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The Republican Contempt For Voters in Muscatine

Muscatine City Council with Mayor Broderson

Hard-hitting editorial by QCTimes.

Quad-City Times editorial board May 7, 2017Q

Hours of testimony. Reams of documents. Months-worth of email chains.

The past 18 months of political upheaval in Muscatine has been laid bare because of the impeachment trial of Mayor Diana Broderson. And after listening, reading and culling, there’s only one reasonable conclusion for Muscatine City Council, which is expected to vote Thursday: Broderson’s ouster would be an egregious abuse of power.

Kill the resolution to remove Broderson from office and, instead, beat her at the ballot box in November.

There’s no doubt that Broderson entered office in 2016 without a clear understanding of her duties. But all the evidence suggests a clumsy first-time politician trapped in a battle of personalities within City Hall. Rampant, benign bumbling is not an impeachable offense. Nor is being a liberal in a town long run by conservatives.

Put bluntly, the so-called charges against her, and associated facts, in no way suggest negligence or dubious intent. In fact, they are but a long list of petty grievances compiled by Muscatine administrators and council members themselves. It’s now that very City Council, which initiated this mess by illegally stripping Broderson’s power, that is judge and jury of a kangaroo court that should never have existed.

Prosecutors spent copious amounts of time, for example, hammering away on the fact Broderson held monthly Coffee with the Mayor confabs. It’s an official act, because of the title and use of letterhead, the prosecution contends. Such an act requires City Council approval under local code.

Yes. This is an actual charge that could fuel a mayoral removal that’s almost unheard of anywhere in the country.

How about another?

Broderson discussed various issues with city staff without first seeking City Administrator Gregg Mandsager’s permission. Apparently, bringing a pothole directly to the attention of public works staff, too, is a violation of city code if done by the mayor without consent of the unelected administrator.

One more? Sure.

Broderson dared send out a political mailer — using campaign funds — calling her political opponents “good old boys.” Allegedly, even such a staple of small-town American politics violates city code, because it disparages elected officials. It’s as if, once elected, the mayor of Muscatine forgoes even First Amendment rights.

All of those alleged wrongdoings are, in fact, precisely what mayors do throughout the country. They meet with constituents. They take feedback to relevant departments. They play ugly little political games with opponents. Broderson has been impeached for simply acting as a mayor.
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Broderson is being held to a unique standard, one that isn’t applied to any other elected official in Muscatine. This is personal. And that’s a problem.

Frankly, this entire charade has been an utter embarrassment. Broderson stormed into office, occasionally overstepped her bounds and the entire Dumpster fire spun out of control. The council stripped her of appointment power. She took it to state officials, who determined that was illegal. The council wouldn’t back down. She asked local law enforcement to prosecute. Yes, this farce has cost Muscatine taxpayers. But to pin the entire expense on Broderson is an exercise in dishonesty.

There’s nothing impeachable here. There never was. All this time and money spent. All this embarrassment heaped on Muscatine. More cash will no doubt be blown on defending the City Council when Broderson sues, should council members vote to remove her. And all of it has done nothing but expose the sewer that is Muscatine local politics.

It’s a ruthless, farcical crusade to oust an elected official for not toeing the line. It’s an affront to the voters of Muscatine and the democratic process itself. It’s the weaponization of an incredibly serious mechanism of impeachment for purely personal and partisan ends.

Broderson might not be a quality mayor by most measures. But then again, she never had a chance.

Removal Vote On Mayor Of Muscatine Thursday Morning

Muscatine City Council with Mayor Broderson

The somewhat mysterious process that the Muscatine City Council has used in their proceedings against Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson will become much clearer Thursday morning when a removal hearing will be held at City Hall at 8AM.

As far as I can tell the meeting is open to the public.

The attempts to remove Mayor Broderson have been reported across the country. There have been undertones of sexism and of highly partisan politics for those of us viewing it from outside of the city. Removal of mayors is not a common process in this country.

Perhaps the best in depth story on this situation comes from the Voice of Muscatine blog from last month.

Since the council has been united in this process, one can probably expect a vote for removal to be a foregone conclusion. I have no idea what action may be taken after that, if any.

