First, it should come as no surprise that Gov. Reynolds signed SF 2235 — the bill pushed by the pipeline company. Years ago as an elected official in Clarke County, Reynolds stood with big developers against farmers and landowners who were fighting to protect their land from eminent domain for a lake. By signing SF 2235, the Governor made it clear that her loyalty is to Big Oil — not farmers, landowners and our environment.
Thus, Bold Iowa’s work moves from lobbying to education, building awareness about the Landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit. Click these two links to learn what you can do to get involved:
And if you’re unclear about the urgency of the climate crisis check out this article and this article about the crazy warm temperatures in the Arctic and how that’s connected to the Upper Midwest’s coldest spring ever. SERIOUSLY! If you have any doubt about how important is this moment in history, please read at least one of these articles.
(These two screen shots were taken at the same moment last week. That’s North Pole, Alaska, not THE North Pole. But you get the point.)
Climate change isn’t the only factor I consider in deciding which political candidates to support, but it’s the most important. I’m encouraged to see so many good candidates running for office and talking about climate change. On a host of issues, we’re desperate for new blood, bold ideas, and progressive leadership.
With that in mind, here are the folks I’m endorsing in the June 5 Democratic Primary Election:
GOVERNOR: In a crowded field, Cathy Glasson stands out. She’s worked in the trenches for years, standing up for everyday folks and fighting tirelessly for the best interest of working Iowans. I’m confident we’ll see the same kind of leadership from Cathy as governor.
I’m also confident Cathy can win. Establishment Democrats want you to believe we’ve got to nominate a “moderate” backed by big money. Really? Because that worked so well with Hillary Clinton, Bruce Braley, John Kerry, Staci Appel, etc, etc. As Bernie Sanders demonstrated in 2016, voters are hungry for leadership that puts people ahead of corporate interests and the entrenched forces of political stagnation.
Cathy’s got the right stuff going on in spades. And yeah, she’s got a solid statement on climate change, too. I hope you’ll join me in supporting her and getting involved in her campaign.
SECRETARY OF STATE: Deidre DeJear is a breath of fresh air and will make a fantastic Secretary of State. She’s got a strong background in small business ownership and knows the importance of making sure the Secretary of State’s office is a welcoming place for people hoping to make their entrepreneurial dream a reality.
On the elections side, in 2012 Deidre “developed and implemented a program to educate, motivate, and mobilize low-propensity voters, which resulted in over 5,000 new registrants and more than doubled African American turnout.” That’s from her website. And in terms of being accessible, Deidre has always responded to my calls and inquiries with enthusiasm.
CONGRESS (IA-1): Thomas Heckroth‘s opponent in the Democratic Primary, Abby Finkenauer, is a big supporter of the Dakota Access Pipeline, so this endorsement is easy. Heckroth’s stand on climate is solid. He writes, “Climate Change is also a threat to global security and must be a factor in United States foreign policy. Whether it is forced migration due to rising sea levels or whole cities running out of water, global security challenges will continue to crop up due to climate change.”
Thomas also writes, “As we transition away from fossil fuels, we must finally end the unnecessary and unaffordable subsidies that we provide to major fossil fuel companies. There is no reason why we should continue to incentivize coal, gas, and oil companies when we have the tools to move forward with clean, renewable sources of energy.”
CONGRESS (IA-3): Eddie Mauro received my endorsement early this year and I’m doing everything I can to help him win the nomination. Eddie and I go way back, meeting at a homeless camp where he was providing food and supplies.
Besides his deep compassion for those in need, Eddie has one of the strongest positions on climate change of any congressional candidate in the country. He writes, “Decades of delay have allowed global warming to become a global emergency. Climate is impacting all our continents. Time is now of the absolute essence, and we have a small window to revolutionize the global economy before our basic life-support systems collapse.”
Not only is Eddie solid on climate change, but he’s got the best chance of beating David Young. We can’t risk another two years of a Republican Congress, nor two years of a do-nothing Democratic Congress. Eddie will work hard and for the right stuff.
CONGRESS (IA-4): JD Scholten is vocal on issues that matter and his campaign is resonating beyond Democratic voters. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s raised more money than incumbent Congressman Steve King.
