July 3, 2015

DMACC president selected for leadership role with national nonprofit

Rob Denson, DMACC President

Rob Denson, DMACC President

An Iowan was recently named chairperson of the “leadership council” for a nonprofit organization that’s working to expand economic opportunities to more Americans.

Des Moines Area Community College President Rob Denson is now the head of Opportunity Nation’s Leadership Council, whose members include Arianna Huffington and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

“To me, it means a lot. I was honored to be asked. I have participated in many of their summits in Washington, D.C. and I think because of this involvement, we’re going to work with the governor, lieutenant governor and others to continue to do things that are good for Iowans,” Denson said.

According to the organization’s website, Opportunity Nation’s Leadership Council is “a network of more than 100 influential Americans who are leading the conversation about how to revitalize the American Dream and raise awareness about the growing opportunity gap in our country.”

Denson co-founded the group Opportunity Iowa, which has launched several programs – one of which connects teenagers with employers in the summer. “Right now, there are hundreds and hundreds of kids in Iowa who do not have anything to do in the summer. They’re 16, 17, 18 years old and they get three months off to stand on a corner or do nothing,” Denson said. “We think there is a lot of value in having a summer job, earning a little bit of money, and learning what a work ethic is.”

Two others Iowans are members of Opportunity Nation’s Leadership Council; State Representative Wayne Ford of Des Moines and Barry Griswell, the former Chairman and CEO or Principal Financial Group.

Ten people charged with BWI in Operation Dry Water effort

Okoboji Aug 2011 045Law enforcement officers were scattered around the state last weekend monitoring lakes and rivers for drunk boaters as part of the national Operation Dry Water campaign.

Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa DNR, has compiled the results. “Throughout the weekend, a total of 81 officers…were able to contact 380 boats and on those boats were 1,417 individuals,” Stocker said.

Over the three-day period, 10 people were arrested for boating while intoxicated (BWI). Officials also issued 161 warnings or citations.

The 10 BWI arrests this year was up from two arrests during the same enforcement effort last year. Considering the number of boats officers made contact with, Stocker believes most boat operators are being responsible.

“One BWI is too many, but what I believe the numbers are (showing) is we are having designated drivers, which is a very good thing,” Stocker said. Four years ago this week, Iowa law was changed — reducing the blood alcohol level for boating while intoxicated from .10 to .08 percent — the same as a motor vehicle.

State trooper honored for efforts to find impaired drivers

Trooper Marc Griggs.

Trooper Marc Griggs.

An Iowa State Patrol trooper was recognized today for his efforts over the past two decades in getting drivers under the influence of drugs off of roadways. The chief of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, Patrick Hoye says Trooper Marc Griggs has completed more than 500 drug evaluations.

“Since the inception of the program in Iowa, our records indicate that he is the first officer to reach this impressive plateau,” Hoye said. Griggs, one of 125 certified Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) in Iowa, is a 22-year veteran of the Iowa State Patrol.

“Anytime we do take an impaired driver off the road — whether it be drugs or alcohol — we have saved a life,” Griggs said. According to Hoye, 30-percent of traffic fatalities in Iowa involve impaired drivers. Griggs said as he began his career with the patrol in the late 1990s, he knew many of the drunk drivers he encountered were possibly under the influence of drugs. But, at the time, law enforcement officers were not trained to assess a motorist for “drugged” driving.

Now, officers can receiver specialized training to determine if a driver might be under the influence of illegal or even legal drugs that might pose a threat to highway safety. “So, that is helping to get the word out that drugs and alcohol don’t mix…or strictly drugs cause impairment also,” Griggs said.

In 2014, according to the state Department of Public Safety, there were 47 drug-related traffic fatalities in Iowa. The 43-year-old Griggs lives in Ankeny with his wife and two children. He’s a native of Harcourt in Webster County.

Creator of organization in Bangladesh awarded World Food Prize

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed

The recipient of the 2015 World Food Prize was announced Wednesday in the nation’s capital. Sir Fazle Hasan Abed is credited with helping raise at least 150 million people out of poverty through his global, non-governmental organization known as BRAC.

Abed stepped down from an executive position at Shell Oil in 1972 and launched the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) after a tropical cyclone devastated his homeland and Bangladesh fought its war for independence. BRAC has since expanded its programs into 10 other poor countries.

