A Rock Island County judge on Wednesday sentenced Lamaree E. Wilson-Neuleib to 62 years in prison for fatally shooting one man and seriously injuring another in May 2015.
The 19-year-old declined to make a statement before Associate Judge Gregory Chickris sentenced him to 50 years in prison on one count of first-degree murder and 12 years on one count of aggravated battery with a firearm during a lengthy hearing at the Rock Island County Justice Center.
Wilson-Neuleib will have to serve 100 percent of the murder sentence and 85 percent of the aggravated battery sentence, for a total of 60.2 years.
He was found guilty by a Rock Island County jury on Oct. 17 after several days of trial.
Prosecutors argued at trial that Wilson-Neuleib, then 17, fired 11 bullets into the car of Zachary M. Phillips, 18, around 10:30 a.m. May 20, 2015, in the 4600 block of 53rd Street in Moline.
Phillips died from his injuries. His friend and front-seat passenger, Erik Roberson, 21, was seriously injured but survived. A third man, Matthew Merrill, 19, who was in the backseat of the car, was uninjured.
Roberson testified at trial that Wilson-Neuleib had called him earlier that morning to buy marijuana.
Wilson-Neuleib was arrested shortly after the shooting.
He initially pleaded guilty to the charges in October 2015 and was sentenced Nov. 25, 2015, to 50 years in prison on the murder charge and 10 years on the aggravated battery charge.
In May, Associate Judge Norma Kauzlarich allowed Wilson-Neuleib to take back his guilty plea and vacated his sentence after prosecutors said he was not properly informed at the time of his plea that he faced a mandatory 25-year firearms enhancement to his sentence.
Several family and friends gave victim impact statements during Wednesday's sentencing hearing.
Phillips’ mother, Lyndsie McCoy, said a piece of her died the day her son was killed.
“Why would you want to hurt Zac or anyone for that matter?” she asked from the witness stand. ”He would have been your friend.”
McCoy said it took 18 years to raise Phillips, and it took only seconds to end his life.
"He (Wilson-Neuleib) made the decision to kill, murder, to take my son's life," she said.
Phillips’ grandfather, Charlie Phillips, said he hoped Wilson-Neuleib would get the maximum sentence.
“You deserve it,” he said. “I hope you get to think about it every day for the rest of the time you have. I pray that you go to hell and stay there.”
Pam Serra, Phillips’ maternal grandmother, said he was the kind of person who helped his friends and others when they needed it.
On May 20, 2015, he was helping his friend, Roberson, by giving him a ride, Serra said.
“If Zac had known Lamaree, he would have helped him with anything he could,” she said.
Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee recommended a 70-year sentence and pointed to Wilson-Neuleib’s prior criminal history and “violent” acts committed while he was in custody at the Rock Island County Jail and the Mary Davis Detention Home in Galesburg, Illinois.
This was a “well planned out, premeditated action” in which Wilson-Neuleib wore latex gloves during the shooting and burned them and his clothing after the shooting, he said. Wilson-Neuleib also chose the meeting place that morning, McGehee said.
“This is a defendant that needs to go away to prison for a long time to protect the public,” McGehee said. “There has been a lot of information and evidence presented to this court as it relates to his serious, violent nature.”
Nate Nieman, one of Wilson-Neuleib’s attorneys, argued that even if his client received the same sentence he received in November 2015, it would still amount to a defacto life sentence, which is unconstitutional because it does not give the defendant “any opportunity to rehabilitate himself and become a productive member of society.”
Nieman said the law has changed significantly over the past few years because of the “significant amount of scientific research” that has shown that juveniles’ brains are not fully developed, which can affect their decision-making process
“As such, there has been a trend that is advancing very quickly showing greater mercy to defendants who were juveniles themselves at the time that the offense was committed,” he said.
In Wilson-Neuleib’s case, he also suffers from other cognitive development disorders, has a history of substance abuse and was exposed to “some pretty bad things” in his childhood that have affected him, Nieman said.
Chickris agreed with the proposition that “young people’s brains are not yet fully developed.”
The shooting, however, was not something that happened on the “spur of the moment,” he said.
“This was not the type of offense that a young person would have committed out of impetuosity, out of impulse, out of not thinking about the consequences of the action,” Chickris said. “This was planned. The defendant took great, meticulous steps in planning this offense.”
He also said he thought the motive for the shooting was simply because Wilson-Neuleib, whom he described as a “big bravado” guy, didn’t want to pay for marijuana.
McGehee said after Wednesday’s sentencing hearing that he was satisfied with the sentence imposed by Chickris.
“We think that that is a substantial punishment that Mr. Lamaree Wilson is going to have to do,” he said.
When asked if 62 years is enough, McCoy said, “you can never give somebody enough time when somebody dies.”
“I can’t get my son back,” she said. “It doesn’t take the fact away that we all hurt. There’s a lot of emotion that was in that courtroom today. It’s been almost two years, and it’s a long time to continue to go through this over and over again.”
Pat Bereskin had a plan: She, her husband and friends would head over to Bettendorf High School early Wednesday and buy 12 iPads at a deep discount.
Bereskin, and dozens of other customers, arrived at 9 a.m. to a sale of used iPads. Customers purchased the devices for $75 each, as part of a resale effort overseen by Travis Hansen, technology coordinator for the Bettendorf Community School District.
The 16GB Apple iPad 2 may normally sell for about $200. The devices in Bettendorf were purchased "as is," and customers were limited to buying two.
Some folks, including Bereskin, got creative.
Bereskin, a local artist, teaches at Mrs. B’s School of Art in Bettendorf and owns the Bereskin Fine Art Gallery & Studio in Bucktown Center for the Arts in Davenport.
In the future, Bereskin said a Bucktown colleague, Heidi Brandt, will offer a photography class for children in grades 6-12, among the Bucktown summer educational classes.
The purchase of the 12 iPads means children, no matter their families' means, will be able to use the tablet computer in the class, according to Bereskin, who is a Bettendorf graduate and 2015 member of the Bettendorf High School Hall of Honor.
"It was nice to be able to purchase these," she said.
The Bettendorf district has changed to using Chromebooks, Hansen said, and this year's sale was the second one offered. About 200 iPads were on sale from 9 a.m. to noon. A notice about the sale was published for several days in the Quad-City Times.