On climate change, JD writes, “The burning of fossil fuels is creating more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere can handle. This is scary stuff. I wish this was an issue we could deal with in 20 years, but it’s not. There are a number of things we need to do to combat climate change. Carbon farming is one that hasn’t been talked about enough, and Iowa is uniquely positioned to lead the way. This takes excess carbon out of the air and puts it into our soil. In each acre of land, there’s about an elephant-sized amount of organisms that use this carbon. This benefits and strengthens the soil by creating organic matter. Carbon farming is a win-win.”
IOWA SENATE (DISTRICT 21): Through her work with the Iowa Interfaith Alliance, Connie Ryan has been a leader in advancing LGBT equality, religious tolerance, and the fight against racism. Connie also helped create Justice Not Politics to protect our courts. Her advocacy hasn’t focused much on climate, but we’ve talked and she understands the urgent nature of the crisis.
Beyond that, her opponent, Claire Celsi, is difficult to work with. I offer that based on experience spanning nearly twenty years. Connie might have a learning curve on climate and environmental issues, but I’m confident that as a lawmaker she’ll be accessible and responsive.
POLK COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS (DISTRICT 5): John Mauro is a quiet, behind-the-scenes guy. He’s done a heck of a lot as a Supervisor to make Polk County government a leader in providing critical services to people in need. John’s opponent, Matt McCoy, is running an aggressive campaign to unseat Mauro. But my experience with Matt over the years has not been favorable. In fact, just two weeks ago, Matt promised he would offer an amendment to SF 2235 to remove the Dakota Access Pipeline from the definition of “critical infrastructure.” He drafted the amendment, then mysteriously withdrew it. I twice asked for an explanation and didn’t get a response.
That’s been my experience with Matt over the years: cordial when you run into him, but unresponsive when the rubber meets the road. I’ve heard that from others, too. With John Mauro, I know I’ll always get my phone calls returned and questions answered. That counts for a lot.
And now, a mea culpa: In my blog last week, I referenced a story about the Standing Rock court ruling. I thought it had just happened, yet it was from last year. Ouch. Note to self: check sources more carefully, even when they appear to be reliable.
This week’s Fallon Forum was hosted by Charles Goldman and Ed Fallon, with special guest David Houston of Homes 4 My Peeps. Here are the segment titles:
– When I grow up, I want to be compost
– It’s not “if,” but “when” will Trump be impeached
– What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic
– Kansas’s failed tax-cut scam catches fire in Iowa
– Latest U.S. bombing in Syria gets mixed reviews
– Pushing back against banks that finance pipelines
Every time someone says to me, “Too bad we weren’t able to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline,” I say, “Not so fast!”
This week, federal judge James Boasberg ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers’ authorization of the pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice.” (Check out the story here.)
This is significant. The federal court is expected to rule soon whether oil will continue to flow under the Missouri River in North Dakota. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile in Iowa, landowners and the Iowa Sierra Club press ahead with their own lawsuit, alleging that the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) illegally granted Dakota Access the power of eminent domain. This lawsuit has potentially historic significance beyond the Dakota Access Pipeline.
This case is a really big deal. Yet the mainstream media is mostly ignoring it. It’s up to us to let people know about the case. So, here’s my big ask:
WILL YOU HELP US ORGANIZE A PRESENTATION IN YOUR COMMUNITY?
Working with Climate March and Indigenous Iowa, Bold Iowa has launched the “Stop Eminent Domain Abuse” Roadshow.
Our first community forum will be Saturday, April 21 at the Public Library in Montezuma from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. Here’s the program:
- Overview of the lawsuit (Wally Taylor)
- The pipeline’s impact on farmers and landowners (Steve Hickenbottom and Keith Puntenney)
- Indigenous concerns (Christine Nobiss)
- Other eminent domain conflicts (Invited: folks working against the Mahaska County airport)
- Presentation of “Crossing the Divide” by Ralph King, filmed last spring as the Climate Justice Unity March walked 85 miles from Little Creek Camp to Des Moines. This 15-minute film shows the power of building coalitions and the value of establishing trust and unity across political, cultural and geographic lines.
- Climate Justice Unity March 2018 (Sarah Spain)
- Discussion, Q & A, and next steps
Please join us on Saturday, April 21 in Montezuma. And let me know if you’re interested in working with our team to pull together a roadshow stop in your community. Thanks! Ed
Two things before I explain why Iowa is becoming a colonial outpost:
First, I’m sad to say that the pro-DAPL bill (SF 2235) passed this week despite hundreds of Iowans contacting their lawmakers. Visit the Fallon Forum and Bold Iowa websites for news coverage and to learn how your senator and representative voted. The silver lining is that Bold Iowa’s coalition of environmentalists, landowners, farmers and Native allies worked with labor unions on a common cause. Let’s build on that!
