Author’s Archive: Gregory Berry

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DES MOINES, Iowa — If patience was already wearing thin for Iowa republicans on Fourth Congressional District Representative Steve King, it seems to have cracked.  “What he said was abhorrent and there is no place for those comments in our society today. There is no place for that in our nation,” said Republican State Senator Randy Feenstra.  Republicans continue to distance themselves away from the nine term congressman after King’s controversial comments made in a New York Times interview.  Feenstra said, “I think his actions and comments speak for themselves and each voter has to make that decision as we move forward.”

As state and national leaders condemn King, some of his biggest campaign donors do not seem ready to give a public opinion.  According to the Federal Elections Commission’s data from this past election around twenty Iowans contributed maximum contributions of $2,700 to King’s campaign, “King for Congress.” Those individuals include, Iowa Board of Regents President Michael Richards.  Casey’s co-Founder Don Lamberti contributed the maximum in both the primary and general elections.  Brownell’s Chairman and Montezuma City Councilman Frank Brownell III.  Sukup Manufacturing President and CFO’s Charles and Steve Sukup.  Founder of Kirke Financial Services and the Wild Rose Casino in Jefferson Gary Kirke contributed the maximum in both the general and primary elections.  Joan and Richard stark, major donors to Iowa State University and namesake of the Richard and Joan Stark Lecture Hall on campus.  Both separately contributed the maximum in each of the general and primary elections.  All either declined comment or did not return interview requests.

While some big names in Iowa decide on their decision to support him going forward, perhaps the biggest name, Governor Kim Reynolds drew a line in the sand of her own after election night in November.  Reynolds said, “Steve King needs to make a decision on if he wants to represent the core values of the fourth district or do something else and I think he needs to take a look at that.”

If Representative King chooses to step down from his seat, it would be up to Governor Reynolds to declare a special election in order to make a change.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — During the Condition of the State address, Governor Kim Reynolds said she wants to continue to devote Iowa dollars to expanding internet access to all areas of the state.

“We have come a long way already. U.S. News & World Report says, ‘the Hawkeye State leads the nation in efforts to bring ultra-fast internet access to every city block and every rural acre.’ But there’s still more to do. To ensure that every part of Iowa has the same opportunity, I am requesting $20 million, split over two years, for broadband infrastructure. This funding will accelerate expansion and leverage an additional $120 million in private investment for high-speed internet,” Gov. Reynolds said.

The Executive Director of the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce Lynn Olberding said internet access has become just as important as the roads and buildings that surround us.

“Some of the more rural areas in the state of Iowa need the same access that the metropolitan areas and the areas like Marshalltown have. It’s not only important for schools, for health care, but agriculture. There’s a lot of things that have changed in the agricultural industry that high speed internet is incredibly important for our farmers. So it’s important across the state of Iowa,” Olberding said.

Over the last few years, more rural areas, such as Marshalltown, now have increased access to high speed internet.

“I remember the first internet connection I ever had was when I was 14 or 15. We had Prodigy at home, and then we had AOL, and then Mediacom cable eventually. So it’s changed a lot. It came from just dial-up and all the way to fiber now,” Marshalltown Company Director of IT Jeff Schneider said.

He said the fastest internet connection they can get is essential to their growing business.

“We are a very advanced manufacturer and in order to be productive and competitive in the global landscape we need very advanced software systems,” Schneider said.

Those software systems have a lot of data that is critical to making masonry tools that they send all over the world.

“We’re a 129-year-old company, but we are 22nd century thinking. We are really working on E-Commerce initiatives and that’s really important to have a good reliable internet connection,” Schneider said.

DES MOINES, Iowa–  The new Iowa legislative session began Monday, and animal activists are already lobbying for change. Some organizations want Iowa lawmakers to finally get tough on animal abuse.

Over the weekend, a man tossed a burlap feed sack filled with a litter of 14 puppies over a bridge into cold water.

“They would have died shortly afterwards if they would have gone into that icy water,” Amy Heinz with Aheinz57 Pet Rescue said.

