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Women’s March in Iowa again taking streets in Iowa City, Des Moines on Saturday

Two years since hundreds of thousands of protesters took to streets across the country for the first Women’s March, organizers in Iowa said their momentum isn’t slowing down.

Women’s Marches are planned Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa City and Dubuque.

“I think marches bring people together. We reunite and renew our spirit and commitment,” said Casey Gale of Coralville, who helped organize the Iowa City march.

The initial march in 2017 was held the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump and brought together women and men highlighting a broad range of issues. That spirit continues with the 2019 march, said another Iowa City march organizer, Lisa Bergmann-Smithey of Shueyville.

“Instead of really narrowing the focus to one or two issues, for me, at least, it’s more of a broad base — respect, human rights, honoring the legacy of the movements that came before us. We’re all impacted by all these social justice and human rights issues,” she said.

The Iowa City march will include speakers on the Pedestrian Mall followed by a short march around downtown. Organizers said they hope the weather doesn’t discourage people from attending — 4 to 8 inches of snow are expected to fall overnight Friday — and they’ve distributed signs to supportive businesses downtown to indicate places marchers can step inside to warm up.

In Des Moines, the march will include a speech from New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, a Democrat who recently announced her intention to run for president in 2020.

Robin Covington of Waukee is president of the Women’s March Iowa board of directors. A mother of six, including four daughters adopted through the foster care system, she said she’s marching for them.

“I feel compelled to make sure their futures are secure and they can thrive,” she said.

She said holding a march is important to celebrate the work being done in the state and those doing that work, and to help people find ways to get involved, whether that is simply registering to vote or showing up to lobby lawmakers at the Capitol.

“Every year, we’re surprised at people who say they don’t know what to do, and we always have shout outs to the next step,” she said.

Controversy has surrounded the national Women’s March organization leadership after accusations of anti-Semitism were reported in publications including Tablet and The New York Times. Covington said she understands people’s concerns and wants them to know Women’s March Iowa is independent from the national organization.

“We just all organized with the same title, but we’re not interconnected,” she said. “I encourage everyone to email (Women’s March) National and let them know what they think. We’re hyper-focused on what’s going on in Iowa, and we welcome any and all women.”

She said the marches each year have included broad coalitions of activist groups and are just one element of organizing that’s happening in Iowa. She pointed to the “women’s wave” of female candidates elected in the midterms, including Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne to Congress.

“There’s so much activism going on,” Covington said. “Iowa women are always jazzed to show up. ... We’ve never had a problem with organizing in Iowa.”

Some Iowans planned to attend the national march in Washington, D.C., with a chartered bus of marchers leaving from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City on Friday. Others, like friends Kathy Siems and Bobbie Fox of Cedar Falls, were flying to the nation’s capital.

They attended the Women’s March in Des Moines together two years ago and felt the time was right to march again. Siems, a dispatcher for the University of Northern Iowa Police Department, has family in D.C. and plans to share the experience with a niece who lives there.

“I want to honor the people who came before in the fight for women’s rights. Because of them, I can go to our government in protest and not get put in jail or shot,” she said. “I also have very strong concerns about politics going backward right now as far as women’s rights are concerned.”

Iowa City Women’s March

• Where: Pedestrian Mall, Iowa City

• When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

• Speakers: Mary Mascher, Mazahir Salih, Royceann Porter

Des Moines Women’s March

• Where: Iowa State Capitol, 1007 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines

• When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

• Speakers: Kristen Gillibrand, Kyla Paterson, Jacquelinne Haller, Bonnie Brown, Christine Nobiss, Deidre DeJear

Dubuque Women’s March

• Where: Steeple Square, 105 E. 15th St., Dubuque

• When: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday

• Speakers: Pam Jochum, Lindsay James, Ann McDonough

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Regulators discuss record-setting fine against Facebook

WASHINGTON — U.S. regulators have met to discuss imposing a record-setting fine against Facebook for violating a legally binding agreement with the government to protect the privacy of its users’ personal data, according to three people familiar with the deliberations but not authorized to speak on the record.

The fine under consideration at the Federal Trade Commission, a privacy and security watchdog that began probing Facebook last year, would mark the first major punishment levied against Facebook in the United States since reports emerged in March that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, accessed personal information on about 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

The penalty is expected to be much larger than the $22.5 million fine the agency imposed on Google in 2012.

That fine set a record for the greatest penalty for violating an agreement with the FTC to improve its privacy practices.

The FTC’s exact findings in its Facebook investigation and the total amount of the fine — which the agency’s five commissioners have discussed at a private meeting in recent weeks — have not been finalized, two of the people said.

Facebook also has talked with FTC staffers about the investigation, one of the people familiar with the probe said, but it is unclear whether the company would settle with the FTC by accepting a significant financial penalty.

The FTC, which has been shut down amid the lapse in government funding, could not be reached for comment. FTC Chairman Joseph Simons did not respond to a request for comment.

Facebook declined to comment.

Podcast: On Iowa Politics talks Rep. Steve King reaction, and the Condition of the State

On Iowa Politics discusses the most recent fallout from Rep. Steve King's remarks on white supremacy, and discuss Gov. Reynolds' Condition of the State.

On Iowa Politics is a weekly news and analysis podcast which re-creates the conversations that happen when Iowa's political reporters get together after deadlines have been met.

This week's show features Erin Murphy, Ed Tibbetts, Todd Dorman, and James Q. Lynch.

This week's show was produced by Max Freund and the music heard in the podcast is courtesy of Austin Taft. Chat with us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @OnIowaPolitics, and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher. Know an Iowa musician who should be on our show? Send their band sound files.

More stores opening to sell CBD

CEDAR RAPIDS — As of this month, 10 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and 33 states of legalized medical marijuana.

Iowa — not one of those states — recently expanded its strict cannabidiol program to more Iowans in December.

As more conversations about cannabis occur across the state, public interest in cannabis products — such as oils, tinctures, creams — grows.

And businesses owners have risen up to meet the demand, offering products at existing storefronts and opening up brick-and-mortar locations across Eastern Iowa.

Demand is enough for small Iowan-based chain Your CBD Store that owners have opened five locations since September.

“We’ve had more than 2,500 transactions since Sept. 1,” said Becky Ramker, co-owner of Your CBD Store chain. “People are seeing how good it works for them.”

Ramker has opened two stores in Davenport, one in Moline, Ill, another in Iowa City and a fifth most recently in Cedar Rapids, which opened this week at 5466 Blairs Forest Way NE.

