EDUCATING IOWANS FOR LIFE

We’ve moved into an era in which education must not end after high school or even college. In places that succeed around the world, education increasingly will be viewed as a lifelong necessity and opportunity.

How do we make sure Iowa is one of those places, and what would I do as governor to ensure this?

First, I support tuition-free post-secondary education for Iowans as a long-term goal and as we try to stabilize college and university tuition in the wake of budget problems created by our previous governors and legislatures.

I support a program similar to Tennessee’s, which pays for community college education after grants or scholarships for any adult who commits to using his or her degree within the state for at least two years. A similar “Grow Iowa” education program could serve as a source of new labor in Iowa, with employers and community colleges working together to create jobs and keep young people—as well as older Iowans seeking retraining—right here in our state.

Adequate state support for our public university system also is critical to making sure our people are the best and brightest so they can contribute to our urban and rural communities. Our universities act as economic generators for microbusiness, providers of health care and supporters and innovators of agriculture across Iowa. We must treasure them as the resources they are and make sure they are the best so they can give back to Iowans and Iowa.

ENSURING A WELCOMING AND INCLUSIVE IOWA

Iowans are a welcoming people. In the 1970s, when I was growing up in Iowa, Gov. Robert Ray and our entire state welcome people fleeing war and persecution in Southeast Asia. Some of their children joined me in school in Davenport. We grew up together as friends.

Today, children and grandchildren of immigrant families are still here. Like all of us, they have chosen to make this beautiful state their home. And they are contributing members of our state and our communities.

That is the Iowa we have been. That is the Iowa we should always be. In the face of fear and hate about people who are different, Iowa once again can be a shining example to our nation and the world for how all of us can live together in peace and harmony—and how our communities and economies are strengthened by diversity.

What would I do as governor to make this happen? First, I support a path to citizenship for all people who are immigrants and children of parents that are undocumented. I will issue an executive order limiting state law enforcement agencies’ assistance on federal immigration law.

I would make exceptions, of course, for threats to public safety, warrants for specific individuals with felony criminal histories, criminal acts qualifying as violent felonies or where cooperation would be needed to protect the public from violent acts. I also would establish an exception for investigations aimed at halting human trafficking. But Iowa law enforcement officials must have the trust of immigrant and undocumented people in our state for positive community relationships and for them to feel comfortable when they need to reach out for help.

Our nation’s complex and emotional immigration issue emphasizes the need for comprehensive federal immigration reform and establishing a path to citizenship for undocumented people already in our country. I would work with our state and federal representatives, as well as agencies of the federal government, to support such federal reform—and to show how it has worked and can work again in Iowa.

The bottom line is that we have always welcomed people here in Iowa, and we must continue to be a welcoming state. We all benefit when Iowa is a healthy community of neighbors, including those with backgrounds different from our own. My generation learned that early on, as we went to school and grew up alongside new Iowans who became our friends—and who today remain our friends. That’s the welcoming Iowa we should always be.

PROTECTING OUR LAND AND WATER

Climate change is real and ongoing, so we need to prepare our state and communities to act in ways that absorb the stress caused by climate change and to change how we operate—and even how we live our daily lives—so we can better prepare for and limit the impacts of climate change.

We can start by putting in place what 63 percent of Iowa voters already said in approving a state constitutional amendment creating the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Let’s follow through on that mandate and establish a strong fund to protect and preserve our state, which for generations has given back and made this a state where Iowans can work, play and enjoy their lives.

When I was mayor of Iowa City, I signed the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, which sets a goal of reducing our carbon footprint by 80 by 2025. We modified practices and built the Eastside Recycling Center, which partners with Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity and the Iowa City Friends of Historic Preservation. The center also has an on-site certified Environmental Educational Center. During my time as mayor, the city also purchased a sand quarry business that voluntarily sold the land and lake, establishing the Trueblood Lake and Recreational Center for everyone to enjoy.