It happened in Harrison County, Missouri, 20 miles south of Lamoni, Iowa.

The Harrison County Sheriff says the man is at large. He faces 14 counts of animal neglect and abuse, one for each of the puppies.

“It would just be a misdemeanor, and even if they did get charged, they would just get their hands slapped and find. He wouldn’t do a day in jail,” Heinz said.

Iowa Voters for Companion Animals hope toughening animal cruelty laws is a priority this legislative session.

“They are really weak and inadequate now for those types of cases. We want to increase the penalties. Iowa is one of only two states without a first offense felony charge for egregious animal cruelty,” Lobbyist Haley Anderson said.

The bill prohibits the mistreatment of animals other than livestock and wild animals.

If passed, it would enhance penalties for previous animal abuse convictions and allow law enforcement to rescue animals from hot cars.

In the last legislative session, a similar bill did not make it onto the floor.

Click here information on this sessions bill and here to give donations to Aheinz57 Pet Rescue.

WAUKEE, Iowa —  Waukee needs a new school superintendent. Superintendent Cindi McDonald announced her resignation last week, and board members signed off on it Monday night.

McDonald will step down at the end of the school year.

Many people at Monday night’s school board meeting are hoping for a new start.

“When you go looking for the new superintendent [I hope] that you look maybe outside of someone that’s already employed in this district,” said Bruce Stone, a Waukee parent.

Her resignation follows a state audit that uncovered $130,000 in questionable spending and led to felony charges against the district’s former COO Eric Rose.

At least one person at Monday night’s meeting thinks even more faculty members need to go.

“Maybe you think people are forgetting about it, but we have a lot of work to do, or you guys have a lot of work to do to clean this mess up. Nobody trusts you,” said Lynn Hakenson, a Waukee parent.

 

DES MOINES, Iowa — Monday at 10 a.m., Iowa lawmakers start work on a new legislative session.

However, there is still uncertainty about one of its members. A bipartisan group of legislators will decide on what to do about Republican Michael Bergan’s nine vote win in November over Democrat Kayla Koether. Some mailed ballots weren’t counted because they didn’t get properly stamped.

Issues to watch this session include whether lawmakers will agree on a water quality improvements, how much to fund schools, and whether Republicans will cut taxes again. Although, Gov. Kim Reynolds told Channel 13 that tax changes may not come until next year.

“I don’t know if there is a hard set plan right now, but we’re always looking for opportunities to reduce the tax burden to make our state more competitive so that we can continue to grow our economy and build on the success we’ve seen over the last several years,” said Gov. Reynolds.

On Sunday, an announcement came from Senate Democratic leader Janet Petersen. She initially stripped Democratic Senator Nate Boulton of his committee assignments following sexual misconduct allegations by three women before he was in office.

But on Sunday, Petersen said that since an ethics committee declined to punish Boulton, she decided to let him once again serve on committees. He will serve on the transportation and local government committees.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Just a week and a half after being sworn in, Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer is back in Iowa and making sure the citizens of Marshalltown are getting what they need to recover from the July 19th tornado.

“Of course you see broken glass, you see a little bit of rain, and then you just see damage,” Matt Gerstandt, owner of Black Tire Co. in Marshalltown, said. “Then it’s mostly just shock of trying to figure out what’s next.”

July 19 is a day Matt Gerstandt remembers all too well. Busy gearing up for RAGBRAI, the bike shop owner was in his local business when the tornado struck Marshalltown.

“As this is our primary income, supporting cycling and the community, we have to decide what to do,” Gerstandt said. “We were closed for over 60 days just trying to establish what to do next.”

Nearly six months has passed since losing the third floor of their building and suffering significant damage to both their store and the apartments above.

“The recovery is still happening. You can still find damage. You can still find people looking for answers,” Gerstandt said.

That’s why Finkenauer wanted Marshalltown to be her very first stop in Iowa as a US Representative.