They join a number of businesses in the Corridor, including the Corner Store Apothecary and More in Cedar Rapids, which is making its second year in February. Owner Kymm Loeffler said it recently acquired the space next to the storefront, and plans to open a “wholistic healing center” that offers massages and other similar services.

“The public support is there,” Loeffler said.

Despite the growing number of these businesses, however, these businesses still operate in a gray area — technically, these products are illegal in Iowa without a license.

“Iowans who dispense, sell, possess or use such products are not protected from criminal prosecution as the protections from criminal prosecution contained in (Iowa Code) chapter 124E do not extend to the dispensing, possession or use of these types of CBD products,” states a memo from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Medical marijuana is legal in the state of Iowa, but only for those who obtain a registration card certifying they have one of the approved medical conditions, which includes seizures, untreatable pain and ALS, among other situations.

Two state-approved companies produce and dispense cannabidiol products at five licensed dispensaries statewide.

Beyond that, under current state law, officials are not authorized to regulate the sale or use of other cannabis products — meaning the content, quality and safety of these products has not been regulated under a federal or state agency.

But for businesses, the opportunity to help people outweighs potential criminal prosecution.

“I think we’re going to get way more good out of it than we would any kind of negative,” said Joe Scholz, manager of Your CBD Store locations in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive chemical that some research suggests has healing properties. CBD products can be used to help individuals sleep, lessen chronic pain, help treat anxiety and depression, among other issues.

CBD can come from two different cannabis plants — hemp and marijuana. Hemp has less than 0.3 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that can cause a high in individuals.

Marijuana has more THC, so CBD products tend to be derived from hemp.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved only one cannabidiol product, called Epidiolex, used to treat seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.

The 2018 Farm Bill, signed by President Donald Trump in December, fully legalized hemp production with less than 0.3 percent THC, overriding a long-standing policy defining it as a controlled substance.

For some of its customers, the possibility these products can offer is too good to pass up on.

Davenport resident Mike Havenhill, 63, suffered a work-related injury in 1999 that caused permanent nerve damage. A former auto technician, Havenhill was working under a vehicle when something popped in his neck, which has resulted in chronic headaches — something from which he said he’s never had total relief.

Havenhill said he previously relied on fentanyl patches and as much as 240mg of opioid prescription a day to deal with the symptoms — but the medication made him listless.

“I’m never going to be rid of anything because of permanent nerve damage, but I’m always looking (for relief),” he said.

When CBD products first were suggested to Havenhill, he was hesitant. He’s never tried similar products before and been opposed to marijuana as a principle in the past.

But about four months ago, Havenhill decided to try a CBD cream from Your CBD Store in Davenport, and found some relief from his pain.

“I’m trying to make improvement on myself, even though I push myself a lot, I’m finding I can push myself a little harder to make those improvements,” he said.

Some, such as Scholtz, are opposed to more regulations on cannabidiol programs, but others such as Loeffler welcomes state oversight.

“I would love to see that regulated,” she said. “There are so many people in need of this, and CBD shops are popping up all over the place.”

Loeffler said without regulation the risk of stores selling “snake oil,” or products claiming to be one thing but actually another, only increases.

“Anyone can start slapping labels on oils and have no regulation. You have to careful with that,” Loeffler said.

Patients such as Havenhill, however, hope to see continued expansion of the business.

“If people have pain, they need to throw the hitch in their giddy up in the garage and get out and try this,” he said.

“For some, this just doesn’t work. But for the majority of people, this would work well.”

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Moonves will fight for severance: CBS

CBS Corp. said former Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves has demanded arbitration, challenging the withholding of his $120 million severance when he left the broadcaster last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Moonves resigned in September after complaints about his alleged harassment, and the CBS board last month denied his severance payment, saying he hadn’t complied with an internal probe.

The executive had 30 days to file for arbitration, and did so just under the deadline, CBS said in a filing Thursday.

Moonves had long been one of the most powerful figures in entertainment, but he swiftly became one of the highest profile executives deposed in the #MeToo era.

His attorney had hinted last month that an arbitration demand was likely, saying he “vehemently denies any nonconsensual sexual relations.”

The arbitration means CBS can’t immediately move past the Moonves controversy to focus on an array of other matters, including possibly pursuing a merger that would reunite the company with former parent Viacom Inc.

Before leaving CBS, Moonves had been among the best-paid CEOs in the United States, according to the Bloomberg Pay Index.

Over the course of his career running the TV company, he’s taken home more than $1 billion in salary, bonuses, taxable perks, exercised options and vested restricted shares, before taxes.

Gifts of private plane time favor men's college sports

Wealthy Iowans donated use of their private planes to fly University of Iowa and Iowa State University coaches to recruiting visits, news conferences and meetings nearly 70 times in a two-year period from Aug. 1, 2016, to July 30, 2018.

Charter flights can take coaches across state lines or across the country exactly when they need to fly, allowing them to see potential recruits play and still make it back to their own teams’ practices.

But the largesse of donors with private planes disproportionately has benefited men’s sports teams, according to a Gazette analysis. Athletics travel records from the two-year period show:

  Of 54 donated charter flights worth a total $465,000 for UI coaches, all but one went to men’s sports, including football, men’s basketball and wrestling. Nearly 80 percent of UI men’s basketball coaches’ 28 charter flights were paid for, at least in part, by donors. UI football coaches took 44 charter flights, with 26, or 59 percent, with some portion donated. UI women’s basketball and volleyball coaches took just eight charter flights total in the two years — only one on a donor’s private plane. Of 13 donated charter flights at ISU during the period, two were for women’s teams. ISU flew another 72 charter flights in fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018 for athletics on a university-owned plane, with just four of those for women’s teams.

The imbalance in donations has been felt by some women’s team coaches, who must pay for non-sponsored charter flights from their own budgets or fly commercial, which takes more time away from practices and their personal lives.

“I have felt that our men’s coaches receive more donated charter flights,” UI Head Women’s Basketball Coach Lisa Bluder said in an email when The Gazette asked her about donated flights. Bluder and her staff took seven charter flights from Aug. 1, 2016, through July 20, 2018, with half of a round-trip to Lawrence, Kan., in September 2016 paid for by a donor.

“It can be frustrating, but I understand that some donors want to support the men’s programs and others want to support women’s programs,” Bluder said.

How it works

When coaches need to fly somewhere on a tight schedule and can’t find a commercial flight that will work, they contact the UI Center for Advancement, the university’s fundraising arm, Bluder said.

Officials at the center, formerly known as the UI Foundation, then reach out to supporters with private planes to see if one would like to donate a flight as an in-kind gift. The value of the donated flight is tax deductible.

