd. NW in Cedar Rapids, at 10 p.m. on Saturday, January, 20th.

He is described as a black male, 5’ 8’’ in height and 140 pounds. No additional details about clothing or physical conditions were provided in the release.

Anyone with information on Damontie’s whereabouts is asked to contact Cedar Rapids police at 285-5491.

University Heights police chief placed on administrative leave

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS — University Heights Police Chief Kris Lyon was placed on administrative leave by the city’s manager last week.

University Heights Mayor Louise From confirmed Tuesday that she placed Lyon on administrative leave on Jan. 15. From said she could not disclose why Lyon was placed on leave.

“This is a personnel issue, therefore, I am not in a position to discuss further at this time,” she said.

From on Jan. 19 sent a letter to other law enforcement agencies in Johnson County, as well as the Joint Emergency Communication Center, informing them of her decision.

Sgt. Nate Petersen has been tapped to serve as interim police chief, From said in the letter.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

Lebowski’s Bar and Grill in Robins to close

The first restaurant to open in the small community of Robins will close today.

Lebowski’s Bar and Grill, 925 Robins Square Dr., will shut its doors for the last time just a few weeks away from what would have been its two-year anniversary, the restaurant announced on Facebook.

“It’s with the heaviest heart we have to announce Tuesday will be our last day of business just a few weeks shy of our 2 year anniversary. Last year’s 7 month road construction proved to be too big of an obstacle for our small business to overcome,” the post reads.

Lebowski’s opened in 2016 as the first and only restaurant in Robins, a city of about 3,500 people.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

Tsunami warnings lifted in some areas after massive quake off Alaska

A tsunami warning was lifted Tuesday for a stretch of Pacific Coast from Washington to Alaska after a major undersea earthquake hit southeast of Kodiak, according to the National Weather Service. Officials in some coastal areas had urged people to seek higher ground.

The U.S. Geologic Survey gave a preliminary magnitude of 7.9. The National Weather Service put the magnitude at 8.2. The quake was located about 175 miles southeast of Kodiak in the Gulf of Alaska at a depth of about 6.2 miles at about 12:30 a.m. Alaska time.

There were no reports of significant ocean surges after the expected time the first effects could reach Alaskan shores. Later, The National Weather Service in Juneau said the warning was lifted from the Washington border, British Columbia and up to Alaska’s Hinchinbrook Entrance, a seaway southeast of Anchorage. It remained in effect to the west, including Kodiak.

NWS Juneau tweeted “The #tsunami warning is canceled for the coastal areas of British Columbia and #Alaska from WA/BC border to Hinchinbrook Entrance, AK, per JTWC. A tsunami was generated but does not pose a threat to these areas.”

In Kodiak, police department said water levels had receded in the harbor. A sharp withdrawal of water can precede a tsunami rise. “Citizens should remain in place and wait for further updates,” the Kodiak Police message added.

At its height, a warning was in effect for more than 3,000 miles of coastal zones north of the Washington border: British Columbia and Alaska’s entire southern shoreline including the Aleutian Islands. The National Weather Service sent messages to cellphones in Alaska with the message: “Emergency Alert. Tsunami danger on the coast. Go to high ground or move inland.”

“Based on all available data a tsunami may have been generated by this earthquake that could be destructive on coastal areas even far from the epicenter,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

An announcer on KMXT radio in Kodiak appealed for residents to heed the warning.

“This is not a drill. Please get out to higher ground,” said the message. “If you are on the flats, get up on one of the hills ... Just go high.”

A tsunami watch for Hawaii was lifted several hours after the quake.

Tuesday Morning Read: Cedar Rapids School Facility plan approved, CR water treatment plant up for repairs, Iowa preps for Wisconsin tonight

CR School Facility Plan Approved - The Cedar Rapids school board unanimously approved a facilities plan Monday night that calls for eight elementary schools over the next two decades to be closed. Each of the seven members voted “yes” after about 90 minutes of public comment, during which the majority of speakers asked the board to delay the vote. At one point, dozens of people in the audience held up sheets of paper covered in signatures — those of more than 600 people who signed a petition urging the board to wait another 90 days. Read the full story about this vote and plan here.

