September 3, 2015

Survey shows an increase in pheasant population

Pheasant-hunt-smallA statewide survey by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources shows the pheasant population has increased for the second year in a row. DNR wildlife biologist Todd Bogenschutz oversees the annual roadside survey. He says better winter weather helped.

“We had a really good winter this past winter, our snowfall was below normal and that brought a lot of the hens that we produced last year through the winter and into this spring, so statewide we saw the counts jump up another 37 percent,” Bogenschutz says. Bogenschutz says the pheasant survey numbers vary in different parts of the state. The bird numbers improved last year after several years of decline, and he says that’s renewed enthusiasm in pheasant hunting.

“There was a lot of buzz last year, we had more hunters come back and our harvest jumped up and we had a lot of good reports from regions of the state — especially central and northwest, north-central and southeast,” Bogenschutz. Bogenschutz says he expects the good survey numbers will bring out more hunters this season. “I think we will probably have a few more hunters and I think success will be a little bit better — and at least in some regions it will be kind of what we expect for Iowa,” Bogenschutz.

The pheasant hunting season will start October 31.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)


New USS Iowa submarine price tag to top $1 billion

Battleship USS Iowa. (Navy photo)

Battleship USS Iowa. (Navy photo)

The Secretary of the U.S. Navy is in Iowa today to commemorate the naming of a new submarine. Governor Terry Branstad said the new USS Iowa will cost more than a billion dollars to build, with a target date for its first voyage sometime after 2020.

“We don’t have a naval base in Iowa,” Branstad said during a Radio Iowa interview. “Obviously, we’re not a sea coast area, but we do have Naval ROTC at Iowa State University.”

U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus will be on the ISU campus in Ames at three o’clock this afternoon to reveal more details about the new sub.

“The public is welcome. We’re excited to have a new ship named after the State of Iowa,” Branstad said. “We’ve had a history of these.”

This is the fourth vessel in the U.S. Navy fleet to be named after the State of Iowa.

“The latest one, the battleship USS Iowa, is now a museum in Los Angeles Harb9r,” Branstad said.

Battleship, USS Iowa.

Battleship, USS Iowa.

Three Navy battleships have been named the USS Iowa. One of them was used during World War II and the Korean War. After it was reactivated in the 1980s, there was an explosion on board and the ship was mothballed until its recent relocation and restoration as a floating museum.

The very first USS Iowa saw action during the Spanish-American War. The State of Iowa raised five-thousand dollars to buy a silver service for that ship in the 1890s and Branstad expects that coffee and tea set will be placed in the new USS Iowa submarine.

“The history has been that the silver service, when the USS Iowa is decommissioned, comes back to the state, but now I’m sure the Navy will want it back to put it on the submarine,” Branstad said. “We had a little incident. After the USS Iowa was decommissioned the last time, they put it on the USS Abraham Lincoln and so I had to contact the Navy and say, ‘Wait a minute. Since the USS Iowa is decommissioned, we want it back.'”

USS Iowa model at the state capitol.

USS Iowa model at the state capitol.

There is also a scale model of the latest USS Iowa battleship in the statehouse rotunda and the state leases it every year. If the Navy makes a scale model of this new submarine, Branstad hopes to get it displayed in the statehouse, too.

The USS Iowa submarine will weigh 7800 tons and be 377 feet long. It will be able to operate at 25 knots when it’s underwater.

“It’s going to be a big submarine and it’s going to be able to move pretty fast and have great capabilities,” Branstad said. “They say it will be able to attack targets ashore with highly-accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles in addition to the other things that it can do.”

Branstad doesn’t know who may be asked to christen the submarine once it’s done.

The USS Sioux City is part of a new class of Navy ships designed to operate closer to shore and it should be finished in December. The price tag for the USS Sioux City is over three-quarters of a billion dollars.

U-I presidential candidate challenged over his business background

Bruce Harreld speaks during his public forum in Iowa City.

Bruce Harreld speaks during his public forum in Iowa City.

The fourth candidate for the University of Iowa president’s job took a lot of questions Tuesday about his background during a public forum on the Iowa City campus.

That’s because Bruce Harreld comes from a mainly business background, not academic. Harreld manages a business consulting company and his past experience includes teaching at the Harvard Business school, he was a senior vice president at IBM, and president of the Boston Market food chain.

Harreld addressed the issue of his background right away, saying he believes he has experience from the business world that would help improve the university. He was asked if his approach would treat the school too much like a business.

“There’s a tendency to believe that institutions like the University of Iowa have customers, and the customers are the students. And I think part of this arms race (for students) is in that spirit,” Harreld says. “There’s something very different about an institution like this — it clearly serves the state, we have a clear role in that. And that may be more important than any set of students.”