Second, check out this week’s Fallon Forum. Among other topics, we talk with two of the five climate warriors who shut down the flow of tar sands oil in 2016. If you missed the previous week’s program, check out our conversation about gun violence, sustainable farming, and why the job of Secretary of State is important.
Colonization never goes well for the colonized. It went badly for the Indigenous peoples of this continent. It’s gone badly for people in “third world” countries we’ve pillaged. And it’s going badly for rural Iowa.
Yup. A new wave of colonization is in full swing. Perhaps in the twittering storm of political scandals and legislative hubris you haven’t noticed. But rural Iowans can’t help but notice as the forces of colonization steamroll their farms and communities.
Here are the most egregious examples (and yeah, the acronym spells “PLOW,” for what that’s worth):
PORK. There are 15,000 hog confinements (CAFOs) in Iowa. Given the soaring foreign demand for pork, state officials say that number could jump to 45,000! America’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, is now owned by a Chinese corporation. Smithfield will get rich exporting pork to China while rural Iowans are stuck with foul air, lower property values, contaminated water, a decline in quality of life, and continued depopulation.
LAND. Foreign ownership of farmland in the US is rising. Foreign entities now control an area larger than Tennessee! Fortunately for Iowa, our law prevents foreign ownership of farmland — but powerful forces want to change that.
OIL. The Dakota Access Pipeline carved a 350-mile scar across Iowa, damaging topsoil and threatening our water for a Texas corporation’s export crude oil pipeline. As I’ve warned, don’t be surprised if Big Oil tries to build a second pipeline through Iowa.
WIND. Industrial Wind Installations (IWIs) are meeting greater and greater local resistance. More are in the works and problems associated with the turbines are fomenting extensive and impassioned local resistance.
Perhaps that last item took you by surprise, coming from someone who cites climate change as the gravest threat to life on Earth. I’ve always been disturbed by any concentration of economic power, though in the past I’ve grudgingly given wind energy a pass because of the urgency of the climate crisis.
To be clear, we absolutely need to move beyond fossil-fuel consumption as quickly as possible. Energy conservation, reducing consumption, and sequestering carbon are three of the most important actions we can take.
We also need a robust and rapidly expanding renewable energy portfolio. The backbone of that portfolio must be solar — and solar must be controlled by individuals, communities, family farmers, and small business owners. There’s room in that portfolio for wind, too, but not the centralized industrial model that increasingly dominates more and more Iowa counties.
While a handful of landowners are making money leasing their land for turbines, monopoly control of wind is wreaking havoc on rural landscapes and the people who live and farm there. In February, I traveled to Palo Alto County to visit Janna Swanson, a leader with the Coalition for Rural Property Rights. Palo Alto residents are suing MidAmerican Energy and Invenergy over a massive 340-megawatt project near Emmetsburg. There are 268 residences in the target area — yet only 24 have signed a contract to allow turbines on their land!
IWI opponents cite visual blight, shadow flicker, noise, flashing lights, pressure, turbulence, the impact on farming, and the risk to bats and birds. A separate blog could be written about each of these concerns.
While the scientific and medical impacts of IWI’s continue to be hotly debated, one thing is clear: the vast majority of people who live nearby don’t want them. That needs to be respected. When proposing an IWI, decision makers must give far greater consideration to local concerns than they do at present.
“Some people live next to a turbine and don’t have a problem,” Janna told me. “For others, there’s a cumulative effect. Take the intense pressure and turbulence. You can feel it when you’re standing nearby, almost like it’s grabbing at your heart.”
Janna says many Iowans complain that they can hear the turbines inside their home at night, even with a white-noise machine cranking away. It’s affecting their health. In some places, long-time residents have had to sell their home and move because of health problems attributed to the turbines.
A group of Palo Alto residents is suing to have the Palo County wind project stopped. Plaintiffs are preparing for an April 27 court date. The case is likely to end up before the Iowa Supreme Court.
Right now, 37% of Iowa’s electrical generation comes from wind. From the perspective of reducing fossil fuel consumption, that’s encouraging. But it comes at a heavy price for rural Iowa. It’s a price we shouldn’t have to pay given the more sustainable and less invasive options available.
