April 23, 2014

Ambulance operator complains about IDPH data collection

Senator Jack Chapman

Senator Jack Chapman

A Republican state senator is expressing concern about data the Iowa Department of Public Health collects from his family’s business, but he is stopping short of proposing legislation that would require any changes in the procedure. Senator Jack Chapman runs a Des Moines-based ambulance service and the data deals with the calls his company makes.

“From 2004 to the middle of (this) February, the Iowa Department of Public Health has collected nearly 1.9 million patient care records of Iowans for ambulance transports,” Chapman said during a speech on the Senate floor. “These records include identifyable information such as the patient’s name, address, date of birth. It also includes their medical information, such as their medical condition, medications administered and the list goes on.”

Chapman is calling for a review of this data collection system, but he has withdrawn a proposal from senate consideration that would have forced the department to conduct that review.

“The most important issue is the fact that Iowans have no idea this data is being collected on them and, furthermore, it appears to be stored indefinitely,” Chapman said.

The Iowa Department of Public Health is required by state law to collect all sorts of data, including ambulance calls. According to a recent report from the agency, the data provided by ambulance services helps policymakers assess how emergency calls are handled and bring about “more efficent and effective emergency services,” especially when the patients being hauled in the ambulance have “life-threatening” conditions. According to the National 9-1-1 Center, the collection of “meaningful data” helps policymakers come up with the best way to manage emergency services for critical patients outside of a hospital.

Zone around Des Moines and Ames now defined as “Cultivation Corridor” (AUDIO)

Leaders unveil new branding for the Ames to Des Moines corridor.

Leaders unveil new branding for the Ames to Des Moines corridor.

Central Iowa business leaders, two Iowa governors and Iowa State University’s president today unveiled the new “branding” for the Des Moines metro and ISU. The “Cultivation Corridor” is meant to convey the region’s leadership in agriculture and biosciences according to ISU president Steven Leath.

“It defines our desire to build and create something more than just the sum of our parts,” Leath said this morning, “but to make this region the premiere ag bioscience hub in the nation and the world.”

Leath, who points to the “Silicon Valley” as the most recognizable regional brand, used to head research at North Carolina State, in the so-called “Research Triangle” of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.  Leath was hired to be Iowa State’s leader, in part, to try to replicate that in central Iowa, along the I-35 corridor.

“We are one of the premiere ag biosciences regions for the nation and, indeed, the world,” Leath said. “And the fact of the matter is Iowa State University is very proud to be at the heart of this region, to be actively involved in developing the workforce and the innovations that are critical to the bio-based economy of today and, more importantly, of tomorrow.”

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, said the “Cultivation Cooridor” puts the entire state at the center of efforts to feed an expanding world population.

“Now that we’ve got the brand, let’s go sell it,” Vilsack said, to applause from the crowd.

Terry Branstad, Iowa’s current governor, called this branding of the central Iowa area a “significant” step.

“Iowa is already a leader in agriculture production, research and innovation,” Branstad said. “…I believe this ‘Cultivation Corridor’ will yield great dividends.”

Brent Willett, the president and CEO of the North Iowa Coordinator Economic Development Corporation, has been hired as executive director of this new central Iowa initiative.

AUDIO of “Cultivation Corridor” announcement, 38:00

Microsoft to build second data center in West Des Moines

Microsoft has been identified as the company behind another big economic development project in West Des Moines. The company will build a $1.1 billion data center on a 154 acre site in Polk County.

Governor Terry Branstad was in West Des Moines for the announcement, made shortly after the Iowa Economic Development Authority approved just over $20 million dollars in sales tax rebates for the project. “Iowa has been very fortunate in the last few years to have numerous economic development projects worth over one billion dollars; Facebook, MidAmerican Energy’s Wind Farm, CF Industries, and Iowa Fertilizer,” Branstad said.

Microsoft already has a data center in West Des Moines, so the company’s total investment in the area will now reach nearly $2 billion. “That is an all-time record (for the state),” Branstad noted.

The City of West Des Moines has promised $53 million in infrastructure improvements to accommodate the site. Mayor Steve Gaer  said it’s well worth the investment. “The economic impact of this project alone, when it’s fully developed, will be over 8 million dollars a year in property taxes to the city, county and school district,” Gaer said.

Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly said the data center will be huge, covering a space comparable to roughly 20 football fields. “The project will firmly establish central Iowa as one of the country’s leading technology environments and with the addition of over 80 jobs, will certainly bring new talent to our community,” Connolly said. Microsoft officials have pledged the project will eventually create 84 jobs, most of which will pay a wage of at least $24.32 an hour.

Construction on the project is expected to start this spring.

Unemployment rate inches up to 4.4% in March

The state unemployment rate moved up again in March. “We had just a tenth of a percent increase in our unemployment rate, and that’s really primarily due to an increase in the state’s labor force,” Iowa Workforce Development spokesperson Kerry Koonce says. The 4.4-percent unemployment rate in March is still below the 4.8-percent rate for March of last year.

Koonce says the workforce has been growing “excessively” over the last couple of months. “Individuals who maybe stopped looking for work, because they didn’t think it was available, have started again,” Koonce says. The total number of Iowans working is now 1,615,200. “That’s reached a record number — which is very good– that really shows the economy is growing,” Koonce says. “That’s 27,000 higher than it was this time last year.”

Koonce says there were some job losses. She says the most loses were in manufacturing, but she says the forecasts show that durable goods manufacturing jobs should pick up in the coming weeks and level out the loses. The professional goods and services area also lost jobs, which Koonce says is an area that tends to go up and down.