In 2016, the technology coordinator said the sale was during warmer weather and a line of customers reached around the high school. There were 500 devices for sale, and they sold out in less than one hour.
This year, the technology staff offered iPads used by elementary students, and by staff members. Each is four years old or older, he said.
"But this is a good way to recoup our costs," Hansen said.
Q. Have you heard when the new Fresh Thyme grocery store on East Kimberly Road is going to open? The sign out front only says "Spring 2017." Do you know if there was TIF or other tax incentives issued on this project? — Adam
A. We contacted Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market Natural, Organic Grocery Store and the city of Davenport for more information. Fresh Thyme has not responded at this point. Susanne Knutsen, lead economic development coordinator for the city, said, "We do not have anything more definitive than spring."
Knutsen added that regarding TIF or other tax incentives, "The owner of the center, PEEB Davenport, has submitted an application for partial tax exemption through the Urban Revitalization Tax Exemption (URTE) program. Applications are due annually by February 1st and this year’s applications (61 of them) are on Council agenda ... I've attached a brochure that explains this program."
If you talk to anyone music-minded this week, they’ll likely bring up South by Southwest, or SXSW, billed as the biggest music festival in the country.
The Austin, Texas-based event is a big week for well-known acts and up-and-coming bands as well as film premieres, talks (last year, President Barack Obama gave a keynote) and tech industries (Twitter was announced there in 2007).
That's why some top players in the Quad-City music scene say Austin is the place to be this week.
“It's pretty much the holy grail,” said Sean Moeller, a Davenport-based concert promoter who made the trip to SXSW on Wednesday. “I don't know of another gathering that's unanimously attended by people in the industry. There's nothing like the scope of this.”
The team at Davenport-based Daytrotter set up a studio at SXSW and plan to record 40 sessions through Sunday. Those recordings, featuring one with Wyclef Jean, will be archived on Daytrotter's website and recorded live day-by-day on Facebook. You can follow along at facebook.com/Daytrotter.
For Ben Crabb, Daytrotter’s booking manager, it's a "dream come true" to be at SXSW, which started in 1987.
“These are bands we've wanted to record, but they haven't been routed close enough to the Quad-Cities, so this is our chance,” Crabb said. “It's important right now to be here because we have a new team and we want to get that exposure out there.”
Sample of the industry
Another goal, according to Crabb, who joined Daytrotter last summer, is to meet as many acts as possible with the hope of booking them at the Daytrotter venue, 324 Brady St., Davenport, in the future.
“A million careers start here; if you're a band and you're not making an attempt to be here, you're not doing it right,” he said. “It's the most important music fest in the country to sample what's happening now and what's coming next.”
Among the more than 1,000 official acts on the lineup are Quad-City-based bands Condor & Jaybird and Atorias.
“When you get here, to some degree, you can't believe you're here," Crabb said.
This week SXSW, next week Davenport
At SXSW, Moeller's mission is to hunt down acts to book at venues such as Baked Beer and Bread Co., Codfish Hollow Barn and the soon-to-open Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel.
“It's sort of like spring break for the music industry where you actually get a lot of work done,” he said. “I go down there to find musicians that people are not talking about yet to see how they are live and see where they fit in the Quad-Cities.”
Moeller also plans to see musicians he has already booked, including pop-country singer Whitney Rose, who is playing three sessions each day at the festival. Rose is slated to play Tuesday at The Village Theatre in the Village of East Davenport.
To Rose, who has lived in Austin for more than a year, SXSW means “a lot more traffic” and a week of seeing what — and who — is new in music.
“It draws from so many genres and so many kinds of music,” she said. “You meet musicians and fans from all over the world and you kind of unite with them."
Rose was so enamored of Austin's scene that she put together an EP, “South Texas Suite,” described as a love letter to her new home. She released the album in January.
“With things like SXSW and the rest of the year, Austin is a really uplifting and supportive place for musicians,” she said. “And that's a very rare thing.”
It's especially supportive of Rose's brand of Ameripolitan music, a genre created by Texas-native Dale Watson.
“It's a freaks and geeks genre; it's certainly different than what's being played on the radio,” she said. "In Austin, it's a huge deal, but that's not everywhere. Some places I go, I'm petrified that no one is going to show up."
Rose, who previously performed here in August, said she doesn't have that fear ahead of her show next week in Davenport.
“In Davenport, it seems like there's people tapped into that underground scene," she said. "There are people paying attention to new artists that are up and coming. They're digging a little deeper.”
The Davenport School Board is kicking off a new initiative Thursday by hosting what it's calling "Community Conversations" in a Davenport neighborhood.
The first of the neighborhood gatherings is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Fluellin Center, 1228 E. 12th St., Davenport. The board intends to schedule more gatherings in other parts of the district.
"One of the things we need to do more of ... is to communicate with our community," Board President Ralph Johanson said. "We need to be more engaging."
The session begins with an introduction of the seven board members and a welcoming statement. The board will share its priorities, which include these community sessions. There will be a question-and-answer period.
In addition to the School Board, members of district staff plan to attend.
A stretch of Washington Street in Davenport will be ready for its closeup in about a month.
Despite a slight change to its timeline, capital budget analyst Clay Merritt said the city will soon be ready to implement its traffic and public safety pilot program, which will install 18 cameras on Washington Street between Locust and Clay streets.
"The implementation is the first week of April, and from that point, it'll take two to three weeks to install everything and make adjustments for optimization," Merritt said.
The pilot program has been in the works since last year with the city purchasing an integrated wireless system from Chicago-based CDW-G for $53,633 in November.
Originally, the city had planned to buy the wireless solution and software as a package, but Merritt said the city found it would be most cost-effective to not bundle the pieces.
Merritt said the software likely will be purchased shortly and because of its cheaper price, it would fall beneath the threshold needing council approval.
The next step in the process is determine administrative policies for the cameras, which Merritt said would be done at the City Council's next management briefing.
The administrative policies would include who at the Police Department has control, whether they have to review or access the footage, as well as how long it is retained.
Although there is a current debate in the Iowa Legislature about banning or further restricting the use of automated traffic cameras, Merritt said it would not have any effect on Davenport's pilot program regardless of what happens to the bills.
"We had some conversations about it, but the legislation that is in the Statehouse is more geared toward traffic enforcement," Merritt said. "This is simply a live footage camera, and it provides the ability to go back in time to view past footage."