“They have a regular list of big supporters they call who have planes,” said Tom Timmons, president and chief operating officer for Wild Rose Casinos and Resorts, in a phone interview.

Interactive Map

Charter flights take college coaches across state lines or across the country exactly when they need to fly, allowing them to see recruits play and make it back to their own teams' practices. This interactive allows you to explore 84 charter flights taken by University of Iowa coaches from football, men's and women's basketball, volleyball, and wrestling from Aug. 1, 2016, through July 30, 2018.

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Timmons owns a Cessna Citation VII, nine-passenger, two-pilot jet with business partners Gary Kirke and Mike Richards, who is president of the Iowa Board of Regents. The men donated their plane and pilots, at a cost of $19,835, to fly ISU football coaches to and from Connecticut in July 2017, records show.

“We just respond to Athletic Department requests,” Timmons said, adding they have provided flights for Iowa and Iowa State in the past. “We help out the Athletic Department, whatever their cause is.”

Bruce Rastetter, a UI graduate and former regents president, flew UI Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz twice round trip from Iowa City to Hubbard, a north-central Iowa town near Rastetter’s Summit Agricultural Group in Alden. The donated flights on Rastetter’s plane were worth $9,423, the UI reported.

“I think highly of Coach Ferentz and the football program and want to support it when we can by donating airplane time,” Rastetter told The Gazette in a phone interview.

Steve Sukup, an ISU graduate and vice president and chief financial officer at Sukup Manufacturing in Sheffield, donated use of his eight-seat Beechjet to fly ISU men’s basketball and football representatives three times in fiscal 2017 and 2018 at a total cost of about $20,000, ISU records show.

“If an aircraft is available, a couple of times a year, if it fits the need, we help them out in their mission,” Sukup said. “They are pretty respectful and only call a few times. About half the time it works out with their schedule and our schedule to make it happen.”

Sukup said he would be willing to donate use of his plane to women’s coaches.

“If Coach Fennelly ever had a need for it, we’d definitely help out the women’s team,” Sukup said of Bill Fennelly, ISU head women’s basketball coach.

ISU women’s basketball coaches took two charter flights in fiscal 2017 and 2018, one paid for by a donor. The other was a trip to North Dakota on ISU’s own twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 350, which the university uses primarily for student-athlete recruitment, the ISU reported online.

ISU purchased the plane for $2.87 million in 2014. ISU owned a second plane, but sold it in 2017 after concerns about former ISU President Steven Leath using it for personal trips.

Is it fair?  

The data from ISU and the UI don’t indicate why there are more donated charter flights for men’s teams than women’s teams. It could be a reflection of men’s sports drawing larger fan bases and generating more revenue overall. In 2017, UI football generated 84 percent of overall ticket sale revenue for the Athletics Department and men’s basketball contributed another 12 percent, according to a 2017 NCAA report.

When asked whether the UI Center for Advancement presents men’s and women’s team needs the same way to donors, Executive Director Dana Larson said:

“Our athletics fundraising staff is committed to raising funds for all of Iowa’s 24 sports. For example, through our annual fund, donors gave over $12 million last year, which contributes to scholarships for all of our 650 student athletes. Donors let our fundraisers and coaches know the areas they want to support, and we follow donor intent.”

Erin Buzuvis, a law professor and director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Western New England University, in Springfield, Mass., said Title IX, the federal gender equity law, requires universities distribute resources in an equitable manner.

“Receiving donated amenities generally means it has to use other institutional money to purchase an equivalent benefit for teams of the other sex,” Buzuvis, who taught at the UI law school in 2005-2006, wrote in an email.

Athletic departments often have policies saying charter flights are allowed for teams of a certain size for trips a certain distance away to standardize when teams or coaches are allowed to use them, Buzuvis said.

“In Iowa’s case, it is hard to see how that criteria or any neutral criteria could explain the disparity in charter flights between two teams — men’s basketball and women’s basketball — that are of similar size and who play opponents in the same region. In an equitable world, these similarly-situated teams should have a similar or maybe even identical number of charter flights (with no regard as to whether they were donated or not).

Buzuvis said it’s more difficult to see why men’s coaches would get more chartered flights for recruiting

“It’s hard to imagine how neutral criteria like size of travel party and distance traveled just happens to result in more men’s teams coaches traveling by chartered plane,” she said.

Federal probe

Disparities in recruiting travel are a part of the ongoing U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigation of the UI Athletics Department.

During an April 2016 site visit by federal investigators, several coaches of UI women’s teams said they didn’t have enough money in their recruiting budgets.

“The field hockey coach noted that the team needed more funds to recruit internationally, the softball coach said her team was not allowed to use private charter flights for recruiting trips, and the women’s basketball coach indicated that when she wants to fly a private charter to compete for a recruit, she has to use her budget while the men’s basketball coach uses booster funds for such expenses,” the federal office wrote in a July 13 letter to the UI.

In 2016, Bluder went to UI Athletic Director Gary Barta and asked for more money for recruiting, and he upped her budget by about $12,000, she said. That helped, Bluder said, but still the women’s basketball coaches took just seven charter flights in fiscal 2017 and 2018.

Barta also boosted the budget of the UI Field Hockey team, which allowed Head Coach Lisa Cellucci and her staff more international recruiting trips, she said.

“All of the top Division 1 field hockey teams in the country have some international athletes and coaches on their roster,” Cellucci said in an email. “It is especially important for our program as field hockey is not played in the state of Iowa so we are drawing all of our players from around the country and the world.”

The total recruiting budget for UI women’s sports in 2016-2017 was $725,558, 17 percent less than the men’s recruiting budget of $875,571, according to the Office of Civil Rights letter. Actual recruiting expenses reported to the federal Equity in Athletics Data Analysis showed UI women’s sports underspent their recruiting budget, using only $539,110, while men’s sports exceeded their recruiting budget by spending $1.05 million.

That extra money was from non-budgeted in-kind gifts, including donated charter flights, Athletics Chief Financial Officer Greg Davies said.

The athletic budgets, including for recruiting, do not use money from student tuition or state appropriations.

The federal office told the UI in July investigators would return to campus in the fall to monitor recruiting, equipment and supplies, and housing and dining, but never set a visit.

A Nov. 27 letter from the office asked the UI for more information about the condition of locker rooms, and practice and competition facilities, saying officers will contact the UI “to arrange follow-up in spring 2019.” When The Gazette emailed the office for more details, a spokesman said the agency does not comment on specific investigations.

