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Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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Thumbs Up … to the Mississippi Valley Fair. Earlier this week the fair board and its management team made the tough decision to call off the 2020 fair.

The fair had already cancelled grandstand performances, but were planning to go forward with other parts of the summer tradition. However, in a Facebook post Tuesday, General Manager Shawn Loter noted the rising number of COVID-19 cases and said after consultation with the county health department, the fair board and management team made the choice to cancel altogether.

He promised the 2021 fair would be an event like no other.

A number of other county fairs have already cancelled for this year, and the state fairs in Iowa and Illinois called off their events weeks ago.

We know this was a difficult decision for the Mississippi Valley Fair, and that it worked valiantly to try to come up with plans to hold the event and still make it safe.

Still, the coronavirus has disrupted so much of our lives over the last several months – and it will continue to do so. We, like other fairgoers, will miss this unique summer tradition, but we applaud the fair for putting public safety first. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2021.

Thumbs Down … to Iowa officials for what looks like a classic attempt to try to keep public information away from the public. The Iowa Capital Dispatch reported this week it asked for two months of emails involving the public health department’s medical director, Dr. Caitlin Pedati, and got this response: It’ll cost you.

How much? Nearly $10,000.

The news outlet is seeking the emails between Pedati, the federal government and other state officials for an inquiry related to the state's response to the pandemic. It says that half of the 9,340 emails relevant to the request involve the governor's office, which we are learning is taking a lot of interest in such requests.

The public health department says the nearly $10,000 charge would cover the cost of a lawyer reviewing the emails, the Capital Dispatch reported.

We've seen this game before. Governments that want to stonewall and keep public documents out of the public's view will frequently threaten big bills in order to process requests.

After reporter Clark Kauffman wrote a story about the matter, other journalists in the state chimed in with their own stories about how they, too, were faced with big bills for record requests.

The health department says it has been transparent during the pandemic, and that reviewing such requests involves a lot of work.

Actually, we think if governments would just adhere to the presumption of openness, a key part of the state's open records law, it wouldn't be that much work at all.

Thumbs Up … to the milestone reached Friday in the construction of the Interstate-74 bridge. Barb Ickes reported that the last arch-floor section of the new Iowa-bound part of the I-74 bridge is finally in place.

The bridge now spans the Mississippi River between Moline and Bettendorf.

Ickes reports that steel rebar and concrete still must be installed to complete the driving surface, and that parts of the arch will be painted and roadway lights will then need to be installed. The estimate is it will be at least year's end before this part of the bridge is open.

Of course, the Illinois-bound span still must be built, too. But for those of us who have closely watched this project since its groundbreaking three years ago, this is a moment to savor.

Thumbs Up ... to colleges and state attorneys general for opposing a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement directive last week that would have deported international students going to schools that are holding online-only classes this fall.

Some colleges, because of the pandemic, have said they'll rely on online classes in an effort to continue providing an education while keeping their students and staff safe.

The ICE move was seen as a way to pressure colleges to convene classes in-person.

Several universities challenged the proposal in court, as did the Illinois attorney general. Locally, officials at Augustana College and St. Ambrose University opposed the directive, even though both institutions plan to hold in-person classes this fall. Officials at St. Ambrose and Augustana both said the ICE proposal has prompted a lot of anxiety and stress on campus.

With the threat of the coronavirus still upon us, it seemed to us like this was a rash move. We're happy to see the vigorous response objecting to it, and that ICE eventually backed off.


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