As Director of the Crisis Center of Johnson County, my staff partnered with a local organic farm and community groups to establish one of the first community gardens. These examples are the types of actions Iowans already are making—and examples of the investments for future generations of Iowans that I would actively support and seek out as governor.

So where can we start with meaningful actions? Let’s commit to transitioning our state to 100 percent renewable energy by a reasonable date. Let’s continue to grow Iowa’s clean and abundant wind-energy capability. Already, we are second in the nation in wind power. Let’s expand our clean-energy track record by developing more solar power. At the state level, we can provide renewable energy production tax credits, attractive jobs for Iowans in manufacturing and in this industry’s healthy supply chain. Promoting innovation with multiple clean-energy strategies will help us move to energy independence. Our state also can increase public education about renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs, helping individuals and businesses save money and reduce their carbon footprints.

Increasing broadband access to rural areas in Iowa can create new jobs and businesses in rural communities in ways that can help protect our environment. These are often jobs that allow our people to telecommute—to get their work done while also continuing to live in beautiful rural Iowa, without having to get in their cars, contributing to traffic and pollution.

Sometimes it just takes the commitment of our leaders to free the people’s creative energy to innovate and make a difference. After I signed the 2006 Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, the people and city leaders in Iowa City immediate got creative and started thinking of ways they could contribute. In addition to creation of the recycling center and the public recreation center I mentioned earlier, their ideas included ways to develop more efficient cooling and heating practices in the buildings in Iowa City. As Iowans, if we all do a little, we can together make a big difference for our environment.

What would I as Iowa governor to protect our environment? Here are some of the first steps I would take:

  • I would more effectively regulate concentrated animal feeding operations by adequately staffing the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Adequately funding and staffing of the DNR will allow vigorous inspection and enforcement of state law, which addresses feedlots and feeding operations. Stronger state oversight will make sure these large operations follow the law when it comes to manure management and protection of our land and water.
  • I would emphasize greater education about the benefits of crop nutrient management. Following soil conservation plans developed by the Natural Resource Conservation Service can help farmers better manage farm resources, reduce runoff and protect our land and water. The bottom line is that current voluntary compliance isn’t working. In addition to greater education, we need to enforce our laws and put strong resources in place to monitor compliance and fine or close down operations that break the law.
  • I would promote Iowa products that play a role in protecting our environment. This would include ensuring a healthy diversification of crops and livestock, a strong future for traditional family farms, enhancement of sustainable organic farming and continued growth of local food systems. In addition, I would make sure our state invests in programs that support beginning farmers and women farmers. Ensuring a strong diversity of how we use Iowa’s precious land and water will ensure a healthier future for our land and water.

STRENGTHENING OUR RURAL AND URBAN ECONOMIES

Regardless of where Iowans choose to live, they should have opportunities to prosper. As a state, we should want everyone to have opportunities for success in all 99 counties. That is what will truly make Iowa strong.

Here are some of the actions I would take as governor to strengthen our rural and urban economies and ensure economic success for all Iowans:

  • Increase Iowa’s minimum wage, now $7.25 an hour, to a living wage of $15 an hour that also would be linked in the future to changes in the Consumer Price Index
  • Restore collective bargaining rights to government employees, using the state budgeting process to negotiate for this if necessary
  • Support the Employee Free Choice Act, which urges federal changes to National Labor Relations Act to enable employees to form, join or assist labor unions and to stop unfair labor practices
  • Authorize fair share fees in collective bargaining agreements requiring non-union members to help pay for costs of bargaining and grievance representation
  • Support equal pay for equal work at all levels of state government and in the private sectors statewide
  • Protect the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System as well as the Municipal Fire and Police Retirement System
  • Issue an executive order for state agencies to consider using a project labor agreement on a case-by-case basis in large-scale construction projects
  • Direct state agencies to review corporate tax breaks so companies seeking them demonstrate how they will invest in Iowans through wages, benefits and support of public infrastructure.
  • Promote Iowa products across the country and around the world, including those that ensure a healthy diversification of crops and livestock, a strong future for traditional family farms, enhancement of sustainable organic farming and continued growth of local food systems

SUPPORTING OUR MENTAL HEALTH

Throughout my life, I have seen Iowans in need of mental health help. Perhaps the most significant needs I saw came during my time in the Iowa Army National Guard.

