Des Moines Register. October 26, 2019
The Des Moines Register endorses Jack Hatch for mayor
The Des Moines mayor's race includes two dedicated public servants with long records in elected office.
The 16-year incumbent mayor, Frank Cownie, is competent and involved. The mayor's job is considered part-time, but Cownie often puts in full-time hours. He has presided over an era of downtown growth and a string of accolades for Des Moines as a great place to live and work.
But holding a job does not necessarily make someone the best person for the job in the years ahead. Times change. Needs change. In elections, politicians reapply for their positions. Challengers offer an opportunity to bring new energy and skills to an office.
Deciding this endorsement was no easy task. But the Des Moines Register editorial board believes Jack Hatch, a builder and former state senator, has the energy and skills Des Moines needs today. We endorse him for mayor.
Hatch grew up in Connecticut and moved to Des Moines to attend Drake University. He served 22 years in the Iowa Legislature, where he worked to expand foster care services and access to health care and to clean up the environment.
As a developer who specializes in low-income housing, he has worked with neighborhood leaders, local officials, lenders and investors to build and manage over $160 million in housing projects across the state. (He said if elected mayor, to avoid conflicts of interest, he will not embark on new projects in Des Moines.)
Hatch resides in Sherman Hill and threw himself into the race at the last minute. Why does a busy, successful businessman want to spend his time working as the part-time mayor of Des Moines?
He says he fears the city is neglecting its more than 50 neighborhoods, and he wants to "make this commitment to public service."
All four candidates in the race, including Army veteran Chase Holm and former teacher and coach Joe Grandanette, are passionate about issues and devoted to their home city. Why did we choose Hatch?
Because he is an expert in affordable housing, which the city needs.
Because he has long sought to improve mental health services, which cities must do to save lives and divert people from jail.
Because this race is about more than potholes and parks.
What tipped the scales for us: Hatch does not take a pass when a position needs to be taken. He is not afraid to speak up and to act on problems.
The mayor of Des Moines needs to be more than a ribbon cutter. The mayor needs to be a leader, and that means taking strong stands. On the federal courthouse. On racial profiling. On lawsuits against the Des Moines Police Department. On the regionalization of our water supply. On city firearms restrictions. On funding city services.
The mayor cannot be afraid to use the bully pulpit of the office, even if it risks controversy.
Des Moines property taxes are high in large part because the city has so much tax-exempt property. When churches, schools, hospitals, health clinics and other organizations do not contribute, homeowners pay more to compensate.
Des Moines needs someone who will lead the city in finding ways to ensure all property owners, including nonprofits, pay their fair share to fund street repair, emergency response and the many other city services we all rely on.
Hatch was not a lawmaker who ducked for cover on tough issues. We don't expect him to do so as mayor.
Of course, boldness can be seen as arrogance, and he should be mindful of that perception.
While Des Moines needs a more visible and vocal mayor, it also needs one with the humility to listen carefully and not assume he is right. That caution applies to discussion over Des Moines Water Works. If elected, Hatch should be receptive to all voices, including those who advocate for the potential benefits of regionalizing the water supply.
Holm, who was once homeless and is by far the youngest candidate in the field, has been active in advocating for affordable housing and in reaching out to minority communities. We hope he'll stay involved in city issues. Both he and Grandanette deserve thanks for being willing to run for elected office and for contributing to policy conversations.
Cownie is Des Moines' longest-serving mayor. He also has been a national leader on combating global warming. He deserves much praise and appreciation for his service.
But it is Jack Hatch who has the experience, political courage, skills and vision to move Des Moines forward.
The future of Des Moines Water Works
Jack Hatch has accused Mayor Frank Cownie of failing to lead when the Legislature tried to dismantle Des Moines Water Works.
In 2017, when the City Council voted 4-2 to support the dismantling legislation. Cownie abstained. Hatch says a referendum should be required for any new regional governance structure.
Des Moines Water Works sells water to a half-million people living in central Iowa. It sells treated water to the suburbs, and the suburbs then distribute it through their own water mains. If suburban officials think Des Moines is charging too much and move toward treating water from their own sources, that could be bad news for all central Iowans.
The customer base of DMWW could shrink while the utility would still have to support the huge investment in its treatment facilities. That could result in higher water rates for everyone and duplication of expensive treatment facilities to remove nitrates.
Fort Dodge Messenger. October 27, 2019
One woman's generosity will make Humboldt animal shelter possible
Mary Moffitt donated $250,000
The Humboldt community has been wrestling with the problem of establishing a proper animal shelter for about a year.