Davenport also has had discussions about other potential locations for camera systems, including major intersections along 53rd Street, Gaines Street from the Centennial Bridge to Locust Street and Kimberly Road and Locust Street.
But before any of those gain any traction, the city wants to evaluate the pilot program and determine the best way to use the system.
"That's why we're calling it a pilot program," Merritt said. "This will ask some questions and find the answers."
Lucas Robert Castro of Davenport has received an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the 2017-18 school year.
Castro is the son of Julianna and Robert Castro. He will graduate in May from Assumption High School.
He has been captain of his mock trial and debate teams. He participated in soccer, golf, MOBY World Leadership Congress and Boy’s State. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Key Club and Kiwanis.
Castro was among the 34 Iowans Sen. Chuck Grassley nominated this year for appointments to the U.S. service academies.
The Augustana men's basketball team is on its way to the NCAA Division III Final Four.
Surrounded by a group of supporters who braved frigid conditions, the Vikings boarded a bus outside the Carver Center this morning bound for Salem, Virginia and a national semifinal game Friday against Williams College.
"We're not looking forward to the 13-hour bus ride, but we are looking forward to representing Augustana College and the Quad-Cities in the Final Four," coach Grey Giovanine said.
"I know these guys will give it everything they have to make you proud."
College president Stephen Bahls wished the team well and congratulated the Vikings on their achievements during a 21-8 season.
"It's an exciting time for everyone," Bahls said. "We are so proud of you."
The Vikings, who play at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, will break up their trip with a late-afternoon practice at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Augustana will give fans in the Quad-Cities a chance to watch Friday's game, hosting a watch party at the Carver Center. Doors open at 5 p.m.
The college will also host a reception for fans in Salem beginning 90 minutes before tipoff.
As the Iowa basketball team prepares to face South Dakota is an 8 p.m. game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the first round of the NIT, here are five things to know about the visiting Coyotes (22-11):
--Their starting point guard is Trey Dickerson, who played for Iowa during the 2014-15 season, then sat out last season after transferring. Dickerson played in 15 games with the Hawkeyes, averaging 2.7 points per game. The 6-foot-1 junior is averaging 10.4 points and 2.8 assists at South Dakota.
--South Dakota has at least one other player who has seen the inside of Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Senior center Tyler Flack played there as a freshman in South Dakota’s 87-63 loss to Iowa in 2012. He collected five points and seven rebounds in that game.
--The Coyotes have four transfers in the starting lineup with Flack being the only exception. Leading scorer Matt Mooney began his career at Air Force, Carlton Hurst started out at Colorado State, Dickerson came in from Iowa and Trey Burch-Manning is a junior college transfer.
--Third-year coach Craig Smith is a protégé of Nebraska coach Tim Miles, having served as an assistant under Miles at North Dakota State, Mayville State, Colorado State and Nebraska. Smith also was the head coach at Mayville State for three seasons, going 72-29 at the NAIA school.
--South Dakota had a 2-3 record this season against teams that made the NCAA tournament. It was 1-2 against instate rival South Dakota State, which won the Summit League tournament. The Coyotes also lost to Gonzaga and defeated Kent State.
MUSCATINE, Iowa — Sarah Lacina originally tried out for the television show "Survivor" on a lark, after watching an episode with friends.
Sarah, who competed in season 28, made it far. But she didn’t win. Now, the Muscatine native has a second chance at that $1 million prize. She was chosen to compete on Season 34: “Game Changers” which pits seasoned "Survivor" competitors against each other.
This season’s show takes place on Mamanuca Islands in Fiji, and though filming concluded last summer, the season premier aired last week.
“I was really kind of surprised that she wanted to do it again,” said her mom, Lorrie Lacina, adding that Sarah has a 2.5 year-old son, Knox.
“The second time around, I don’t think she would have done it if she wouldn’t have had the family support to help be there to take cake of Knox while she was gone,” she added.
Sarah, who is a police officer in Cedar Rapids, was gone for more than a month.
“You’re out in the middle of nowhere, there are no luxuries, what you see of their camp site on TV is how they actually live,” Lorrie said.
“She was constantly in my thoughts and in my prayers and you just wonder, ‘OK, What is she doing today? What is the weather like? What is she living like? What is she doing?' That all goes through your mind,” she added.
Though the competition is over, Sarah and her family signed a confidentiality agreement and are not allowed to discuss the experience.
“Everybody just needs to watch the season,” Lorrie said.
A good day to all. The weather word for Wednesday is cold — as in below-normal temperature cold, as in wind-chill values in negative numbers cold. It's just plain cold. But fear not, come Friday temperatures will return to the 50s.
Here are the weather details from the National Weather Service.
Today will be sunny with a high near 28 degrees with wind-chill values of -5 degrees. Winds will be from the northwest between 5 to 10 mph.
Tonight will be mostly clear with a low around 10 degrees.
Thursday will bring a slight chance of rain and snow between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., then a slight chance of rain after 2 p.m. Skies will be mostly cloudy with a high near 42 degrees. South winds will gust as high as 20 mph.
There's a 30 percent chance of rain Thursday night with mostly cloudy skies and a low around 37 degrees.
Then the warmth returns on Friday with a high in the 50s.
2. Rock Island man pleads not guilty in Moline fatal shooting
A Rock Island man pleaded not guilty Tuesday in connection with the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Ke'Swan T. Simmons in February. Kaleb Joseph Mallek, 22, appeared at the Rock Island County Justice Center for a short preliminary hearing. He is charged with aggravated battery with a firearm, armed violence and felon in possession of a firearm. Read more.
3. Iowa-South Dakota at a glance
We've got everything you need to know about tonight's first round NIT game at Carver Hawkeye Arena between the Hawkeyes and South Dakota including that the game's start time has been changed to 8 p.m. because of that snowstorm out east. Read more.
4. Iowa: United Neighbors did not follow federal rules, regulations
The Iowa Finance Authority will not provide any more rental assistance funding to United Neighbors Inc. after a review of the organization's tenant files. In a letter to Executive Director Evelyn Nelson, Home Program analyst Rita Eble informed United Neighbors that its tenant-based rental assistance program was not in compliance with federal rules and regulations.
