Des Moines Register. May 9, 2019

Democrats, don't shut out the potential for civil discourse with Bob Vander Plaats

It would be encouraging to see Iowa organizations like The Family Leader and Interfaith Alliance of Iowa both talking about the need for civil discourse in the presidential race — but a recent exchange between these groups was a letdown.

We weren't impressed by Bob Vander Plaats, head of The Family Leader, trying to shame Democratic presidential candidates into appearing at his organization's forum. But it was even more disappointing to see Interfaith's Connie Ryan twist the definition of civility to the point of ruling out dialogue with someone who believes as Vander Plaats does about LGBTQ issues.

There was nothing wrong with Vander Plaats extending an invitation to Democratic presidential candidates to join the evangelical Christian organization's annual summit in July. He offered a platform for civil discourse, despite his organization's staunch opposition to abortion rights, gay marriage and other social positions the Democratic Party embraces.

But when the campaigns, spurred by the Interfaith Alliance, turned Vander Plaats down, he wrote in a guest column that he'd made the invitation to honor LGBT activist Donna Red Wing's legacy and lamented that the Democratic campaigns were unwilling to have a civil conversation. Red Wing and Vander Plaats had enjoyed an unusual friendship after she asked him out for coffee one day.

"I never envisioned one day we would become dear friends, challenging and inspiring many to have civil conversation over deep disagreements," Vander Plaats wrote.

We don't question Vander Plaats' sincerity. Even so, there was nothing wrong with Democratic candidates passing on the opportunity. It's understandable if they would prefer to focus their precious time in Iowa on audiences with a higher likelihood to yield caucus supporters. It's also understandable if they would not want to help raise the profile and fundraising ability of an organization that works against their values.

As Drake University's Carol Spaulding-Kruse writes in a separate guest column, public dialogue requires a neutral framework and facilitation. "That's why I find it disingenuous to invite political leaders to an annual summit hosted by those leaders' political opponents and then claim that they are refusing to engage in civil discourse when they decline to attend," she wrote.

But Vander Plaats didn't deserve the over-the-top response from Ryan. She wrote in a guest column that Vander Plaats' positions and actions against gay marriage and other issues show a lack of respect to other people.

". Vander Plaats and much of the work of The Family Leader is antithetical to civility. He has shown time and again that, based on his actions and his rhetoric, he is not committed to civility or civil dialogue," Ryan wrote.

By defining Vander Plaats' values and public-policy efforts to promote those values as inherently uncivil, Ryan seems to suggest there can never be civil discourse between people on opposite sides of issues like abortion, gay marriage and Medicaid funding for gender reassignment.

That is a shame. The Interfaith Alliance and The Family Leader, despite being on opposite sides of many issues, have some things in common. They are both faith-based coalitions of religious organizations. Both have an interest in public policy and civil discourse. Maybe Bob and Connie should have coffee and talk. We at the Register would be happy to offer neutral ground.


The (Fort Dodge) Messenger. May 8, 2019

Support LWCF funding bill

Among the most important federal programs very few people have heard of is the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Ensuring it has enough money is the proverbial no-brainer.

Doing so will require action by Congress and approval by President Donald Trump, however. Lawmakers and the president should be urged — not just encouraged — to make it happen.

The LWCF conducts many projects and programs the name would suggest. It is important in preserving significant lands and bodies of water throughout our country. More than 2.37 million acres have been saved by the LWCF.

Another aspect of the LWCF may not be obvious to many Americans. It is well-known by most local government officials, however.

Funding from the LWCF goes to many local recreational needs, ranging from parks to public swimming pools.

In the past, Fort Dodge has received a handful of grants from this fund. The largest was a $125,000 award that helped pay for Expo Pool on North Seventh Street. That grant was awarded in 1981.

The pool was removed in 2014 when the new Rosedale Rapids aquatics center was built. The terms of the grant require the site to be kept in public use forever, which is why it hasn't been made available for housing development.

The city also received $67,462 for Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex, about $42,000 for the former Sunkissed Meadows Golf Course and about $5,000 for Knollcrest Park.

Every county in the United States has received LWCF money, through more than 40,000 grants since 1965.

Yet, despite the LWCF's critical importance, there was some doubt earlier this year that the initiative would continue to exist. That doubt was erased in a bill the president signed into law several weeks ago.

But now, the question of ensuring the agency is funded has come up. A bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, would resolve that. The measure, S 1081, woud guarantee the agency is authorized for $900 million in annual funding.

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is co-sponsoring Manchin's bill. It should be approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives as soon as possible, then sent to the president for his signature.

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Dubuque Telegraph Herald. May 10, 2019

Small businesses drive local — and global — economy

When you think about your favorite local businesses,

whatever comes to mind — restaurants, retail shops, service providers — there's a good chance the place you picture is a small business.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. The Small Business Administration touts that more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and those companies create about two out of every three new jobs each year.

This week marked a nationwide celebration of Small Business Week — a good reminder to support small businesses on the local level to keep our economy moving forward. These are the very businesses that help local communities thrive.

Quarterly data released by Greater Dubuque Development Corp. last month shows 68% of surveyed area businesses reported increased sales, while 23% said sales were stable. Only 9% said sales were decreasing. And about a third of the 90 surveyed businesses said they have plans to expand.

National figures reveal a similar trend, with the Small Business Optimism Index at a "historically strong" 101. 8 in the first quarter of 2019. Locally or nationally, small business entrepreneurs and their employees play a critical role in positive economic growth.

Contrast that with the behemoth corporations for which cities and states swoon and court with taxpayer dollars. Case in point: Foxconn. Wisconsin taxpayers are beholden to the tech giant for nearly $3 billion, in exchange for Foxconn bringing 13,000 jobs to the state — if, in fact, that happens. Foxconn's own director of U.S. strategic initiatives tweeted recently, "Who has the crystal ball to predict if 13,000 jobs will be created by the year 2032?" So, that doesn't instill a lot of confidence.

Look at the occupants that have revived Lower Main Street in Dubuque and brought about the reality of a live-work-play area in the Millwork District. What sort of businesses line the Main Streets of every small town in the tri-state area? Think about the kinds of businesses we hope to see develop in the Central Avenue corridor as part of the True North initiative. These are small businesses, the heart of tri-state communities.

The small businesses you interact with most might be your favorite place to get a pizza, or the hardware store that always lends expertise, or a pharmacist who takes the time to make sure you understand a prescription. Those are the traits that ingratiate our small businesses to us locally.

Taken as a whole, however, the contributions of small businesses on a national scale are so much more.

As these companies work hard to grow their business, serve customers, drive innovation and create the jobs of tomorrow, small businesses are advancing our ability to compete in a global economy. Salute a small business this week — and every week.

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