Mary Moffitt has apparently just solved that problem.
Moffitt, who lives in California, owns farm land near Dakota City. She's also an animal lover who's especially fond of cats. She's so fond of felines that her own cat accompanies her on visits to Iowa.
Her love of animals and her enduring connection to Humboldt County inspired her to donate $250,000 for the construction of a new animal shelter.
The proposed shelter is estimated to cost $240,000 to $250,000, so Moffitt's gift will essentially pay for it.
"The Humboldt community and the animals of the Humboldt community will forever be in appreciation of her kindness," said Dr. Aubrey Cordray, a veterinarian who serves on the Humboldt Community Animal Shelter board.
That gift is on top of contributions from 100 + Women Who Care, Humboldt Lions Club and the Humboldt city and county governments.
Thanks to her gift, things could start moving quickly on an animal shelter project that has largely stalled. A site in northwest Humboldt has been selected and the crews of Gronbach Construction, of Humboldt, are ready to get to work.
That work will be made possible by the generosity of someone who doesn't even live in Humboldt County. Moffitt could have given that money to a cause that's both close to her heart and closer to her home. It's inspiring that she chose to give it to the Humboldt Community Animal Shelter.
We join the animal shelter's board and the Humboldt community in saying thank you to Mary Moffitt.
Quad City Times. October 27, 2019
Reversing the neglect
There once was a time when Davenport voters could be counted on to flock to the polls for a good mayor or council race.
We recall the contest between Charlie Brooke and Larry Minard in 1999, when nearly 21,000 people turned out, almost a third of the city's registered voters.
Four years later, nearly 19,000 voted in the contest between Brooke and Niky Bowles.
Things have changed since then. Perhaps that was no more obvious than two Tuesdays ago, on Oct. 8, when little more than 6,500 people voted in the primary election, which featured a six-person mayoral contest.
How disappointing. It's not as if there weren't choices - and compelling ones. We saw a mix of aldermen with experience and ideas, a businessman with plans to shake up the status quo and a young progressive who challenged us to think about city government in a way few usually do.
Yet, fewer than 10 percent of registered voters went to the polls. (There are no contested city council races in Bettendorf, so there isn't much voter turnout to be expected there.)
We know a primary is not the same as a general election, but the trends don't suggest good things for the main event on Nov. 5.
Over the past 20 years, voter participation in Davenport elections has shrunk noticeably. Four years ago, only a bit more than 15,000 people voted in the mayoral race between Frank Klipsch and Bill Gluba.
Two years before, about 10,500 people turned out.
We know lagging voter participation is not just a problem for Davenport, but a lot of places. And when it comes to school boards, participation in elections is even more dismal.
We're not sure what's happened over the years, but we know this: The issues facing our community in the Nov. 5 election are as pressing as ever before.
The City of Davenport faces major decisions on how to deal with flooding. We all got a wakeup call from the Mississippi River this year, and if we don't want to get caught sleeping again, City Hall better up our flood-fighting game. And it's the people on the ballot on Nov. 5 who will be responsible for ensuring that happens.
They'll also be the ones who make sure Public Works has the resources to fix your streets and the Police Department has the tools to deal with the gunfire we hear too often.
Then, there's the people who will oversee our school districts. In the Davenport, Bettendorf and North Scott school districts, there is competition for board seats.
The challenges in Davenport have been well documented in these pages. The state has criticized the district for its financial practices and special education program. Enrollment is dwindling. There are achievement gaps. Yet, for many of us who have gone through Davenport schools or have children there, we know the educational experience can be full, rich and rewarding.
In Bettendorf, meanwhile, the board has clear differences with the superintendent; the closing of Thomas Jefferson Elementary caused a huge rift and the district faces competition with the neighboring Pleasant Valley school district.
The people who lead our schools and cities - who are asking for your permission to do so for the next two or four years - need more than just the consent of the few. To govern effectively, they need to hear the voices of a broad cross-section of our community.
That happens not just at the ballot box, of course. Our elected leaders need to hear from us frequently - at council and board meetings, at ward gatherings, by email and on the street. But probably the most important place for us to weigh in is at the polls. It is here where we give permission to individuals to act for us.
It is not too late to register to vote. Go to the Scott County auditor's web page (scottcountyiowa.com/auditor) to find out what you need to know.
Check the pages of this newspaper and qctimes.com to find out about the candidates.
On Nov. 5, we hope to see a reversal of this trend of neglect.
On Nov. 5, we hope Quad-Citians make themselves heard - and vote.