I witnessed firsthand the impacts on my military colleagues, as well as their families and communities, when they returned home from deployments and needed mental health support.

Let’s Be Iowa means being a state where we take care of each other as neighbors. Quality mental health care must be a part of that vision. But sadly in recent years, we have moved in the opposite direction Iowa.

Our state provided no plan for community based mental health services when it closed mental health centers. As governor, I would support these Iowans—some of our most vulnerable citizens. When they are healthy and do not suffer, we benefit from their talents, strengths and contributions. We also don’t have to bear the costs of more expensive interventions and services when mental health problems explode into crises affecting us all, such as through substance abuse and the criminal justice system.

To build a better mental health system, I support lifting the cap on the mental health property tax levy for counties. Privatized Medicaid has failed. Providers are not being reimbursed for their costs, and the current system of managing care doesn’t recognize that many people will need years of treatment.

Most Iowans know firsthand about mental illness, either because they deal with it or they have loved ones or friends dealing with it. Because of this, I believe Iowans will support lifting the property tax cap to help support their family members, friends and neighbors.

Here’s the truth: As a state, we pay for mental health issues one way or another. We can choose to do this proactively through a comprehensive system of prevention, intervention, treatment and education, or we can pay much more with increasing numbers of tragic deaths and suicides, an overburdened criminal justice system and untapped human potential.

How do we fund such a program? Some have suggested legalizing recreational use of marijuana and imposing taxes could be a solution. But mental health is in the midst of a crisis in Iowa. Aside from the moral and ethical questions that remain among Iowans about legalizing marijuana, we simply cannot wait for this debate to play out to provide funds. We must provide help from other state resources.

When we do, we will find we not only have saved Iowa money by focusing on proactive mental health but we also will have allowed a whole group of friends and family members to contribute to our state economically and otherwise because they are healthy.

EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN

I have not only observed the K-12 public education system in Iowa from the outside. I have viewed it from the inside as a student, a parent, an employee and the head of a city and nonprofit working with the schools as a community partner.

While I’ve viewed our schools from many perspectives, I’ve never lost sight of what should always be the focus of our attention: The child. Your child. My child. Our children.

How will your child become a doctor if we don’t retain her special science teacher? How will my child promote his product if he never finds his voice in such a large class? How can our children be the first in the family to go to college if they don’t gain confidence from being on a team at school?

How can we support K-12 education in Iowa, and what would I do as governor? Here are my priorities:

  • Ensure prompt, dependable state funding for public schools throughout Iowa, and fund education in a way that really shows that it is our No. 1 priority
  • Through proper funding and other means, keep classes to reasonable sizes that promote rigorous learning as well as healthy relationship-building between students and teachers as well as students and other students
  • Work with our teachers to increase the focus on teaching and learning and decrease the focus on mandatory testing
  • Establish a new system for measuring accountability and performance in Iowa schools based on growth in student learning using a variety of measure and methods, not just standardized tests
  • Restore collective bargaining rights for school employees to demonstrate the respect we have for teachers and others who serve our children and to make sure we’re paying them accordingly
  • Provide quality before-school and after-school programs and opportunities at all schools across our state, as well as access within schools to physical and mental health services for our children
  • Support environments within our schools that support diversity and inclusion
  • Restore statewide pride in Iowa schools as, once again, the best in the nation and world

PROTECTING OUR HEALTH

There isn’t a problem with such high stakes and that touches so many in our country today as our broken health care system. And yes, it is severely and sadly broken. So how do we fix it, and what would I do as Iowa governor to make that happen?