Save Net Neutrality!

Editor’s note: The following is an email from former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. Copps tenure was highlighted by his continual fight to to end corporate dominance of the media and put the media back into the hands of the common man. When Commissioner Copps speaks we listen. Here he is asking for help in stopping the runaway train trying to end net neutrality that would make corporations the gatekeepers of the internet:

Help Save Net Neutrality

PETITION: We rely on Net Neutrality to connect, organize, and make change. Losing Net Neutrality protections now would stuff the pockets of Big Cable, put new fees on consumers, and be absolutely devastating for our democracy.

Take Action!

Our democracy relies on a free, fair, and Open Internet. Every day, journalists, voters, and activists rely on the FCC’s Net Neutrality protections to communicate freely online.

But Net Neutrality is in the crosshairs of Donald Trump’s newly appointed FCC Chairman and some Republicans in Congress. Chairman Ajit Pai has called Net Neutrality a “mistake” and promised to take a “weed whacker” to what he saw as “unneccessary regulations.”1

And at a Senate hearing just minutes ago, Sen. Ted Cruz urged Chairman Pai to “rescind” Net Neutrality “in its entirety” — and told Pai he’d have the support of his fellow senators if he did.

We can’t let that happen. Please join me in calling on the FCC and Congress to leave Net Neutrality alone.

I served on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for over a decade, so I know firsthand how important its mission to make sure our media and communications ecosystem serves every American is. I also know how devastating it can be if the FCC uses its power to serve corporate interests — instead of the public interest.

But the most important thing I learned in my time at the FCC is that people speaking up makes a difference. If we stand by silently while Trump’s FCC dismantles Net Neutrality and puts big corporations before the public interest, our democracy will be much worse off.

But if we speak out, and hold Chairman Pai to his responsibility to be a voice for every American, there’s no limit on what we accomplish.

Add your name and tell FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and members of Congress not to roll back Net Neutrality.

Without Net Neutrality, there’s nothing to stop companies like Verizon and Comcast from charging us extra fees to access sites we use every day. Even more chillingly, they could slow down and censor content from their competitors, news websites that don’t match their political agenda, or anything else they don’t like — for any reason.

That’s why the FCC’s Open Internet rules are so important. A few years ago, none of the Washington insiders thought we could ever make the FCC defend Net Neutrality. But millions of Americans filed public comments with the FCC, the FCC listened, and we delivered a huge win for the public interest.

Now, we must protect Net Neutrality the same way we won it — by speaking out and holding power accountable. Please add your name today to stop the GOP’s war on the Open Internet.

Thanks for all you do,

Michael Copps, Special Advisor for Media & Democracy

and the team at Common Cause

Michael Copps

Democrats in Davenport: HD 89 Election Tuesday

Vote Tuesday for Monica Kurth!

Just a reminder for our friends down in Davenport: Tuesday is the election to replace Rep. Jim Lykam. Lykam moved to the senate to fill the seat of the late Joe Seng.

Turnout will be key. Please be sure to vote for Monica Kurth! And drag a few friends to the polls with you.

Womens March Iowa City – Large Crowd, Great Signs

Peaceful protest in Iowa City.

The Massive Difference Between The Parties

“Come back in a year and see if you still hold the idea that both parties are the same.”

The Saga In Muscatine Continues

After months of hearsay, Muscatine City Council plans to proceed with its rumored threat to remove Mayor Diana Broderson from office on yet to be revealed charges at the Thursday City Council meeting.

The Mayor has not received the substance of those charges as yet, and first learned of the charges when Thursday’s city council agenda was publicly posted on the City of Muscatine’s website.

Over the summer, the council passed an ordinance that stripped the Mayor of her appointment powers (read about that here:

While state code permits city councils the right to establish appointment duties for most city board and commissions, the Mayor questioned the legality of removing the mayor’s power to do so for the Civil Service Commission – the body that ultimately decides the eligibility of individuals to serve as Police and Fire Chief. Section 400 of the Iowa State Code details the rules governing Boards and Commission, and Section 400.1 relates to the appointment of civil service commissioners. Because the language seemed to indicate that this is a power granted only to the Mayor, Senator Taylor was asked to make an inquiry with the Iowa Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. See their response, issue in October, here:

The AG’s office’s response, “…no, there is no authority for city officials of a city having a population of eight thousand or over and having a pad fire department or a pad police department to diverge from the requirement of section 400.1,” seemed to substantiate the Mayor’s suspicions, so the Mayor forwarded the letter to the Muscatine County Attorney’s office requesting it take action to declare that part of the ordinance invalid.