The Davenport-based agency was awarded a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant in the amount of $502,560 for its rental assistance program on Aug. 5, 2015, but the Finance Authority suspended payments to the rental assistance program in late October. Read more
5. Let it snow: Snowmobilers get out while they can
Just as they were ready to call it quits this season, avid snowmobilers in the Quad-Cities rejoiced when they saw Monday's snowy forecast. Friends and families cleared their evening schedule and congregated on a private farm in rural Scott County for one "last hurrah."Read more.
6. Quad-City Times All-Star wrestlers
Unlike the past couple of seasons, no wrestler in the Quad-Cities could boast about having an unblemished record this winter. Still, seven wrestlers from the metro and surrounding area came home from their respective state meets with the top prize. Meet the Quad-City Times All-Metro and All-Areawrestling teams
The starting time for tonight’s NIT first-round game between Iowa and South Dakota has been changed to 8 p.m.
The game originally was scheduled for 6 p.m. but the NIT shuffled things around when Syracuse’s game with North Carolina-Greensboro was moved back a day because of snowstorms on the east coast. That game is now at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. The Iowa game will be shown afterward on ESPN2.
Iowa officials said that as of Tuesday afternoon, about 11,200 tickets had been sold.
Rep. Steve King's rampant racism is an opportunity for Iowa Republicans and the party at large. Exorcise the nationalist bent before it's too late.
The House should make an example of King, and Iowa GOP should be actively seeking a candidate to oust him in next year's primary.
King's Sunday tweet, in support of a right-wing Dutch nationalist, Geert Wilders, laid bare that which has infected the party of Lincoln for far too long.
"Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies," King tweeted, a direct shot at Muslim refugees and their children.
King has made a career out of nibbling the edges of white supremacy. Such inflammatory speech is what gets him on national television talk shows. He's not serving Iowa's 4th Congressional District. And thanks to his lust for attention, King serves as a self-appointed representative for Iowa. It's through his actions that the nation sees us.
Many prominent Republicans rightly decried King's initial statement. They no doubt fumed as he went on CNN and doubled-down.
“First of all, I do not agree with Congressman King's statement. We are a nation of immigrants, and diversity is the strength of any nation and any community,” Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a statement.
Kaufmann took an even harder swing at former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who was, unsurprisingly, overjoyed by King's declaration.
“Regarding David Duke, his words and sentiments are absolute garbage. He is not welcome in our wonderful state,” Kaufmann said.
Gov. Terry Branstad and governor-in-waiting Kim Reynolds correctly smacked King for his outright bigotry.
Strong words are welcome. But action is necessary. Unchecked, this strain of right-wing nationalism will consume the party. It's already threatening political orders throughout the West, the very civilization that King claims he wants to save. Austria, France, Greece and the U.K. are all combating racially fueled rightist political insurgencies. It's a base reaction to the greatest refugee crises in 75 years, a catastrophe that, ironically, was orchestrated by the West's own foreign policy. It's been fostered by years of politicians stoking a persecution complex among those who, by every objective measure, enjoy a disproportionate amount of society's benefits.
Like so many others, King is obviously emboldened by the rise of President Donald Trump. He's dropped the thin veil that had cloaked his prejudice. Trump might not like to admit it, but the go-to dog whistles that propelled his campaign spoke directly to the hard right's notion of racial purity and a civilization under siege from the others. That's why Duke and his ilk are suddenly relevant again. It's why Jews are suddenly under threat. It's why angry white men are walking into the local bar, yelling, "Get out of my country," and attacking fellow citizens for no other reason than the color of their skin.
This is not the rhetoric of your father's GOP, the party of reason and Reagan. It is, however, the same disgusting drivel that was thrown at Irish, Polish and Italian immigrants a century ago. It's fear and weakness masquerading as strength.
The GOP, neither in Iowa nor the U.S. at large, should stand for this. King's words are a direct challenge to its ideals. This is, in a very real sense, a tipping point for a party that dominates most of the country. The moral imperative is real. And the economic one — the GOP's stated sacred cow — is undeniable. These "babies" work in our businesses, schools, hospitals and universities. They're no less American than anyone else.
The verbal spankings from Kaufmann, Branstad and Reynolds were apt. But their party's actions will determine the real value of their words.
King should be censured in the House. His bigotry is protected speech. But the First Amendment does not shield him from professional consequences. And next year, King should face a strong opponent in the GOP primary, one with full backing of the state party.
King's breed of hate-filled nationalism is a threat to the GOP. But it's also an opportunity to rebuke such gutlessness in the strongest possible terms.
DES MOINES — Many significant changes would be made to Iowa’s gun laws if a bill working its way through the Iowa Legislature gains sufficient approval in coming weeks.
Those charged with keeping the peace and enforcing Iowa’s laws say they have serious concerns regarding some portions of the wide-ranging proposal.
Many of Iowa’s county sheriffs, city police chiefs and county attorneys say their deepest concerns lie with two particular provisions:
• One that would lessen an individual’s burden to justify the use of lethal force in self-defense.
• One that would allow Iowans to sue local governments that prohibit the possession of guns in public buildings, such as county courthouses.
Multiple sheriffs, police chiefs and county attorneys interviewed for this story said they think much of the sweeping legislation would have little to no effect on their duties, and some pieces they supported.
But the so-called stand-your-ground provision and the notion of guns in courthouses and other public buildings give many law enforcement officials cause for concern.
Organizations representing the state’s peace officers, sheriffs and police all are registered as undecided on the bill. The organization representing the state’s county attorneys is registered in opposition to it.
Stand-your-ground laws have been debated passionately and nationally, particularly in the wake of a 2012 incident in Florida in which a black teen was shot to death and the shooter was acquitted of murder after claiming self-defense under the state’s stand-your-ground law.
Iowa law enforcement officials, particularly county attorneys, said their concern is that a stand-your-ground provision could make it difficult to prosecute shooting deaths.
“Unfortunately, at least in Davenport, we have the exchange of gun fire on a frequent basis, and unfortunately people get killed. And our fear is the unintended consequence of this bill is going to make those types of cases difficult to prosecute, even if an innocent bystander were to be killed,” Scott County Attorney Mike Walton said. “It builds in a defense, because both sides are going to be able to say they were standing their ground. ...
“Certainly, it’s going to be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt who shot first. The law makes it difficult to prosecute. It builds in immunities.”
Woodbury County Sheriff David Drew, like many others who have raised questions about the bill, said Iowa does not need a stand-your-ground provision because current state law already permits the use of lethal force in self-defense of one’s home or vehicle. The proposal would expand that permission to anywhere.