He says he can understand how people might think his approach would treat the school simply as a business, but says that’s not what he would do. “I would fight vociferously to differ with all due respect, to the notion that I’m just going to be another corporate guy and come in here and slash and burn. I actually think part of the answer here is…going from great to greater, because we can actually start talking about outcomes and be damn proud of what’s going on, tell the story,” Harreld says.

Harreld was asked about the new Board of Regents “performance-based” funding proposal which has the University of Iowa losing funding to the other two state schools. He says he could see a scenario where he could support it because of the limited amount of state funding available. “It could actually be that there are legitimate needs at the other institutions and there may be a period of time where they need more funding,” Harreld says. “It could actually come back the other way…there might be a time when some of that money might come back to us when we need it more. I would say to the other schools scoot over and support us as we supported you. So yes, I can imagine reasons for that.”

Harreld says he doesn’t know enough about the details of the plan to take a stand on it right now. “I actually think from what I’ve read, is that the title sounds great, but there’s potential for a lot of for mischief down underneath there. And I wouldn’t put it in the context of fairness — I would put it in the context of is it right for the state?,” Harreld says.

The issue swung back to Harreld’s qualifications again when a woman named Sarah Riley who says she is an attorney in Cedar Rapids and a second-generation Hawkeye stepped to the microphone. She says she was furious to see a finalist who had never had any leadership or administrative role at an institution, and says she didn’t change her mind after hearing his remarks. “Why did you even apply for this job?,” Riley asked. “Good, question and I’ve tried to answer that question. I think I can help, and if you don’t think I can help, I totally respect that,” Harreld answered. “But why do you think you can help if you have no background?,” Riley continued. “Because I’ve worked through transformation and taking an institution from whatever the numbers are to something higher,” Harreld responded.

Harreld was the last of four finalists to visit campus. You can see the full forum on-line at the University of Iowa Presidential search page. The Board of Regents plans to interview the four candidates on Thursday and then select one as the new president.


Nursing home resident in Hull dies after truck crashes through building

A resident was killed when this truck plowed into the Pleasant Acres Nursing Home in Hull.

A resident was killed when this truck plowed into the Pleasant Acres Nursing Home in Hull.

A resident of a northwest Iowa nursing home was killed Monday when a pickup hit the building.

The Sioux County Sheriffs’ Office reports that about 2:10 p.m., 77-year-old Lawrence Sohl was driving a 2012 Toyota Tacoma westbound on Railroad Street when for an unknown reason, he struck a minivan traveling in front of him, and continued through an intersection and across a grass lawn before striking the Pleasant Acres Care Center building in Hull.

The pickup traveled through the rooms of two residents and stopped inside the building. The collision killed 88-year-old Anna Dykstra, a resident of the care center, who was in her room at the time. No one was in the second room.

Sohl was transported to the Sioux Center Hospital by the Sioux Center Ambulance. The accident remains under investigation by the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office.

(Reporting by Scott Van Aartsen, KIWA, Sheldon/Photo courtesy of the Sioux County Sheriff)


O’Malley, on polls: ‘I’ve got them right where I want them’ (AUDIO)

Martin O'Malley takes selfies with Grinnell College students.

Martin O’Malley takes selfies with Grinnell College students.

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley campaigned on three Iowa college campuses this weekend. O’Malley spoke to nearly 400 people on the Grinnell College campus early this afternoon.

“This is the crush, right?” O’Malley said, shortly after stepping onto a soapbox so he could be seen more easily by the audience, some of whom were sitting on the floor. “You’ve just gotten back to school, have all sorts of stuff to do. You could be at other places, but you’ve chosen to come here, so thank you.”

O’Malley drew long bursts of applause from the Grinnell crowd with his call for a $15 minimum wage, his pledge to support campaign finance reform and his review of the gun control measures he approved when he was governor of Maryland.

“After the slaughter of the innocent in Newtown, Connecticut, we forged a new consensus and we passed comprehensive gun safety legislation banning assault weapons,” O’Malley said, adding he also supports backgrounds checks and had signed a law that forbids gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

At the end of his speech to the Grinnell crowd, O’Malley acknowledged he faces “long odds” in his White House quest.

Martin O'Malley speaks to a crowd of students at Grinnell College.

Martin O’Malley speaks to a crowd of students at Grinnell College.

“When I first got into this race, we were at one percent in Iowa, but then because of the discernment, the good judgement, the diligence of Iowans who take their voting responsibilities seriously…we moved to three percent,” O’Malley said. “And then after another 30 days, we moved to even percent in Iowa, so I’ve got them right where I want them.”