 

Water plant Improvement up for Vote - Cedar Rapids officials say nearly $14 million worth of improvements are needed as part of a larger plan to extend the life of the 89-year-old water treatment plant on J Avenue NE. This would be the second part of a five-phase, 10-year project to modernize the aging plant at 761 J Ave. NE that supplies about two-thirds of the city’s water.

“It’s a major redo,” said Scott Olson, a City Council member and chairman of the city’s infrastructure committee. “We are taking this decades-old plant and gradually rebuilding to make it more energy efficient and up to today’s standards.” Continue reading the story here.

 

Eastern Iowa Airport breaking records - The Eastern Iowa Airport set a new passenger record with 1.14 million people this past year. According to a Monday news release, the airport in 2017 surpassed the previous record for passengers — 1.13 million — set in 2014. Last year marks the eighth time in airport history to see ridership surpass one million passengers. Read a full story with reactions to the record breaking here.

 

Iowa preps to host Wisconsin - If the current men’s basketball declines of Iowa and Wisconsin have any significant difference, it’s that the Badgers have fallen further.

If the expression about misery loving company rings true, the Hawkeyes will embrace the Badgers when they meet Tuesday night at 6 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena (ESPN2). Wisconsin is 10-10 overall, 3-4 in the Big Ten. Iowa is 10-11, 1-7. Those aren’t numbers you normally would associate with either program at this point in the season. Read the full preview story here.

 

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics CEO steps down - Just weeks after longtime head of University of Iowa Health Care Jean Robillard stepped down, his pick nearly a decade ago to lead the UI Hospitals and Clinics has announced he’s retiring.

Ken Kates, 62, who has served as chief executive officer for the state’s largest hospital system since 2008, plans to leave his post in the summer — although a specific date hasn’t been announced. His departure follows that of Robillard, who was named UI vice president for medical affairs of UI Health Care in 2007 and stepped down Nov. 30. Continue reading here.

’Dreamers’ disappointed that Congress deferred DACA deal

Young “Dreamers” brought to the United States illegally as children were angry and disappointed on Monday after the U.S. Congress approved a temporary spending bill to end a three-day government shutdown without a deal to shore up their shaky legal status.

U.S. Senate Democrats accepted the bill to restore funds to keep the government running for three more weeks in exchange for a promise by Republicans to hold a debate on the status of the young immigrants.

“It’s irresponsible of everyone in Congress not to pass something,” said Jovan Rodriguez, 27, who was brought to the United States from Mexico by his parents when he was 3 years old. “I’m really disappointed.”

Republican U.S. President Donald Trump was expected to sign the legislation, putting government workers who were furloughed back to work.

Last year, Trump ordered an end by March to protections provided to the estimated 700,000 Dreamers under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, program, an executive order put in place by former Democratic President Barack Obama.

Under the program, young people who qualified were allowed to live openly in the United States, working and attending college and shielded from deportation. A court has put a temporary stay on Trump’s order.

After news of the spending bill, some Dreamers and their supporters briefly blocked the entrance to Disneyland in California. Marches and civil disobedience were planned in Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington and elsewhere.

Democratic lawmakers had initially vowed to oppose any bill to fund the government without an agreement to restore the DACA protections. But Republicans refused to budge, instead tying the spending bill to a program favored by Democrats that provides healthcare to poor and working-class children.

“Our members, including my brother Jonathan, are in greater danger today because of the cowardice of U.S. Senators,” activist Cristina Jimenez, executive director of group United We Dream said in an emailed statement.

SCHUMER EXPECTS TO WIN DACA DEAL

The leader of the Senate Democrats, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, said on Twitter he believed he would have enough votes to bring a deal on DACA to the Senate floor and pass it.

Schumer said he expected Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to honor his promise to open debate on the issue. “If he does not honor our agreement, he will have breached the trust of not only the Democratic Senators but the members of his own party as well.”

