July 22, 2014

Hatch blasts Branstad for returning $1 million grant to promote solar energy in Iowa

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, says it is “disturbing” that Governor Branstad returned a federal grant that was to be used to find ways to help the solar energy industry grow in Iowa.

“Not to be controlled by the special interests of the utility companies that pressured his department to return the million dollar grant,” Hatch says. “That in itself shows the interests of this governor, not so much in really renewable energy, but protecting the larger corporations at the expense of the smaller producers and the individual homeowners that could benefit dramatically from this.”

Hatch says the solar industry is poised to make the same kind of economic impact on Iowa as wind turbines.

“The governor has backed away from this state’s ability to enter into the solar market by his refusal and his returning of a grant back to the Department of Energy that would be a modest approach to us beginning our solar energy capability,” Hatch says.

Email correspondence obtained by The Associated Press shows the State of Iowa returned the million dollar grant after Iowa utility companies complained about how the grant money would be used and insisted any reference to solar power’s benefits also include a list of its draw backs.

“This is something that’s going to make an enormous impact on the economy of this state and he’s just turned a blind eye because of the utility companies,” Hatch says.

A spokesman for Governor Branstad issued a written statement.

“Jack Hatch can continue to bloviate from the sidelines, but all Iowans know that the Branstad-Reynolds administration has fought to expand and protect American energy resources so that Iowans have cheaper costs at the pump, their homes and their businesses,” said Tommy Schultz, Branstad-Reynolds communications director.

Hatch is also praising a July 11th Iowa Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to expansion of solar power development in Iowa. The court ruled any church, school, city or other “non-taxable” entity can enter in “power purchase agreements” with solar power developers. It means a company can install solar panels on a public building and get paid for the electricity generated by the panels. Iowa’s two major utilities had challenged such deals, arguing that Iowa regulations gave MidAmerican and Alliant exclusive rights to sell electricity in defined areas of the state.

(This post was updated at 1:46 p.m. with additional information.)

Branstad concerned about Iowa Supreme Court ruling on juvenile sentencing

Governor Terry Branstad

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad is raising concerns about an Iowa Supreme Court ruling which declared all mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles unconstitutional.

“It would be my hope that we could review the court decision and work with legislators with the intention of doing something in this next session to address this issue,” Branstad says, “and make sure the safety of the citizens of Iowa is protected.”

The court ruled mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles do not distinguish between the diminished capacity of a young person and the cold and calculated conduct of an adult. Branstad says public safety should be “paramount.”

“When we have a juvenile that commits a murder of a violent, dangerous crime, if they’re treated as a juvenile when they turn 18 they can be released and we don’t dangerous, violent people being prematurely released and endangering our citizens,” Branstad says. “We don’t want to become Chicago.”

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison for crimes other than murder and Iowa legislators deadlocked on how to respond, so the governor issued an executive order commuting all those life sentences to 60 years. Last week’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling directed state officials to resentence about 100 juveniles who were tried before 2013 and received mandatory minimum sentences.

“As I understand, this was a 4-3 decision and it went beyond what other states have done and so I think we’re going to work with the legislature and review and look at what is the appropriate response to make sure the public in Iowa is protected,” Branstad says.

Two of the justices on the Iowa Supreme Court wrote dissenting opinions, arguing the court’s majority had gone too far in interpreting recent U.S. Supreme Court guidance that juveniles should not be treated differently than adults in criminal sentencing.

Branstad made his remarks at the end of his weekly news conference.

AUDIO of governor’s news conference, 25:00

Northwest Iowa handling increase in population from RAGBRAI

Thousands of bicyclists are making their way to the northwest Iowa town of Emmetsburg. Jane Whitmore has helped organize the events for RAGBRAI’s overnight stay. “It’s quite a challenge for our little community of 3,900 to quadruple our size,” Whitmore said.

Previous experience helps, according to Whitmore, as Emmetsburg has hosted RAGBRAI for overnight stops before in 1985, 1993, and 2002. “We have watched RAGBRAI grow from 2,000 to 10,000 bicycle riders and another 10,000 support people,” Whitmore said. RAGBRAI started on Sunday in Rock Valley with riders pedaling just under 70 miles to Okoboji.

Today’s trek covers nearly 41 miles. This year’s RAGBRAI route covers a total of 431 miles from river to river.