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Massive expansion planned for O’Hare

Chicago officials on Thursday unveiled five designs for a massive expansion of O’Hare International Airport, many with swooping roofs and some with quirky features like hammocks where travelers could take a nap before flights.

The proposals from top architects for the $8.5 billion expansion, whose centerpiece will be a new global terminal that combines domestic and international flights under one roof, are all sleekly modern.

Three would put naturalistic touches — clusters of trees, wood ceilings or patches of grass — inside the terminal.

The plans, which can be viewed online, at, at O’Hare and downtown at the Chicago Architecture Center, are broad-brush visions that leave unanswered nitty-gritty questions about security gates and other aspects of the passenger experience.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said that selecting an architect for the project is a top priority before he leaves office in May, but it’s unclear who will make that decision.

As of Wednesday evening, city officials had declined to release the names of the evaluation committee members who will rate the architects’ plans.

In an interview Wednesday, Emanuel said the expansion would combine Chicago’s tradition of excellence in architecture and aviation. Asked about the apparent lack of transparency in the evaluation process, the mayor replied that while he would “have an opinion” about which plan is best, the evaluation committee would do its job.

“We’re going to keep this aboveboard,” he said.

Scheduled to open in 2028 and to be financed by airline ticket fees, the expansion will be the largest and most expensive terminal revamp in O’Hare’s 74-year history. It seeks to transform an airport with a reputation for gridlock, packed concourses and air-traffic delays.

The project also aims to help O’Hare catch up to other U.S. airports, such as Atlanta’s Hartfield-Jackson International Airport, in the race to modernize facilities and reap the benefits of attracting more passengers and carriers.

“Operationally, O’Hare just isn’t nearly optimal in terms of the way aviation works today. It was designed in a completely different era,” said Seth Kaplan, editor of Airline Weekly, which covers the aviation industry.

The architects vying for the project include such marquee names as Santiago Calatrava, designer of the birdlike 2001 addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum as well as the unbuilt Chicago Spire; Jeanne Gang, best known for her curvy Aqua Tower; and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, which gave Chicago the Willis and Trump towers.

Easier connections

The idea behind the 2.25 million-square-foot global terminal, which will replace O’Hare Terminal 2, is to make it easier for passengers using terminals 1 and 3 — the hubs of United and American airlines — to make connections between domestic and international flights.

Most passengers must hop on O’Hare’s people mover to make those connections.

“For the first time ever, you won’t need a Fitbit to make it around O’Hare,” the mayor said, referring to the activity-tracking products used by exercisers.

The expansion, which also will include two new passenger concourses, will increase the airport’s overall square footage to 8.9 million square feet from the current 5.5 million square feet, the mayor’s office said.

Emanuel predicted the increase will keep ticket prices down because more gates will create more competition among airlines operating at O’Hare.

The five proposals seek to update the facilities and image of an airport that took shape in the 1960s and once reigned as the world’s busiest, a title now claimed by Atlanta.

The designs are conceptual and the city did not release the cost of the individual proposals.

All the designs stress the importance of O’Hare as a gateway to Chicago, with some making oblique references to the airport’s reputation as a human cattle pen.

Plans have been submitted by:

1 Fentress-EXP-Brook-Garza Joint Venture Partners, headed by the Denver-based architects of the tent-like Denver International Airport

2 Foster Epstein Moreno Joint Venture Partners, led by London-based Foster + Partners, which has designed several airports around the world as well as the sleek North Michigan Avenue Apple store

3 Studio ORD Joint Venture Partners, headed by Chicago’s Jeanne Gang

4. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, which is teamed with ARUP, Ross Barney Architects and JGMA

5 Santiago Calatrava’s plan is the most extensive, encompassing not just the global terminal but a business complex with formal gardens that would remake the present site of parking facilities next to the terminals.

An online survey will allow the public to give feedback about the plans through Jan. 23.

In the 1988 architecture competition for the Harold Washington Library Center, the identity of jury members was made public and architects competing for the commission made public presentations to the jury. This time, however, the city is not identifying members of the evaluation committee and no public presentations are scheduled.

19 apply to be next Iowa Supreme Court justice, including three from Cedar Rapids area

A Cedar Rapids judge, federal prosecutor and an Iowa City attorney are three of 19 applicants to fill the vacancy on the Iowa Supreme Court left last month when Justice Daryl Hecht retired.

Women dominated the applicant pool last year with 15 of 22 who applied to fill the previous vacancy left by Justice Bruce Zager, but this time around it’s a nearly an even split with 10 women and nine men applying.

The applicants from Eastern Iowa, who also applied last year, are 6th Judicial District Mary Chicchelly and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Williams, both of Cedar Rapids, and Craig Nierman, an Iowa City attorney.

Last August, Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Justice Susan Christensen as only the third woman to serve on the high court. The other two nominees also were women, and one of those nominees, 1st Judicial District Judge Kellyann Lekar, has applied again.

The State Judicial Nominating Commission will meet Jan. 30 in the Iowa Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines to interview applicants who were not interviewed for the last vacancy.

An interview schedule will be posted on the Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission’s website. The public can observe the interviews in the courtroom and live on the Iowa Judicial Branch YouTube channel, where the videos can also be replayed.

Immediately following the interviews, the commission will begin deliberations to select three nominees. Those names will be forwarded to the governor, and she will have 30 days to appoint.

Each applicant’s application and interview, including any previous interviews from last year, will be posted on the Iowa Nominating Commission’s website. Public comments about the qualifications of the applicants can be emailed to or mailed to the Iowa State Judicial Nominating Commission Secretary, 1111 E. Court Ave., Des Moines, IA, 50319.

The 17-member commission is composed of a chairman, who is the senior justice of the supreme court, eight lawyer commissioners elected by licensed Iowa lawyers, and eight commissioners appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Iowa Senate. For a list of commission members and details on the candidates for the state Supreme Court vacancy, visit

All applicants are:

• 7th Judicial District Judge Joel Barrows, of Bettendorf

• 5th Judicial District Judge Romonda Belcher, of Des Moines

• 6th Judicial District Judge Mary Chicchelly, of Cedar Rapids

• Jean Dickson, attorney with Betty, Neuman and McMahon, of Bettendorf

• Assistant U.S. Attorney David Faith II of the Southern District of Iowa, of Indianola

• Timothy Gartin, attorney with Hastings, Gartin and Boettger, of Ames

• 8th Judicial District Judge Myron Gookin, of Fairfield

• Cecelia Ibson, attorney with Ibson Law Firm, of Des Moines

• Christine Lebron-Dykeman, attorney with McKee, Voorhees and Sease, of Des Moines

• 1st Judicial District Judge Kellyann Lekar, of Waterloo

• Iowa Court of Appeals Judge Christopher McDonald, of Des Moines

• Craig Nierman, attorney with Phelan, Tucker, Mullen, Walker, Tucker and Gelman, of Iowa City

• Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren, of Muscatine

• 5th Judicial District Judge David Porter, of Johnston

• 5th Judicial District Judge Dustria Relph, of Corydon

• Elisabeth Reynoldson, attorney with Reynoldson and Van Werden, of Osceola

• 3rd Judicial District Judge Patrick Tott, of Sioux City

• Assistant Iowa Attorney General Molly Weber, of Adel

• Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Williams, of Iowa City

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Rising faster than everything else

Skyrocketing student loan debt put homeownership out of reach for 400,000 Americans in their 20s and 30s from 2005 to 2014, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve.