As I said earlier, with Iowa’s land protected from foreign ownership, we effectively have a moratorium on that element of colonization. Perhaps it’s time for moratoriums on CAFOs, IWIs, and crude oil pipelines, too. That would carve out some space for us to have a deep, democratic conversation about what Iowa should look like in 50, 100 or even 500 years. Perhaps the original victims of this land’s colonization, Native Americans, could lead and direct that conversation.
One thing is emphatically clear to me: eminent domain should NEVER be used to condemn land for transmission lines to ship Iowa’s wind to Chicago or the East coast. An effort to use eminent domain by the Rock Island Clean Line (another Texas corporation) was defeated last year. Given the money and political power behind IWI, don’t be surprised if another proposal surfaces.
Regardless of where one stands on pork, oil, or wind, we should all agree that it’s wrong to ignore the voices of rural Iowans in order to export our resources to distant ports — whether those ports lie on Lake Michigan, the Atlantic Ocean, or the China Sea.
Check out coverage of SF 2235’s passage and write a letter-to-the-editor in response. Contact Ed Fallon if you need to know more about what’s involved with submitting your letter. If you know of other news outlets that picked up the story, let us know. As of April 5, here’s the coverage we’ve seen so far:
To see how your State Senator voted, scroll down to page 852 of the Senate Journal for April 3. To see how your State Rep. voted, scroll to page 685 of the House Journal for March 27. Special thanks to Sen. Rob Hogg and Rep. Rick Olson for offering amendments to assure that severe penalties for sabotage don’t apply to peaceful, non-violent protestors.
We’re deeply disappointed that no Senator or Representative offered an amendment to eliminate a crude oil pipeline from the definition of “critical infrastructure.” We’re grateful for the strong coalition of organizations that opposed the bill, especially some of Iowa’s leading labor unions, who worked tirelessly in opposition to the anti-free-speech provisions of the bill.
It’s impossible to say for sure, but I’ll bet anyone a dozen cage-free eggs that another oil pipeline through Iowa is under consideration. The mere threat of another round of condemnation for a new pipeline underscores why it’s so important to call, write or visit your state representative and senator again and immediately!
Remind them to vote “NO” on SF 2235 / HF 2394! If this legislation passes, crude oil pipelines will be classified as “critical infrastructure.” That could make it a whole lot easier for another pipeline to be sited through Iowa in the future.
Remember, the squeaky wheel . . . um . . . gets the oil.
Here’s why Big Oil is pondering another pipeline, and why we need to remain vigilant and ready to spring into action:
– Word is that the Dakota Access Pipeline is already running at capacity. With the potential to transport oil from the tar sands region of Alberta added to what’s already traveling through Iowa from North Dakota, a whole lot of additional capacity may be “needed” to satisfy Big Oil’s insatiable thirst for profits.
– Big Oil controls the White House and the US Congress. The pendulum will inevitably swing back, if not in 2018 then probably in 2020. ETP or one of its competitors would love to lock in as much carrying capacity as possible before control of the federal government passes into the hands of politicians less bought and paid for by the fossil-fuel lobby.
– In several states, larger pipelines are replacing smaller ones. In other places, including eastern Nebraska, second pipelines are proposed for or being added to existing easements.
In addition to the DAPL easement running diagonally across Iowa, there’s the Wood River Crude Oil Pipeline owned by the Koch Brothers. That line runs from Missouri to Minnesota along I-35 and was abandoned in 2013. Koch had planned to build a new pipeline in that easement — increasing capacity from 90,000 to 250,000 barrels per day — but called off the project in 2014. It’s not clear why, but I’d venture a guess it had something to do with ETP beating Koch to the punch with DAPL.
It won’t be easy for ETP, Koch or another company to site and build a new pipeline along either easement. They’d have a fight on their hands for sure. But if SF 2235 / HF 2394 passes into law, Big Oil’s “critical infrastructure” designation will make our work that much harder.
Fighting this legislation is like whack-a-mole. There’s always something new to take a swing at. Check out my segment on the pipeline on this week’s Fallon Forum. Check out the whole program while you’re at it. And if you’re in central Iowa, please support the local business sponsors who help make the program possible.
