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042018 QCT Big Table 005

Fourteen area residents gathered during one of the Quad Cities Big Table forums held at the Bettendorf Library Friday, April 20, 2018. The events, held at dozens of locations across the Quad-Cities hoped to promote civic conversation, foster new relationships and inspire collaborative action across the region.

Kevin E. Schmidt

Thumbs up to up participants of this past week's Big Table, sponsored by Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce.

On May 20 and 21, thousands of Quad-Cities residents huddled in boardrooms, bars and dining rooms to discuss issues large and small. Meaningful conversations about crime, infrastructure and the region's collective self-image were plentiful. People who otherwise would have never met, spent an hour talking ideas in a candid, yet respectful way.

Humanity is in the midst of a revolution right now. Social media has too often replaced the face-to-face conversations that built societies and ended wars. Now, by and large, people yell at some faceless opponent on the Internet.

Simple, honest human conversation is the foundation of everything this species has accomplished. Locally, the simple act of sitting down and chatting about the Quad-Cities and its future is an attempt to delve beyond the web-based shrieking and Twitter-based one-liners that have replaced heady discussions. 

Chamber officials say a report from its ethnographic experiment is due out this summer. It could be a useful document, one that informs policy decisions for years to come.

But the act of participating in the Big Table had value in its own way — it was incredibly human.

Thumbs down to Iowa Senate Appropriations Committee, which continued a war on higher education this week.

They approved an $8.3 million increase in funding for Iowa Board of Regents over the current fiscal year. That doesn't even make up for the more than $10 million lawmakers recently axed from the state's public universities during mid-year budget cuts.

Tuition will go up. Four-year degrees will be come less attainable to Iowans. Programs will be further stressed or even threatened. 

Anything for a tax cut, eh?

Thumbs up to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, for sticking his finger in his leader's eye and supporting legislation to protect the investigator probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The Judiciary Committee chairman this week permitted the bipartisan bill to move through his committee. And he supported the legislation in the process, while adding that he has constitutional concerns about it.

The move puts Grassley squarely at odds with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who recently said he'd refuse to permit the bill to reach the Senate floor. But the support of Grassley's committee places additional pressure on McConnell.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe is of massive importance and must be protected from White House interference at all cost. Lawmakers, such as Grassley, are right to defend it while asserting congressional authority.

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