Starting from census data showing a drop of 8.8 percentage points in homeownership among that age group, the Fed’s researchers estimate that rising student loan balances account for roughly two percentage points of that drop, or nearly a quarter of it.

“While investing in postsecondary education continues to yield, on average, positive and substantial returns, burdensome student loan debt levels may be lessening these benefits,” the researchers conclude.

“As policymakers evaluate ways to aid student borrowers, they may wish to consider policies that reduce the cost of tuition, such as greater state government investment in public institutions.”

From 1989 to 2016, the share of American families of all ages with an outstanding student loan balance rose from 8.9 percent to 22.4 percent, according to the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

The median family with student loan debt now owes $19,000 on those loans, according to the survey, up from a median balance of just $5,600 in 2016 dollars in 1989.

Older adults

While the Fed’s latest report focuses on young families, those headed by older adults also are experiencing rising student loan burdens.

Thirty-four percent of families headed by someone between 35 and 44 have outstanding student loan balances, as do 24 percent of families headed by people in their forties and fifties.

Student loan indebtedness is now just as prevalent among these middle-aged Americans (24 percent) as it was among 18-to-34-year-olds (24 percent) in 1998.

If those trends continue, in just a few years people with student loan debt will account for a majority of households headed by someone under the age of 25.

And as that generation continues to age, many will carry their debt with them, some well into retirement. In 2016, for example, 3.6 percent of Americans age 65 to 74 were still paying off a student loan, up from 0.6 percent as recently as 2001.

The Fed’s researchers write that in forthcoming work they’ll be looking at the effect of student loan debt not just on homeownership but on access to credit overall.

The preliminary data they have shows that “higher student loan debt early in life leads to a lower credit score later in life,” which “has implications well beyond homeownership, as credit scores impact consumers’ access to and cost of nearly all kinds of credit, including auto loans and credit cards.”

Skyrocketing debt

Data compiled by Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute illustrates the proximate cause of skyrocketing student loan debt: The cost of higher education has risen much faster than the cost of just about everything else.

The price of college tuition has risen by 183 percent since 1998, more than three times faster than overall inflation since then.

One reason for rising college costs is that policymakers at the state level have slashed funding for higher education in recent decades. In 18 states, taxpayers spend more on jails and prisons than they do on colleges and universities, according to a 2016 Department of Education report.

Overall the return on investment to higher education remains quite good. A person with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn about a half-million dollars more over her or his lifetime than a similarly situated individual with only a high school diploma, according to a 2015 report by the Social Security Administration.

But the rising price of tuition is gnawing away at that earnings advantage, and the Fed’s latest report clearly illustrates what the downstream effects of those high college costs are — a rising debt load that’s making it harder for young Americans to do things, such as buying a home, that previous generations took for granted.

Shutdown could aid organizational culture

WASHINGTON — The partial shutdown of the federal government is wreaking havoc on the wallets of many federal contractors. Some small businesses are threatening unpaid leave.

Other contractors are getting paid for fewer hours and trimming their spending. Some are even selling things around their house — furniture, diamond earrings — to make up for lost income.

But for now, Moe Jafari is trying to keep that from happening to his workers. Though 20 of the 200 people in his cybersecurity and IT firm have been told not to report to work as federal contractors due to the shutdown, he isn’t cutting their pay.

Instead, he’s cutting his.

The CEO of HumanTouch, a $35 million cybersecurity company based in McLean, Va., that gets some 90 percent of its business from federal contracts, Jafari decided not to draw a salary until the shutdown is over to help cover the costs of keeping on the furloughed contractors.

His decision came after his senior management team — some 15 senior managers and executives — also decided voluntarily to take one day of their paid time off or leave without pay each week while the shutdown drags on.

“At the end of the end of the day none of them really signed up for this — this is my risk,” said Jafari, who wouldn’t share the size of his salary. “I decided I should be able to give up more.”

Unlike furloughed federal employees, who are set to receive back pay once the shutdown ends after President Donald Trump signed legislation Wednesday authorizing it, federal contractors aren’t in line for similar amends.

A Washington Post analysis found that almost 10,000 companies hold contracts with federal agencies affected by the government shutdown, and the overall average value of their work is about $200 million a week.

Though his efforts won’t quite cover the loss of revenue Jafari expects from the stalled work, it will help lower the much higher overhead costs of carrying furloughed workers. He estimates a 15 percent annualized revenue shortfall from the shutdown.

And it will prevent him from having to spend money and time replacing people in a highly competitive field were he to cut them loose — affected workers include in-demand data analysts, cloud computing architects and program managers.

“I’m not trying to be generous — I’m trying to invest,” he said, adding, “I can’t over-stress the very tight labor market. And it’s even tighter when you have to add in the clearances and other stipulations in this marketplace.”

Management experts said such actions could pay off with both current and future workforces. As the fundamental promise of working in government or government-related jobs gets tested following the longest shutdown on record, it could be much harder to retain or draw in people, especially those who have many options in the private sector.

Yet Jafari may be able to point to how, even if government contracts are more unpredictable, “we, as compared to competitors, look after you even if the government goes wacky,” said Peter Cappelli, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school who studies human resources issues.

“That’s how organizational culture gets passed on to people — it’s through stories and events.”

It also represents some level of shared sacrifice that experts say can help leaders manage in a crisis.

“When people are miserable, they want their leaders to kind of be miserable, too,” said Thomas Kolditz, executive director of Rice University’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders. The aim is to reduce what psychologists call “social distance,” even if leaders’ lives remain very different from the people who work for them.

“They want to connect with them as humans,” Kolditz said.

Snow emergency declared for Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS — With severe winter weather heading to the area Friday afternoon, the City of Cedar Rapids is declaring a snow emergency through Monday.

