When a veteran Iowa journalist made a Freedom of Information request for emails between the Iowa Department of Public Health and Gov. Kim Reynolds office, what he got back was a heavily redacted two-page document.
The request by Clark Kaufmann, of Iowa Capital Dispatch, was for about 1,400 emails.
Like those in the Telegraph Herald newsroom, other Iowa journalists are questioning the state’s reporting of COVID-19 statistics and how the state is gathering and calculating data.
It’s clear from the document, the redacted parts are often numbers. Under the heading of a Linn County long-term care facility, it reads:
“(Redacted) ill residents.”
“(Redacted) ill staff.”
“(Redacted) positive employees.”
When it comes to sharing COVID-19 data with the people of Iowa, the state must be far more transparent. If the numbers showed good news, would the state be redacting them? If the numbers show bad news, the people have a right to know.
Also troubling is the state’s claim that each of the requested documents would have to undergo a legal review, so the cost of the 1,400 emails would be close to $10,000 to cover the legal fees.
Iowans, you have a right to know what your government knows about COVID-19 in this state. Citizens and journalists alike must keep asking.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling this week closed a loophole for small refineries that will ultimately give Iowa biofuel producers and corn farmers a boost.
Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst had both been calling for the federal agency to reject the request from small oil refineries to blend less ethanol into their products. The claimed “hardships” faced by the refineries have been called into question by Grassley for years.
Farmers have lost out on billions of gallons of ethanol because of the EPA’s doling out waivers to so-called “small” oil refineries. The EPA change has dealt corn farmers a debilitating blow as ethanol and biodiesel plants slowed production. More than a dozen plants have closed or been idled nationwide, including one in Iowa.
Before the EPA exemptions, refineries were required to blend so much ethanol and biodiesel into fuel. The waivers have eliminated the need for 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel and the 1.4 billion bushels of corn used to make it.
To put it bluntly, and to quote Iowa’s senior senator: “That’s where we’re getting screwed.”
The EPA’s move brings the federal government one step closer to fully restoring the Renewable Fuel Standard, which sets the volume of renewable fuels that must be blended into transportation fuel each year. Virtually all of Iowa’s elected officials in Washington, along with Gov. Kim Reynolds, have been vocal about the need to preserve the renewable fuel standard for Iowa farmers. Let’s hope this move has momentum.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Monday said the refineries had not proven they faced hardships that would warrant the government stepping back from its insistence that refineries blend 15 billion gallons of biofuels each year.
Five years ago, phrases like “food insecure” and “food deserts” weren’t in the common vernacular.
As we’ve learned more about issues related to hunger and poverty, the visibility of the need has increased, and slowly, a safety net is growing.
Never has that been more obvious than during the pandemic as local organizations quickly mobilized to provide meals for the elderly, lunches for kids and fresh vegetables for families in need.
Now more than two dozen organizations combating hunger in Dubuque County have combined their resources on a Facebook page called Feed Dubuque County.
Coordinated by the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, the page offers a place for food providers to collaborate on services and provide information on area food drives and meal giveaways. Additionally, the guide provides contact information for organizations offering services such as rent and utility assistance or mental health and substance abuse counseling.
It’s inspiring to see so many groups working together to address critical issues such as hunger in our community. If you or someone you know is food insecure, the resources on the Feed Dubuque County Facebook page can help.