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Archive for April 22, 2011

Loebsack on Iowa Workforce Development

Loebsack on Iowa Workforce Development

April 20, 2011
Dear Governor Branstad,
I write to bring to your attention concerns my constituents have expressed to me with respect to the proposed closing of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) offices such as in Lee, Muscatine and Johnson Counties among numerous others in Southeastern Iowa. As you know, there are areas in my Congressional District that continue to experience unacceptably high unemployment rates.
As our economy continues to recover, we should ensure resources are maintained for those out of work or looking to improve their skills and secure employment. For example, Lee County residents, like other counties, will be hard hit by the proposed closings in a number of ways. Since the clients of the IWD offices are typically already struggling to make ends meet, they can hardly afford to pay for trips to other counties to obtain IWD services. If Lee County's offices were closed, it would be a two hour commute for these clients and similarly long commutes for other counties with closing offices.
The commute is a particular burden for the elderly, the poor, and those without a vehicle, especially because many areas lack an extensive public transit system. In addition, while moving services online is an admirable goal to serve some clients in a more cost-efficient manner, it would negate one of the vital functions of some IWD centers, which is to provide computer and online skills trainings and internet access as many of these clients don't have the skills, knowledge or personal access to such services.
Case-management is another important function of the IWD offices and this type of interaction with clients can have a very positive impact on the efficiency of service delivery. Further, I have heard concerns that shifting the work from the IWD offices to other community service providers or community colleges will greatly burden these already struggling providers with potentially unsustainable work and client-loads.
Iowa is a leader in providing efficient and innovative workforce development services. While I support ensuring the efficient use of the workforce development system and understand the difficult budget situation we face, I hope you take into consideration the above concerns with respect to the planned closure of important IWD offices throughout the state.
Dave Loebsack
Iowa's Second District

Dave Loebsack was first elected to the United States House of
Representatives in 2006 and represents the Second District of Iowa.
He serves on The House Education and Labor Committee and The House Armed Services Committee.
To learn more about Congressman Loebsack click here.

Earth Day and Corporate Reputations in Iowa

Earth Day and Corporate Reputations in Iowa

by Paul Deaton

Word coming from K Street in Washington, D.C. is that all this talk about the budget, federal deficit and the debt ceiling has been bad for business. Without an omnibus spending bill, like the Affordable Care Act, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Farm Bill, or an Energy bill, lobbyist revenues are off. According to Kevin Bogardus and Rachel Leven at The Hill, “President Obama and the new Republican House have spent more time battling over the budget than crafting the kind of mammoth bills that have a big impact on industry.” Divided government has not been good for the influence industry.

Here in Iowa, there is a different kind of influence industry that is more successful, what some call “reputation management.” We have our share of lobbyists plying the State Capitol, but the influence peddling to which I refer doesn't only take place in Des Moines. Governor Branstad's planned Earth Day activities serve as a case in point.

Today, Governor Branstad is scheduled to visit a Lake Mills, Iowa landfill and nearby greenhouse that uses energy captured from from the landfill to heat the growing areas. On the surface this seems like another example of a politician making a statement about renewable energy, local business development and what energy independence looks like. We don't begrudge the governor for making this trip to promote Iowa.

The influence is not what the Governor is doing. The association of Waste Management and their corporate tagline “Think Green” with Earth Day is an example of “reputation management.” Rather than associate with the problems of landfills, Waste Management seeks to focus on a positive aspect, that they are managing the methane that escapes from the landfill by capturing it and converting it to heat that helps grow vegetables. When Waste Management does this, they are consciously managing their reputation, trying to create positives where there are negatives. The endgame is influencing the community to believe that they are “good corporate citizens.” This is good for their business.

Methane escaping into the atmosphere is bad. It is a greenhouse gas that increases global warming. One could debate whether collecting and burning it is good or bad, but such a debate misses the point that concentrating waste in landfills created the problem in the first place. The Governor's event assumes that landfills will exist with all of their problems.

We live in a society where the number of business concerns is getting smaller and they are increasing in size. Companies like Waste Management have to operate in the community because there is no place else for them to go to conduct business. They manage their reputation of being “a good corporate citizen” and hope to influence the community that they are beneficial. To a large extent they have been successful.

Some of us remember the first Earth Day. It was a time of concern about air and water
pollution before there were government protections. We fought against the use of lead in gasoline, DDT on farms and many other problems with industry. When the Environmental Protection Agency was created we considered it an achievement of our movement, little realizing the power of influence that would impact the EPA during the coming decades. In that moment, we believed our government would protect us, something that during the protests against the war in Vietnam seemed unlikely. It was cause for relief and celebration.

Today, there is no movement and Earth Day has been co-opted by corporate interests. The press reports: “For more than 40 years, Earth Day has become the shining example of how organizations and individuals can work together to be more sustainable and help protect the environment and our natural resources.” It is a kind of doublespeak that omits government involvement and obfuscates the fact that corporations were once and still are the antagonists in a struggle with individuals seeking to preserve the commons. This struggle goes on despite corporate assertions about being “green” on Earth Day.

Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail
Paul Deaton

Celebrate Earth Day!

Celebrate Earth Day!
Celebrate morning,
The cry of a loon on a lake in the night
Dreams that are born in the dawn's early light
Celebrate morning.

Celebrate living,
The laughter that sings in the heart of a child,
Freedom that flies to the call of the wild,
Celebrate living.

Celebrate evening,
The stars that appear in the loss of the sun,
Whispering winds, 'We are one, we are one'…

Celebrate Earth Day, every day,
Celebrate Earth Day, every day
Celebrate land and sea
Celebrate you and me
Celebrate Earth Day, every day