Here’s what residents need to know about the snow emergency, effective starting at 3 p.m. Friday until Monday at 7 a.m.


Emergency Snow Routes: Starting 3 p.m. Friday, cars should not be parked on Emergency Snow Routes. Vehicles parked on designated Snow Routes after a Snow Emergency has been declared may be ticketed and/or towed. These routes are typically main arterials, bus routes, school zones, and areas near hospitals. They are designated with street signage and are prioritized for plows to clear due to their high traffic volumes. A list of Emergency Snow Routes can be found at

Residential streets: From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, residents are asked to follow the odd/even parking rule in residential neighborhoods. Park on the odd-address side of the street on odd calendar days; park on the even-address side of the street on even calendar days. On Saturday, park on the odd address side; on Sunday, park on the even address side. This does not apply to emergency snow routes, parking-metered areas, or any street where the alternate side parking rule would conflict with permanently posted parking restrictions.

Snow plowing

Plow operators will be on standby to address snow accumulations later Friday and overnight into Saturday. Plow operations will begin as snowfall begins, with priority on keeping main roads and snow routes clear. Crews will again provide 24-hour coverage this weekend as snow accumulations increase, and will use a salt/sand mixture on the roadways in addition to plowing. Crews will begin with Emergency Snow Routes, then move to other major connector streets, then move to residential side streets.

After a snowfall, it may take up to 12 hours for crews to reach every street in the city. Cedar Rapids has approximately 600 linear miles of roadway to plow.


• The Your Skin is In: Prom 2019 event at the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center schedule for Sunday is canceled. Questions: 319-861-7998.

• The Hawkeye Area Community Action Program’s Healthy You, Healthy Family health screenings planned for the downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library on Saturday is being postponed, with a future date to be determined.

Many other events are likely to be canceled because of the weather. If you are unsure if an event is canceled, please call ahead.

More on the storm

Crews ready as Eastern Iowa braces for another round of snow

National Weather Service monitoring incoming Iowa snowstorm despite shutdown

• Get the latest weather updates at

Timberline Manufacturing names Tom Pientok as new president, CEO

Timberline Manufacturing named former Apache president Tom Pientok as its new president and chief executive officer.

“We know that he will bring new ideas and energy to the employee culture at Timberline, as well as to increasing the innovation and engagement which will allow us to continue to outpace the market,” Mike Johnson, Timberline board chairman, said in a statement Thursday.

The Marion-based company, which employs 250, makes control panels, electronics, wire harnesses, engineering services, and RF testing and prototyping for manufacturers nationwide.

Timberline is building a new 90,000-square-foot production facility and office near its current location. Construction is expected to be completed later this year.

Pientok was at Apache, which manufactures industrial hoses and belts, as president and CEO for 11 years. He is on the board of Folience, the parent company of The Gazette.

Apache was purchased in 2017 by Motion Industries, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Genuine Parts Co.

Woman’s car catches fire after high-speed chase, Cedar Rapids police say

A Cedar Rapids woman was arrested Thursday after police say she led officers on a high-speed chase that ended with her car catching fire.

According to the criminal complaint, officers attempted to stop Daisha Rae Gonzales, 26, near Center Point Road and 42nd Street NE.

When police activated their lights, Gonzales took off at a high rate of speed, leading officers on a chase that at times exceeded the speed limit by 25 miles per hour, according to the complaint.

During the chase, the complaint states “the defendant drove in the wrong direction from an exit ramp off Interstate 380 and committed a multitude of traffic violations in her efforts to elude officers.”

Police deployed “stop sticks” to stop the car, puncturing three tires on Gonzales’ vehicle, the complaint said.

The chase ended when Gonzales’ vehicle caught fire near the Hawkeye Convenience Store in the 1600 block of First Avenue, the complaint said.

Gonzales faces charges of attempt to elude, driving while barred and multiple traffic violations. Police said Gonzales’ license was barred on Jan. 3, 2018, for a period of two years.

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Complaint: Woman stole truck and drove it to Florida

Police arrested a Cedar Rapids woman on a theft charge Thursday after she allegedly stole a truck and drove it to Florida.

According to the criminal complaint, Karen C. Hoffpauir, 40, stole a 2008 Chevrolet pickup truck on Oct. 27, 2018 from the 2000 block of O Avenue NW. The complaint states investigators confirmed the theft using a text message exchange with Hoffpauir.

Police said Hoffpauir then drove the truck to Florida. She faces a charge of second-degree theft, a class-D felony.

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Man accused of stealing car from parking garage

Iowa City police arrested a 22-year-old “transient” man Thursday after he allegedly stole a Chevrolet Malibu from a parking garage on Dubuque Street.

According to the criminal complaint, Dale Louis Miller entered a “secured” parking garage at 912 S. Dubuque St. at about 8 p.m. on January 13 and allegedly stole a blue 2014 Chevrolet Malibu. Police said Miller was located two days later in possession of the vehicle and the license plates had been removed.

During an interview with police, the complaint states Miller admitted to stealing the vehicle, stating he did it so “he could get back to Texas.”

Police estimated the value of the Malibu at $17,000.

Miller faces charges of first-degree theft, a class-C felony, and third-degree burglary, a class-D felony.

• Comments: (319) 398-8238;

Cedar Rapids man allegedly stole motorcycles, leaf blower

A Cedar Rapids man is accused of theft after police allegedly found several stolen items at his residence in the 3300 block of Iris Avenue NW.

According to the criminal complaint, Logan M. Toomer, 28, allegedly stole two motorcycles and a leaf blower from three separate victims between October 28, 2018 and January 2, 2019.

The complaint states Cedar Rapids officers were dispatched to Toomer’s residence Thursday where they found him in possession of the stolen items.

Police said the officers took statements from witnesses who reported they had either seen Toomer operate the stolen motorcycles or heard Toomer make admissions about operating the two-wheelers.

Toomer was taken into custody and faces two counts of second-degree theft, a class-D felony, and one count of third-degree theft, an aggravated misdemeanor. • Comments: (319) 398-8238;

Reynolds: Iowa like a big small town

By Erin Murphy, Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — Kim Reynolds, Iowa’s 43rd governor but the first woman to hold the position, was inaugurated Friday to lead what she called a state that is like one big small town.

Reynolds was elevated to serve as governor in 2017 when former Gov. Terry Branstad became U.S. ambassador to China. In doing so, she became the state’s first female governor and in November became the first woman to win an election for the state’s governorship.