Here are the time stamps for each segment of this week’s program. Enjoy. These aren’t conversations you’ll find on the big corporate stations. Feedback welcome:
00:00 – Citizen diplomacy in N. Korea,
27:00 – Pipeline legislation meets continued resistance,
38:00 – Mighty Earth pressures Tyson Foods to source locally,
51:00 – Putin’s re-“election,” and
57:30 – Trump hopes to undermine Mueller’s investigation.
Thanks! – Ed
Yup: YOU. ARE. AMAZING!
Over the past two weeks, your calls, emails and meetings with lawmakers have made a huge difference in the debate about SF 2235 — the pipeline bill backed by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). SF 2235 passed the Senate in February but has stalled in the House. Now some Senators who supported it are having second thoughts. We’re making progress!
ETP hopes SF 2235 will legitimize the Dakota Access Pipeline as “critical infrastructure” because, if the bill passes, ETP’s chances of defeating Iowa landowners in the lawsuit before the Iowa Supreme Court improve.
Even more far-reaching, the bill could open the door for future abuses of eminent domain for all kinds of private purposes. As a farmer along the pipeline route said to me in 2015, “If ETP can call itself a public utility because some of this oil finds its way into my gas tank, what’s to stop mall developers from using eminent domain because I might shop there someday?”
ACTION: Call, write, or visit your state representative and senator this week or this weekend!
Here are four key talking points:
1. Iowans don’t want this bill — 74% of all Iowans polled in 2015 opposed using eminent domain to build the Dakota Access Pipeline!
2. ETP wants this bill because landowners suing over the abuse of eminent domain have a strong case. Most Iowans agree that the Dakota Access Pipeline isn’t “critical infrastructure.” It’s not at all in the same category as lines carrying water, electricity and gas. We access these services directly and, when they fail, we notice immediately.
3. If ETP gets this bill passed and Iowa landowners lose their lawsuit, it throws open the doors to eminent domain in the future — not just for oil pipelines but for all kinds of private development.
4. The bill would potentially impose extreme penalties for non-violent protest protected under the First Amendment.
So, where does former (as of Monday) Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix fit into all this?
Dix’s departure from the Iowa Senate this week could help defeat SF 2235. Dix was in the back pocket of a host of corporate interests, including ETP. Years ago, he was a staunch opponent of eminent domain for private gain. Dix even floor managed the 2006 legislation that toughened Iowa law to protect landowners from private development. Yet when ETP’s money began to flow into his coffers, Dix switched sides.
Over the past two years, Republicans at the Iowa Statehouse have championed lots of legislation unpopular with voters. As a result, they’ve got a huge political problem on their hands — so huge that there’s more and more talk of Republicans losing control of both the House and Senate next fall. Republicans desperately need some legislative “wins” to show they haven’t completely abandoned Iowans in favor of special interests.
With Dix gone, Republicans now have that opportunity. With most Iowans opposing the abuse of eminent domain and supporting the right to protest under the First Amendment, ditching SF 2235 presents one possibility to do that.
Another bill the new Republican leadership could jettison to show it hasn’t forsaken the average voter is SF 2311. That’s the bill the big utility companies want that would kill energy-efficiency programs. These programs have been around for nearly thirty years, are immensely popular, and save ratepayers money and energy.
ACTION: Call members of the House Commerce Committee as soon as possible.
Thanks for doing your part to hold our elected officials accountable to do what’s fair and just for all Iowans. I’m eager to hear what responses you get when you contact your lawmakers. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Dear Polk County Friends,
This one is for my local audience regarding the Tuesday, March 6 vote on the local option sales tax. If you’re not a Polk County resident and fighting an unfair tax hike anywhere in America, this is still a productive read. It’s based on what I wrote for The Des Moines Register last week.
Is there anyone in America not fed up with Big Money in politics?
In these most partisan of times, we share near universal disgust with the seasonal bombardment of propaganda financed by corporate and special interests on behalf of political candidates. Sadly, the Democratic or Republican candidate who sinks the most money into this game usually wins.
Well, take heart. There’s one type of election, based on history, where the little guy and gal have a better shot at beating Big Money. On March 6, residents of Polk County will vote on Public Measure A, casting a simple “yes” or “no” vote on increasing the sales tax by a penny.
Sticking it to Big Money is one reason to vote down the proposed local option sales tax, though it’s hardly the best. Here are the reasons I’m voting “no.”
