October 24, 2014

Ernst touts enthusiasm edge for GOP

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Iowa’s U.S. Senate race could be headed for a “photo finish” with Republican Joni Ernst at 48 percent and Democrat Bruce Braley at 46. The survey shows Braley with a wide lead among early voters, as 58 percent of those who’ve already voted told the pollsters they voted for Braley, while 37 said they had voted for Ernst. Ernst says that’s not worrisome to her.

“We have got some great grassroots out there and so many supporters,” Ernst told reporters this morning. “A lot of Republican voters will typically go out to the polls on Election Day.”

Iowa Republicans announced Wednesday that for the first time, more Republicans than Democrats have voted early. Democrats argue they’re getting independents to cast a vote for the Democratic ticket. Ernst says Republicans have the enthusiasm edge.

“I guess last night over at the ‘Victory Office’ there were more volunteers than phones,” Ernst says. “People are so energized right now.”

Ernst spoke early this morning to the Greater Des Moines Partnership, a group representing 21 central Iowa chambers of commerce, and she repeatedly referred to her “opponent.”

“I don’t want to get his name wrong,” Ernst said, as the crowd of about 20 laughed. “Unfortunately, you know, it’s become a big joke and I’m afraid I’m actually going to call him the wrong name.”

Earlier this month First Lady Michelle Obama called Braley “Bailey” seven times before the crowd at Drake University corrected her. Obama was in Iowa City Tuesday and she joked that she often calls her daughters and the family dog by the wrong name, too.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is campaigning with Ernst today and he told the crowd it was out of “self-interest” because he’ll become a Senate subcommittee chairman if Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate.

“The best thing I can do for South Carolina, I think, is get the Senate under new management. It’s broken, fundamentally broken. I think she is the solution, not the problem” Graham told reporters. “…Her voice, the voice of a military commander — would be a welcome addition.”

Ernst is a battalion commander in the Iowa National Guard. Eighteen senators are military veterans, according to a Roll Call analysis, and Ernst would become a veteran if she’s elected. Ernst has said she’d have to resign her post in the Iowa National Guard if she wins this Senate race.


Students protest proposed tuition increase by Board of Regents

A late afternoon photo from the Pentacrest camera.

A late afternoon photo from the Pentacrest camera.

Students sat in a circle using typewriters on the University of Iowa Pentacrest Wednesday protest against proposed tuition increases. The demonstration included more than fifty people who waved signs and chanted, “No more tuition, no more fees, education must be free,” as the State Board of Regents met in Iowa City.

Graduate student Melissa Zimdars says the typewriters are in response to critics who say student debt is due to lifestyle choices. “We kinda made up a little joke that we could save a thousand dollars if we use typewriters instead of buying laptops. So, here we’re showing we are leading fiscally responsible lifestyles by using technology that we had around our homes instead of going out and buying new Mac books,” Zimdars explains.

The Board of Regents will meet again today in Iowa City and will discuss the first tuition increase after two years of tuition freezes. The students held signs saying: “I’m not a loan” and, “Don’t Balance the Budget on Our Backs” Zimdars says they’re protesting the gradual defunding of higher education not only in Iowa but across the country.

“Twenty years ago, the Iowa Policy Project found that 67 percent of the public universities’ (budgets) were funded by the state and today it’s only 35 percent. So, the states are primarily funded by tuition dollars, which have gone up 75 percent when adjusted for inflation since the 1990 school year,” according to Zimdars. “So, obviously students are paying significantly more now.”

The Regents will discuss a 1.75-percent increase in tuition and mandatory fees for U-I undergraduates and a 1.95-percent increase for graduate students. The University of Northern Iowa would see the highest increase, a proposed 2.37-percent increase in tuition and fees.


‘Sea Lark’ dance by famed choreographer to premiere in Iowa

Francisco Graciano and Eran Bugge.

Francisco Graciano and Eran Bugge.

Central Iowa will host a rare event in the arts community next month — the world premiere of a new dance created by one of America’s foremost choreographers, Paul Taylor.

Francisco Graciano is a member of the New York City-based Paul Taylor Dance Company and says dance fans in the region will be thrilled to hear the first public performance of this piece will go on stage in Des Moines.

“It’s a very significant thing to have any dance premiered anywhere, especially Paul Taylor,” Graciano says. “Paul’s been making dances for a while. This is his latest opus.”

The dance is called “Sea Lark” and it’s the 84-year-old Taylor’s 141st major work in his six decades of choreography.

The performance will include all ten members of the team as they depict enjoying a carefree sail on the ocean. “Paul has always had a fascination with the sea and for any nautical stories,” Graciano says. “It’s sort of his expression of his love for the sea and the culture that happens out there.”

Legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber was in Des Moines in mid-September to take in a production of his “Phantom of the Opera” at the Civic Center and likewise, Taylor will be there for the dance debut.

“He’s really interested in seeing how premieres go and he wants to oversee every single detail,” Graciano says. “It’s his work going out there and we’re the face of his work so, he wants to make sure everything goes out as planned.”