Reynolds was sworn in Friday morning at a ceremony in a ballroom at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in downtown Des Moines. The oath of office was administered by Iowa Supreme Court Justice Susan Christensen, the high court’s only woman — although not its first — who was appointed by Reynolds in 2018.

In her inaugural address, the Republican governor described Iowa as a big small town. She was raised in St. Charles, population 621.

“In a small town, residents don’t wait for the government or far-flung strangers to take care of their ailing neighbors; they do it themselves,” Reynolds said, according to her prepared remarks released before she spoke. “When a farmer gets sick, the community drops everything to harvest his crops. When a neighbor loses her job and is struggling to get back on her feet, the town sees her through it; food and clothing are provided, and Christmas presents find their way under the tree.

“In a small town, everyone works together and does life together, and because of that everyone takes care of each other. That’s Iowa. Whether it’s in Des Moines or Sioux Center, Decorah or Davenport, Iowans exhibit those small-town values. They work hard, but not so much for themselves. They’re ambitious, but not at the expense of others.”

Reynolds said she saw that kind of spirit in 2018 in the aftermath of tornadoes and floods, and in the search for missing loved ones.

“Iowans were flashing their small-town character. They took care of each other,” she said.

Adam Gregg was sworn in as lieutenant governor at the ceremony. Gregg, who was raised in Hawarden, served as acting lieutenant governor for the past year-plus under Reynolds. But due to a lack of clarity in state law and the state constitution, he was not in the official line of succession; had Reynolds left office, Gregg would not have become governor.

With Reynolds’ and Gregg’s electoral victory in November and his swearing-in Friday, he becomes the official lieutenant governor and next in line to the governor’s office.

Reynolds called for Iowans to put aside their differences — political or otherwise — and to avoid divisive arguments, especially on social media.

“My ask of all Iowans, as we go into the next four years, is that we devote less time to online political arguments and more time to each other. That we don’t let a screen steal time from our family and friends, from our communities and schools,” Reynolds said. “Because here’s the thing: If we look up and to each other, we will see that great things are happening in this state. And if we put our energy into action instead of outrage, we will find that there are even greater days to come.”

That continues a tone Reynolds set earlier this week in her Condition of the State address at the Iowa Capitol, in which she focused on issues — like workforce growth, education, mental health care and second-chance programs — that have support from both major political parties.

Reynolds talked about workforce and education again Friday. She noted Iowa’s low unemployment — December’s rate was the third straight at the historically low 2.4 percent — but also the challenge that business owners say they face in finding workers who have the necessary skills for current and future job openings.

She also gave an optimistic view of the coming years as she settles into her first full term.

“As I travel the state, I’m seeing a resurgence in many places. Our young people are coming home, new shops are opening and the schools are brimming with as much pride as they ever have,” Reynolds said. “In the months and years ahead, it’s my hope that we can ignite that kind of passion in even more communities. That we can connect every part of Iowa to high-speed internet, that we can connect every Iowan to a rewarding career and affordable health care, and that we can connect Iowa, our products, and services to every part of the world.

“If we do that — if we bring prosperity to every corner — then Iowa will remain the best state in the nation.”

Could you give up meat and dairy for a month?

CHICAGO — She misses pizza and hamburgers, and she longs for eggs.

Grocery store runs that would have taken an hour now take two, due to factors such as the need to scan labels for hidden ingredients.

But a week without meat or animal products has already yielded rewards, she says, from less puffiness under her eyes to what feels like a bit more speed in her morning run.

“I’ve always had a lot of energy, but it’s a different energy,” said Penny Shack, 37, of Lincoln Park.

“My sleep is so much better. And so far, I don’t feel hungry or miserable.”

Shack is one of tens of thousands of Americans who have signed up with the British charity Veganuary this year, agreeing to try a vegan diet free of all animal products. Participants are free to just try going vegan for a meal or two, but some — including Shack — are attempting a full January of veganism without even honey (yes, it’s an animal product.)

Worldwide, 226,000 people have signed up for Veganuary (Vee-GAN-uary) this year, up from 168,000 in 2018, according to a Veganuary spokeswoman, who said the charity does not yet have a figure for U.S. signups in 2019 but the number is up from last year.

Health, animal welfare and environmental concerns are the biggest reasons Americans go vegan, according to Veganuary U.S. trustee Seth Tibbott.

“If you were to rank them, you’d probably go health first: ‘What’s it going to do for me? Is it a healthy diet?’ And then you’d go into animal welfare, and then you’d go environmental,” said Tibbott, the founder and chairman of the Tofurky Co., which makes vegan meat substitutes.

“That said, the environmental reasons are taking a bigger and bigger piece of the pie, now that there’s all the concern about, ‘Hey, what’s the climate doing? And are we going to be able to live on this planet?’”

Veganuary, a high-profile campaign in Britain, provides information for newcomers, including recipes, tips for eating out and nutritional information. Vegan eating is different from the popular meat-free diet the Daniel Fast, which allows fewer foods and has a religious component.

Shack, a sales representative for a nutritional company, said she frequently tinkers with her diet and actually went raw vegan — or vegan without cooked foods — for about two years, starting around 2009. But that experiment didn’t go well; she gained 40 pounds and developed a thyroid problem from which she has since recovered.

She was moved to try Veganuary this year in part because her 2018 diet, heavy in fruits and vegetables with some meat and dairy, was already fairly close to vegan, and in part because she wanted to take her healthy eating to the next level.

“I think a majority of people, come January, they just want a reset. They want some sort of cleanse or detox,” she said. “I figured let’s take it up a notch.”

She’s had cravings and feelings of missing out, she said. Vegan cooking, shopping and meal planning (including finding recipes) take an extra 30 minutes a day, and while her husband is supportive, he’s still eating meat, as is her 2-year-old son, so she has to take their diets into consideration as well.

There have been uneasy moments, such as when she was cutting up chicken for her son and, without thinking, almost put a piece in her own mouth.

“It’s harder than I thought it would be,” she said of going vegan.

But she’s excited about the challenge and about new recipes for curried lentils, and vegan lasagna soup with vegan ricotta and a tomato-based broth.

Asked if she’s going to continue as a vegan in February, she said she can see making a reservation at a steakhouse Feb. 1. On the other hand, she’s curious about the benefits of four weeks without animal products.

“Am I honestly going to feel so amazing that I’m not going to want to back?” she said. “I don’t know.”

Jury awards Boone County landowner $250,000 in Dakota Access pipeline lawsuit

By Logan Kahler, Boone News-Republican

A Boone County jury this week awarded a property owner who sued over the construction of an oil pipeline through her property $250,000 following a nearly weeklong trial in which she challenged the pipeline’s use of eminent domain.