The sales tax hits low-income people and the working poor hardest — a fact verified by every credible study available. As Register columnist Daniel Finney points out, “People who make less than $22,000 per year, the lowest 20 percent of Iowa taxpayers, pay 10.4 percent of their income in state and local taxes, per a 2015 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Meanwhile, people in the top 1 percent income bracket, those who make $376,000 or more per year, pay just 6 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the report stated.”
The sales tax has been raised over and over again even as other taxes that benefit special interests, corporations, and the wealthy have been cut. Enough! Politicians who lack the guts to pay for new projects or programs with a tax increase on those most capable of paying need to rethink this “tax the poor because they can’t fight back” strategy.
This is mostly a tax shift. People hate property taxes, and Public Measure A’s backers know this. That’s why they cleverly earmark 50 percent of the revenue for property tax relief. That’s unfair and disingenuous.
The vote is scheduled for March 6 instead of during a municipal or general election when more people vote. Issue elections such as this usually go better for backers when turnout is small — thus, the choice of an obscure date in March when turnout will likely be 5 to 10 percent of registered voters. On top of that, scheduling the vote separate from other elections costs a bundle of money — think 200 precincts each staffed with three people open for thirteen hours, plus the paper, machines, etc. T’ain’t cheap.
Challenge government to cut waste before raising taxes. Some of the remaining 50 percent of potential revenue would be spent on stuff that most of us appreciate, but let’s demand that local governments do a better job spending the money they already collect. I could give loads of examples of government waste I’ve seen in Des Moines, but each would require a separate column.
Proponents of the sales tax increase have raised $135,000! Those of us opposed have raised $0. Where is the big money in support of the tax increase coming from? Check out the full campaign finance report. Here are a few of the biggest of the big donors, many who will benefit from the proposal’s property tax reduction:
Hubbell Realty Company fund — $15,000.00
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. — $10,000.00
James S. Cownie — $10,000.00
Knapp Properties, LC — $10,000.00
EMC Insurance — $7,500.00
The Graham Group — $6,000.00
Raccoon Valley Investment Co., LC — $5,000.00
Wellmark — $5,000.00
Nelson Development, LLC — $5,000.00
Christensen Development 1, LLC — $5,000.00
The Hansen Company — $5,000.00
Ruan Center Corporation — $5,000.00
Ruan Inc. — $5,000.00
Kemin Industries, Inc. — $5,000.00
Gartner, Michael G. — $5,000.00
Rypma, Timothy — $2,500.00
Simonson, Michael W. — $2,500.00
Conlin, James C. — $2,500.00
Ryan Companies US, Inc.. — $2,000.00
The Weitz Company, LLC — $2,000.00
Des Moines Area Assoc. of Realtors — $2,000.00
At the risk of ruining his reputation, I’ll conclude by again quoting Finney: “[P]roperty tax breaks for big companies and new construction are given away like candy on Beggars’ Night. And city and county officials scramble to find cash to pay for potholes, cops and paramedics.”
Nailed it. Vote “no” and challenge our elected officials to find a fairer way to fund their pet projects.
Three things strike me as I skirt the perimeter of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, site of the most recent school shooting — the eighteenth of 2018!
First, the strong showing of local law enforcement. Given the circumstances, their presence is understandable and appreciated.
Next, the sprawling memorial to the seventeen students and teachers shot and killed on February 14. The memorial is a spontaneous outpouring of grief and respect — a colorful wall of flowers, urns, candles, stuffed animals, balloons, flags and signs stretching the length of the fence to the school’s entrance.
I talk with two students from a nearby high school. Like so many others, they’ve brought flowers to add to the growing tribute to those who lost their lives. They don’t understand why anyone should be allowed to own an assault weapon. Given the heightened national discussion in the wake of the Parkland shooting, they now feel hopeful.
Finally, the overwhelming throng of reporters and media crews toting cameras, microphones and notepads. The school has been closed since the shooting. Today, teachers return and join school board members and Robert Runcie, the Broward County Public Schools Superintendent, at a press conference. Robert is focused on the immediate well being of teachers and students and says, “We’re going to do what we can to relieve the stress, the pain, and the grief that we know our teachers are going through. And of course, when our students get back we’ll be ready to support them as well.”