Activists said they planned to make their feelings known at the ballot box, targeting Republicans who have railed against illegal immigration as well as moderate Democrats who voted for Monday’s deal.

“We will be organizing voters, the people who will bring the consequences,” Adrian Reyna, 26, said by telephone.

An Oakland, California, resident who was brought to the United States from Mexico at age 11, Reyna said he started to work for passage of legislation to protect fellow Dreamers during his student days at the University of Texas.

Any legislation to protect Dreamers, even if it makes it through the Senate, could easily stall in the more conservative House of Representatives, unless Democrats manage to win back seats in the 2018 elections and exert more pressure, said Larry Sabato, a political analyst with the University of Virginia.

The headwinds scare Diego Corzo, an 27-year-old who built a successful real estate business in Texas but worries it could all be taken away.

“I will be living under a lot of stress, a lot of uncertainty and fear that everything that I worked so hard to accomplish can be gone,” Corzo said by telephone.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.)

Singer Neil Diamond diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, to retire from touring

U.S. singer-songwriter Neil Diamond, one of pop music’s all-time best-selling artists, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and plans to retire from touring, his official website said on Monday.

The onset of the disease has made it difficult for him to travel and perform on a large-scale, a statement on the site said, adding he will be canceling upcoming concert dates in Australia and New Zealand and offering refunds.

“It is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring. I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years,” Diamond said in the statement, offering apologies to those who purchased tickets to his upcoming shows.

Diamond, known for hits including “Sweet Caroline” and “Cracklin’ Rosie,” said he plans to remain active in song writing and recording.

Later this week, Diamond will turn 77 and on Sunday the Recording Academy plans to honor him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Diamond has sold more than 130 million albums worldwide and 38 of his singles have made it to the Top 40, according to the academy.

Grammy-award winner Diamond, a fixture in American pop music since he began recording in the 1960s, has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“My thanks goes out to my loyal and devoted audiences around the world. You will always have my appreciation for your support and encouragement,” Diamond said.

“This ride has been ‘so good, so good, so good’ thanks to you,” he said.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Neil Fullick)

Government reopens after deal struck by unusual bipartisan group

WASHINGTON — In the end, it was neither the self-proclaimed deal making President Donald Trump nor seasoned congressional leaders who found a path to end — at least for now — the government shutdown.

Rather, the agreement emerged from a fledgling caucus of impassioned moderates from both political parties who, if they aren’t sidelined in days ahead by a partisan resurgence, could grow into a new power center in the Senate.

The House and Senate approved a compromise Monday to extend government spending until Feb. 8, clearing the way for government offices to reopen Tuesday.

The deal, which was signed off on by Trump, also reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years and rolls back several health care taxes.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses,” Trump said in a statement. He vowed to “work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration.”

The deal was struck by 30 or so senators calling themselves the Common Sense Caucus.

Now many lawmakers in both parties hope the moderate group will continue to exert its influence to break the logjam, though a few ideological factions were plotting how to stamp it out.

Democrats, in particular, need to hold the center together to quickly craft an immigration deal to protect “Dreamers,” as the party comes under criticism from its progressive wing.

Liberals complained Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and others folded by agreeing to reopen the government after three days without extracting a firm commitment from the Republicans.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly, 81-18, to pass the three-week spending bill. In the House, Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., marshaled his majority for approval, 266-150, with six Republicans and 144 Democrats opposed.

In return for Democrats’ support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agreed to consider legislation to help Dreamers as part of an immigration compromise that also is likely to include border security and other measures. Protections against the deportation of Dreamers will end March 5 because Trump is terminating the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“Now comes the test, the real test, of whether we can get this done,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.

He promised Democrats would not relent. “To all the Dreamers who are watching today: Don’t give up,” he said.

Those promises, though, were met with skepticism by advocates for the nearly 700,000 young people who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children.

“It’s official: Chuck Schumer is the worst negotiator in Washington,” said Murshed Zaheed, political director of CREDO, an advocacy group. He said any plan that relies on GOP leaders to keep their promises is “doomed to fail.”

Trump capitalized on the divisions, declaring “Democrats caved,” in a fundraising email.

