Local government staff and emergency responders were busy in Cedar Rapids Wednesday, though nothing was actually wrong. It’s a drill that Mayor Paul Pate says is routine, in case of a disaster or homeland security situation. They do the drills about six times a year. Wednesday the scenario was a terrorist attack like a bomb in a public building and the response to everything that would result from that. For example, Pate says the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Department tried out responses in case they were ordered to evacuate the jail. While federal Homeland Security officials have told local governments to hold some kind of drill, Mayor Pate says Cedar Rapids and other area governments have taken the federal program a step further. They’ve done airport exercises with pretend planes crashing, drills at the Duane Arnold Nuclear Plant, and other hands-on rehearsal to see how well things work under pressure.
Archives for July 2003
A state legislator from Des Moines’ inner city is contemplating a run for Governor. State Representative Ed Fallon, a Democrat, has served in the legislature for the past 11 years, and now he’s spending about 20 hours a week talking with Democrats around the state to guage whether he could launch a credible campaign for Governor. Fallon won’t make a final decision ’til 2005, but he sounds like a candidate. Fallon says he’s exploring the possibility of running for Governor with “great dilligence” because he has to start early since he’s never “played the money game.” Fallon says he’ll set “ambitious benchmarks” for himself and if he can reach those, he will switch from an “exploratory” campaign to an “actual” campaign. Fallon may run into Democrats who remember Fallon abandoned Al Gore, the party’s 2000 presidential nominee, and endorsed the Green party candidate, Ralph Nader (nay’-der). Fallon says he had a legitimate reason to support Nader. Fallon says he did it to try to encourage the Democratic Party to return to its progressive roots. Fallon says the party has become too tied to corporate interests, and that’s why he opposed Gore. Fallon, who once considered becoming a minister, spent most of his life before he was elected to the Iowa House volunteering and working for a non-profit group.
Catholic church leaders and staff from all across Iowa are meeting in West Des Moines today for the launch of a program to promote the protection of children from sexual abuse. Anne Marie Cox, spokeswoman for the Des Moines diocese, says the effort is called the Safe Environment Program. Priests, deacons, school administrators and diocesan staff members from all four of Iowa’s Catholic dioceses have been invited — several hundred people are expected for the presentations which start at 8 AM. Cox says the protection of children from sexual abuse is a top priority for the church. Cox says the program targets institutional change and addresses individual behavior in terms of raising awareness of the sexual abuse of children — how to see the signs or symptoms of possible sexual abuse. In addition to the Safe Environment Program, there will also be a code of conduct published for church personnel and there will be a broader range of people who will undergo criminal background checks. Today’s program kickoff is being held at West Des Moines Dowling High School.
Two state boards are expected to give final approval this morning to a $10 MILLION state loan for a $175 MILLION Wells Fargo expansion in the Des Moines area. Iowa Department of Economic Development director Michael Blouin says the money will be given as a loan, but it won’t have to be repaid if Wells Fargo follows through on its promise to create two-thousand new jobs in Iowa. Blouin says the $10 MILLION will be part of an overall package of about $50 MILLION in incentives for the company from the state, local governments and from community colleges which will help train the workers. Blouin believes Iowa beat out South Carolina, Illinois, Texas and Arizona for the project. It’s the first award from the state’s new economic development fund, which will have about $50 MILLION left to hand out over the next two years. Blouin says $175 MILLION projects that create two-thousand jobs “don’t drop out of the air very often.” Blouin says it’s a “grand slam, and you’ve gotta have one of those once in a while to make the singles and doubles look pretty good.” Blouin expects Wells Fargo to consolidate its 3300 Des Moines-area mortgage and financial services employees in one facility. He says the plans he’s seen call for Wells Fargo to erect a new building in a Des Moines suburb, and build a new facility in downtown Des Moines next to its financial center there. Blouin says Wells Fargo wants to break ground on the project by year’s end and start hiring as soon as possible. Blouin says Wells Fargo’s national and international market share is growing by huge percentages, and the company’s strategy is to continue to expand services regardless of what happens with interest rates. A second phase of the Wells Fargo project is a $130 MILLION expansion in four years, and Blouin expects that would be in central Iowa, too.
Iowa’s Governor says he’s found 423,000 dollars in unspent state funds to provide the matching money that’ll bring in $8.4 million from the feds for purchasing new voting machines. Vilsack made the move after Republican lawmakers balked at providing the money outright without gaining changes in Iowa voting proceedures. Vilsack says Iowa has a reputation of being a leader in clean elections. Vilsack says the ability to buy new voting equipment and offer more training for poll workers through the federal grants will only enhance that reputation. Vilsack says it’s “incumbent on all of us to make this thing happen” and the Governor says he hopes legislators in future years will appropriate the money to provide the state match for the federal grants. This afternoon, Secretary of State Chet Culver sent the confirmation of the state matching commitment to the Federal Election Commission. Culver says Iowa’s now in compliance with the requirements of the “Help America Vote Act” and will now move into the implementation phase. That will involve the purchase of hundreds of new voting machines, and creation of a new voter registration computer system at the state level. For the current year, Vilsack’s transferring $423,000 from a state technology fund, money he says went unused in the just-concluded state fiscal year.