I ask Anna Fusco, President of the Broward Teachers Union, about assault weapons. There are many, many aspects to the debate about gun violence, including concerns about mental health, violence in the media, and the extent to which Americans have become isolated from each other and nature. To me, the most pressing issue, one of the problems we can and should fix immediately, is that nearly anyone can own an assault weapon — a weapon whose sole purpose is to kill as many people as quickly as possible.
“Teachers should not be armed,” Anna tells me. “To say that we should be the chosen ones to have a loaded gun on our campus with our students, it’s not our job, it should not be put on us, and I’ve not heard from one, not one teacher who wants to have a gun on their person.”
I interview Anna, and ask if she believes a ban on assault weapons is an accomplishable goal. “I believe it can happen,” she responds. “All it takes is sticking with it and being persistent and being relentless and making sure it goes through the process and the channels and things happen.”
Given the political clout of the NRA and the sad reality that the Republican Congress is its wholly owned subsidiary, it won’t be an easy fight. Until Parkland, it seemed that too many Americans had grown numb to gun violence. But something has changed. There’s momentum like never before, with a palpable shift in progress. Parkland students themselves, and the thousands of other students who have quickly coalesced into a national movement, may well bring this crisis to the tipping point where something meaningful finally gets done.
Because the only thing bought-and-paid-for politicians fear more than losing the financial backing of their biggest donors is losing the support of their constituents and being voted out of office. The polling on various gun control measures indicates an electorate increasingly ready for gun control. While we expect the NRA, Congress, and President Trump to continue to stonewall, it may no longer be possible for them to put the brakes on the momentum that’s building.
Parkland students and a wide range of allied organizations have called for a massive, coast-to-coast mobilization on March 24, including a March for our Lives rally in Des Moines. It’s important that all of us stand with them, even if we risk offending some friend or family member who has not yet grasped the urgent necessity for reform.
Yes, this is truly a historic moment. Think of the comparable points in time with Women’s Suffrage, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and most recently marriage equality where the collective consciousness had evolved enough — through both hard work and tragedy — that a paradigm shift was inevitable. We may well be at that point with regards to gun violence, and it’s important to keep pushing, and to push hard.
If by March 24 Congress has done nothing, I suggest the next step for this national mobilization be a general strike. It could start with students refusing to attend school until specific, significant changes are accomplished. If that happens, those of us who aren’t students must be prepared to stand with them. A general strike is one of the most powerful social change tools available. But to work, it has to be broad-based with massive public buy-in — and it has to be well organized.
In the meantime, let’s do all we can to encourage a huge turnout on March 24. In doing so, we not only honor those killed at Parkland and in other mass shootings, we honor our own children, and the children and families who will be spared the agony of losing a loved one to gun violence in the future.
Iowans living in the Third Congressional District are fortunate to have a talented field of candidates running in the Democratic Primary. But Eddie Mauro stands out as a genuine, authentic, caring person — the complete opposite of the bought-and-paid-for politicians running, and ruining, our state and our country.
I first met Eddie twenty years ago when I was bringing food, clothing, and other supplies to homeless men and women living along the Raccoon River. Eddie wasn’t there for a photo op. I learned that day that he spends a lot of time serving our most disenfranchised population.
Eddie’s commitment to help the homeless, the poor, and the downtrodden has persisted all these years. In fact, at two recent events for the homeless, Eddie was the only congressional candidate in attendance.
I’m passionate about a lot of issues, but none more than the urgent climate crisis. Eddie’s position on climate change is not only the strongest among candidates running in the Third District, it’s one of the strongest of any congressional candidate in the country! Check out Eddie’s white paper on The Climate Crisis.
Eddie truly understands the urgent need for bold action on climate change and the importance of creating clean energy jobs as climate mitigation becomes a driver of economic development. His message on climate is one that resonates with both urban and rural Iowans.
Beyond the specific issues that Eddie champions (learn more here), I’m impressed with his authenticity and leadership skills. I’m impressed, too, with the campaign he’s running. Frankly, Eddie is Iowa’s best prospect to beat David Young in the fall.
That means a lot. Winning a tough primary in June means nothing if you can’t win the general election in November. With the Third District listed as one of the pivotal congressional seats in the country, it’s tremendously important that Democrats put forth their strongest champion.
With Eddie Mauro, we’re fortunate that the strongest candidate to win is also the strongest candidate on the issues. Please join me in supporting Eddie. Let me know how you’d like to be involved. A grassroots campaign such as this requires ALL our voices and a whole lot of effort. Let’s make it happen!