Democrats initially were cool to McConnell’s offer when it was presented Sunday, wanting more than a promise.

Fifteen Democrats, including California Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, and other leading liberals, voted to continue the filibuster, as did Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent. Two Republicans, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, who oppose spending levels, voted with them.

McConnell initially offered a measured tone ahead of the vote, refraining from accusing Democrats of putting “illegal immigration” ahead of the country’s needs, as he had much of the weekend. But after the vote, he resumed blasting Democrats.

Even so, he promised to give immigration a fair airing. “Let me be clear: This immigration debate will have a level playing field at the outset, and an amendment process that is fair to all sides,” he said.

For many, the gatherings of the Common Sense Caucus in the office of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, offered a glimpse of how a new Senate could break from partisanship to govern.

The group included red state Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-Va.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and others such as Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. all up for re-election in the fall.

Among the Republicans were dealmakers Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, but also newer brokers like Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who is running the GOP’s re-election committee, and Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., a former governor.

The path ahead, though, remains difficult with some 17 days to reach consensus on major issues, including spending levels, disaster relief and opioid funding.

The immigration debate will be most daunting, reminiscent of 2013 when the Senate passed an ambitious immigration overhaul only to see it ignored by the GOP-led House as “amnesty.”

The Tribune Washington Bureau and Washington Post contributed.

Willis Dady adds supportive housing to combat homelessness

CEDAR RAPIDS — In its efforts to reduce chronic homelessness, Willis Dady Homeless Services has acquired a house it plans to add to the stock of housing that meshes affordability with social services.

The group took possession this month of a home in the 1600 block of Washington Avenue SE in Wellington Heights.

Unlike a homeless shelter where stays typically are limited to a time period, permanent supportive housing like this is seen as a long-term affordable housing option where tenants typically pay below-market rental rates. But like most homeless shelters, permanent supportive housing typically comes paired with case management to address some of the issues that may contribute to homelessness.

Willis Dady Executive Director Phoebe Trepp Trepp said about 80 percent of homeless individuals need some degree of assistance before they find stable housing.

“Multiple things happen at once,” Trepp said. “It’s usually something like an illness or a family separation or job loss, so they have no support and no money. Those are the two reasons why everyone comes to us: no money and no support where they can go crash somewhere.”

But 20 percent of homeless individuals are chronically homeless.

“What we see a lot is mental health issues, a physical chronic health condition and substance abuse issue,” Trepp said. “When you look at people who have been homeless for two years or homeless off and on every month for the last five years ... there’s some combination of those three things happening.”

Willis Dady already was building four efficiency-style apartments onto its shelter, meant to serve as permanent supportive housing units for single adults. The Crestwood Ridge project, along Edgewood Road NE, will have five permanent-supportive housing units for families that Willis Dady will manage.

But Trepp said area homeless shelters realized the need for more supportive housing, especially for couples without children or multigenerational families.

The house Willis Dady purchased has four bedrooms on the second floor and one large bedroom on the third floor. The rooms will be rented to tenants for no more than 30 percent of an individual’s income. Tenants will sign a lease in order to rent a room, but there is no time limit.

“This is something that is an alternative,” she said. “This is for people who want to live in a community with others and aren’t good at developing supportive relationships, but want those.”

The house will need renovations, but Trepp said she hopes the home will be ready this fall.

She said the organization is open to having a mix of tenants in the house. It could fit six single adults or a combination of families with children and couples.

And Trepp said the location is ideal for families, as the house is near the First Congregational United Church of Christ and the Johnson STEAM Academy Magnet School.

Additionally, a Willis Dady staff member will spend about 10 hours a week at the house to build a relationship with tenants. Though tenants would not be partake of services, the staff member would assist them in building relationships with other residents and address issues that contributed to homelessness.

“It’s very hard to meet your goals and achieve things that you want if you’re homeless,” Trepp said. “Over time, we hope we can build that sense of belonging and acceptance and support.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8516; makayla.tendall@thegazette.com

Man with gunshot wound found in hotel room in southwest Cedar Rapids

Emergency responders called to the scene where shots had been reportedly been fired found a man in his hotel room with a gunshot injury to his leg.