The jury returned its judgment in the case against Dakota Access on Wednesday, saying the $250,000 was the difference in the “fair and reasonable value of the property,” before it was taken through eminent domain in July 2016, and the value of the property after it was taken.

Judith Anne Lamb, as trustee of the Judith Anne Lamb Revocable Trust, filed the lawsuit in 2016 as construction on the pipeline was beginning. Its construction, which was completed in 2017, was the focus of protests from activists across Iowa, including Boone and Story counties. Lamb and her husband, Richard, live in the Iowa City area but own about 150 acres in Boone County, just west of Ames.

Telephone messages left for attorneys for Lamb and Dakota Access were not returned.

Lamb claimed the construction of the pipeline damaged the land and decreased its value. In court documents, Lamb said that because of a multitude of opportunity for commercial use for the land, an initial evaluation in July 2016 showing the land’s value at just over $90,000, was just a fraction of its actual value. She said the land had a value of about $950,000.

At the center of the debate leading up to and during its construction was the use of eminent domain to take land needed to bury the pipeline, with opponents arguing the project didn’t meet the requirement of public benefit to use eminent domain. Opponents also argued the environmental risks associated with its construction and eventual operation were too great, and that the construction of the pipeline would cause long-term damage to valuable farmland.

According to the Dakota Access website, the $3.8 billion project is estimated to generate $55 million in property tax revenue for the states it transects. During the debate leading up to the construction, the company argued it had safety measures in place to detect leaks and shut them down remotely preventing contamination.

The state sided with the Texas-based company, when the Iowa Utilities Board ruled the public benefits were found to include significant safety advantages of pipeline transportation of crude oil compared with the alternatives and the jobs and other economic benefits associated with construction and operation of the pipeline, projected to be at least $787 million during the construction period alone.

The pipeline spans more than 1,100 miles, connecting the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to an oil terminal in southern Illinois. It crosses 18 Iowa counties, including Boone and Story counties.

Following this week’s verdict, the court scheduled a hearing for Feb. 15 to address matters related to finalizing payments to lawyers.

Another lawsuit over the use of eminent domain to take property for the pipeline is pending before the Iowa Supreme Court, and several others have been filed seeking damages against Dakota Access for damaged soil and crop loss.

Gunfire incidents in Cedar Rapids in 2018 climb to highest in years

CEDAR RAPIDS — Incidents involving gunfire continued to climb last year in Cedar Rapids, reaching the highest number of confirmed shots-fired reports in at least a decade.

According to data from Cedar Rapids police, there were 117 verified incidents of gunfire in 2018, with a high concentration of the activity happening in the Wellington Heights area.

Police Chief Wayne Jerman said a verified incident refers to one in which officers confirmed a gun was fired by locating shell casings, seeing property damage, discovering a person was hit or interviewing a witness who saw it.

Of those 117 incidents, police said seven involved suicides.

The data shows October was the city’s worst month for gun violence in 2018, with 15 reported incidents. May was the second-most active month, with 14 incidents, and December followed close behind with 13.

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2018 was the highest year of reported shots fired in Cedar Rapids on recent record.

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Jerman said it’s likely that none of the incidents in 2018 that did not involve suicides were just random shootings.

“It’s a very safe assumption that many, if not all, of these shots fired are the result of individuals targeting one another — that they are not random acts,” he said. “And when arrests are made, there is usually some sort of connection between the suspect and other individuals who are engaged in similar activities.”

Jerman said when a shots-fired incident is reported, officers respond to and attempt to locate evidence of a shooting.

“If we are able to locate evidence that shots were actually fired, we document it and investigative it as thoroughly as we can,” he said. “And when there is an incident where a suspect or a victim or a potential victim is identified, we investigate that and go where the evidence takes us.

“However, most of the time, the only evidence that is present are shell casings,” the chief added. “We will collect those and submit them into evidence. They can also be submitted to the (Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation) crime lab where they can be entered into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.”

The problem is, Jerman said, that many of these incidents are difficult to investigates because police get little cooperation from witnesses or those involved.

“There are times where we’ll get called to a residence or one of the (emergency rooms) and there is a person suffering from a gunshot wound and they won’t talk,” Jerman said. “There was one in early January where a person walked into one of the ERs with a gunshot wound and he wouldn’t tell officers where he was when he was shot, why he was shot at, who shot at him. All he would tell the officers is that he believed he was hit while people celebrated the New Year — like people shot into the air and he got grazed by a bullet.”

Additionally, the chief said, it is difficult to pinpoint where the guns involved are coming from.

“Many of our shootings are committed by individuals who illegally possess and use guns,” he said. “But I don’t think we can say we have a good idea of exactly where these guns are coming from.

“We know there are a large number of guns that are stolen from vehicles,” the chief added. “A number of guns have also been stolen in burglaries. There were also burglaries involving two gun stores last year … and I’m sure some of those firearms, if they weren’t recovered, could end up in the hands of the wrong people.”

That’s why the chief said the department’s Police Community Action Team — or PCAT — has proved so valuable.

With their proactive approach, their involvement in neighborhoods most affected by gun violence and their ability to gather intelligence, PCAT officers are making a difference regardless of what the numbers indicate, Jerman said.

In 2018, PCAT took 33 illegal guns off the streets. The year before, its officers seized 18 firearms and in 2016 they seized 12. Additionally, over the past three years, PCAT officers have seized sizable amounts of drugs and cash, as well as served close to 900 arrest warrants.

“My hope is that with PCAT’s continued efforts — with their continued assertive presence in various neighborhood where gun violence is prevalent — that we could see a reduction in the prevalence of shots fired or shootings or other violent situations,” he said. “Our goal every year is to reduce the shots fired from the previous year.”

Although the number of shots-fired incidents increased last year, the chief said he is certain the number would have been higher without PCAT on the streets.

As an example, he recounted an incident where a PCAT officer intervened before a potential shooting could occur.

Jerman said the officer was watching gang members walking toward a group of rivals.

“These individuals were trying to covertly move toward that group and the PCAT officer intercepted the individuals and one took off running,” Jerman said. “The PCAT officer was able to apprehend him, and he was in possession of a firearm. It’s just speculation that the PCAT officer had prevented a shooting, but why was the individual behaving the way he was — like he was trying to sneak up on the group of rival gang members? I think it’s safe to assume this individual wasn’t going over there to exchange pleasantries.”

The department plans to add about 10 officers, including two more to the PCAT unit. Jerman said he expects that will further stem gunfire.

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