But in December the County Attorney responded, declining to proceed with any sort of prosecution against city council the attorney or city attorney. See the letter here

Which takes us to the present moment, one month later, when the council will remove the mayor from office. This requires a 2/3 vote of the council, and given past vote counts in this ongoing saga between the mayor and council, the city manager has the votes he needs to get this accomplished. But at what cost? Across the nation, we are experience a cynicism when it comes to government that is a direct threat to the very institutions of democracy itself. Removing a mayor from office is an extreme act usually reserved for only the most egregious of offenses, felony crimes or other criminal behavior.

At this point, such a move seems politically motivated, and plays into the cynicism the public feels toward government. It is a sad day indeed.


Alan R. Ostergren County Attorney
420 E. Third Street Muscatine, Iowa 52761-4104
Phone: (563) 263-0382 Fax: (563) 263-4944

Assistant County Attorneys: Korie L. Shippee Oubonh P. White Dan Williamson Joan Black

December 21, 2016

Hon. Diana Broderson Mayor, City of Muscatine
via email to:

Dear Mayor Broderson:

This letter will be a follow-up to our conversation last week concerning the potential for criminal charges due to a recent amendment to City of Muscatine ordinances implementing provisions of Iowa Code Chapter 400. I have reviewed the letter you provided me from the Iowa Attorney General’s office to a state senator dated October 13, 2016. I have also examined the relevant changes to the ordinance.

Iowa Code § 400.30 provides:

The provisions of this chapter shall be strictly carried out by each person or body having powers or duties thereunder, and any act or failure to act tending to avoid or defeat the purposes of such provisions is hereby prohibited and shall be a simple misdemeanor.

There are no Iowa court cases which have construed this provision. It is not drafted in the normal manner for a criminal statute. It is difficult to determine the scope of the law and it would appear to be potentially applied to a vast range of conduct – particularly in criminalizing the failure to act and using the phrase “tending to avoid or defeat.” I have serious concerns as to whether it would be possible to prosecute anyone for a violation of this law because of the vague and broad way it is drafted.

I should also point out that the purpose of Chapter 400 is to protect municipal employees, not the mayor. An employee who has discipline upheld by an improperly-constituted commission might have a basis to challenge the action due to the change in the appointment process. This does not mean that the change would constitute a crime.

The attorney general’s letter does not undermine this view. The letter refers to the criminal law provision in section 400.30 to support its statutory analysis. I think this reference is appropriate, but it is not the same as a conclusion that a prosecution under these circumstances would be feasible. The letter simply notes the existence of the criminal provision as evidence that a court would likely view the remaining provisions of Chapter 400 in a strict and literal manner. It should also be noted that the letter is dated several months after the city council voted on the amendments to the ordinance.

I therefore find that there is no basis to proceed with any sort of criminal prosecution against city council members, the city attorney, or the city administrator.

Very truly yours,
Alan R. Ostergren
Muscatine County Attorney

Gender Roles Before Birth

sexism starts early

A friend of mine who is about halfway through a pregnancy posted that she is tired of the “appallingly sexist things people have said to me (and will likely continue to say) since we found out we’re having a boy. No wonder kids have so many confidence issues.”

Really got me to thinking. I guess friends and acquaintances feel a need to comment on big events such as an impending birth. No doubt they feel that comments like “(husband) will get the boy he wants” or “boys are easier (or harder) to raise than girls” or any one of a number of little offhand remarks that make the sex of the child an issue and makes it seem like that sex is either right or wrong for some reason.

And thus we have introduced sexism into the world of the child and its family. Until she said this it never occurred to me just how pervasive sexism and no doubt racism is in our society.