Beer-swilling frat boys won’t be crashing this hotel hospitality room. The 130th annual National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Convention is underway in Des Moines. The temperance union was formed in the 1870s as women tried to close taverns and keep their sons and husbands from getting drunk. Today, the group’s creed is still the same — total abstinence from alcohol. National president Sarah Ward says “you’ll never become an alcoholic if you don’t take the first drink.” Ward says the mission has evolved to include total abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs and she says they target the old and young alike. Ward says about 125 women from across the U.S. are gathering to share new information and inspiration in their efforts, along with 25 members of a men’s group, the American Council on Alcohol Problems. Ward says temperance may be defined as: moderation in all things healthful and total abstinence from all things harmful. She says some audiences aren’t receptive to the group’s message, but she keeps trying. The convention opened Wednesday and runs through Saturday at the Best Western Starlight Village. For more information on the organization, surf to: “www.wctu.org”.
Officials from Texas traveled to Iowa today to announce a 27 count indictment against three men who are believed to be behind the deaths of 11 illegal immigrants found in a rail car in Denison last October. Michael Shelby, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, says the indictment alleges the three individuals — and others yet to be named, smuggled and transported into and throughout the U.S. a number of illegal aliens, including the 11 that died. Shelby says the illegal aliens and their families were charged from $1000 to $3000 per individual smuggled into the U.S. He says the indictment alleges they smuggled the aliens for money. Speaking in the Des Moines railyard where the 11 bodies were taken for identification last year, Shelby says their fateful journey started in Southern Texas. He says they would go into Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and recruit people who wanted to get into the U.S. They would take them across the Rio Grande river into Harlingen, Texas to safe houses. He says they are charging a fourth man who worked for the Union Pacific Railway and gave them train schedules used to smuggle the aliens into the U.S. He says the goal was to bypass a checkpoint 70 miles north of the U.S./Mexican border. He says anyone who bypasses that checkpoint can successfully get into the U.S. illegally. Shelby says this operation had been going on since 1998. He says it’s a case of greed, and they viewed the loss of life as a cost of doing business. Shelby says state, county and federal law officers spent thousands of hours going through records and trying to track down family members to identify the 11 dead and track down the smugglers. Shelby says two of the men are in custody and the search is on for the other two. He says all four face the death penalty if convicted, and the U.S. Attorneys Office is going after their assets.
The state of Iowa is giving one of the nation’s largest financial institutions a $10 million forgivable loan, the first award made from the state’s new Iowa Values Fund. Governor Tom Vilsack lobbied legislators for the Iowa Values Fund, and one of the prospects cited was expansion of the northwest Iowa animal genetics firm TransOva, not the Wells Fargo expansion in the Des Moines area that’s getting the 10 million. Vilsack denies TransOva was a “trojan horse” designed to get legislators to approve the fund. Vilsack says the Values Fund is not about one company, but about one state and transforming Iowa’s economy. Hematech, a partner of TransOva, recently announced it would expand in South Dakota rather than Iowa. Vilsack says TransOva has a number of potential customers and opportunities beyond Hematech. Vilsack says the state is focusing on TransOva. He says the state has asked TransOva to present a phased-in expansion project to the Iowa Values board, and Vilsack expects TransOva will get a forgivable loan.
A dominating pitching performance highlighted the opening game of the class 4A quarterfinal at the state baseball tournament in Marshalltown. Ryan Tousley tossed a one-hitter and struck out 14 as second-ranked West Des Moines Valley blanked Pleasant Valley 5-0. The Senior started quickly, fanning the first seven Spartans he faced with a combination of off speed pitches. Tousley knew early in the game he was on. “After the first inning, I get a pretty good feeling then and what they’re going to hit,” Tousley said. Tousley said despite his success, his fastball was not sharp. “Today the fastball wasn’t there, so I relied heavily on the off-speed,” Tousley said. Valley coach Steve Mohr says Tousley is one of several quality starters on the staff. In the other game, Iowa City High beat Urbandale 13-3 in 10 innings. There was an upset in the first game of the day in Carroll. Sioux City Heelan, with a six-run seventh inning, beat Davenport Assumption 10-4. Davenport Assumption ends their season with a 36-7 record. Sioux City Heelan’s record now stands at 24-20. In the second game, Waukee beat Decorah 7-1.
Dan McCarney says he has gotten used to the underdog role at Iowa State. The Big-12 Conference held its annual football media day in Kansas City on Wednesday and despite three straight bowl games the Cyclones are not considered a legitimate threat for the North Division title. “I don’t lose sleep over it,” McCarney said. He says he “enjoys” and “embraces” the challenge of proving the naysayers wrong. McCarney says the Cyclones are rarely the favorite. “I’ve never really been in a situation in all the years I’ve been in it where we were picked to be the team,” he said. “Maybe someday I’ll enjoy that role.” Iowa State opens at home against Northern Iowa August 30th.