“I think stand-your-ground is a bad law. I agree with the attorneys,” Drew said. “I think what you can have is two people that are really of a criminal mindset say, ‘I feared that guy,’ and he feared that guy, and we’re going back to the wild, Wild West.”
Rep. Matt Windschitl is a Republican state legislator and gun shop owner from Missouri Valley and an advocate for reducing restrictions on gun ownership and use. He said stand-your-ground laws are designed to protect individuals from being prosecuted for acting in self-defense and such a protection should extend beyond the individuals’ home or vehicle.
Windschitl said the potential for more difficult prosecutions is outweighed by the expansion of protections for law-abiding gun owners.
“May a sheriff or prosecuting attorney have to reach a new standard to prosecute? Under those rare instances when someone may claim stand-your-ground, yes, that may happen,” Windschitl said. “But I think the burden that may put on that prosecuting attorney far outweighs the burden upon an Iowan to have to try and run away from a very dangerous situation that endangers their life or safety or the life or safety of another. We’re allowing Iowans the responsibility.”
Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden and others said they also are worried a stand-your-ground law will lead to an increase in gun violence.
Florida’s monthly homicide rate increased nearly 25 percent after implementation of its stand-your-ground law, according to a 2016 study conducted by a University of Oxford social policy professor published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“I believe the stand your ground law would embolden some to unnecessarily resort to deadly force and increase the likelihood of physical violence,” Vander Sanden in an emailed statement.
Sheriffs and county attorneys said they also think any provision that makes it easier for individuals to bring guns into public places such as county courthouses is bad policy. They said emotions can run high in the courthouse and adding guns to that mix could be dangerous.
“That would be a huge step backward for public safety,” Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner said. “Some of the most contentious occurrences happen in the courthouse.”
Walton described prohibiting local governments from regulating firearms in courthouses as “lunacy” that puts the public and courthouse workers in danger.
“People are facing bad consequences in the courthouse. They may be prosecuted for crimes, their family members, relatives may be prosecuted for crimes, there may be juvenile situations, domestic abuse, divorces. It just goes on and on,” Walton said.
“A courthouse is supposed to be a place where things are peaceably resolved. I think it’s a shame that the Legislature would put my staff and all the staff in the courthouse at risk with people with firearms. I don’t know why they would do that.”
The proposed legislation does not repeal any local ordinances that ban weapons in courthouses or other public buildings, and judges would retain authority to ban guns in the courtroom, Windschitl said.
“Judges still have domain over their kingdom,” Windschitl said. “They’re still the masters of their judicial branch.”
The bill does permit individuals to petition the court if he or she feels adversely affected by a weapons ban. Creating that opening concerned many of those county law enforcement officials.
“We have always been able to represent the courthouse as a safe place to victims and witnesses who are sometimes fearful about coming to testify in court,” Vander Sanden said. “If this legislation passed, it would subject counties across the state to lawsuits by those who believe they should have a right to bring firearms into county buildings.”
DES MOINES — Iowa doctors would be barred from performing abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy or face criminal penalties under a bill that passed the Iowa Senate on a 32-17 vote Tuesday evening.
Senate File 471 would not penalize women who seek or get a later-term abortion, but rather would create a situation where doctors who perform the abortions could face a felony and up to 10 years in prison. Two Democrats and Ocheyedan independent Sen. David Johnson joined 29 Republicans in supporting the bill while 17 Democrats opposed it.
Sen. Mark Costello, R-Imogene, the bill's floor manager, said current Iowa law makes it illegal to terminate a pregnancy after the end of the second trimester and the bill's provisions would move up that timeline to 20 weeks post-fertilization.
"I wish we could go even further but tonight we have a wonderful bill that we can at least save many children from 20 weeks and on," said Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull.
The bill provided an exception for circumstances in which the mother's life was in danger or to avert a serious health risk or physical impairment, Costello added, as well as an exception for "fetal anomaly incompatible with life" up until 24 weeks of the pregnancy.
"I think that it's a decent bill that we need to go ahead and pass and send it to the House," Costello said.
Tuesday's debate opened with Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, offering an amendment to strike the bill's language and replace it with the so-called personhood bill — which would have established in code that life begin at conception and could have effectively banned abortions.
The amendment was ruled irrelevant to the bill, but Chapman requested that the Senate suspend the rules to take up the issue which was the subject of a separate bill that filed to advance through committee. Senators voted 33-16 to not suspend the rules by which the amendment was ruled not germane.
Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, expressed disappointment the personhood amendment failed, saying "we had a chance tonight to do something very special and it went down."
GOP senators and Ocheyedan independent Sen. David Johnson turned back an amendment, 30-19, offered by Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, to base the criteria instead on viability on the basis of medical judgment.
"I have to tell you I think this is probably one of the most mean-spirited bills I've seen yet this year and we've seen a lot of mean-spirited bills," said Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines. "You are not doctors. We are politicians messing in an area which we have no business to be involved in."
Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, and other critics called Senate File 471 "unnecessary" and unconstitutional, contending that the medical decisions contemplated in the bill should be made by a woman, her family and her physician — not politicians. Supporters urged Iowa to join 15 other states that already have placed restrictions on abortions performed after 22 weeks gestation or 20 weeks post-fertilization."
"The war on women continues," said Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines. "This is really unfortunate."
After a subcommittee meeting last month, Erin Davison-Rippey, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said legislative action during this year's session could well see court action if approved and signed into law.
A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Tuesday:
FARM NUISANCE SUIT PROTECTION: The Republican-led Iowa Senate voted 31-18 to approve legislation that supporters hope will beef up protections to fend off what they consider to be “nuisance” lawsuits challenging the location of large-scale livestock operations. Senate File 447 allows for an affirmative defense to be raised in certain cause of actions in which an animal feeding operation is alleged to be a public or private nuisance or to otherwise interfere with a person’s comfortable use and enjoyment of life or property. Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, said the bill creates new legal protections for animal agriculture producers who are "prudent" and "reasonable” but not those considered to be “bad actors.” He said the law is needed due to “growing concern over new instability in the legal environment as nuisance lawsuits often brought with the backing of large, greedy out of state law firms and they’re targeting our producers.” Ocheyedan independent Sen. David Johnson joined 17 minority Democrats in trying to make changes to protect rural residents from having large-scale livestock locate in close proximity in a way that infringes on their property rights and quality of life. Two Democrats voted for the bill. Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, compared the Senate debate to “a bad acid trip” at a time when Iowa is faced with deteriorating water quality and a master matrix for siting livestock operations that is not achieving its intended purpose. Zumbach called criticism of the bill a “verbal slaughter” of a major industry that provides 160,000 jobs for Iowa.