(Reporting by Ryan Long, KICD, Spencer)


Heat wave expected this week

Air conditioners will be running full blast across much of Iowa the next few days as a heat advisory is posted from noon today through 7 o’clock on Tuesday night for more than 70 counties across western and central Iowa.

Meteorologist Miles Schumacher, at the National Weather Service, says we will be for some of the hottest weather of the season so far. “It’s going to be a typical real hot and humid Iowa summer,” Schumacher says. “Looks like we’ll see heat indices in the 100 to 110-degree range, at least for the next couple of days.”

Schumacher says things will be on the uncomfortable side, but some relief is in sight by midweek. “Tonight, it won’t cool down all that much and it’ll be awful hard to get the houses cooled down if you don’t have air conditioning and that’s a concern as we haven’t had this real hot weather this summer,” Schumacher says. “Tomorrow, especially across the southern half of the state, it looks very, very warm with heat indices of 110 and temperatures in the mid 90s and very humid.”

Schumacher says the heat wave won’t last too long. “We’ll probably see our temperatures drop off on Wednesday in the upper 70s and low-to-mid 80s in the south,” he says. “That cooler weather looks like it’ll be with us most of the rest of the week, at least temperatures will be a little below normal with high temperatures mostly in the 80s.”

There’s also a chance for rain by Friday and into Saturday.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)


Survivor says great triumphs came out of crash of Flight 232

Sioux City wrapped up its commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the crash of United Airlines Flight 232 Sunday. A gathering at the Mid American Museum of Aviation and Transportation honored the 112 people who lost their lives in the 1989 crash, and a garden of reflection was dedicated in their honor.

Captain Al Haynes, the pilot who guided in the stricken DC-10 airliner and helped 184 people survive, was greeted with a standing ovation by a crowd of several hundred.

“We are very grateful and very appreciative of everything that took place in Sioux City,” Haynes says. “And I don’t know how we can possibly explain to you — everybody’s tried — how much has come out of Sioux City. The way pilots are trained, the way flight attendants are trained, the way fire departments are trained, the communications services…that all came out of 232 and what all of you did.”

Jerry Schemmel survived the crash and went on to have a successful sportscasting career with Denver sports teams. Schemmel noted that everyone has a different way of coping, and while many moved forward, others were not able to. “But the world needs to know that out of this terrible tragedy there has also come great triumph for many of us,” Schemmel says. “There are endless stories of survivors and family members of those who have died who have picked up the pieces, who have dusted themselves off, who have moved on and refused to allow the crash of flight 232 and its aftermath to dictate their lives and take away their dreams. Fortunately, there are many more of those stories than the others.”

Schemmel says he will never forget those who died in the crash and says he keeps a list of their names with him in his daytimer. The names of the 112 people who died in the crash were read at the ceremony by the presidents of Briar Cliff University and Morningside College.

(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)


Cedar Rapids woman drowns in Wapsipinicon River

A Cedar Rapids woman drowned this weekend while tubing down an eastern Iowa river. The Linn County Sheriff’s office identified the woman as 29-year-old Andrea Zimmermann.

Rescuers were called to the Wapsipinicon River shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday after Zimmermann and three other people riding tubes went over a dam near Troy Mills. Zimmermann failed to resurface in the swift current. Her body was found later near the dam.


Father-daughter project in Janesville finds pictures of Iowa Vietnam vets

The Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. is collecting pictures of every American lost in the war — including more than 850 from Iowa. A dedicated father and daughter have tracked down pictures of all but five of the Iowans over the last two years so they can be included.

Tom Brickman from Janesville served in Vietnam with the Americal Division. “It was my daughter Sherry Kirkpatrick, she’s really the one that wanted to do it because she said ‘dad, if you hadn’t made home from the Vietnam War I wouldn’t have been born’,” Brickman explains.

They have gathered a solemn compilation of pictures from archives, yearbooks and by reaching out through the media. “And when you can see a photo of a soldier that has paid the ultimate sacrifice, you know that means so to me, so it has been a healing process for me also,” Brickman says. Brickman has good leads on two more photos, which means the tribute is almost complete.

He’s still searching for the last three pictures; of John Manson, David McCombs and Frank Smith, killed in Vietnam during 1968 and 1969. In addition to being displayed at the national Vietnam Memorial, Brickman has turned over his collection to the Grout Museum in Waterloo, for an exhibit scheduled to open next year.