According to an incident account released by the Cedar Rapids Police Department, at 7:25 p.m. Monday officers received a call of gunshots fired in the area of 3233 South Ridge Dr. SW. Upon arriving, according to the release. officers found an adult male a hotel located at 390 33rd Ave SW who had “what appears to be a non-life threatening gunshot wound to the leg.” A Quality Inn is listed at the 390 33rd Ave address.

The man was transported by ambulance to a hospital for treatment, according to the release.

According to the release, officers are continuing to look for witnesses and physical evidence on scene. No arrests have been made as of issuing of this release, and police say no further information will be released at this time.

The Aftermath of the ICN Audit: Iowa Capitol Digest, Jan. 22

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, Jan. 22:

CYBER TRAINING: Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday announced a new cyber training partnership between the state and SANS (SysAdmin, Audit, Network and Security) Institute to inspire the next generation of female cybersecurity professionals.

State officials say GirlsGoCyberStart is a free online game of discovery that offers girls in grades 9-12 the opportunity to learn basic cybersecurity skills and test their cyber aptitude. Participants do not need any prior cybersecurity knowledge or IT experience. The only requirements are a computer and an internet connection.

Iowa’s students will compete against students from 16 other states and territories: American Samoa, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. Registration will begin Jan. 29 and run through Feb. 16. The first 10,000 girls to register may play the game Feb. 20-25.

ICN AUDIT AFTERMATH: Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters Monday she is satisfied that proper action has been taken in the aftermath of a state audit that identified $379,500 in improper disbursements and undeposited collections resulting from management decisions by the former executive director of the Iowa Communications Network.

Richard Lumbard of Marion led the ICN, the state government’s distance learning and broadband carrier network, from 2014 until he was fired Jan. 4. During her weekly news conference Monday, Reynolds said the auditor’s office was contacted immediately after concerns were raised by ICN staff in July.

The governor said the audit “exposed significant flaws” with the network’s accountability structure, which have been rectified.

“We understand where the lack of accountability was in the structure, and they’ve identified it, so I think they’ve taken proper action,” Reynolds said. “The individual is no longer there, and they’re moving forward.”

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, expects the matter to be referred to the Government Oversight Committee.

BUDGET TALKS: Statehouse Republicans continued discussions Monday aimed at erasing a projected shortfall of about $35 million in the fiscal 2018 budget year that ends June 30.

Gov. Kim Reynolds and top Republicans from the House and Senate met privately Monday in what they described as a routine weekly discussion rather than specific budget talks. Legislative Republicans have indicated they would like to create a larger ending balance than the $3.6 million in the governor’s proposed fiscal 2018 revisions, which could require deeper cuts than the $29 million she proposed. She also sought to use $11.4 million in new revenue created by the federal tax cut, but that has drawn some GOP legislative resistance as well.

“We’ll continue to work with them. I’ll listen to what their suggestions and recommendations might be. That’s how you move it forward,” the governor told reporters. “That’s the process that we’re in right now, and we’ll continue to have those discussions. I’m not going to draw any lines in the sand. I’m not going to say this is what I expect. That’s not healthy. Rather, I think the conversation and the communication back and forth is how you get to resolution, and that’s the process that we’re in right now.”

FEDERAL SHUTDOWN EFFECT: The federal shutdown that began at midnight Friday had an immediate effect in Iowa. Officials say more than 900 full-time employees of the Iowa National Guard were furloughed. About 1,000 full-time employees were to remain on duty, including active Guard and Reserve military personnel. Also, drill was canceled for about 400 Iowa National Guard personnel scheduled for training last weekend, but an additional 700 personnel were allowed to complete weekend training due to interpretation of federal law. Rescheduling of all canceled training assemblies will be announced at a later date, Guard officials said.