HARD TO SWALLOW: The Attorney General’s Office has filed suit in Polk County claiming the makers of “drinkable sunscreen” failed to prove their product provides the advertised protection against cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays.
The lawsuit against Osmosis LLC and Harmonized Water LLC, and their owner, Benjamin Taylor Johnson, MD, all of Evergreen, Colorado, alleges the defendants initially marketed their “UV Neutralizer,” proclaimed as the “world’s first drinkable sunscreen,” without any valid testing to prove its claims. The lawsuit also alleges the defendants later conducted “seriously flawed” testing that “recklessly gave consumers hollow assurances that they were protected from known health hazards,” according to Attorney General Tom Miller.
“We allege that Johnson and his companies put consumers at considerable risk by claiming that spraying UV Neutralizer into their mouths will provide hours of sun protection,” Miller said. “These defendants admit that this product’s only ingredient is water, and we allege they can’t support their highly questionable claims that they can specially treat ordinary water to take on a wide range of health-enhancing properties.”
REGENT CONFIRMED: The Iowa Senate voted 49-0 to approve retired Des Moines physician Michael Richards as a member of the state Board of Regents — the panel that oversees three state universities and two special schools. Richards has served on the panel for nearly a year, having been appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad to replace Mary Andringa after she resigned in April 2016. Gubernatorial appointees must receive a two-thirds majority of the Iowa Senate, or at least 34 affirmative votes, to be confirmed to a state board or commission.
RIGHT TO TRY: The Iowa Senate voted 49-0 Tuesday to approve “right-to-try” legislation that would make it easier for terminally ill patients to get access to experimental drugs. Senate File 404 would permit manufacturers of investigative drugs, biological products or devices to make them available to eligible patients with terminal illnesses for use as a treatment so long as they provide written informed consent. “This gives patients hope,” said Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, floor manager for Senate File 404 which now goes to the Iowa House, which failed to approve the measure last session.
FOREIGN DIGNITARIES: The Iowa Capitol building will have an international flavor Wednesday with state officials hosting dignitaries from Canada. Today has been designated as Canada Day at the Capitol with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Andrew Leslie, Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, will meet Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa’s legislative leaders during events in Des Moines to celebrate Iowa’s top trade partnership. During the visit, the Canadian delegation will present the state of Iowa with an official gift commemorating Canada’s sesquicentennial.
Anne Rabbitte, a member of Ireland’s Fianna Fail Party in the Irish Parliament, was slated to address both chambers of the Iowa Legislature Wednesday and meet with the governor before traveling to Emmetsburg to participate in St. Patrick’s Day observances in the northwest Iowa community. She had to cancel her Capitol visit due to an East Coast snowstorm but she still planned to keep her Emmetsburg commitments.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s flat-out dangerous to consumers to make them think without any proof that this water protects them from what we know is proven — potentially cancer-causing exposure to the sun.” Attorney General Tom Miller talking about water products sold as drinkable sunscreen and mosquito repellent
Before any land-based development on the riverfront commences, the city of Davenport has committed itself to involving necessary boards, commissions, committees and the public as part of the process.
City Administrator Corri Spiegel sought clarification for how the City Council would like to define involvement in the upcoming steps as a request for proposals has been drafted to create design standards.
"We have recommendation for a stakeholder group that would include the Levee Commission, but also Parks and Rec, design review, this is their area of expertise, as well as HPC (Historic Preservation Commission)," Spiegel said.
After the City Council passed on the Restoration St. Louis proposal for a floating restaurant and brewery on the Rhythm City Casino Resort barge in late November, the city switched gears and focused its attention to land-based development along the riverfront.
In January, Spiegel laid out the timeline for developing a new request for proposals, which would include more input and feedback from stakeholders.
"What we're saying is having a committee help with the selection of that company; however, there is the next phase of having the company work the public at large," Finance Director Brandon Wright said. "That's in the RFP itself. They're having public work sessions, interacting with people and this committee as well to get feedback on things as they develop what the design guidelines will look like."
Davenport has committed $1 million in its capital improvement plan budget for a project this year centered around creating a multi-use space for food trucks, events and other festivities.
Mayor Frank Klipsch said the guidelines were an important part to the development phase in order to maintain continuity in design and echoed comments from Alderman Bill Boom, 3rd Ward, in wanting to keep the area from looking like a mosaic.
The major takeaway though is that the necessary boards, commissions and committees will have a representative to provide input and feedback throughout the entire process.
"When the results of the RFP come back, everybody needs to look at it for sure," Klipsch said.
Spiegel said after the city goes through the next upcoming steps, construction could begin at best by fall.
DES MOINES — Opponents of legislation that would expand gun rights in Iowa made a last-stand show of political force Tuesday at the Statehouse in hopes of heading off or softening aspects of the bill expected to pass the Senate and land on Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk.
Backers of House File 517 told three members of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee the sweeping changes are needed to protect Iowans and their rights.
“The right to fight for self preservation is the most basic of all human rights,” said Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition.
The House-passed bill “guarantees that Iowans will not be deprived of their fundamental rights and their best tools for defense in times of emergency,” he added.
But Bernard Clayton of Cedar Rapids told subcommittee members Iowa’s current gun regulations work and he feared the new provisions would lead to more gun violence.
“I will tell you that this bill is dangerous,” he said. “I know that we are really hellbent on doing this. It’s very dangerous for our state.”
House File 517 includes a stand-your-ground provision that allows the use of deadly force for self-defense anywhere a gun owner can lawfully carry. The bill does not require a person to retreat from a threat or call police before using deadly force to protect themselves, others or property.
Under the bill, new carry applicants would be allowed to complete online training courses to demonstrate knowledge of firearm safety.
“This bill is a great bill for terrorists,” said Chris Robinson, an African American resident of Des Moines. “My terrorist is folks that look like you.”
Des Moines resident Patty McKee expressed concern that stand-your-ground provisions have not been applied equally on racial grounds in states with the law now.
