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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:

Trump Was An Accident

Everyone was pissed off about something. But did anyone really mean for this to happen?


Today Is Election Day. Be Part Of History. Go VOTE



Today is election day.  The polls in Iowa are open from 7 am – 9 pm.  Iowa has same-day voter registration. If you have an absentee ballot in your possession, don’t mail it, but you may take it with you to your polling location.

In order to send the Trump Republicans and the GOP obstructionists in Iowa a message we must vote for Democrats up and down the ballot.

Trump Republicans will be very happy and encouraged to continue their gutter tactics if you spend your precious vote on a 3rd party candidate or if you do not vote at all.

A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for progress.

9/11: Result Of America’s Worst Leadership Ever

Not a clue. We can't afford to do this again.

Not a clue. We can’t afford to do this again.

Sorry I won’t play along with this as being a day of super patriotism. We were attacked on September 11th, 2001 by group of mostly Saudi Arabian radicals. Rather than be a day for beating our breasts in public to show who is the most patriotic, I personally feel that this is a day we should use for education.

One lesson America must learn is that voting for a person to be president because you’d like to drink a beer with them or because of the way they insult their opponent is totally irresponsible. It is time for American voters to grow up and understand that elections have consequences. In the case of the 2000 election, George W. Bush did not win, but came sufficiently close so that the Supreme Court made it their prerogative to step in and select a president. This was essentially a coupe by the Supreme Court, but that has been discussed many times before.

The second lesson is that we pick a person who has prepared themselves for the job and has shown a willingness to work. Bush did little to prepare for the job and then spent much time at the golf course or at his ranch. Despite being well warned by his predecessor, Bill Clinton, that Al Quieda needed to be watched closely. That warning was ignored as was the early August memo stating that “Al Quieda determined to strike in US.”

George Bush was ill prepared and intellectually lazy. His lack of concern hampered our ability to prepare or respond. Despite presiding over the only attack on American soil ever, Republicans nominated a similarly ill prepared and intellectually lazy man as their nominee for this election. On top of that Donald Trump is a narcissist who listens to almost no one. The similarities are chilling.

Finally, be wary of extremists no matter what the motivation for their extremism is. Extremist groups and individuals often cloak themselves in religion and the flag to make their positions acceptable. Some American politicians knock themselves out lumping all Muslims as extremists which we all know is not true. At the same time they all but ignore and some even encourage extremist groups like the white supremacist groups such as White Aryan Resistance or the KKK to name a couple.

When Barry Goldwater uttered the line “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” he could not have been more wrong.

It has already been fifteen years and based on the Republican nominee for president it looks like America has not even begun to learn its lessons. That is not too surprising when the medium that most Americans depend on to guide them, television, cares not one whit about its obligation to inform and enlighten. TV’s only concern is to make as big of a profit as is possible. To do that it needs as many eyeballs glued to it as possible. To get the eyeballs it needs out of reality characters that people will stare at like they do an ongoing train wreck. Thus we get candidates like Donald Trump.

Maybe next year television journalism will turn a new leaf that will actually help us make sense of what is happening …….. maybe?