MENTORING MONTH: Gov. Kim Reynolds was slated Tuesday to make an official proclamation declaring January as Mentoring Month in Iowa — marking the 16th annual National Mentoring Month as part of a campaign aimed to begin dialogues on the importance of quality mentoring programs and the effect they have on youth in Iowa. Officials say research has shown that with a mentor, at-risk youth are 46 percent less likely than their peers to start using drugs, 55 percent more likely to be enrolled in college, and 78 percent more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities. Iowa has more than 9,000 mentors who serve youth in programs certified by the Iowa Mentoring Partnership. However, advocates say thousands more Iowa youth could benefit from having a mentor.

SCHOOL CHOICE WEEK: Gov. Kim Reynolds has issued an official proclamation recognizing this week as Iowa School Choice Week — an event with the goal of raising awareness about the options that parents have for their children’s education. The week will feature 270 events and activities across Iowa, including open house events at schools, school fairs, home-school information sessions and other celebrations, organizers said.

MEETING POSTPONED: Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials say a public meeting to discuss construction plans in the Gull Point State Park Complex originally scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed until Thursday. The meeting will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Iowa Lakeside Lab Mahan Hall in Wahpeton. The public is invited to the meeting to discuss construction projects at Gull Point State Park, Marble Beach Recreation Area Campground, Hattie Elston and Pikes Point State Park.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s like an auction. Don’t twitch or I’ll call on you.” — Ryan Wise, director of the state Department of Education, during a presentation Monday to the House Education Committee at the Grimes Building in Des Moines

Johnson County Access Center project progressing

CORALVILLE — The Johnson County Board of Supervisors requested feedback from city leaders across the county on just how financially invested they’re willing to be in a crisis intervention “access center.”

A couple dozen city and county staff members and representatives were in attendance to hear the presentation Monday at a Johnson County Joint Entities meeting. Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass and Iowa City Council member Susan Mims gave an update on the effort to train law enforcement in mental health crisis intervention and a potential care facility.

“We are very, very close to finally bringing this to fruition,” Mims said during the meeting. “Basically where we are now is, along with the county, working on the physical facility.”

The access center is a monthslong project that would include sobering and crisis stabilization units as well as a low-barrier homeless shelter and telemedicine, among other features. The facility would provide law enforcement a more appropriate place to take people in a mental health crisis rather than the emergency room or jail.

Coupled with the facility is an effort to train law enforcement officials in substance abuse issues, homelessness and mental health. It began with officials traveling to San Antonio, Texas, for the training before Johnson County began offering the training itself last year. In all, more than 190 area officials have been trained in crisis intervention, Green-Douglass said during the meeting.

The project got a boost in support when the county agreed to cover any expenses beyond the facility’s operating budget up to $400,000.

Green-Douglass said the county has identified a potential building for the facility, but she said she couldn’t say where because they’re still in the negotiating process. She expected the information to be public soon. Previously, Jessica Peckover, Johnson County Jail alternative coordinator, told The Gazette that it most likely would be located in Iowa City.

Mims said the county also is working on agreements with the University of Iowa and area nonprofits for services inside the facility.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

Blizzard buries Siouxland; more than a foot of snow expected

SIOUX CITY — Northwest Iowa’s first major winter storm of the year paralyzed the region Monday, dumping more than a foot of snow in some areas and resulting in road closures, power outages and the shutdown of scores of schools, businesses and government offices.

Travel was not advised for much of the day as heavy snow and blustery winds created whiteout conditions, leading to a handful of stalled vehicles and accidents. More than 70 miles of Interstate 29 between Sioux City and Sioux Falls, S.D., were closed down Monday afternoon, and both lanes of U.S. Highway 20 east of Sioux City were blocked by two jackknifed semi-trailer trucks.

A tow ban was instituted across Northwest Iowa.

Some of the highest snow totals were expected in an area encompassing Sioux City and running northeast toward the Iowa Great Lakes. As of noon Monday, Sioux City had received 9.1 inches of snow, with 11 inches estimated to fall by the end of the day.

Meteorologist Brad Temeyer with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said Monday afternoon that the highest totals were expected in a band stretching from Vermillion, S.D., through Rock Valley, Iowa, and into southern Minnesota, where up to 14 inches was possible.