The Iowa-based World Food Prize is awarded annually to someone who has helped alleviate hunger. The 79-year old Abed will receive $250,000 and be honored at a ceremony in Des Moines in October.



Former West Des Moines principal accused of improperly using school funds

Beth Thorton (district photo)

Beth Thorton (district photo)

An investigation by the State Auditor’s Office has found a school principal in West Des Moines was responsible for over $11,500 in improper and unsupported disbursements.

State Auditor Mary Mosiman says the investigation was requested by school district officials over concerns with purchases made by Western Hills Elementary Principal Beth Thornton.

“They were identified by school district officials as they were reviewing procurement purchases,” Mosiman says. The audit report covers a period between May of 2012 and March of 2015. Thornton’s resignation from the district, submitted in April, took effect today . Mosiman says the improper disbursements amounted to more than $9,700.

“The $9,700 included a little over $3,800 of inappropriate travel costs, a little over $5,300 of gift cards, and $539 of party supplies,” Mosiman says. The audit shows over $1,700 of unsupported disbursements involving purchases made with district charge cards for which there were no receipts submitted.

Mosiman says Thornton had written checks in 2013 in an effort to repay the district. “She did write two different checks totaling a little over $3,400,” Mosiman says. “So, the total amount nets to just over $8,000.”

Thornton’s attorney, Guy Cook, issued a statement to Radio Iowa saying his client “denies any wrong doing whatsoever.”

The 50-year-old Thornton had been the principal at Western Hills Elementary since July 2007.

Full statement from Thornton’s attorney, Guy Cook:

“Ms. Thornton denies any wrong doing whatsoever. Ms. Thornton voluntarily resigned from her position as principle in April, effective the end of contract (6/30/15), to pursue other interests. She served many years of exemplary service to West Des School District. Throughout her many years of service Ms. Thornton always conducted herself with the highest degree of integrity and for the benefit of the school children. Noteworthy, the audit does not report any missing funds; all funds are accounted for. At best, this is booking matter.”


Majority of crops doing well despite some weather setbacks

Ponds of water in Carroll field.

Ponds of water in Carroll field.

The severe weather that rolled through Iowa last week has threatened crop yields across the state.

The U.S.D.A.’s latest crop report issued Monday places 83 percent of the state’s corn crop in good to excellent condition. Soybean emergence rose to 96 percent, which is on par with the five-year average, but 11 days behind last year’s crop.

Seventy-eight percent of Iowa’s soybeans are rated in good to excellent condition. Iowa State University Extension Agronomist Mark Johnson monitors a 9-county region that received up to 8 inches of rain in a 24-hour period last week. ”

Normally when you drive around after a heavy rain, you see these ponds and maybe they (cover) a quarter acre or maybe half-an-acre. When I was out in Carroll (County), l saw 10-acre ponds. Greene was maybe a little bit better and Dallas was a little bit better. Those counties really took a hit,” Johnson said.

It’s too late to replant those water-logged corn fields, according to Johnson.


State Patrol looking for drunk drivers during the 4th of July holiday

State-Patrol-car-backThe upcoming holiday weekend is typically one of the most dangerous times of the year for traffic crashes involving alcohol. Alex Murphy, spokesman for the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, says the Fourth of July weekend last year was marred by multiple fatal accidents around the state.

“Seven people were killed on Iowa roadways and one of those was alcohol related,” Murphy said. In 2013, six people were killed on Iowa roadways over the Independence Day weekend and three of those crashes were alcohol related.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports in 2013, the most recent year in which data is available, 512 people were killed, nationwide in motor vehicle crashes over the Fourth of July holiday.

Murphy notes that 199 of those traffic deaths involved alcohol. The Iowa Department of Public Safety reports extra law enforcement officers will be patrolling Iowa roadways between July 1-7th watching for impaired drivers. “If you’re going to have any adult beverages at any of your celebrations over the Fourth of July, we hope that you’ll have a designated driver or call a taxi cab,” Murphy said.

The legal limit for drunk driving in Iowa is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08. According to the national figures, more than 20 percent of the impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes had a BAC of .15 or higher.