First, I’ll say it simply: I support health care for all. You can call it a Medicare-for-all approach or a single-payer system. But it is what it is: Quality medical and health care for all people in our state. Of course, I would like to see this extended to all Americans. But we can start on this right here in Iowa, where we once again can be a leader for our nation on important issues.

The Affordable Care Act was a first step in changing the national conversation on health care, and it has. It is the most effective way to reduce inequities in our health care system. Race, gender, income and other factors shouldn’t dictate whether an Iowan or anyone can get health care. In our state and country, health people are essential to our successful future.

While the debate for much of what will happen with health care will occur in Congress, I would work with Iowans who have been calling for recognizing health care as a right to win passage of a single-payer option in the Iowa Legislature. This is a step we can take for the approximately 72,000 Iowans who have or will be losing their health care because their providers are dropping coverage in our state.

State government is best positioned to fill this gap. But we need changes at the state and federal levels to move toward the ultimate goal of Medicare or a Medicare-like system for all. We need to get Iowans engaged to elect candidates who agree on this priority. I will be a leader. I also will work with our neighboring states to investigate how we can partner on health care to be a national model.

My theme as I have been running for governor is Let’s Be Iowa. That means being the state we know we can be, where we take care of each other as neighbors. Quality health care obviously fits into that vision. So does taking care of Iowans when they need mental health services.

Sadly in recent years, we have moved in the opposite direction on mental health in Iowa. Our state provided no plan for community based mental health services when it closed mental health centers. As governor, I would support these Iowans—some of our most vulnerable citizens. When they are healthy and do not suffer, we benefit from their talents, strengths and contributions. We also don’t have to bear the costs of more expensive interventions and services when mental health problems explode into crises affecting us all, such as through substance abuse and the criminal justice system.

Mental health is such a need in our state—and such a priority for me—that I have developed a stand-alone position paper on this subject. Please see that document, “Supporting Our Mental Health.”

Finally, ensuring our health in America lately has included ensuring that we are safe from violence involving firearms, as we have seen all too often across our nation.

We are long overdue for sensible gun control, which helps keep our schools and communities safer while still allowing responsible gun ownership. As governor I would promote universal background checks and closing gun-show loopholes. I would continue requiring permits to carry. I would repeal the “stand your ground” law and ban military-style assault weapons as well efforts to convert semi-automatic weapons to fully automatic weapons (or simulations of fully automatic weapons).

Firearms issues and recent firearms-based violence are emotional issues. But Let's Be Iowa and take action to keep each other safe rather than ignoring common-sense steps that most countries have taken to reduce or eliminate the tragedies we have seen in country.

PROTECTING OUR RIGHTS 

When I worked for the Iowa City public schools, my job was to work with all employees to make sure people were treated fairly on the job. I investigated civil rights claims and cases of sexual harassment. I worked to bring people together and solve problems so those problems didn’t get worse. When it was clear that policies and even laws had been broken, I worked to make sure we educated everyone involved—not just punished people—so the problems didn’t happen again.

That is the kind of state we should be when it comes to protecting the Civil Rights of all Iowans.

Protecting Civil Rights helps ensure a welcoming and inclusive Iowa. It makes possible the success of all Iowans—and, importantly, a feeling among all of us that we belong. As governor, I would uphold and protect the Civil Rights of our state’s people, and I would start with these priorities:

  • I would strengthen efforts to reform our criminal justice system by diversifying juries and jury selection. We must increase accountability in the jury selection process for prosecutors and defense attorneys whenever someone is excused from the jury pool. We must make sure these efforts are not based on race, gender, religion or other discriminatory underpinnings. We also must increase funding for our state’s public defenders to increase the pool of attorneys available to those who cannot afford an attorney.
  • I would promote and perhaps add incentives to efforts in our schools, colleges and universities to educate our young people about the importance of diversity and respect for others. Similarly, our state needs a strong leader who will insist on Civil Rights protections through our state Department of Human Rights and Attorney General’s Office, as well as in collaborations with groups across Iowa that work for diversity, inclusion and creating a sense of belonging here.
  • I would strongly support a ban on any LGBTQ+ conversion therapy. This kind of thinking an behavior is not in keeping with our state and my “Let's Be Iowa” commitment. As a former social worker, I support the National Association of Social Workers Code of Conduct, which includes strong positions against conversion therapy. Other major professional associations recognize this as well and have taken similar positions. I support LGBTQ+ rights and opportunities. That is consistent with my history. I was honored to be asked in the late 1980s and early 1990s to help train the first peer counselor's for the Iowa Center for AIDs Research and Education. I was proud as a youth worker to support programing at United Action for Youth in Iowa City, which included young people from the LGBTQ+ community. I had the honor of leading the Crisis Center of Johnson County as executive director. Members of the LGBTQ+ community were among our volunteers, staff and board members. As equity officer for the Iowa City Community School District, I was responsible for investigating claims of discrimination and sexual harassment. I also had the responsibility to help educate district staff and students on their rights and obligation to help maintain an atmosphere that was free of bullying and harassment so learning could occur. As mayor and a city councilor in Iowa City, I helped make sure we provided funds to our Aid to Agencies, which helped provide services that supported the LGBTQ+ community. Currently, part of my job as diversity officer at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is training our staff in all 99 counties on how to work with Iowans who have different cultural backgrounds. As governor, I would support a ban on conversion therapy and vigorously support enforcement of Iowa’s Civil Rights and other laws to respect and protect all of our people. I also would continue to learn from members of the LGBTQ+ community, which include members of my own family, to inform and guide my work as governor.
  • I would support a path to citizenship for all people who are immigrants and children of parents that are undocumented. I will issue an executive order limiting state law enforcement agencies’ assistance on federal immigration law, making exceptions, of course, for threats to public safety. Iowa law enforcement officials must have the trust of immigrant and undocumented people in our state for positive community relationships and for them to feel comfortable when they need to reach out for help. Our nation’s complex and emotional immigration issue emphasizes the need for comprehensive federal immigration reform and establishing a path to citizenship for undocumented people already in our country. I would work with our state and federal representatives, as well as agencies of the federal government, to support such federal reform—and to show how it has worked and can work again in Iowa.
  • I support enacting the Equal Rights Amendment in Iowa. Like society in general, Iowa has problems with pay equity for women and sexual harassment in our workforce. In addition to passing this amendment, I would support increased resources for training and holding people accountable on these issues. I would actively recruit and promote diversity in state hiring, and I would review pay in our state government. As governor I also would promote equity in health care and restore funding for Planned Parenthood, recognizing the quality health care and education they have provided to women.

SUPPORTING OUR NEXT GENERATION

I am committed to building a healthy Iowa—an Iowa where all of us can make a living, where we believe in our Civil Rights, where we support a strong educational system and where we welcome all people. These guarantees are especially important for our young people, our next generation.

Ensuring a bright future for young people has been an important part of my life and work. In the early 1990s, I was a youth worker, traveling from Iowa City to West Liberty and working with young Latinos and Latinas. I provided counseling but something at least as important—another positive connection with a caring adult in their lives.

Every young person needs that kind of interaction. That is the kind of Iowa we will build and strengthen together if I am elected governor. The welfare of children and young adults will be at the top of our priority list. Iowa once again will be known nationwide as a state that puts young people first.

We need effective, community-based services, policies and processes for children and youth, from birth through young adulthood. We must stop human trafficking, physical and sexual abuse and harassment. We will expand and improve anti-human trafficking laws. We will make sure all young people can experience positive experiences while they are growing up. We want them to know they are valued, feel connected and see opportunity right here in Iowa.