October 31, 2014

Appointed state auditor seeks election to full term

Mary Mosiman (file photo)

Mary Mosiman (file photo)

The woman who has been state auditor for the past 17 months is now running to be elected to the job. Republican Mary Mosiman was appointed to the post last year by the governor when the previous auditor resigned to take another job.

“Iowans deserve to have a qualified professional, a Certified Public Accountant, at the helm of this constitutional office — the state auditor’s office,” Mosiman says.

Mosiman is a CPA. She says if her opponent, who is not a CPA, were to win, the state auditor’s office would find it difficult to hire and retrain CPAs, because CPAs want to work in a CPA firm to maintain their credentials.

“The financial statement audits that most every government entity is required to have does need to be done by a licensed CPA,” Mosiman says. “So if the state auditor’s office is not CPA firm and CPAs don’t work in the state auditor’s office, then that would impact how our different government entities — our counties, our cities and even our state agencies — are able to get their annual audit work conducted.”

Jon Neiderbach, a lawyer from Des Moines, is the Democrat who’s challenging Mosiman.

John Neiderbach

John Neiderbach

“Iowa taxpayers need a state auditor who knows the job is more than just being a bookkeeper,” Neiderbach says. “We need someone who’s passionate about saving money and improving services.”

And Neiderbach says there’s no legal requirement that the state auditor be a CPA.

“Nebraska and Missouri don’t have CPAs. There is a CPA state auditor in Illinois, but I’m not sure their finances are doing so well,” Neiderbach says. “It’s just really a bogus argument to try to distract from the core issue and that is we need a state auditor who actually does all the job according to state law and what taxpayers want.”

For example, Neiderbach says the state auditor should have taken a lead role in the current review of the state universities.

“Iowa law talks about how on an ongoing basis the auditor should be looking at efficiency and effectiveness issues,” Neiderbach says. “If that was happening, as it will when I’m state auditor, you wouldn’t need to hire an outside firm for $3.5 million.”

In the year and a half that Mosiman has been auditor, she and her staff have issued reports on over 20 cases of fraud in local government entities. Mosiman says she has developed a check list for the officials who are supposed to be overseeing a variety of units of government, from libraries to soil and water conservation districts, that are not required to have yearly audits.

“Simple ways of establishing checks and balances so hopefully fraud can be reduced and even prevented in these entities,” Mosiman says.

Mosiman was elected Story County’s Auditor three times and was a top deputy to Secretary of State Matt Schultz before becoming state auditor. Neiderbach faults Mosiman for failing to blow the whistle on problems in the secretary of state’s office.

“We need a state auditor who isn’t afraid to dig in order to improve services,” Neiderbach says. “Mary Mosiman, when she was in the secretary of state’s office, was silent about a lot of things.”

A few workers in the secretary of state’s office, for example, were being paid, but weren’t coming in to work and Mosiman says she “frequently” aired concerns about the situation to Schultz.

“We knew that was not appropriate,” Mosiman says. “It was communicated, but ultimately I was not the decision maker in that situation.”

Mosiman also repaid the state about $2,500 for the miscalculation of vacation time accrued during her work in the secretary of state’s office.

Neiderbach worked as a non-partisan financial analyst for legislature for 15 years and as a management analyst for the Iowa Department of Human Services for another 15 years. He also served one term on the Des Moines School Board.

Ernst: ‘Yes, we can’ do better as a country (AUDIO)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst wraps up her 99 county tour.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst wrapped up her 99 county tour Thursday night. She made 112 campaign stops in the past 39 days and held a rally with a crowd of supporters in an Ames brew pub last night.

“Chuck Grassley has set the bar high: 99 counties every year for 34 years,” Ernst said. “Our governor does the 99 county tour which we fondly call ‘the full Grassley.’ Our lieutenant governor does the ‘full Grassley’ and, senator, it is my intent as the next United States senator from Iowa to do the ‘full Grassley’ every year.”

Grassley spoke briefly, just before Ernst, and told the crowd there’s “building enthusiasm” for Ernst as “the polls spread to her advantage.”

“She’s on FOX News more than a sitting senator is,” Grassley said, and the crowd laughed, “so that tells you something as well.”

Congressman Tom Latham of Clive also campaigned with Ernst yesterday (Thursday) as she made stops in his congressional district.

“Let me just say that probably the happiest guy in the country today is Jimmy Carter,” Latham told the crowd in Ames last night, “because Barack Obama is making him look competent.”

Ernst is sounding a confident theme, not talking about “if” she’s elected, but “when” she becomes a U.S. Senator.