The area fell under a blizzard warning through midnight Monday, with wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph blowing snow across roadways and reducing visibility to near-zero throughout the late morning and afternoon. The snow tapered off in the evening, but winds continued to make visibility difficult.

In Sioux City, the weather halted transit services and shut down Sioux Gateway Airport from Sunday night to at least 9 a.m. today.

As of Monday afternoon, as many as 1,600 MidAmerican Energy customers in the Sioux City area had lost power because of storm-related outages.

County sheriffs from the Sioux City metro said there had been few wrecks involving drivers on heavily snow-packed roads as of midday Monday, but two semi-trailer trucks spun out just before noon on U.S. Highway 20 a mile east of Sioux City, blocking both eastbound and westbound traffic.

Plow crews operating in the Woodbury County Secondary Roads Department were pulled from duties before noon. While aiming to keep roads clear, the crews are not to put themselves into unsafe situations with poor visibility, Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew said.

In downtown Sioux City, City Hall, the Woodbury County Courthouse and the Federal Building all closed. Sioux City Council and Sioux City School Board meetings were postponed.

Some area residents also reported “thundersnow” Monday morning, a phenomenon that can occur in the middle of a strong storm front.

Conditions look to clear up for an extended period after Monday’s storm. The weather service reports clear conditions with highs around 30 today and Wednesday, with temperatures rising into the 40s Thursday and Friday.

Journal staff writers Earl Horlyk and Bret Hayworth contributed to this story.

Iowa City, University of Iowa partner on ‘Climate for Change’ semester

IOWA CITY — With help from the University of Iowa, the city’s 152-acre Terry Trueblood Recreation Area is getting a new plan for improving its use to ensure it will be around for future generations.

A UI graduate student course is helping develop the plan for the city park and areas around it on the Iowa River. The work is in conjunction with a larger partnership between the UI and Iowa City put on a theme semester called “Climate for Change,” which seeks to develop ideas from students, staff, merchants and residents for sustainability — that is, meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability to do the same in the future.

Last week, the Iowa City Council passed a resolution enabling the city to join the university’s efforts. Over the next few months, in addition to the park adaptation plan, the city will encourage residents and businesses to participate in environmental sustainability efforts while the UI holds programs and events on the topic.

“What we’d love is to have community members come and really be a part of that opportunity to both hear national leaders but, in addition to that, join in the conversation about sustainability,” said Linda Snetselaar, UI associate provost of outreach and engagement.

Events throughout the semester include a “teach in” where professors can include sustainability as a lecture topic, as well as lectures and a workshop conducted by Marcy Rockman, the National Park Service’s climate change adaptation coordinator for cultural resources.

Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton said he has had multiple conversations with UI President Bruce Harreld about improving the Iowa River, which runs through the campus and city.

Throgmorton said that while the city already has some good features along the river, such as Riverfront Crossings and parks, there’s still more that could be done.

“I think of them as jewels on a necklace,” Throgmorton said. “The crown jewel, if you will, is Hancher (Auditorium). So there are all these really wonderful assets along the river, but nothing tying them together except the river itself.”

Scott Spak, a professor for the graduate class, said the class’s plan will be about adapting the Terry Trueblood Recreational Area, 579 McCollister Blvd., with evolving human and natural uses.

He said studying the park is a “hands on’ way for his urban and regional planning master’s degree students to get experience as well as develop an adaptation template for other areas along to the river.

Overall. the Iowa River corridor efforts “will acknowledge and celebrate the various historical factors that have shaped current human use along the river, respond creatively to challenges and opportunities in specific locations along the river, adapt to changes in the region’s climate by making the areas adjacent to the river more resilient to future flooding, and use the river as a catalyst for future community and economic development that exemplify and fulfill the sustainability values and principles we jointly hold in high regard,” the city and the university said in a joint statement.

“When we think of rivers, we are often thinking about many different areas throughout the state,” Snetselaar said. “That particular idea in Dr. Spak’s course will kind of become a template that can be used throughout the state, but I also see it maybe as something that might be a focus nationally as well.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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