The troupe will be in Iowa for one show only, November 8th at the Des Moines Civic Center.



Evansdale middle school closed by fire

Fire forced the evacuation of the Bunger Middle School in Evansdale.

Fire forced the evacuation of the Bunger Middle School in Evansdale.

Fire forced the evacuation and early dismissal of students at a Waterloo-area middle school today.

Firefighters were called to Bunger Middle School in Evansdale when a school resource officer noticed smoke in a hallway. Evansdale Fire Chief Kent Smock says the school’s nearly 400 students and 50 faculty members were evacuated safely and taken to a nearby church.

When firefighters arrived, Smock says they encountered heavy smoke in a school hallway. “It took a while to find the (source of the) fire simply because we had to go through so many rooms and you couldn’t see anything inside,” Smock said. Because there were so many rooms to check, Smock said fire crews from nearby Waterloo, Raymond and Gilbertville were called in to assistance.

The fire was eventually discovered in a girl’s restroom and was quickly extinguished. Because of the type of fire and the amount of damage to the school, the State Fire Marshal is being called in to help determine the cause. “There’s extensive fire damage in that bathroom, but the fire damage was confined to that bathroom. Probably 50 percent of the school has some pretty extensive smoke damage, while the rest has minor to moderate smoke damage,” Smock said.

Classes at Bunger were called off for the day around 11 a.m. There is no school at Bunger on Thursday or Friday this week, due to conferences. Waterloo School officials expect classes to resume at the Evansdale school, as scheduled, on Monday.

(Story and photo by Elwin Huffman, KOEL-Oelwein)


Students escape serious injury in Fort Madison bus accident

School-BusA school bus, carrying dozens of children, collided with an SUV this morning in southeast Iowa. Nicole Baker, transportation director for the Fort Madison Community School District, says the bus was carrying 39 students.

None of them were seriously injured. “One of the students later complained of a sore arm. They paid attention to her during the day at school and the parents will get back to me if something develops out of that,” Baker said. “The bus driver, about an hour after the accident, started to not feel well. She had a headache and her shoulder hurt, so she went to the hospital to get it checked out.”

The driver of the SUV was cited for not having car insurance and could face more charges. “It appeared the automobile driver ran the stop sign and the school bus was unable to stop or avoid the accident,” Baker said. The crash happened shortly after 8 a.m. The bus was carrying K-through-6th grade students who were bound for Holy Trinity Elementary School.

Baker said the students boarded another bus and continued to school. This week is National School Bus Safety Week, so students in the Fort Madison district having been taking part in bus evacuation drills.


Republican Rand Paul campaigns in Iowa; Vice President Biden returning Monday

Rand Paul

Rand Paul

Big names from both parties are visiting the state in the final weeks before the November 4th election. Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul is in Iowa to rally support for Republican candidates up and down the ticket. Speaking today at the University of Northern Iowa on behalf of First District candidate Rod Blum, Paul says he believes Republicans will do well in the upcoming election..

“In Kentucky where I’m from, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate can’t remember who she voted for for President, and then you come to Iowa and everybody comes here campaigning for the Democrat but they can’t remember his name either, ” Paul says, “I really do wish the best to Bruce Bailey well, I hope that Bruce Bailey does well.”

Paul was making reference to an appearance by First Lady Michele Obama earlier this month when she called Bruce Braley “Bruce Bailey.” Senator Paul has several appearances scheduled in the next day and a half including one to endorse Republican Joni Ernst in the U.S. Senate race.

Texas Governor Rick Perry will be in Marion tomorrow for a campaign rally with Ernst. Braley’s campaign reports Vice President Joe Biden will appear with Braley in Davenport on Monday.

Winnebago County doubles bounty to deal with beaver problem

The Winnebago County Board of Supervisors has doubled its bounty on beavers after having troubles with the animals building dams in their drainage districts. Farmers there have already removed a dam built into one drainage ditch and are hoping to catch the beaver before he builds another one.

Winnebago County Conservation Board Chairman Robert Schwartz says the beavers don’t waste time in reconstructing a dam. “You can tear out a dam and it’ll be back the next day, we’ve seen that, it’s not unusual. They says ‘busy as a beaver’ for a reason, they get a lot of work done in a short time,” Schwartz says.

He says the dams take time to remove because they are built of wood from the banks of the streams and rivers and sometimes even oak trees.

He says you generally find the soft woods along the streams, but they will cut down an oak tree and use it too.

Schwartz says relocating the beaver is not an option. “You know if it’s a wildlife species that’s maybe uncommon, protected or endangered, you might see some of that. But no, they aren’t going to relocate most common game species in Iowa,” Schwartz says.

The man who used to handle the beavers for the county retired and now the supervisors have doubles the beaver bounty to $50 as they look for trappers to catch the animals. The trapper has to bring in the tail of the beaver to the county auditor to collect the bounty.

(Reporting by A. J. Taylor KIOW/KHAM, Forest City/Britt)