“I think that this is unnecessary. People have the right to protect themselves now in their home and in their car. I think this leaves it wide open for abuse,” she said.
If adopted, the bill would remove age requirements for minors handling handguns under the supervision of a parent or guardian.
Other provisions include removing a penalty for carrying a weapon while under the influence if someone is in his or her own home or business; keeps information on people who possess weapon permits confidential; allows carrying firearms on snowmobiles and ATVs on property that doesn’t belong to the carrier; and legalizes short-barreled rifles and shotguns.
Davenport arborist Chris Johnson's eyes widened, and he had to take a step back as he tried to explain the effect of the emerald ash borer to members of the Davenport City Council.
The tiny, green invasive species originating from Asia was discovered in Rock Island County in 2013, but it was suspected to have been in the area for six to seven years prior. Two years later, it surfaced in Davenport.
Now, the ash borer is damaging trees at an alarming rate with removal of hazardous and unhealthy ash trees more than tripling since its discovery in Davenport.
"Once the infestations kind of bloom and explode, you find it all the time," Johnson said. "That's the case that's going on now with all of our ash removal. We're essentially finding it in every ash tree we remove."
The city's forestry program is funded mostly through its capital improvement plan, and the city conducted a tree inventory from 2011 to 2013 in recognition of a potential problem.
It wasn't until 2015 that the city began removing trees. But in that year, 152 out of more than 3,600 ash trees were replaced.
This year, the city has planned to remove 500 ash trees from right of ways, parks and golf courses from its inventory of a little more than 3,000 ash trees.
The idea, however, is to spread out removal so areas don't become too sparse.
"The goal is to not hit any spot or specific ward too heavily any given year," Johnson said. "We don't want to deforest any whole ward or area."
One of the biggest looming issues lies on private property.
For unhealthy trees on private property, Johnson said the city has a nuisance abatement program, but because of the ash borer's effects, it will be unenforceable.
"If the tree is hazardous, we try to force the citizen, homeowner or property owner to remove that hazardous tree," Johnson said. "The problem with this is it's going to be such an impact that it's almost like a bomb going off."
Although the city hasn't been purchasing ash trees, private property owners have been buying them at nurseries since disease began plaguing the American elm.
Johnson said that in many cases two ash trees were planted for every elm.
"I think the private property ash population percentage-wise is far higher than we ever had," Johnson said.
For the number of private trees, Johnson said, removal would cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Johnson said chemical treatment is a viable option for private property owners, but not for the city because of the size of its trees.
Regardless of which way the city and private property owners go, it will be an ongoing problem.
"The problem with the treatment is you are treating for the life of the tree," Johnson said. "You can't stop treating because that chemical will eventually get out of the tree. As long as there is ash borer population, the bug is going to reinfest the tree."
• This is a first-round game in the NIT. Iowa is the No. 1 seed in its quadrant, South Dakota the No. 8 seed. The winner plays the winner of a game between No. 4 TCU and No. 5 Fresno State (Wednesday, 7 p.m.) at a yet-to-be-determined date and time at the home of the higher-seeded team.
• Iowa finished the regular season with a four-game winning streak, then lost to Indiana 95-73 in the Big Ten tournament despite 24 points and 10 assists by freshman Jordan Bohannon. The Hawkeyes are in the NIT for the eighth time. They advanced to the championship game of the tournament in 2013.
• South Dakota won its last seven regular-season games to claim the Summit League title, then lost to South Dakota State in the conference tournament. The Coyotes, who have only one senior on the roster and three Division I transfers in the starting lineup, are making only their second postseason appearance as a D-I program. They played in the 2010 CollegeInsider.com tournament.
IOWA CITY — Fran McCaffery put the question to a quick and merciful death Sunday night.
When asked if he was concerned about his team not being all that fired up for tonight’s 8 p.m. meeting with South Dakota in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament, he abruptly snapped, “That won’t be an issue.’’
But the fact is, motivation sometimes can be a problem for power conference programs in a tournament that amounts to a consolation prize for teams that miss out on the NCAA Tournament.
It often happens with veteran teams who have pinned their hopes on getting into the Big Dance. The NIT ends up being a letdown and it is reflected in their performance on the court.
The Iowa players, like their coach, insist there will be no letdown.
“Our motivation now is to prove to everyone and to ourselves that we belonged in the NCAA tournament …’’ freshman forward Cordell Pemsl said
“We want to make a run and see what we can do. We want to prove to everyone that we were able to make the NCAA tournament and we can play at that level.’’
The Hawkeyes (18-14) actually came closer to making the NCAA than they expected. McCaffery scheduled a practice Sunday while the tournament selection show was on — a sure sign that he didn’t think they would make it — but they actually were listed as one of the top four teams not to make it. As a result, they received one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NIT.
“That gives us a lot more motivation,’’ Pemsl said. “Obviously, it hurts to not make it when we were that close. We’re not going to underestimate anybody regardless of what seed they are or who we’re playing. We’re just going to come out and play our best game.’’
Peter Jok, the only senior who plays meaningful minutes for the Hawkeyes, also said he and his teammates have learned not to look past any opponents.
"There’s some really good teams in the NIT,'' he said. "There’s some better teams than are in the NCAA tournament, so we’re not overlooking anyone.’’
When McCaffery says motivation won’t be an issue, there is little reason to doubt him.
He has coached Iowa in the NIT twice previously and the Hawkeyes appeared to be very motivated both times. They reached the second round of the tournament in 2012 before losing a tough road game at Oregon. The next year they made it all the way to the championship game.
McCaffery rejected one reporter’s suggestion that those teams got stoked up to give a proper send-off to some popular seniors. Although some of his players indicated they’d like to send Peter Jok out a winner, the coach said he doesn’t view it that way.
“I just want this team to continue to win and play better, and I want Pete to continue to play well and have more opportunities to show what he’s capable of doing,’’ McCaffery said. “That’s kind of how I look at it.’’
You can bet that South Dakota (22-11) will be motivated. It is playing in only its second Division I postseason event in the program’s history and the other one was the 2010 CollegeInsider.com tournament.
While the NIT may feel like a step down to programs such as Iowa, Syracuse and Indiana, this is a big deal for the Coyotes.