“You can read all day long about the stats or about how many businesses are affected, or how much it’s costing the community,” Finkenauer said. “But until you meet these folks face-to-face and hearing the stories yourself. It’s so important to make an impact.”

The tour started at the Black Tire Bike Co., a place she visited back on her campaign trail before the tornado.

“It’s interesting to see just the shock on her face, seeing what she knew. It’s a familiar place to her and she can see the significance of the damage,” Gerstandt said.

Rebuilt basically from the studs, Finkenauer says she wants to make sure local businesses like this can not only rebuild, but also grow from this disaster.

Finkenauer also stopped at the residential neighborhoods that were mainly affected. She also held office hours for constituents in the community to explain how they still need help.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said Friday she will run for president in 2020.

“I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,” the Hawaii Democrat told CNN’s Van Jones during an interview slated to air at 7 p.m. Saturday on CNN’s “The Van Jones Show.”

Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, currently serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She is the first American Samoan and the first Hindu member of Congress.

“There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision. There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I’m concerned about and that I want to help solve,” she said, listing health care access, criminal justice reform and climate change as key platform issues.

“There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace,” Gabbard added. “I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement.”

Rania Batrice, who was a deputy campaign manager for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and is now a top aide to Gabbard, will be the campaign manager, Batrice says.

In 2015, Gabbard, then a vice-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, was sharply critical of its then-chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for scheduling just six presidential debates during the 2016 primary election cycle. She later resigned her post as DNC vice chair to become one of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ highest-profile supporters, aligning herself with his populist economic message.

Gabbard has staked out anti-interventionist foreign policy positions in Congress. Her 2017 meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad drew widespread criticism. “Initially, I hadn’t planned on meeting him,” Gabbard told CNN’s Jake Tapper in January of 2017. “When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace, and that’s exactly what we talked about.”

Gabbard joins a quickly growing field of Democrats eager to take on President Donald Trump for the presidency.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced on New Year’s Eve that she was forming an exploratory committee for a presidential run. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro also formed an exploratory committee and is expected to announce his 2020 plans Saturday.

A number of other potential Democratic candidates, including heavyweights like former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, are currently weighing whether to run for president and are expected to announce their decision soon.

CENTRAL IOWA — Local businesses and pantries want government workers affected by the shutdown to know they are here for them.

“When they start talking about the federal government, it’s like a far off entity. They don’t think about it being their neighbors and their community, but it is. The federal government, it’s Ankeny. There’s people here that work for the government. So I felt like those were my neighbors,” said Anna Woodcock, owner of Brown Dog Bakery.

Brown Dog Bakery in Ankeny is offering to help those in central Iowa with dogs and cats who are affected by the government shutdown.

“I don’t want my neighbors to be worried about feeding their pets because we don’t know how long it’s going to go. I mean, people can probably go for a few weeks. They might be able to go for a month depending on how much they’ve got saved up, but at some point if we haven’t fixed this, they might need help,” Woodcock said.

She said that all people need to do is call the store at 515-964-7177 or message them on Facebook and she will be able to get anyone cat litter, food, treats and other supplies.

Treats on a Leash in Ames is also providing the same services and ask that those who need help to message them on Facebook.

Humans also need supplies, too. That’s where Bidwell Riverside Center comes in with both food and hygiene items.

“We accept everyone. We don’t have any zip code restrictions. We don’t have any income restrictions. Everyone is truly welcome here at Bidwell and we can actually give them food every seven days,” Bidwell Community Outreach Supervisor Amie Turk said.

Turk said they see about 4,500 people per month and they are prepared if that increases during the shutdown, but they always welcome donations of food and especially hygiene products.

“With food stamps even people can purchase food with food stamps, but they can’t necessarily purchase shampoo or soap so those items are luxury,” Turk said.

Bidwell Distribution Center Supervisor Shelby Braniger said all you need to bring is an ID.

And if you have children, bring a birth certificate or insurance card that includes the names and birth dates of each child.