“We can do better, can’t we folks?” Ernst asked the crowd. “Yes, we can. Yes, we can and we are going to do better.”

AUDIO of Ernst rally, 28:00

Ernst will campaign through the weekend with Republican Governor Terry Branstad and other Republican candidates for statewide office. On Saturday, former President Bill Clinton will hold a get-out-the-vote rally in Des Moines for Democratic candidate Bruce Braley and then Clinton will headline a Braley fundraiser Saturday evening in Waterloo.

Also Saturday, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum will hold events in the Waterloo area to encourage Christian conservatives to vote.

Drake University expanding degree programs, upgrading buildings

Sketch of proposed new building for Drake's STEM program.

Sketch of proposed new building for Drake’s STEM program.

Drake University in Des Moines is planning $65 million in new construction and renovation of campus buildings to go along with some new degree programs. University vice president for admission, Tom Delahunt, says they found a need for more emphasis in some areas.

“We looked at the data that we hand in front of on student demographic information and we found there were some students that were Drake-like students going into programs like kinesiology, occupational therapy, athletic training and datanalytics, and so we started talking about what we needed to do to more forward in what we call STEM at Drake — Science, Technology Education and Math — and how do we go forward in developing these programs,” Delahunt says.

He says the conversation then turned to improving the facilities for the programs as they heard from students who chose to go elsewhere and those who did come to the school, who said the facilities weren’t matching up. “Our faculty I would stack up against anybody in the country, Drake’s got a great reputation, but they’d get to see a lab that’s 30, 40 years old and other schools had put up some shiny new facilities,” Delahunt explains. He says while new facilities don’t always mean you get a better education, the perception that newer is better can sometimes hurt in getting students on campus.

Tom Delahunt

Tom Delahunt

Delahunt says they hope to attract in more students like the ones already studying at the school. “The average distance from home for our students is about five hours, so we have a mix of Iowa students and other midwest areas students,” Delahunt says. “We also have a mix from all over the country, I think we have students from about 44 states, and I think it’s over 50 countries now represented.”

Drake is a private college and he says the new efforts at the three state-supported universities to attract in-state students do put pressure on them to do more to get students to enroll. “There’s always competition, and there’s a lot of private colleges in this state and community colleges in the state,” Dellahunt says. “The pool of Iowa students isn’t getting any bigger, it’s getting smaller as we look forward. And then with increased competition from the regents (schools) because of the funding methodologies going forward, it’s obviously going to heat up the competition. And I think each and every school is probably looking at themselves and saying ‘what do we need to do to be as attractive as possible’.”

The new programs and construction will need final approval from Drake’s board. With that approval, construction could begin as early as summer 2015 and conclude in fall 2017.

Costumes from ‘Frozen’ most popular this Halloween

TrickorTreatCostumed kids will soon be prowling the streets of Iowa’s neighborhoods, seeking handfuls of candy as grownups dress up in more sophisticated disguises to hit adult Halloween parties.

Kathy Harkrader manages the Theatrical Shop in West Des Moines and says many of the female trick-or-treaters will be dressed as a particular princess from the 2013 Disney animated film, “Frozen.”

“Elsa is out there in the lead of the pack, both for child and adult,” Harkrader says. “There’s going to be lots of little Elsas and Annas on the streets this Halloween.” For the boys, characters from “Guardians of the Galaxy” are popular, as is the shield-carrying crusader Captain America.

“Superheroes for adults and children are very popular,” she says. “If it is a couple, we find that a lot of times the roaring ’20s seems to be a popular era people tend to go to.” The Ebola virus is the topic of many conversations lately and some people are seeking out bio-hazard moon suits as their party attire.

Harkrader was asked if she’s gotten many calls for Ebola-related costumes. “We have but it hasn’t been as many as what you would think,” Harkrader says. “People are wanting to have fun and that’s the name of the game when it comes to Halloween.” Given the popularity of zombies, on TV and at the movies, shambling brain-eaters are also a favored get-up this season.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)


Tipton man cashes Powerball winner one day before his birthday

Kelly Glynn

Kelly Glynn

An eastern Iowa man has finally claimed a $10,000 lottery ticket that was purchased for a Powerball drawing back on January 22nd. For the past nine months, Kelly Glynn of Tipton says only he and one other person knew he was holding the valuable ticket.

“The only person who knew was my mom,” Glynn said. Even Glynn’s two children, ages 11 and 7, didn’t know. Glynn, who turns 48-years-old tomorrow (Friday), finally claimed the $10,000 prize on Wednesday. So, why did he wait so long?