The crowd laughed, then applauded. A Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” released this weekend showed Hillary Clinton is the “first choice” of 37 percent of Democrats who’re likely to attend the Caucuses, with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders just seven points behind at 30 percent. Vice President Joe Biden was the first choice for another 14 percent of those polled. even though he’s not yet running, and O’Malley was the first choice of just three percent.

Otto Hall of Grinnell said O’Malley looked and sounded “presidential” — but Hall is waiting to see what Biden does.

“Sometimes he puts his foot in his mouth,” said Hall, who supported Biden in 1987 before Biden dropped out of that race. “But I think genuinely he’s a very bright guy and I’m just very interested to see if he’s going to jump in because that’s just going to be a seismic shake-up for the Democratic candidates.”

Laforest Sherman of Grinnell also listened to O’Malley today, but he’s backing Sanders.

“Bernie Sanders is a long shot, but we said the same thing about Barack Obama,” Sherman said. “…Maybe we’re ready for the kind of political revolution that we need.”

Kelly Bennett of Newton has heard O’Malley four times before and today he signed up to caucus for O’Malley.

“I like his progressive agenda. I don’t that I heard anything today that I don’t agree with politically,” Bennett said. “And of course, with him, we don’t have to worry about him being indicted anytime soon.”

O’Malley did not mention Hillary Clinton by name during his remarks to the crowd, but later while talking with audience members individually O’Malley complained about how much attention’s being paid to Clinton’s use of a personal email server while she was secretary of state and the attention focused on the “horserace” rather than the ideas the candidates are talking about on the campaign trail.

O’Malley was at Iowa State University in Ames Saturday night and he visited the University of Iowa campus late this afternoon. He’s touting his promise to find ways to reduce student debt and O’Malley gets big applause from college town audiences when he says climate change offers great business and job creation opportunities. O’Malley has said the U.S. should have a 100 percent “clean” electric grid by 2050.

AUDIO of O’Malley’s appearance in Grinnell, 45:00

(Photos by Asya Akca)

Insurance commissioner approves rate increases for 3 companies

Nick Gerhart

Nick Gerhart

Three health insurance companies have received the green light to increase rates affecting thousands of Iowans. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Coventry Health Care and Gundersen Health Insurance requested the premium rate increases due to rising health care costs.

On Wednesday, Iowa Insurance Division Commissioner Nick Gerhart approved rate increases of 17.6 to 28.7 percent on average for different insurance plans operated by Wellmark. Around 137,000 Wellmark policyholders are impacted. Coventry is the largest carrier in the state selling insurance policies that qualify for Affordable Care Act subsidies.

Coventry rates on January 1st will rise 19.8 percent, affecting up to 47,000 policyholders. Around 60 policyholders will see a 9.4 percent rate increase approved for Gundersen plans.


Influential Iowa GOP powerbroker David Stanley has died

David Stanley.

David Stanley during an appearance on Iowa Press on Iowa Public TV.

An influential Iowa Republican who founded a taxpayer rights group nearly four decades ago has died.

David Stanley of Muscatine was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1958 and served 16 years in the state legislature. He ran two statewide campaigns for the U.S. Senate, losing to Harold Hughes in 1968 and John Culver in 1974.

In 1978 Stanley founded Iowans for Tax Relief, an organization that became an influential player in Republican Party politics. Stanley has served as chairman of the National Taxpayers Union as well.

Stanley, who was a lawyer, was 86 years old. His wife, Jean, died earlier this month, on August 4. Jean and David Stanley were high school sweethearts and their 67th wedding anniversary was in late June.

David Stanley’s father founded Stanley Consultants, one of the world’s largest engineering and construction companies, as well as HON Industries, the second-largest office furniture manufacturer in the world.

Iowans for Tax Relief released the following statement this afternoon:

David M. Stanley of Muscatine, Iowa passed away, August 26, 2015. Dave was involved in many organizations in Iowa and nationally.  Dave was Chairman of Iowans for Tax Relief, National Taxpayers Union, Public Interest Institute, New Hope Foundation, and previously served with his wife, Jeanie, as executive couple of United Marriage Encounter.

Dave served in the Iowa Legislature for 12 years and was House Ways and Means Chairman and Senate Majority Leader.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2015 at 11:00 AM at Wesley United Methodist Church, Muscatine, Iowa.  Dave’s wife Jeanie preceded him in death on August 4, 2015.  He is survived by his four children and ten grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to New Hope Foundation or United Marriage Encounter both at PO Box 209, Muscatine, Iowa 52761.