“I want them to know they shouldn’t feel guilty if they need it they should come and that’s the whole reason why we are here,” Braniger said.

For more information, visit the Bidwell Riverside Center website.

DES MOINES, Iowa–  While some government employees go without paychecks, some federally funded victim assault programs in the metro are nervously waiting in limbo.

Among the federal agencies helping fund Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault is the Department of Justice, one of nine federal departments now shutdown.

Iowa CASA has 25 programs offering, counseling, support hotlines, and emergency services. They could all be at risk.

“Many of those programs actually rely on federal funding so with the government shutdown obviously everything is up in the air now,” Matty Smith with Iowa CASA said.

Services that a growing number of Iowans count on.

“The first time my abuser put his hands on me was a year before he tried to kill me,” survivor Sima Nayeri said.

Nayeri says her ex-husband nearly beat her to death five years ago.

“That night when he was strangling me for the last time, I heard gurgling noises and I couldn’t hear it in my throat, but I knew it was me,” Nayeri said.

Her then two-year-old son was home when the abuse happened.

“In the current era we are in survivors are reaching out to victim services more that makes it even more vital we offer services when and where people need them,” said Smith.

For now, Iowa CASA is operating business as usual. All services are up and running and no employees have been furloughed.

As for Sima, she is on the road to recovery.

“Those services helped me feel not alone I felt like I could call somebody and talk to somebody and it didn’t matter what time it was they would answer the phone and talk to me,” Nayeri said.

She says her experience has changed her life but with the love of her family and the support of victims services she is able to try and move on.

DES MOINES, Iowa  —  A 2012 law that banned undercover recording at agricultural production facilities in Iowa has been struck down.

The law, signed by then Governor Terry Branstad, made it illegal for anyone to go undercover as a worker at an agriculture production facility for the purposes of recording the treatment of animals.  Activists decried the law, saying it kept them from informing the public about potential inhumane or illegal activities.

A collection of animal activist groups including the ACLU, Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Center for Food Safety, Public Justice and Bailing Out Benji joined together to challenge the law in court.

On Wednesday a federal judge in Des Moines sided with the plaintiffs in the case and ruled the law unconstitutional.  The ruling was made by Judge James Gritzner who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush.

The Animal Legal Defense fund issued this statement after today’s hearing:

“Ag-Gag laws are a pernicious attempt by animal exploitation industries to hide some of the worst forms of animal abuse in the United States.  Today’s victory makes it clear that the government cannot protect these industries at the expense of our constitutional rights.”

-Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells.

The ACLU said the law violated the first amendment by restricting freedom of speech.

“The law was designed to protect the agricultural industry from this sort of undercover exposure, undercover recording or reporting out about activities inside those facilities,” ACLU Attorney Rita Bettis Austen said.

The Founder and Executive Director of Bailing Out Benji, Mindi Callison, said this ruling  will help reveal abuse in puppy mills and large factory farms.

“Employees in factory farms or on USDA facilities as it is, if they see something wrong now they are able to speak out and say something. Before, they would have been punished under this “ag gag” law,” Callison said.

The Iowa Pork Producer’s Association said in a statement that they are disappointed the court did not agree with the way the law was written.

“The ag-fraud law passed in 2012 was meant to provide meaningful protection to farmers from those who would use false pretenses to do harm to the farmers’ reputation and to their farm animals. It was never the intent of farmers to infringe on others’ constitutional rights; but we also were relying on the courts to help us protect our rights to lawfully conduct our businesses and care for our animals.”

-The Iowa Pork Producers Association

Governor Reynolds also released a statement regarding the ruling:

“Governor Reynolds is disappointed in today’s ruling that struck down bipartisan legislation. We are reviewing options with the Iowa Attorney General.”

Pat Garrett, Governor Reynolds Spokesman. 

Callison said this ruling is a victory for Bailing Out Benji and other animal rights groups.

“So the biggest thing for these animals that are left in puppy mills and in factory farms is now we can see them, the world will be able to see them and what’s going on,” Callison said