Overall manufacturing jobs are up 800 compared to last year. Koonce says construction employment should be picking up soon as the weather improves.

Commission chair says Linn County decision won’t impact Greene County gambling license ruling

Racing and Gaming Commission chair Jeff Lamberi listens as Commissioner Carl Heinrich talks.

Racing and Gaming Commission chair Jeff Lamberi listens as Commissioner Carl Heinrich talks.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission turned down the request from Cedar Rapids for a new gambling license, but the chair of the commission  says that doesn’t mean they’re saying no to any new licenses this year.

The four commissioners who voted against a license for the facility in Linn County cited the impact the new casino would have on existing facilities in eastern Iowa. Commission chair, Jeff Lamberti of Ankeny, says it’s a whole new situation when they look at a request for a gambling license for Greene County in June. “I think we’re not necessarily looking at an apples-to-apples comparison,” Lamberti says. “Obviously here in Linn County we were looking at a very significant impact on two or three markets.”

Lamberti says they will look at the proposal to build a Greene County casino near Jefferson based on its impact in that area. “So I think what we’re going to do as a commission is start the process that we did in Linn County and go back and look at them on an individual basis, and look at the individual facts,” Lamberti says.

The commission members talked about what they see as the gambling market reaching a saturation point in making their decision on the Cedar Rapids license. Lamberti says he expects the body will send a message about any future expansion following the Greene County discussion.  “When we get to the Greene County decision, I think I would expect the commission — based upon the ruling there — to then give an indication to the rest of the state what we think is out there, and if we are going to be willing to consider further applications,” Lamberti says.

He wouldn’t speculate on what may happen with the Greene County proposal. “We’ve quite honestly not even spent a lot of time thinking about Greene County right now, because we try to focus our decision making on the one before us. And that’s quite frankly why we separated them,” according to Lamberti. “Because this is a long, tough, hard process and we want to be sure people have ample opportunity to present their case to the commission. So now that this decision is behind us, we start focusing on Greene County. I don’t think anybody has prejudged anything, they didn’t with respect to Linn County, and they haven’t with respect to Greene County.”

The Racing and Gaming Commission is set to visit the Greene County site on May 29th, and will make a decision on a license at its June 12th meeting.


Iowa soldier talks about Medal of Honor recipient who saved his life

Pfc. Kyle White

Pfc. Kyle White

A veteran from eastern Iowa will be at the White House next month as a fellow Army soldier who saved his life is awarded the Medal of Honor.

Former U.S. Army Specialist Kain Schilling was with his unit in northeastern Afghanistan on November 9, 2007 when they were ambushed by the enemy.

Schilling was shot in the arm and leg. Another specialist, Kyle White, is credited with helping Schilling survive the four-hour ordeal. The Cedar Rapids native says White applied tourniquets to his wounds and found them slight cover under a tree.

“As he’s doing all of this, he’s getting shot at,” Schilling said. “He gets hit with an RPG (rocket propelled grenade). His radio and his uniform are shredded by bullet holes and even after all of that, he calls in the MedEvacs (helicopters), collects all of the sensitive items, and gets us

Pfc. Kain Shilling.

Pfc. Kain Shilling.

all out of there.”

White tried several times to pull another injured team member to safety, but Marine Sergeant Phillip Bocks ultimately died at the scene. “He put his life on the line multiple times to get (Bocks) out and it just shows why Kyle deserves this and what kind of character he is,” Schilling said.

The platoon leader, 1st Lieutenant Matthew Ferrara, was also killed in the attack. Four other U.S. soldiers were killed and many more wounded elsewhere in the region.

Members of 1st Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade gather for a ceremony in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 6, 2007 (three days before the enemy ambush).

Members of 1st Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade gather for a ceremony in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 6, 2007 (three days before the enemy ambush).

Schilling admits, nearly five-and-a-half years after being rescued from the battlefield, he finds it hard to cope with the memory of that day.

“I wouldn’t say it gets better with time, but you get used to it,” Schilling said. “I’ve got a great system with the VA here, so I get treated for PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the VA really helps out on that end.”

Schilling, now 27, lives in Palo and works at the Duane Arnold Energy Center. He’s engaged to be married next year and has a two-year-old daughter. White, a Seattle native who now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, will become the seventh living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001.


The award ceremony is scheduled for May 13.

Branstad asks new DAS chief to calculate actual savings in state construction contracts

Governor Terry Branstad says his new Department of Administrative Services director should review state construction projects completed in the past two years, to determine if changes implemented by the previous director actually yielded savings for taxpayers.

“I think I’d be very interested in having Janet Phipps, the new director, do a review and give us an update as to how much savings this has been for the taxpayers,” Branstad says.

The previous director, fired by Branstad last week after the department’s confidential “hush money” settlements came to light, got rid of the team that oversaw state construction projects and hired six private companies to oversee those projects.  The agency reported the changes brought savings, but the savings were estimated on a formula rather than going through contracts to decide if there were actual savings.

“I think the more information we can get, I think the more we’ll see the benefit of making these changes,” Branstad says. “I’m very interested in getting all the information that we can and I’m very proud of the fact that we made changes to do things differently and do them more efficiently and not just see that the contracts went to these big union companies in Illinois.”

Iowa contractors complained in the fall of 2010 when a Chicago-based company that had submitted the lowest bid was awarded the contract to build the new state prison in Fort Madison.  Branstad made it a campaign issue in his 2010 race against Governor Chet Culver.

AUDIO of Branstad’s weekly news conference, 27:00