Cedar Rapids, IA

DeJear Conversation Tour Visits Cedar Rapids

Scott Foens

Deidre DeJear's “Conversation Tour” stopped at Raygun in Cedar Rapids’ NewBo district this morning. DeJear, the Democratic 2018 Secretary of State candidate defeated by incumbent Paul Pate, is exploring a challenge to Kim Reynolds in 2022.

Deidre DeJear addressing Cedar Rapids audienceScott Foens

“I’m not going to be doing a lot of talking. I’m going to be doing more listening,” DeJear said. “I’m going to ask lots of questions,” because, “If I have any intention on leading you, I have to know you.” She told the group, “I not only want to talk to you all about things that you feel can be improved in your community,” but to hear about, “the good too.”

Focused on the good, DeJear asked the fifteen member audience, “Why do you live here?”

Members cited quality healthcare, abundance of state parks and trails, the metro library system and, “a great airport,” as all features about the area. “If this is a good place for eighty year olds to live, its a good place for eight year olds to live,” noted one attendee.

When asked about what could be better, public education quickly came up. Retired teacher and Cedar Rapids School District board member Cindy Garlock said Iowa’s education system was, “at a critical juncture.” “We need to decide whether we are going to support robustly public schools or if we are going in another direction,” she said. “If we don’t turn this around pretty soon, our teachers are going to go to Minnesota.”

When asked what that, “other direction,” looked like, Garlock described, “a movement afoot to privatize education.”

Devin Mehaffey pointed to small changes in school districts’ allowable growth percentage of, “three, two, one, zero, zero, negative ten, negative ten,” warning, “drastic action needs to be taken when it comes to funding our public schools.”

The education concern led to worries about the ongoing erosion of local control. This emerged as a Democratic issue on May 20 when in the middle of the night, Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation preventing school districts from establishing mask mandates for students.

Curiously, Democratic House District Rep Molly Donahue, who introduced DeJear at today’s event, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ras Smith had no problem taking away local control from school boards when it came to elementary school classroom assignments in legislation from 2019. The session prior, Democrats had no qualms requiring municipalities to accept cellular access points on street poles instead of leaving those decisions up to a city council.

Iowa’s approach to mental health came up also with one audience member saying Iowa doesn’t, “have a mental health system. We have a bunch of disconnected providers and not enough of them.” Earlier this year, the Iowa Legislature passed legislation transitioning mental health funding from local property tax payers to Iowa's General Fund.

One person fretted over the consolidation of farms and continued erosion of the idyllic family farm. “I would like to see some kind of support to keep farms small,” she said. These smaller farmers, “tend to live on the land and care about it.” Moreover, “they would have small numbers of livestock and fruit trees and nut trees.” This all works in a system where, “you could feed the animals from this and then the animals’ manure,” fertilizes the soil. “It’s more sustainable.”

Piggybacking on the corporate farming issue Donahue said, “We have zero control over how many CAFOs there have been in the last twenty years … which are one hundred percent of the reason why our waters are the way they are.”

Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources regulates animal feed operations including confinements. According to the DNR, “All confinements, including small animal feeding operations (500 or less animal unit capacity), are required to follow state regulations when building or operating a facility.”

Though land applied manure contributes to nitrogen and phosphorus levels in Iowa waterways, assigning complete blame to animal confinement operations is not supported by any data produced through the Nutrient Reduction Center’s 2018-2019 Annual Progress Report of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Though the issues attendees identified were expressed at other sessions also, forums in smaller communities brought up departures of businesses, job losses, worker shortages and access to healthcare, all problems more likely experienced in rural areas.

Cedar Rapids audience providing feedback to Deidre DeJearScott Foens

DeJear has not decided on whether or not to enter the race. She formed a “diverse” fourteen member exploratory committee providing feedback. Key factors in her final decision with be support from PACs and fundraising.

She will enter the race if, “there is a clear path to victory,” DeJear said. “I will make a decision by the end of summer.”

After Cedar Rapids, Deidre DeJear is headed to an event in Newton and then tomorrow will be in far southeastern Iowa at the Lee County Democrats Ice Cream Social in Montrose. She heads out to western Iowa next week before coming back east August 7 and 8.

A full schedule of events and biographical information is available at dejearforiowa.com.

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