It doesn’t hurt that their point guard, Trey Dickerson, is an Iowa cast-off. He transferred to South Dakota in 2015 when it became apparent he wasn’t going to get the desired amount of playing time in Iowa City.
Dickerson has remained close friends with Jok and told HawkeyeNation.com in an interview Monday that he’s trying to treat it like any other game. But that may be tough.
“They’re all motivated,’’ Jok said of the Coyotes. “He personally will be, too, to win here at Carver.’’
The starting time for the Iowa women's basketball team's opener in the WNIT has been set.
Appearing in the event for the second straight year, the Hawkeyes will host Missouri State at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Tickets are priced at $10 for adults with free admission for all Iowa students as well as for all youths age 18 and under.
The winner of Thursday's game in the 64-team tournament will face the winner of a game between South Dakota and North Dakota in the second round, with a location, date and time to be determined following first-round games.
DES MOINES — A week after hearing a presentation on the state’s $426 million tax credit liability, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Grassley has introduced legislation to reduce the value of credits available to Iowa businesses, industries and individuals and eliminate tax credit refunds when there is no tax liability.
House Study Bill 187 would cap “contingent liabilities” tax credits at $400 million in the fiscal year beginning July, then lower them $10 million a year to $370 million. That cap is the most significant element of his plan, Grassley said, because it would let lawmakers as well as the Revenue Estimating Conference know the state’s liability rather than work off projections.
“It’s hard to build an estimate off an estimate,” the New Hartford Republican said Tuesday. “The state should really know what we are going to be on the hook for every year when it comes to tax credits.”
Grassley, who submitted HSB 187 on Tuesday morning, already has received pushback, including from economic development interests. But he defended putting all tax credits on the table.
“If you start removing those from the list, are you really taking a serious look at tax credits? In my mind, you wouldn’t be,” he said.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, agreed capping credits would help with planning.
“Having that certainty would be a good idea,” he said, but added he has not seen Grassley’s bill. Schneider expects other proposals to limit tax credits or include them in overall tax reform.
Former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tom Sands, president of the business community-based Iowa Taxpayers Association, warned that tinkering with tax credits could make it harder for Iowa to attract and retain business and industry.
“Iowa has the highest marginal corporate tax rate in the country and one of the highest marginal rates for individual filers,” he said.
However, Sands did allow that Grassley’s proposal may start a conversation about the need for income tax reform.
“By doing income tax reform, we work with businesses across this great state so the private sector can create more jobs, be more competitive with our neighboring states and move this state forward,” he said.
David Swenson, who teaches economics at Iowa State University, Ames, has questioned whether those tax credits accomplish what lawmakers intended. He called Grassley’s proposal “energetic and well-intentioned,” but incomplete.
“Overall, I’d give it a B-,” Swenson said. “Better than average thinking coupled with an attempt at comprehensiveness, but not a lot of thought put in regarding the overall desirability of the many, many tax expenditure categories.”
Removing tax credit refundability is “primarily a good thing,” especially on the corporate side because it could shift money from large companies like Deere & Co. and Rockwell Collins to smaller Iowa manufacturers.
The Iowa Policy Project, a left-leaning think tank, warned against of the “false equivalency” of treating all tax credits alike.
Refundable credits for low-income Iowans lessen tax inequities and poverty and contribute to the economy because the recipients spend their money, executive director Mike Owen said. Refundable credits for businesses are subsidies outside the budget.
The business recipients “for the most part do not need the assistance, and no public purpose is typically demonstrated,” Owen said.
Gov. Terry Branstad won’t comment on the legislation until he sees it on his desk, but he does “generally support” examining tax credits to make sure that Iowans are “getting the best deal possible,” spokesman Ben Hammes said.
Swenson also cautioned that capping and reducing the overall amount of tax credits could, due to inflation, reduce the percentage of the state budget available for tax credits.
Grassley conceded a cap could create competition for tax credits. But his overall goal would be to fund savings to do tax reform “that would affect every Iowan instead of money just going into these specific credits.”
Just as they were ready to call it quits this season, avid snowmobilers in the Quad-Cities rejoiced when they saw Monday's snowy forecast.
Friends and families cleared their evening schedule and congregated on a private farm in rural Scott County for one "last hurrah."
"Everyone's dying to play," said Conor Flaherty, president of the Scott County Sno-Seekers, who logged just one other session this season in the area. "It's been a tough year."
Until Monday, when about 4.8 inches of snow fell here, less than 3 inches of powder dusted the Quad-Cities in January and February combined.
As the flakes accumulated, Duane Holdorf, who farms 500 acres in Dixon, said he received a call from his daughter, Lisa Toft, about snowmobiling.
In previous, snowier seasons, Holdorf opened his 40-acre soybean field to his daughter's family and their snowmobiling friends.
Monday evening, the Tofts' three daughters — even their 3-year-old — went for a spin before it got dark.
They purchased a children's 150-pound 120cc sled about nine years ago when their oldest daughter, Katelynn, turned 1.
Kevin Toft, vice president of the club, said his father introduced him to the sport as a 5-year-old.
People may remember him from 2011, when he rode his snowmobile from Davenport to rescue stranded motorists and Scott County Sheriff's deputies near Donahue.
Now, his entire family is hooked.
"I married into it," Lisa said with a laugh, "and they (their children) were born into it."
Although the club maintains more than 100 miles of trails in Scott County, they have not had the chance this year to develop their system of tracks.
The organization also was forced to cancel its annual drag race event along the frozen backwaters at Credit Island Park in Davenport and its annual outing with the Quad-Cities Women's Outdoor Club.
The lack of snow has driven several club members north to Wisconsin and Michigan in search of the white stuff.
Toft returned last week from a trip with his father to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, his fourth out-of-town snowmobiling trip this winter. He estimates he has driven 3,500 miles in his truck but rode just 800 to 850 miles on his sled.
Although conditions were not ideal, J.J. Wilkins of Bettendorf picked up his sleds after work from his parents' farm in Cedar County and hightailed it to Dixon.
"The last two years have been awful in eastern Iowa," said Wilkins, who sped around the property atop his 800cc Ski-Doo. "Nine out of ten times, I wouldn't have ridden in this, but I got a little bit of it in my blood before spring comes."
Thankful for the extra daylight hours, the crew made the best of their outing in the sloppy terrain.
"It's better than nothing," Flaherty said. "This just makes the winter go by so much quicker."