August 21, 2014

Man accused of dealing drugs out of Dubuque candy store

A Dubuque man is accused of selling crack out of a candy store.

Prosecutors say 35-year-old Dwayne Howard made three crack cocaine sales out of Wayne’s Candy store in Dubuque earlier this year. The candy store, which is near two parks in Dubuque, is now closed. Prosecutors say Howard made another crack sale within a thousand feet of an elementary school in Dubuque.

Howard faces three counts of distribution of a controlled substance near a playground and one count of drug dealing near a school. His trial is scheduled to begin October 20th.

Howard has previously been convicted of drug posession and domestic abuse as well as driving while barred.

Joe Walsh of Eagles’ fame helping Braley raise cash

A man who’s been an Eagle since 1976 is offering a boost to Bruce Braley’s U.S. Senate campaign.

Joe Walsh is the lead guitarist who helped the Eagles craft their most famous album, Hotel California. Some of his iconic guitar riffs are featured in songs like “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Life’s Been Good”. The Eagles will be in Des Moines September 6 for a concert and an email sent out under Walsh’s name invites people to donate to Braley’s Senate campaign.

One of the contributors will get two tickets to the Eagles concert and a private meeting with Walsh and the rest of the band. Braley and his wife, Carolyn, met at an Eagles concert in the 1980s when they were both Iowa State University students.

August & September are deadliest period of year on Iowa roads

DriveSoberOrGetPulledOverState officials say the months of August and September have been the deadliest on Iowa roads over the past five years. Randy Hunefeld of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau says there are several reasons for the increase in traffic fatalities.

“It’s usually the last hoorah for everybody to have that final vacation and people are probably trying to hurry to get where they want to go,” Hunefeld says. “…You have new drivers going to school. Maybe it’s the first time they’ve driven a car to school.”

Hunefeld is the state coordinator for the “Special Traffic Enforcement Program” — an effort to catch speeders and drunk drivers during the Labor Day holiday.

“It’s a federally funded program for law enforcement agencies who receive…funding for overtime and/or…traffic safety equipment that will help them to enforce laws,” Hunefeld says.

More than 250 city, county and state law enforcement agencies will beef up traffic enforcement starting Monday, the 25th of August and continuing through Sunday, September. During just the three-day Labor Day weekend last year, there were four traffic fatalities and Iowa DOT officials classified one of those deaths as “alcohol-related.”

Lawsuit challenges Iowa EPC vote on water quality rules

A group that’s been lobbying for tighter state regulation of large-scale livestock facilities is suing the state commission that’s in charge of those regulations. The lawsuit filed by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement notes that five of the eight members on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission have a “direct financial stake” in livestock operations.

“We would expect people on any board or commission to recuse themselves when they take a vote that would impact their bottom (line),” says Adam Mason, a spokesman for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

On Tuesday, the state Environmental Protection Commission unanimously approved new rules for livestock operations, but Mason and his group say those rules don’t go far enough to protect water quality.

“There are no environmentalists on the commission,” Mason says, “…so you can see that it’s weighted to one side that favors the livestock industry here in Iowa.”

Nancy Couser, the chairwoman of the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, runs a cattle operation near Nevada with her husband and son.

“We are stakeholders and we should have a voice in the entity that regulates us,” Cowser says. “I don’t understand what their problem is with that.”

Cowser says state law dictates that at least three farmers serve on the commission.

“We are required to have three members on our commission actively engaged in livestock and grain farming,” Cowser says.

The Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled there was no conflict of interest a few years ago when a person who worked on water quality issues for the Iowa Environmental Council served on the same state commission and voted on water quality regulations.

Ice Bucket Challenge goes viral, Iowa ALS leaders stunned (VIDEO)

IceBucketChallengeIt seems everybody’s got a video on social media lately, having a bucket of ice water dumped on their heads — captains of industry, Hollywood celebrities, Iowa’s governor (see video below), or your neighbor down the street.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was launched late last month as a way to raise awareness and funds for research into what’s known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS.

Abbi Costigan, coordinator of the Iowa chapter of the ALS Association, says the response has been completely unexpected and overwhelming.

“There is not one person from our chapters or nationwide that was even prepared for something like this,” Costigan says. “It’s been absolutely amazing to see the support of people who didn’t even know what Lou Gehrig’s disease was or that our chapters existed.”

The challenge has spread very quickly through websites like Facebook. Once challenged, you can either dump a bucket of ice water on your head and donate at least ten dollars toward ALS research and challenge three more people — or skip the challenge and donate 100 dollars.

Costigan says the first challenge she’s aware of was on July 29th, just three weeks ago. Since then, many thousands around the planet have accepted the challenge and written checks. The money is streaming in.

“I know it goes up and down because we’re getting donations every day,” she says, “but the last number I heard was about $41.8 million.”

ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It’s a motor neuron disease, first described in 1869. It usually attacks both upper and lower motor neurons and causes degeneration throughout the brain and spinal cord. Once diagnosed, life expectancy is usually only two to five years.

While the cause of ALS is not completely understood, Costigan says the last decade has brought a wealth of new scientific understanding about the disease that provides hope for the future. The sudden awareness of this killer disease — and the outpouring of support — is something Costigan can only describe as stunning.

“It gives me goosebumps,” Costigan says. “ALS has been around. We just celebrated 75 years since Lou Gehrig’s speech and to think this disease has been around for this long and it’s not until the year 2014 that we’ve had something like this go viral.”

About 250 Iowans are afflicted with ALS at any one time. Learn more about the disease and The Ice Bucket Challenge at:





Debate over police acquiring military vehicles heats up

Johnson County Sheriff's MRAP vehicle (photo courtesy KCRG-TV)

Johnson County Sheriff’s MRAP vehicle (photo courtesy KCRG-TV)

Many residents of eastern Iowa voiced concern in June when the Johnson County Sheriff’s department acquired a mine resistant vehicle. Calls to get rid of the 60,000 pound vehicle have ramped-up amid nationwide calls to “demilitarize” police. But, in an interview with KCRG-TV, Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek defended the vehicle as another “tool in the toolbox” for his deputies and other local law enforcement agencies. “It’s not like we’re getting a tank, it’s not like we’re getting a battleship,” Pulkrabek said.

The county received the “mine resistant ambush protected” vehicle, or MRAP, through a federal program, which gives surplus military equipment to local police forces at little to no cost. Pulkrabek said the primary role of the vehicle is to protect officers during an active shooter situation, but it can also be used to help during natural disasters, like when it was used to assist with evacuations during the recent flooding on the Iowa River. Sean Curtin of Iowa City isn’t convinced it’s necessary. “I think the benefits of the MRAP are marginal to nonexistent, but its chilling effect on the First Amendment evident, as we’ve seen recently in Ferguson, Missouri,” Curtin said.

A heavily armed police response to the recent protests of the shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson have shined a new light on the issue. President Obama, this week, said there is “a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don’t want those lines blurred.” He believes there may be “bipartisan interest in reexamining” the military surplus program. Sheriff Pulkrabek believes that would be a mistake. “I was disappointed in the President weighing in like that on the program…you know, the President is fairly well protected,” Pulkrabek said.

A protest, in part about the militarization of police forces, is planned for tonight in Iowa City. Next week, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors may call on the sheriff and emergency manager to answer questions about the MRAP acquisition. Supervisor Terrance Neuzil told KCRG it’s a discussion that’s needed. “When it comes to any kind of purchases of this magnitude, we do want to have at least some oversight when it comes to the finances of that, the insurance of it, the risk management of it, the storage of it,” Neuzil said.

The MRAP typically carries a sticker price of $733,000. The county received it free of charge, although officials did pay $3,500 to transport it and $5,000 to paint it. That money was drug forfeiture money and not tax dollars, Pulkrabek said. More than a half-dozen Iowa communities have added MRAP-type vehicles to their forces in recent months, including the cities of Washington and Marshalltown.

by Mark Carlson, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids

EMILY’s List, Iowa Farm Bureau PAC announce endorsements

EMILY’s List today endorsed the Democrat who’s running for lieutenant governor of Iowa. EMILY’s List is a group that helps women candidates from the Democratic Party who support abortion rights.

EMILY’s List is publicly backing Monica Vernon, the lieutenant governor candidate who is the running mate of Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor. It means the Hatch-Vernon campaign will get a cash infusion from the group, along with contact information for the three million EMILY’s List backers in the country, who’ll be targeted with calls and email from the Hatch-Vernon campaign.

In a prepared statement, the president of EMILY’s List called Monica Vernon “an experienced problem solver, small business owner and public servant.” Vernon is a member of the Cedar Rapids City Council who ran for congress this spring, then signed on as Hatch’s running mate in June.

In other endorsement news this week, The Iowa Farm Bureau’s political action committee endorsed Republican Terry Branstad in the governor’s race and Republican Joni Ernst in the U.S. Senate race. In a prepared statement, a spokesman for the Farm Bureau said the group’s “Friend of Agriculture” designations are given to candidates who support “key priorities for agriculture” like renewable fuels and expanding trade opportunities abroad.

The Farm Bureau is also supporting three of the four Republicans running for Iowa congressional seats. Republican Congressman Steve King serves on the House Ag Committee and he was named a “Friend of Agriculture” by the group. Rod Blum, the Republican running in the first congressional district, and David Young, the Republican running in the third district, also got the Farm Bureau’s backing.

Last week the National Federation of Independent Business endorsed Blum and this week the group endorsed Ernst.