“I just thought I’d save it until around my birthday,” Glynn said. “I didn’t know if I’d want anything or need anything. I just thought it’d be a nice birthday present.” Glynn purchased the winning ticket at the Family Foods store in Tipton.

Since May, a lottery poster has been hanging in the store, advertising the unclaimed prize. “Yep, I’ve been looking at (the poster) every time I go in there,” Glynn said. “They’ll be able to finally take it down.”

It’s the second time a sizeable winning Powerball ticket mystery has been solved in the town of Tipton this year. A $1 million winning ticket, purchased at a convenience store in Tipton last November, went unclaimed for several months. Iowa Lottery officials held a news conference in Tipton in May to spread the word about the unclaimed prizes.

Richard Watson of Belton, Missouri claimed the $1 million prize just a few days after the news conference.

Website ranks UNI high for affordability and being ‘eco-friendly’

UNI campus.

UNI campus.

The University of Northern Iowa likes to say its students are “Purple for Life” in reference to the school’s colors, but a new survey credits the Cedar Falls campus for being green.

The bestchoiceschools.com website ranks UNI third on its list of “50 Great Affordable Eco-friendly Colleges.”

UNI sustainability coordinator, Eric O’Brien, says the ranking is recognition of the things they’ve done to save energy. “There’s a lot of work that we try to do as far as reducing our energy load to campus. We’ve invested consistently in trying to get more energy-efficient systems, upgrading some of our systems that in many cases were decades old,” O’Brien says.

One easily recognized example is updating the lights in the UNI-Dome — the campus stadium that has hosted hundreds of college and high school sporting events and championships. “They were original lights from the 1970’s when the structure was put in. And just those upgrades in lights saves us over 20-thousand dollars a year in electrical bills,” O’Brien explains. “So, there’s some amazing impacts that we can do just through some minor changes that the people using the facilities don’t necessarily know.”

O’Brien says they also do a lot of planning to get the most efficient new buildings on campus. “Anytime we’re doing new buildings or major renovation, there are considerations that are taken for everything as far as how efficient that building runs,” O’Brien says. “Whether it’s how we take out waste to how we use energy, to how we’re using the space right around it. To make sure that it’s a building that can last, it’s a building that can use the least amount of energy we need it to use and still be very comfortable for the occupant.”

The university has a variety of programs to get students involved, including the creation of a bicycle exchange program. “Getting people to donate old, unworking bikes, and we’re fixing them up trying to get those back in the hands of our students who don’t necessarily have a bike — kind of a bike share program,” O’Brien says.

Another project that is in the works right now is revamping the entire system for handling waste on campus. “Trying to get more and more recycling options on campus — because it costs us pennies on the dollar to recycle material — compared to taking it to the landfill,” O’Brien says, “when we now that almost 60-percent of the material in our waste stream could be recycled if we would be able to do that. It’s and area that can save us a lot of money if we would be able to do that.”

O’Brien says education is one of the keys to implementing the changes in the waste stream, so that everyone on campus knows how to properly recycle material. The website says UNI’s on-campus organization called c.a.r.e. (creating a responsible environment) promotes eco-friendliness and sustainable living through a number of on-campus initiatives.

The top two schools on the list ahead of UNI were Berea College in Kentucky at number one, and Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. Iowa State University was the only other Iowa school on the list, coming in at number 12.


Outside groups’ spending in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race tops $60 million

os_logo_homeDemocratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley says he finds some of the campaign ads running against him “painful” to watch.

“And remember, about 80 percent of the TV ads you’re seeing are not being put up by (Republican nominee) Joni Ernst or Bruce Braley and they’ve being put up by groups that don’t have to identify their donors,” Braley says. “They’re being put up by people who really don’t have a long-term stake in Iowa.”

According to the latest report from the Center for Responsive Politics, almost $61 million has been spent by outside groups trying to influence the outcome of Iowa’s U.S. Senate race. Braley says the ads from these groups are “drowning out” the voices of regular Iowans.

“Personally it’s very painful,” Braley says. “…In 23 seconds the truth can be destroyed by somebody putting up an ad that’s false and misleading.”

Braley supports efforts to require immediate disclosure of the names of those who are financing the outside groups. Braley made his comments today during an appearance before the Greater Des Moines Partnership, an organization that represents 21 chambers of commerce in central Iowa.

Ernst said recently she and her family have quit watching TV because of all the negative ads.

“What people really need to do is focus on the issues that are important to them and visit with the candidate,” Ernst said.

Ernst said that’s why she’s spend the past 39 days making 112 stops around the state, ensuring she’s made at least one campaign appearance in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.