When she mentioned this I had this picture in my mind of people stabbing a little pin into the future mother with their little sexist comments.

We are far removed from child bearing age. Back then we found out the sex of the baby about five minutes after the birth. The conversation reminded me of the little shots I would get. Things like “are you hoping for a boy” or “boys are so much easier than girls” and so many other little comments. If I can recall it seemed like most favored the male child.

I would usually meet such comments with a wilting look and tell the person that we both wanted a healthy baby. That was all.

Even after our girls were born for several years I would get the comments such as “don’t you wish you had a boy?” The answer was once more a wilting look followed by “I am very happy with my girls.”

So the conversation once more reminded me of what we went through. And it once more reminded me of how far this country has to go to reach one of its basic tenets that “all {men} are created equal.”

A Few Important Things That Occurred In The Year 2016

by Ralph Scharnau

Many people and most news gathering organizations put the presidential election as the top issue for 2016. Yet a number of other noteworthy things happened as well. Here are five of the year’s other significant happenings.

Not that long ago the $15 minimum wage was considered a laughable objective. By 2016, the Fight for Fifteen and union rights came into its own. A grass roots workers’ movement, started by fast food workers in 2012 and bolstered by service unions such as SEIU, spurred actions of support from states, counties and municipalities. Today the movement includes home health aides, airport baggage handlers, adjunct professors, retail employees, and underpaid workers everywhere

The low wage labor force struggles to pay for food, transportation, and housing. A clear majority of Americans, including 84 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents support a $15 minimum wage. But just 32 percent of Republicans do.

Renewable energy made incredible strides in 2016. While wind and solar accounted for just 6.6 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2016, this was up from less than 0.6 percent a decade ago. Clean renewable energy protects communities from harmful pollution, creates new jobs, and brings health benefits.

Wind and solar prices continue to plunge. In some regions, wind and solar power generated electricity are now less expensive than dirty fossil fuels. More and more states, cities and business aim to transition to renewable energy.

The Republican platform adopted in mid-July, 2016 is the most extreme in memory. Its goals include cutting taxes and regulations for the rich and titans of industry, deregulating banks, making Christianity a national religion, loosening gun controls nationwide, ignoring global climate change agreements, restoring the death penalty and imposing a belligerent foreign policy and military build-up.

Other measures are equally oppressive. They call for barring female soldiers from combat, requiring the Bible to be taught in public schools, returning public lands to the states, repealing environmental laws, privatizing Medicare, denying basic civil rights to GLBTQ people, and no change in the federal minimum wage.

According to a study released by the ACLU/Human Rights Watch in October 2016, black and white adults use illegal drugs at roughly the same rates. Nationally blacks are 2.5 times more likely than whites to be arrested for drug possession. In Iowa the racial disparity rises to 7 times, putting Iowa as the second worst in the nation, and narrowing the scope to marijuana possession, Iowa ranks as the worst in the country.

The devastating results of arrests for illegal drug possession impact more than a million Americans each year. People cycle through jail, suffer job loss, incur large fines, and bear the stigma of criminal records. A felony conviction in Iowa means automatically losing voting rights. Various criminal justice reform ideas include banning racial profiling by law enforcement agencies, reducing sentences for non-violent crimes, eliminating mandatory minimums and investing in alternatives to jail and prison.

Despite the divisions in the country and in Congress, President Barack Obama signed, with bipartisan support, the 21st Century Cures Act on December 13, 2016. The law aims to stimulate medical research, promote innovation and speed the development of new treatments, especially for cancer. Ken Burns’ documentary film, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies,” released in 2015, reveals the toll this scourge takes, particularly on those of us who lost family members.

The year 2016 had its share of highs and lows. One can hope that 2017 will bring greater peace, justice, health, and equality.

Ralph Scharnau
December 26, 2016

Happy Holidays From Blog For Iowa

We wish everyone a joyous holiday season, whatever persuasion you may be.

This has been a tumultuous year. Much of what we have taken as being normal in the past is about to be tested to the very limit.

We will need everyone to be involved in making sure that the most vulnerable among us do not become victims of a new round enriching the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class.

Let me leave you with a seldom heard Christmas song that has the eternal message of peace for all: