Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Switching from Clinton to . . . McCain?!

January 30, 2008, 7:15 a.m.

My distinguished, brilliant and charming colleague Tung Yin explains in his blog entry today his evolution from his support of Clinton to his present declaration for McCain. Well, that's not exactly accurate. What he says is that he now prefers Obama (for whom he has enthusiasm) over Clinton -- but by so much that, if Clinton ends up being the nominee he will vote for McCain rather than her. In fairness, you ought to read exactly what he said. (And he ought to read State29, "Who Said It? Part Deux," January 30, 2008.)

Actually, it's not so much his blog entry that prompts this one of mine, but rather the comments his readers have entered. I presume, if you follow politics, you're aware of the expression "yellow dog Democrats" that comes to us from Texas and the south. They are the Democrats who are so committed to Party that they would even vote for a yellow dog if the dog was on the ballot in the Democratic column.

Anyhow, there are some yellow dog Democrats taking after Tung. I responded to them, with a comment of my own on Tung's blog, as follows:

Whatever you "yellow dog Democrats" may think of Tung's choice of McCain over Clinton in a two-way race, you do have to at least think a bit about the following:

1. Hillary Clinton started off this campaign with among the highest "negatives" of anyone in the field.

2. As one Democratic political pro put it to me nearly a year ago, "Any one of the Democrats could win in November 2008. That's not the issue. The issue is who could lose. Hillary is the one who could lose."

3. What she and her husband have done -- especially during the last few weeks -- has raised those negative numbers and turned a number of independents from neutral/maybe to outspoken hostility and opposition. During the last two or three days I have encountered a half-dozen people (who, so far as I know, have not talked to Tung) who have expressed precisely the same sentiment as he (not including the Vilsack comment, but including the switch in vote to McCain). Honestly now, haven't you?

4. My personal encounters are only anecdotal and not statistically significant. But Peter Hart's national poll, released over this last weekend, IS statistically significant. And what it shows is that Obama can beat any of the Republicans -- including, by a significant margin, McCain. It does not show Clinton beating McCain.

5. Can you imagine what the Republicans will pull out to use against the Clintons if she's the candidate -- to which I've recently been led to believe they have now added a whole new batch of material they've been accumulating for just such a day.

Stick with Hillary if you must; just be aware that you -- and the Democratic Party -- may end up paying a very heavy price indeed for doing so.
If you are a Democrat living in one of the 22 states that are voting next Tuesday you might want to reflect on these comments before casting your ballot for Hillary Clinton.

Also consider, from the Century of the Common Iowan blog:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

55% is the percentage of the vote Hillary Clinton won in Michigan when no one else was on the ballot and it is the percentage of the vote that Barack Obama won in South Carolina when he actually had opponents.
P.S. and disclosure: I do not recall ever voting for a Republican for president and think it unlikely I will be doing so this year. But I will say that the recent behavior of former President Clinton has caused my assessment of his role as an ex-president to drop from "respect and admiration" to "deep disappointment, disdain and disgust."

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Optimizing Local Public Transportation

January 29, 2008, 3:15 p.m.

The Press-Citizen reports this morning that the City is thinking of adding a taxi service to supplement the buses. Rachel Gallegos, "City to expand bus service," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 29, 2008.

In the past I've blogged about the duplication in our bus service. Nicholas Johnson, "Rational Economic Thought," October 2 and 3, 2007. ("Face it, all of the 'cities' in this metropolitan area -- Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, University Heights, Tiffin, you name 'em (including the University, a 'city' in its own right) -- don't have a combined population any greater than a large apartment area in one of the world's larger cities. We have an unbelievable duplication of governmental units, bus and other transportation systems, school districts, police and fire departments, and so forth."); and Nicholas Johnson, "Regents Confront Bully, Guns on Campus," July 20, 2007 ("It's bad enough we have our own university bus system in a small community with some six or seven public transportation systems.")

Little has been done about this duplication of bus service -- or other governmental functions -- so far as I'm aware.

But, unlike some of those who've put comments into the Press-Citizen's online story (e.g., "I don't think some of you realize that it's the city's responsibility to provide transportation, food, clothing, shelter and entertainment for everyone. Those of you with jobs must give more so that everyone can have everything.") I recognize that the provision of local transportation systems (in addition to roads and parking garages for those dependent on automobiles) are often (and appropriately, in my judgment) provided by government. Local transportation systems are part of basic infrastructure like water and sewerage systems, gas and electric networks, communications facilities, roads and bridges.

From my perspective the issue is not whether we should have local public transportation systems, it is how such systems can be structured and managed so as to provide the greatest possible service at the most efficient cost. (Of course, duplication becomes an issue as well, as does cost control and the formula for setting of free or reduced cost fares. The duplicative Cambus system, for example, is a free bus service.)

And it is from this perspective that I have long thought there should be a study of a mix of possible conveyances in an integrated system.

Too often I see full-size city buses at odd hours with few to no passengers. Maybe that's the most efficient way to do it. I haven't done the calculations.

Clearly, large buses make sense (intuitively) on routes, and at times, when the passenger load is heaviest: "rush hour." But there are other routes and times when and where they may not.

My vision has been of a 24/7 computer-linked system (not unlike those used by large-urban-to-airport shuttle services) for areas of the community more than two or three blocks from the heaviest traveled bus routes at other than rush hour. Rather than either taxis or big buses, these would be multiple-passenger vans. The vehicles' locations would be tracked by GPS. The addresses of those calling for service would be mapped on the computer. The computer would constantly calculate and instruct the vehicle drivers on the most cost efficient routing for pickups and delivery in an effort to minimize wait and delivery times. Fares would be set (as they are now, presumably, for buses) at a level that balances a "user fee" and subsidy.

There are, of course, many other things we can do to minimize the costs associated with transportation (environmental as well as financial). We can do more to encourage walking and bicycling. We can provide housing closer to workplaces to make that feasible. We can promote the use of electric and hydrogen vehicles. We can increase the availability of satellite parking lots -- with regular public transportation from them to workplace locations (similar to what some rental car companies do at large airports).

But public transportation -- buses (and now supplementary taxis) -- will continue to have a major role to play. In our efforts to minimize duplication, while improving service and cutting costs, smaller and more flexible vehicles -- whether my computer directed system or the City's new taxi service -- can make a major contribution.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

How To (And Not To) Grow Iowa's Economy

January 27, 2008, 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.; January 28, 2008, 3:45 p.m.; January 30, 2008, 10:00 a.m.

"Our Quick Take on This Weekend's Stories

The Press-Citizen has a regular Sunday editorial page column called "Our Quick Take on Last Week's News Stories." Editorial, "Our View -- Our quick take on last week's news stories," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 27, 2008, p. A9.

But its Saturday issue contained so many stories that relate to topics followed by this blog that I've decided we can have an "Our Quick Take on This Weekend's Stories."

The folly of corporate subsidies vs. the sure path to economic development.

We often comment about the folly of injecting taxpayers' money
(in the form of tax breaks, TIFs, infrastructure development, and outright bribery) onto the bottom line of for-profit businesses -- sometimes in general, such as Nicholas Johnson, "Courage, Councillors," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 3, 2007, and sometimes with specific examples, such as most recently, Nicholas Johnson, "Football, Skating and Corporate Welfare," January 25, 2008 (both Genencor and Burlington's sad mall experience with the disappearing developer).

So yesterday we learned that we must add a couple examples from North Liberty to the long list of disasters following in the wake of such giveaways. Kathryn Fiegen, "N. Liberty looking ahead after closings; Officials discuss what city can do," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 26, 2008, p. A1.

A company called "Victor Plastics" has begun laying off its 420 workers, following Whirlpool's recent announcement that it is leaving North Liberty -- and its 92 local employees who will be left unemployed.

North Liberty Mayor Tom Salm "said he couldn't remember if any financial incentives were offered to Victor Plastics when it came to the community." However, "North Liberty officials offered Maytag [subsequently acquired by Whirlpool] incentives such as Tax Increment Financing [ a TIF], a tax abatement, construction of the water main and the etension of Jones Boulevard to 240th Street to locate in the community." So it's likely Victor Plastics was similarly bribed in some way.

It's scarcely one day later [Jan. 28] and already we have yet one more very sad story of the "tangled webs we weave" and the consequences of subsidizing for-profit enterprises with taxpayers' dollars: Lee Rood, "An Iowa town's 'gamble on future' stirs concern," Des Moines Register, January 28, 2008.

City Councils: "When will they every learn?"

. . . So how can we more effectively promote economic growth?

By providing the things that really do attract businesses -- as the linked blog entry, above, quotes a Genencor executive as stating its reasons for coming to Cedar Rapids, "
because of its geographic location in the center of the country and its proximity to the fuel ethanol and corn sweetener manufacturing sector."

The Register editorializes this morning,
Editorial, "Make Quality of Life Iowa's Edge," Des Moines Register, Des Moines Register, January 27, 2008, p. OP1. Certainly, that's a valid suggestion.

But much of quality of life, and the things that attracted Genencor, are attractions of geography over which we do not have total control.

A far more universal attraction is the well educated workforce that is dependent on things which we can control.

Iowa has well educated community college and university graduates. Unfortunately, because they leave the state after receiving that education, they don't constitute a workforce and therefore aren't much of an attraction for business.
Kyle Carson, "Young Iowans Do the Math on Salaries -- and Leave; Commission Urges Higher-Ed Tax Credit and Help With Repaying Student Loans," Des Moines Register, January 27, 2008, p. OP1; "Commission Members Weigh In On Worker Shortage," Des Moines Register, January 27, 2008, p. OP6.

For a lawyer, Kyle Carson cuts to the core of the answer with an unusual economy of words: "So what should Iowa do? Pay them more."

And just how bad is it? Consider the recent report on "affordable housing":

The report said about 13 percent of people in the study area work in industries with entry-level wages of less than $15,000 annually, and another 40 percent work in industries with entry-level wages between $15,000 and $20,000. Almost 30 percent of all households in the study area have incomes less than $25,000.

The analysis determined that to afford a median-priced home in the area -- $162,000 -- a household income would have to earn about $53,150 and and not have much additional debt. The study said only 389 units were sold in 2006 that were valued at $100,000 or less, equaling about 15 percent of the total transactions that year.
Kathryn Fiegen, "Study warns of housing shortfall; Area prices outpacing incomes," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 24, 2008. (The study, prepared by Mullin & Lonergan Associates, Pittsburgh, was described by Fiegen as a "127-page, data-intense report.) That report was the basis for a meeting reported in the paper on Saturday: Rob Daniel, "Summit: Housing policy needed; Lack of affordable housing reaching all area sectors," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 26, 2008, p. A3.

And how can Iowa "pay them more"?

When was the last time you heard a boss say, "I'm feeling guilty about exploiting you guys with these low wages, seeing your kids go hungry, and without health care or new shoes, so starting next Monday everybody gets a 50% wage hike." It's not likely to happen.

A single person, out of work and desperately needing a job, is not in a very strong bargaining position when confronting a potential employer in front of him -- with 700 people standing in line behind that job applicant, all equally anxious to win one of five new job positions.

That's why they invented unions and "collective bargaining." "For the union makes us strong," is the old union song lyric; at least strong enough to get something more than the minimum wage for long hours at backbreaking work in unsafe working conditions.

Without unions professionals wages are driven down to those of skilled trades people; wages for skilled tradespeople that should be at union levels are driven down to those of unskilled labor; unskilled labor get paid what the working poor earn elsewhere -- and those in every pay category leave Iowa.

That being the case, I find it remarkable that neither Kyle Carson nor any other member of the Commission -- nor for that matter the Governor, members of the legislature, media, education leaders -- seem willing to mention, even as an "option," the possibility of Iowa becoming a little more labor union friendly. Nowhere in today's stories does the word "union" even appear.

In researching an op ed four years ago I discovered that Iowa was then 43rd of the 50 U.S. states in wages; that our State's anti-union "right to work" laws put us in a minority of states that included the solid South: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina; that from 1950 until now, anti-union bashing has driven union membership nationally from 35 percent to 13 percent of the workforce, and even less in Iowa.

With corporate campaign contributions going to Democrats and Republicans alike, the disparity between the income of CEOs and hourly workers has gone from 42:1 in 1980 to 531:1 in 2000. Two million workers recently fired for the sake of profits and executive bonuses don’t even have that.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports 70 percent of its investigations involve things management knew, or ought to have known, would cause serious injury or death. Nearly 6000 workers a year are killed, more than 5 million injured.

Even the most minimal efforts to help the working class and working poor are successfully resisted by Iowa businesses and their legislative representatives, most recently the "fair share" proposal (that those who get the benefits of union negotiations, while refusing to join the union, should at least pay their "fair share" of the costs for those union activities from which they personally enjoy increased wages and benefits). I could not get our local school board to support a "project labor agreement" for its new school construction projects. Nicholas Johnson, "Make School Projects Labor-Friendly," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 15, 2003, p. A11 (with an appended list of sources). And see State29, "Viva La Slave Labor, Child Labor," January 26, 2008.

A mere three days later [Jan. 30] and we find the following in The Daily Iowan:

Union membership rates were down in Iowa and 29 other states in 2007, according to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

. . .

[U]nion membership in Iowa is below the national average for a second-consecutive year.

Jennifer Sherer, a labor educator at the UI Labor Center, said . . .
"We're losing higher-paying jobs and gaining lower-paying jobs," . . ..

Sherer also attributed the low rates to employers who make it difficult for new unions to form by using threats and intimidation. The law protecting unionization has not been strongly enforced, she said.

"We need political changes to make it possible for people [to form new unions]," she said.
Ben Travers, "Union Membership Going Down in Iowa; Despite a Report Indicating That Union Membership is Up Across the Nation, the Percentage of Iowan Union Workers Continues to Drop," The Daily Iowan, January 30, 2008, p. A3.

Of course, Iowans and their governments have the political right to continue our anti-labor traditions and reputation. It's just that it's a little self-defeating and hypocritical to continue to do so while simultaneously complaining about the disappearance of the workforce needed to attract the businesses we think we need to promote genuine economic growth.

News From the West Bank

For many Iowans "The University of Iowa" is the athletic program (especially football and basketball) and/or "The Hospital" (UIHC) on the West side of the Iowa River.

And that's certainly where a lot of the news comes from.

And the lack of news. "No news is good news"? Well, not always. It's now over three months since an alleged sexual assault by alleged football players, and there's still not a peep from the University or the Johnson County Attorney as to what the hell's going on (or not).

Meanwhile, there have been enough Iowa football players in trouble with the law recently to make up a full team (11 or more). So we can be grateful (or not) that at least one more has gotten off light -- with the substitution of a "deferred judgment" and "probation" for a two-year prison term for theft -- essentially no penalty at all. (I simply don't know if that is ballpark-standard under these circumstances, or if the fact that this wide receiver "was ranked first in the country among freshmen in receptions and second in yards" played any role in the sentence.) Lee Hermiston, "Ex-Hawk Granted a Deferred Judgment," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 26, 2008, p. A1.

. . . Build it and they will come -- and pay.

Nonetheless, our emphasis on athletics continues.

Former UI women's athletic director Christine Grant describes the Carver-Hawkeye Arena, built some 20 years ago at a cost of $18 million, as "one of the best in the country."

And yet UI Athletics Director Gary Barta, acknowledging that it's "still a great place" believes "we need to update" -- something women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder refers to as "a face lift."

The renovations he has in mind as an "update," and she calls "a face lift," are already projected to cost $40 million -- more than twice what it cost to build the entire structure initially -- costs Barta represents will be paid with "athletic gifts and earnings" thereby warranting his already having gone ahead with the hiring of a couple of architecture firms and having set a completion date of 2010.

And what will we get for our $40 million? A practice area, elevators, air conditioning, plus "premium seating, club seating rooms and renovating and expanding office space."
Brian Morelli, "UI pushing forward with renovations," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 26, 2008, p. A5; Brian Morelli, "Still a Hawk stronghold; 25 years in Carver-Hawkeye Arena," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 26, 2008, p. A1

Far be it from me to suggest that the "scheduling" problems for practices could be resolved with the space available in the Field House, near-by recreation building, and additional facilities scheduled for construction on both the East and West side of the River. I don't know enough to document that.

But $40 million does sound like a pretty expensive "face lift."

Which is just one more reason why it might make sense to completely divest the athletic program/s from the University -- something that is already in progress with regard to their funding -- formalizing the independence that already exists once they are raising their own funds and making the decisions as to how to spend them. For a description of how that might work, see Nicholas Johnson, "Colleges and Universities" in "Athletics and Academics," September 30, 2006. That way, like any other business in "the marketplace," so long as their expenditures do not adversely affect others or otherwise violate the law there would be little basis for comments by others -- like this one.

And, Finally, What's Driving the Emphasis on School Safety?

As usual, Bob Patton's pictures on January 25 -- titled "Safety in Numbers-Crunching" -- are worth more than a blogger's many words (as in Nicholas Johnson, "The Limits of Duct Tape," January 9, 2008):

Copyright by Bob Patton and the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and reproduced here for non-commercial, educational and commentary "fair use" purposes only.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Football, Skating and Corporate Welfare

January 25, 2008, 8:15 a.m.

The yellow-gold-brick road of corporate welfare is littered with the wreckage from government gifts to private enterprise. That's because private enterprise and public projects are like speed skating and football. Each works in its own venue, but playing football on ice doesn't work any better than trying to skate on Astroturf.

When, in an op ed column for the Press-Citizen I was identifying a rather long list of categories of reasons why -- notwithstanding the individual benefits of both private enterprise and public projects -- the blending of the two creates mostly disasters for all (excepting, of course, the lucky for-profit corporate beneficiaries), I included the following:

The subsidy-grantors' record’s not great. Public officials are skilled at keeping constituents and contributors happy, getting re-elected, and moving to higher office. They’re less skilled at evaluating taxpayer-funded business proposals – a lot of which go belly up, miss construction deadlines, or new job goals even with our money.
Nicholas Johnson, "Courage, Councillors," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 3, 2007.

This morning's [Jan. 25] Press-Citizen contains another op ed, by one of those former councilors, that provides yet one more dramatic example of exactly what I was talking about:

That city of 27,000 [Burlington, Iowa] used its power to condemn and to clear 24 acres of residential property known as the Manor neighborhood. The process forced mostly low-income families, many of them elderly, out of their World War II-era homes. The city spent more than $5 million on its plan to replace the old homes with a commercial development they called the Manor Revisited project.

But earlier this month the controversial project exploded in the Burlington officials' faces when the Burlington Hawk Eye reported the city's Minnesota-based developer pulled out of the project.

According to the Hawk Eye, the Minnesota firm "notified the city last week that a 220,000 square-foot shopping complex planned for the 23.7-acre site 'no longer fits within their company goals.'"

According to the same Hawk Eye report, Burlington officials had already spent $5.16 million to acquire the property.
Bob Elliott, "Looking at Hot City Issues," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 25, 2008, p. A9.

A City government decides to get into the "shopping complex" business -- not to own and operate and profit from it as a way to actually earn and save taxpayers some money -- but as an expenditure of those taxpayers' money, a gift that the City was prepared to watch drop directly to the bottom line profits of a for-profit business. It devastated a 24-acre area, driving residents from their homes, spent over $5 million doing it. And for what? For a corporation that had no real reason to be in Burlington -- except for the bribes -- and no real investment in the community either financially or emotionally, that was then free to turn and walk away (perhaps to another community willing to pay an even bigger bribe).

The yellow-gold-brick road of corporate welfare is littered with the wreckage from government involvement in private enterprise. That's because private enterprise and public projects are like speed skating and football. Each works in its own venue, but playing football on ice doesn't work any better than trying to skate on Astroturf.

Now here's another corporate welfare/subsidy story from last week that is only modestly better, but contains an important lesson all its own:

An international bioproducts development and manufacturing company has been approved for financial assistance from the Iowa Department of Economic Development to expand its Cedar Rapids operation.

Genencor, owned by Danisco A/S of Copenhagen, Denmark, will receive $100,000 from the state’s Community Economic Betterment Account and enterprise zone tax benefits for a $3 million “Center of Excellence” in southwest Cedar Rapids.

The facility, to be built adjacent to Genencor’s bioproducts manufacturing plant at 1000 41st Avem Dr. SW, will be used for final development of enzymes used by the fuel ethanol and corn refining industries.

. . .

[Troy Wilson, vice president of grain processing, said,] “This project supports our mission to continue to provide the most advanced enzyme applications technologies to make grain processing production more efficient and effective.” . . .

Wilson said Cedar Rapids was selected because of its geographic location in the center of the country and its proximity to the fuel ethanol and corn sweetener manufacturing sector.

. . .

The company employs about 1,500 worldwide and generates about $3.7 billion in annual revenue, with 20 percent produced by the Cedar Rapids plant, according to Tjerk deRuiter, chief executive officer of Genencor.
George C. Ford, "Genencor gets state help for C.R. expansion; Facility to be used for enzyme development in grain processing," The Gazette, January 18, 2008, p. B8.

What can we learn from this story?

1. One of the many evils of government use of the "tax breaks" weaponry in its corporate welfare arsenal, is that it can totally obfuscate the amount of money involved. We can understand the $100,000 in cash from the "Community Economic Betterment Account." But was that the lion's share of the corporate giveaway payment or only chump change compared with the "enterprise zone tax benefits"? We'll never know, because the government won't tell us and therefore the media can't.

2. And just how needy is this welfare mother? It "generates $3.7 billion in annual revenue." That's "billion" with a "B."

3. But it was that $100,000 and "tax benefits" that swung the deal, right? Wrong. "Wilson said Cedar Rapids was selected because of its geographic location in the center of the country and its proximity to the fuel ethanol and corn sweetener manufacturing sector." This is most often the case. Businesses choose locations for reasons other than government bribery. In this case "the center of the country" (presumably for reasons of transportation speed and cost), and the accessibility to the raw materials it needs (ditto). (In another case last year, a business spokesperson dismissed the role of bribery, noting that the reason it had picked one of Iowa's Mississippi River towns was because it needed access to River barge transportation.)

4. The good news? However wasteful and unnecessary this government largess with taxpayers' money may have been, it is precisely for that reason that at least the recipient is likely to stay -- unlike the for-profit beneficiary of Burlington taxpayers' money, attracted only by the bribe, who is already long gone.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Money in Iowa Politics

January 24, 2008, 8:00 a.m.

The Register has done Iowans a favor this morning with its perusal of, and then reporting about, the "newly released state campaign finance disclosure reports for 2007." Jennifer Jacobs, "Democrat McCarthy Raises Most Money at $251,000," Des Moines Regislter, January 24, 2008.

But it has only scratched the surface.

"Knowledge Management" literature (for which the linked document is but the first on Google's list) draws a distinction between "data," "information," "knowledge: and "wisdom."

The disclosure reports, and the Register's reporting, provide the "data" -- or at least some of it.

What we now need is the additional data, and discovery of relationships, that can turn that data into "information" and "knowledge."

(I'll save for the day that happens an exploration of what "wisdom" might be with regard to Iowa's needed campaign finance reform.)

For example, as one reader commented following the Register's online story, "Why is it McCarthy's biggest donors were from out of state? Does this not raise any questions with anyone? What pull, and on what project are these people looking for help on?" ("TheWizard," 1/24/2008 4:36:06 AM).
If the Register is still interested in Pulitzer Prizes (it was once the proud possessor of a collection of them second only to the New York Times) -- not to mention the very substantial community service of cleaning up Iowa politics -- here are some of the questions to which they might want to seek answers.

1. "Follow the money." That was "Deep Throat's" advice to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they investigated and exposed the Watergate scandal ultimately leading to President Nixon's resignation. And it's my first bit of advice to the Register. Who is giving what to whom and what do they do with it? Individual Iowa legislators tell their constituents they need money for re-election campaigns -- even when they're running unopposed. What do they do with it? Much is simply passed through to their party's leaders, or the state Democratic or Republican organizations. Why? What do they, what do their contributors, what do we, get for that money? To what extent is this pass-through procedure used to shield from public disclosure how much is really coming from special interests to party leaders? And, in reverse, what are party leaders (and the special interests they may be representing) gaining by passing out money to other members? Where do the major state parties get the (largely unregulated) money they have and how do they spend it?

2. Who are these donors and what are their interests? A name (of a donor) and amount (of a contribution) is data. "Knowledge" requires that we know the economic or other interests of that donor. Sometimes that's easy, when the donor is a registered lobbyist for a special interest, or the CEO of a corporation, or is known to be a highway contractor or major land owner. At other times it's more difficult, especially if the money is coming through employees (who have been given raises and are then asked for checks, which are bundled, donated and amount to little more than an illegal contribution from a corporation), spouses, children, relatives or friends of that individual.

3. What is being bought? Some special interests are regular donors. They are like the wealthy Texan, asked by the airline ticket agent where he wanted to go, who replied, "It makes no difference; I've got business everywhere." Some of those funding Iowa's campaigns always have some kind of business with the legislature or governor -- or know that they might. Others are primarily focused on a specific bill they want to defeat, or have enacted, or an earmark, tax break, or bit of "corporate welfare" cash they would like from the state's taxpayers. In any case, "knowledge" requires that we know the relationship between who is giving and what they are getting: what bills on their behalf were introduced by party leaders, or individual legislators, who benefited from their contributions? If they gave to the governor, or other executive branch officials, what agency decisions affected their economic interests? (The rule of thumb in Washington is that major contributors get at least a 1000-to-1 return on their money; contribute $1 million and get $1 billion of government largesse in return. For documentation see, e.g., Nicholas Johnson, "You Pay $4 or $4000," Des Moines Register, July 21, 1996.)
There are lots more questions to ask and trails to follow, but hopefully these few illustrative examples will get our editors and reporters thinking about how their "data mining" these golden nuggets could end up providing some real "knowledge" -- and maybe someday even "wisdom" -- for their readers, and a few extra prizes to hang on the walls of the board room and news room.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Alcohol, Three Items and a Comment

January 22, 2008, 12:30 p.m.

Three Items and a Comment

* Senator Barack Obama has called Senator Hillary Clinton, and former President Bill Clinton, on their unethical, negative campaigning involving a number of knowing and deliberately false characterizations of Obama's positions and statements -- repeated once again by her during the South Carolina debate last night [Jan 21]. "Most recent was an interview in which Obama described former president Ronald Reagan as a transformative leader and also said that over the past 10 to 15 years, the Republicans were more a party of ideas than were the Democrats. . . . Hillary Clinton pounced on Obama on Monday night, as Bill Clinton had done over the past few days [with the distorted assertion that Senator Obama had praised and endorsed Reagan's ideas when of course he had not]. 'They were bad ideas for America,' she said. 'They were ideas like privatizing Social Security, like moving back from a balanced budget and a surplus to deficit and debt.' Obama protested . . . 'You just said that I complimented the Republican ideas. That is not true.'" He was right; she was wrong, and wrong to do it. Dan Balz, "The Other Clinton is an Absent Presence," Washington Post, January 22, 2008.

* In response to my list of what the UI could do if it really wanted to get serious and effective about reducing under age students' binge drinking, a friend emailed: "Do you really mean this? . . . What a demoralizing and hypocritical (not to mention just plain mean and vindictive) set of proposals. . . . [W]hy take it out on students who are accepting the community's invitation to drink?" And see State29, "Prohibition Always Works," January 18, 2008. [Nicholas Johnson, "Don't Get Tough, Get Effective" in "Getting Real About Alcohol," January 18, 2008.]

* Two UI Delta Upsilon members have been charged with allegedly dealing marijuana; one other, and a guest, with possession. Following their arrests, the University suspended the fraternity -- which has been on campus for 82 years, with over 1000 members during that time -- during the investigation. This morning's [Jan. 22] news is that "Delta Upsilon International Fraternity announced Monday it has closed its University of Iowa chapter . . .." Rob Daniel, "Fraternity closed after drug raid; Delta Upsilon says it hopes to return," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 22, 2008, and see Erin Jordan, "Pot Case Spurs Closing of U of I Fraternity," Des Moines Register, January 22, 2008.


I had noted in that January 18 blog entry, linked from paragraph two above, that:

"As I wrote last Tuesday in the context of considering options and rational analysis in assessing the needs for additional police officers (and increased budgets), it may very well be that the best thing to do about underage drinking is nothing; or, more properly, to simply lower the drinking age to 18. Nicholas Johnson, "'How Many Police Officers and Fire Fighters Does It Take To . . .'" in "Rational Thought About Realistic Needs: Police & Fire," January 15, 2008.

Nor, even without that clarification, was my list, above, a wish list that I was advocating the University adopt. I was simply noting that IF the UI wanted to do something effective about binge drinking there are a number of things it could have done over the last 10 years. It's not what they say -- or what they do (or in this instance don't do) -- that bothers me so much. What I'm addressing is the inconsistency between the two: representing that this is a serious problem, that they don't want to be known as one of the intercollegiate binge drinking capitals of America, that they're doing all they can to stop it -- when in fact that does not seem to be the case.
In short, I am not advocating that the "binge drinking problem" be addressed with draconian measures, only that it is hypocritical not to consider effective regulation if one is professing to want to "do something" about the problem. (Indeed, I deliberately headed the discussion "Don't Get Tough, Get Effective.")

Let me also make very clear that I am not suggesting those criticizing my draconian list were deliberately misrepresenting my position. After all, we're not candidates competing for public office, unlike Clinton and Obama. Anyone who finds himself misunderstood bears at least as much responsibility for that misunderstanding, and probably more, than his audience. But the experience does further illustrate the underlying analysis of Wendell Johnson, "The Communication Process and General Semantic Principles," in Wilbur Schramm, Mass Communications (2d ed., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975).

As a lawyer, I think it is destructive of the "rule of law" and "ordered liberty" to have any given laws that are routinely and widely flouted -- because it tends to undermine respect for all laws. So what are some alternative approaches?

(1) Enforce the 21-only law; and the most rational and administratively feasible way to do that is to follow Ames' example. If you don't want under-age students to drink you don't permit them to enter establishments the sole purpose of which is to prosper from the sale of alcohol.

(2) Work to lower the drinking age to 18, thereby eliminating "the problem" at least for those over 18.

(3) Engage in "civil disobedience": openly disobey the law, knowing that arrest will follow, and accepting jail or other punishment, as a way of protesting what is thought to be an unjust law.

(4) Come up with a compromise, such as the "21-only after 10 p.m." proposal that was voted down by a bar-owners-organized students protest. This would have forbid violations of law for 28 of the 168 hours each week (10 p.m. to 2 a.m.), while permitting under-age students in bars at all other hours.

(5) Although destructive of "rule of law" purposes, simply accept rampant violations of law -- whether eliminating any and all enforcement of law regarding all alcohol related crimes, or limiting enforcement to the consequences of excessive drinking (e.g., drunk driving, public urination, fights, sexual assaults) rather than arresting students for the illegal drinking itself.
There are presumably many other options, including draconian measures applied by the University, but these five are major ones.

It is true that I think alcoholism and alcohol abuse are associated with serious social problems. As I led that January 18 entry:

Alcoholism, alcohol abuse, binge drinking, drunk driving, under-age drinking. We should not be surprised that our nation's number one hard drug problem by any measure (e.g., economic impact, health/medical consequences, numbers of people affected, involvement in crime and violence, adverse impact on the brain, prison population, unwanted sexual activity ("accidents cause people"), impact on fetus, automobile and other death and injury) is a major problem in Iowa as well.
Which brings me to the third paragraph, above, and how it reminds me of the following story:

A man's son was involved in a drunk driving accident in which one passenger was killed and his son and two other passengers were very seriously injured. On being informed that all had been drinking he responded, "Thank God they weren't using drugs."
Alcohol is a drug; an "illegal drug" when sold and consumed in violation of law; our nation's "number one hard drug" for many reasons, including those cited above.

Marijuana is also an illegal drug. But the harm it causes -- in the categories just detailed -- are far less than the consequences of alcohol. And yet, just as the penalties for possession or sale of crack cocaine (used by the poor) far exceed those for powdered cocaine (used by the rich), the penalties for the illegal possession and sale of marijuana far exceed those for the illegal possession and sale of alcohol.

And yet we give the latter a wink and a boys-will-be-boys nod, while shutting down an 82-year-old institution on campus for the former.

Now, who will be the first to say that I have advocated the legalization of marijuana? Re-read the blog entry. I haven't -- here.

# # #

Monday, January 21, 2008

Celebrating Dr. King

January 21, 2008, 8:30 a.m.

The Place to Be

The digitized "Information Age," or "cyberspace," has had a significant impact on virtually every aspect of our lives -- from courtship to commerce, from architecture to medicine, from feature films to football.

Among other things, it has enabled the separation of mind from body.

It used to be that in order to be somewhere, in order to witness an event or beautiful scenery, to hear a lecture or a concert, it was necessary to relocate both your mind and body to a location with latitude and longitude coordinates on Planet Earth.

Today, thanks to the old technologies of telephone, radio, television, and cable channels such as C-SPAN, CNN or ESPN -- not to mention CDs, DVDs, VCRs and TiVo -- and the miraculous new resources of the Web and Internet, it is possible to sit in bed in your pajamas and move your mind through the Hubble telescope into the heavens, or under the oceans, or watch through one of the thousands of "Web cams" positioned in cities and zoos and other places around the world.

It is, in short, possible to "be there" without really being there; to move your mind without moving your body.

And because the former can be done with little to no preparation, in something between a tenth of a second and a minute, and even while multi-tasking, we don't have to give it a lot of thought.

What we do still need to think about and plan for, however, is where to put our bodies. Moving our body may require a shower and change of clothes, or even packing a bag, holding the newspapers, and gathering the strength to deal with our increasingly disfunctional airline industry. Where do we want to be "in person"? At any given moment where is "the place to be"?

All of which is simply a long-winded introduction to some comments about where was "the place to be" in Iowa City last evening.

In my opinion it was what the organizers called "The Consultation of Religious Communities Celebration of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," held this year at the new First Christian Church off North Dubuque. Some 10 or more churches were represented in one way or another.

I didn't do a realtime blog of the event, John Deeth style, and I won't mention everything on the program now. But it included a Choral Reading by a group of young people of words from Dr. King that was very well scripted and performed. Professional writer Marilynne Robinson had written, and read, a beautiful piece about the midwest's near 175-year legitimate claim to the practice of racial equality. Former Mayor Ross Wilburn contrasted Ms. Robinson's "Where We Have Come From" with his own "Where we Are Now." The music was also first rate, from the operatic voice of Barbara Buddin, to the "Voices of Experience," to the appropriately named "Gospel Explosion Ministry" gospel singers who got those who filled the church on their feet, clapping time, and swaying (even if our efforts in that regard always bring to my mind the portrayal of Steve Martin's character, Navin Johnson, trying to "get" rhythm in the movie "The Jerk"). We closed with everyone singing "We Shall Overcome" along with the extremely talented Disciple Strings group that opened the evening.

I took some pictures, but didn't get everything (and of course nothing was deliberately not photographed). You can see the album on my Picasa Web site.

And Kathryn Fiegan's "'Renew his words and his memory;' Service celebrates King's work," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 21, 2008, p. A1 captures much of the experience of being there in words.

But words, and even pictures worth a thousand, can't tell it all. As the saying goes, "I guess you had to be there" -- in part because, in this digitized, Information Age, it was "The Place to Be" with your body, in Iowa City, last evening.

If you missed it, make a note to catch this annual event next year.

# # #

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Secrecy, Presidents' Blogs, Paying for Government

January 20, 2008, 11:00 a.m., 12:45 p.m.
[Sexual Assaults; Hogan's Blog; Paying for Government]

Oct. 14, 2007 Events Still Unresolved, Continue to Fester
UI Holds to Secrecy Regarding Adherence to Process

I have written at great length here, in a number of blog entries, about the University of Iowa's handling of the process surrounding the alleged sexual assault some three months ago on its campus. See Nicholas Johnson, "UI, Sexual Assaults and Secrecy," January 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, 2008 -- along with its links to prior blog entries.

Throughout, I have consistently endeavored to make unambiguously clear a distinction between secrecy regarding

(a) County Attorney and Court actions, evidence, subpoenas, documents or other information that could have an adverse impact on the legitimate privacy interests of the parties, the criminal investigation, and any potential future trial -- as to which I have offered no objection to secrecy -- and

(b) information regarding University administrators' process, communications and actions in following their own procedures that could easily be made available to the media and public (redacted to the extent necessary) with no adverse impact on anything or anyone (except, perhaps, themselves) -- as to which I have seen no legitimate reason for secrecy.
Now it is suggested the reason for the UI's secrecy is that there was a court order preventing them from revealing the existence of, or content of, subpoenas served on the University. Tom Witoskey, "Court Order Keeps a Lid on Alleged U of I Assault," Des Moines Register, January 20, 2008.

1. It is not clear from the story (or those appearing in the Press-Citizen and Gazette) whether the court order (that the subpoenas, and court order forbidding mention of the court order) applied to my category (b), above, or not. Intuitively, I would think it would not have. If that's the case we still have no explanation for the UI's secrecy regarding compliance with its own processes.

2. It may be that the UI, from the moment this court order was issued, tried to get it changed -- to at least permit the University to respond to the public and the media that it was forbidden by court order to comment about the contents of any subpoenas received, the documents or other evidence they produced, or copies of any such documents. But if not, why not?

3. It would seem to me that a simple statement -- "We are bound by court order not to reveal whether we have or have not received subpoenas for documents or evidence regarding this matter, or if there were such subpoenas what they might have contained, or what evidence or documents they might have produced" -- would have saved everyone (parties, County Attorney, University of Iowa, media and the public) a lot of unnecessarily wasted time, effort and stress.

And so the conflict (County Attorney, UI, media; the judge's addition of 60 more days to his 90-day order) goes on from October to November, December, January, and . . ..

Mike Hogan Praised for Blog

The UI's former Provost and Executive Vice President, now President, University of Connecticut, Mike Hogan, is the subject of a Harford Business Journal story tomorrow [Jan. 21] recognizing his leadership among college president bloggers. Sean O'Leary, "College Presidents Slow To Launch Informal Web Format," Hartford Business Journal, January 21, 2008. Of the 31 college presidents with blogs it turns out that there are only four who are presidents of state universities.

The Journal notes that President Hogan and the University of Connecticut have made no effort to hype the blog or make a big public relations deal out of it -- a modesty to which the Journal has contributed by failing to provide a link to the subject of its story. Here, if you're a part of the old "Hogan's Heros" Facebook gang, or otherwise interested, is a link to Mike's blog, the "PresRelease."

“So, how do you want to pay for this?”

The Feds, ignoring what is now roughly $40 trillion in unfunded entitlements, a war the costs of which are already estimated at $2 trillion and climbing (for what Senator John McCain estimates may be another 100 years), a 38% decline in housing values ($12 trillion), and in the value of the dollar (once able to buy a Eurodollar for 95 cents that now costs $1.47) while gold climbs from $200 an ounce to nearly $1000 an ounce, is proposing an "economic stimulus" package involving another $150 billion in debt to be distributed to Americans thought willing to buy stuff from American companies. (Unfortunately, as a "tax rebate" it won't do much for those 45 million Americans who don't earn enough to pay taxes, for seniors on low, fixed incomes, or the unemployed.)

The Iowa Governor is now trying to explain and defend why he doesn't think he has enough money to adequately fund one of Iowa's best hopes for building a skilled workforce, stimulating economic growth, and keeping Iowa's best and brightest young people in Iowa: our community college system. See Nicholas Johnson, "No Time to be Cutting Community Colleges Budgets or Raising Tuition" in "Community Colleges Are Iowa's Answer," January 17, 2008.

And the Iowa City City Council, believing the representations that we need more police and fire fighters, have yet to answer Mayor Reginia Bailey's question with which I headed this comment, "So, how do you want to pay for this?" See Nicholas Johnson, "'How Many Police Officers and Fire Fighters Does It Take To . . .'" in "Rational Thought About Realistic Needs: Police & Fire," January 15, 2008.

Well, I have a couple of suggestions on how we can deal with these public finance challenges.

Stop the talk about "taxes." It drives me nuts that politicians (including those, primarily Republicans, running for president) try to outdo each other over who has been, or promises to become, the biggest tax cutter. Talk about "programs." Which pay back, in future revenue or savings, many times over what we invest in them? Which are essential if we are to continue to represent ourselves to be a humane, civilized country? Which involve essential needs that can only, or most efficiently and effectively, be provided by public rather than for-profit-private efforts?

Eliminate the "socialism for the rich and free private enterprise for the poor." For an example of my, perhaps dozens of, comments about "corporate welfare" both before and after the following blog entry see, Nicholas Johnson, "Follow-Up: Corporate Welfare," July 21, 2006 -- and of course this blog's index.

In an op ed column, Nicholas Johnson, "Courage, Councilors," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 3, 2007, I laid out some reasons why public funding of for-profit, private projects doesn't ever make sense for any city (plus some additional reasons why it makes even less sense for Iowa City). The column developed the following sub-heads:

The "opportunity costs" are enormous.

They reek of hypocrisy.

Corporate welfare tilts the playing field.

If the market won’t back a project, why should the public?

It doesn’t work.

“Money can’t buy love.”

The subsidy-grantors' record’s not great.

Alternative approaches do work.

Try “seed funds.”

“Need” is impossible to know.

Lack of transparency.
If you want to know more just click on the column's link, above.

But in addition to those always-applicable reasons for rejecting the tin cup appeals of for-profit businesses for taxpayers' money, another becomes relevant in the context of funding shortages at the federal, state and local level.

When citizens are taxed to fund the government's public programs and projects, at a minimum such money as is collected should first go to fund legitimate public programs and projects. If all those needs have been met, and there's money left over, we can then begin the dialog about the appropriateness of giving it to the for-profit private sector and the wealthy (whether in the form of TIFs and other tax breaks or outright subsidies). But there's absolutely no reason to accept the argument that there's not enough for public programs when the reason there's not enough is the money that's been given away to for-profit, private projects before the public programs were adequately funded.

The Feds can begin by eliminating earmarks (such as the Iowa indoor rain forest, and the Alaska "bridge to nowhere"), the 200 or so "corporate welfare" programs, and tax breaks for business. That would free up more than enough billions for their current "economic stimulus" package.

Iowa could do the same with the millions it passes out to businesses under a variety of names. And we could start taxing Wal-Mart and other major firms on their Iowa earnings, rather than letting large corporations pass big chunks of those earnings, tax free, out of state and onto their bottom line.That single effort could provide enough to build one of the strongest community college programs in the nation -- and the economic growth it would feed -- without raising any Iowan's tax rate.

Ditto for Iowa City. The local Chamber of Commerce recent wish list is a string of creative corporate raids on tax money. Local taxpayers, rather than bar owners, are paying to clean up the vomit left by their under-age illegal patrons from the night before. Major businesses get reduced rates on water consumption. And don't get me started on TIFs. If the City Council would insist that business keep its hand out of the cookie jar there's more than enough money available to the City Council to provide the citizenry the police and fire protection they've already paid for.

And I'd like to see a major task force address the University-City budgeting relationships. (See the comment from "cato's apologist" that inspires this thought on Nicholas Johnson, "Getting Real About Alcohol," January 18, 2008.) Obviously, there would need to be representatives from the University and City who understand these budgets, but I'd like to see it perhaps led by the Iowa Policy Project, and include representation from local citizens groups and whoever the Register, Press-Citizen, and Gazette think are their best investigative reporters. It's my understanding that there are some payments from the University to the City, but -- especially considering how much land and real property the University has taken off the property tax rolls in Johnson County -- are they enough? ("Cato's apologist" suggests this marketplace approach to getting the University's attention, and engagement in addressing the costs associated with the University's failure to do anything meaningful about students' binge drinking.)

# # #

Friday, January 18, 2008

Getting Real About Alcohol

January 18, 2008, 11:30 a.m.

Don't Get Tough, Get Effective

Alcoholism, alcohol abuse, binge drinking, drunk driving, under-age drinking. We should not be surprised that our nation's number one hard drug problem by any measure (e.g., economic impact, health/medical consequences, numbers of people affected, involvement in crime and violence, adverse impact on the brain, prison population, unwanted sexual activity ("accidents cause people"), impact on fetus, automobile and other death and injury) is a major problem in Iowa as well.

As I write, Ben Kieffer is broadcasting one of his outstanding "The Exchange" programs devoted to the subject (with an emphasis on under-age drinking). Ben Kieffer, "The Exchange," Iowa Public Radio, January 18, 2008 (a streaming, or downloadable, version should be available from this site, if not later today then by early next week). (Alcohol is the hard drug of choice for Iowans. Iowa is in the top fifth of the nation's states for under-age and binge drinking; one-third of Iowa's 11th graders engaged in binge drinking during the past 30 days. Sixth graders are drinking.)

Last evening KCRG-TV9 devoted a segment to the subject, focusing on the latest efforts from the University of Iowa. Steve Nicoles, "UI Studies Underage Drinking," KCRG-TV9, January 17, 2008

This morning's Press-Citizen reports that even the alcohol-promoting-pro-bar Iowa City City Council has decided it can no longer turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the brazen violations of law by local bar owners. Lee Hermiston, "Que Bar's liquor license suspended," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 18, 2008, p. A1.

The alcohol-related problems at Lake Macbride have become so severe that it's likely there will soon be a total ban on any alcohol inside the park boundaries. Rob Daniel, "Alcohol ban possible at Macbride; Complaints about behavior have increased," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 17, 2008.; AP, "Booze May Get Boot at Lake Macbride," The Gazette, January 17, 2008, p. B5.

Meanwhile, the University of Iowa -- whose students are a major part of the problems -- has once again decided it wishes to appear to be "doing something." Diane Heldt, "Options instead of alcohol; Groups trying to cut underage drinking," The Gazette, January 17, 2008, p. B1. And see
"UI team aims to end underage drinking," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 17, 2008.

But what, exactly, does Diane Heldt report it is proposing to do?

UI Interim Provost Lola Lopes announced the creation of the two groups Wednesday. One group is to look at the legal and policy issues and the other is to look at alternative activities for students late at night other than drinking in bars.

A lot of the cultural and entertainment activities on campus end at 10 p.m., Lopes said, with little for students to do on weekends between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. UI administrators want to change that, she said.

The idea of forming the groups, Lopes said, was spurred by the defeat in November of an ordinance that would have made Iowa City bars 21 and older after 10 p.m.

“We knew we had to try another tack, so these two working groups are the result of that desire to look further,” she said.

Suggestions from faculty and staff for evening activities include unusual educational offerings, volunteer programs and roller skating and dancing, she said.
This is not the UI's first effort to "do something." For over a dozen years there has been a very generously funded project called "Stepping Up." ("We received three grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: a start up grant in 1996, a five year grant in 1997, and an additional four year grant in 2002"). Unfortunately, these efforts have produced little more than an increase in the numbers of students (both legal and under-age and illegal) who are regularly stepping up to the bar.

This is no accident. It could very well have been, and was, predicted.

Now don't get me wrong. I have great respect for UI's Interim Provost Lola Lopes. And her second task force -- the one that "is to look at the legal and policy issues" -- may ultimately come up with some proposals that would actually have an impact.

But assuming we have responsibility to "fix" students' perceptions that there is "little for students to do on weekends between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m." (has anyone considered suggesting they might sleep?) or that if we do so by providing opportunities for "unusual educational offerings, volunteer programs and roller skating and dancing" that it will have a meaningful impact on students' binge drinking and its consequences is a true example of "the triumph of hope over experience." That is what we've been doing for over a decade while students continue to prefer "Stepping Up" to the bars.

Note the differences in the UI's approach and the approaches that work.

Ames (Iowa State University) logically concluded that if it's illegal for those under 21 to buy and consume alcohol in bars it only makes sense to say they can't enter bars, the sole purpose of which is to profit from the legal and illegal sale of alcohol.

The proposal in Iowa City -- inaccurately described by opponents as "21-only" -- was nothing of the sort. It was nothing like as rational as the Ames approach. It only dealt with those hours the Provost is addressing: 10:00 p.m to 2:00 a.m. For four hours every 24 Iowa law would be enforced. With City Council members opposition, and the University Administration sitting it out as "too political" (while noting that those 18 and over are serving in the military), and the local bar owners who take in $235,000 a month from illegal sales organizing the binge-drinking students to vote against it, not surprisingly the measure failed. (Had the University undertaken even a wee bit of effort to get the ordinance understood and passed it might well not have failed -- a defeat now cited by Provost Lopes as what "spurred" her two task forces.)

This is not a matter of "getting tough," it's a matter of "getting effective."

The Ames approach is effective.

The proposed Iowa City ordinance would have been effective.

The Lake Macbride ban on alcohol will be effective.

Suspending and refusing to renew liquor licenses (especially if accompanied with stepped up enforcement efforts at the bars known to be flagrantly violating the law) is effective.
Giving students the option of roller skating at 2:00 a.m. is not likely to be effective.

What could the University do if it wanted to give this problem something more than lip service?

It could encourage, and support with more city and campus police in bars, stricter enforcement of the law.

It could do more to publicize the names of students caught violating the law -- in their hometown papers as well as here.

It could at least notify parents.

It could petition to deny the liquor licenses of those bars known to be violating the law.

It could put students' violations on their transcripts, and inform potential employers.

It could use suspensions and expulsions for students' liquor violations and arrests.
Is it likely to do any of these things? I doubt it -- based on the last decade of inaction (as distinguished from rhetoric).

[3:30 p.m. insert:] State29 takes issue (that's law professor talk for "blasts the hell out of me") for even mentioning these items. State29, "Prohibition Always Works," January 18, 2008 1:05 p.m.

It's not necessary that State29 and I agree on all issues -- which is fortunate, because we certainly don't. But in this instance we're not as far apart as would first appear. As I wrote last Tuesday in the context of considering options and rational analysis in assessing the needs for additional police officers (and increased budgets), it may very well be that the best thing to do about underage drinking is nothing; or, more properly, to simply lower the drinking age to 18. Nicholas Johnson, "'How Many Police Officers and Fire Fighters Does It Take To . . .'" in "Rational Thought About Realistic Needs: Police & Fire," January 15, 2008.

Nor, even without that clarification, was my list, above, a wish list that I was advocating the University adopt. I was simply noting that IF the UI wanted to do something effective about binge drinking there are a number of things it could have done over the last 10 years. It's not what they say -- or what they do (or in this instance don't do) -- that bothers me so much. What I'm addressing is the inconsistency between the two: representing that this is a serious problem, that they don't want to be known as one of the intercollegiate binge drinking capitals of America, that they're doing all they can to stop it -- when in fact that does not seem to be the case.]
If the University were interested in becoming truly effective there are plenty of things it could have been doing all along -- far more than I thought up in the couple of minutes it took me to write those above.

Whether it wants to be effective will become clearer as the spring semester evolves and the two task forces discuss their options and prepare their reports. But so far, over the years, effective efforts by the University have not seemed to have been a goal.

# # #

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Community Colleges Are Iowa's Answer

January 17, 2008, 9:45 a.m.

No Time to be Cutting Community Colleges Budgets or Raising Tuition

There are a number of components of Iowa's educational system -- pre-kindergarten, K-12, community colleges, and the Regents universities -- plus the for-profit and private institutions. The former are paid for with a combination of income, property and sales taxes (plus grants and fees). The latter, it turns out, also benefit from public funding.

As a University of Iowa employee I have some sense of what it takes financially to run an institution of this size -- as well as a sense of what a small proportion of this "state university's" budget comes from the state (rather than grants and tuition) -- and the numerous contributions it makes to this state. My selfish interests favor UI getting more money from the Iowa Legislature than it is ever likely to provide.

Moreover, the Regents, Governor and Legislature clearly have spent some time studying, and have an incentive to come up with, the optimum package in terms of total funding of education and the allocation of those funds among all the components of our system. I have not.

Nonetheless, intuitively it seems to me that Iowa's top priority at this time ought to be a free or very, very cheap tuition community college system, and there seems to be some complaint that has not been the case.

Unlike the Regents' institutions, some 90% of the students attending community colleges are Iowans.

Moreover, a very high proportion of the graduates stay in Iowa -- at a time when that seems to be a state priority.

The state's economic development is largely dependent upon the graduates from the "associate" degree programs community colleges provide.

For those who do want to graduate from a Regents' institution, it's much cheaper to have them prove their ability to benefit from it with a couple years' academic performance at a community college first -- a program we've already begun.

Attracting and supporting Iowa businesses with a highly trained workforce makes a lot more sense for everyone -- from shareholders to taxpayers to students -- than TIFs, tax breaks, and other gifts of taxpayers' cash to bribe for-profit enterprises.

The K-12 education has been "free" for decades; isn't it about time we extended that to K-14? California's community colleges were free for years. One of the major purposes and attractions of the colleges is the low cost, not only in tuition but also by making it possible for students to live near (or at) home. Intuitively, it seems to me that forcing our community colleges to raise tuition is one of the most counter productive things we could do.
See Jason Clayworth, "Fallout of college shortage called 'tsunami-like,'" Des Moines Register, January 17, 2008, and see Jay Christensen-Szalanski, "Time to Adjust College Grant Program," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 17, 2008, p. A7 ("last year our state paid more than $52 million in grants for undergraduates to attend private and for-profit colleges, while only paying $500,000 in grants to undergraduates who attended the three public universities").

# # #

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rational Thought About Realistic Needs: Police & Fire

January 15, 2007, 1:30 p.m.

"How Many Police Officers and Fire Fighters Does It Take To . . ."

The Gazette reports this morning that the Iowa City Council is supporting an expansion of the local police and fire department staffing (and budgets). Gregg Hennigan, "I.C. council agrees to hire more city firefighters, police officers," The Gazette, January 15, 2008, p. A1. Little questioning, let alone opposition, was reported.

By contrast, in its editorial this morning [Jan. 15] regarding a legislative proposal to invest an additional $240 million of Iowa taxpayers' money in "new and bigger prisons" the Register concludes:

If Iowa has learned anything from this experience [with prisons] it should be that there are cheaper and more effective alternatives to confining criminal offenders in highly secure prisons. . . . Iowa lawmakers have a lot of questions to answer before going on a prison building boom. Here are two: Is this necessary? And, what else will they do to avoid another building boom down the road?
Editorial, "Does Iowa Really Need Prison Building Boom?" Des Moines Register, January 15, 2008.

It's an approach worth applying to any proposed public expenditure.

To avoid an imminent lynching, let me make a couple points clear at the outset.

I like the police and fire fighters. There were times in my life when I wanted to join the ranks of both.

The functions performed by both clearly lie at the top of the list of primary governmental responsibilities -- as virtually any day's news out of Baghdad makes clear.

I have no problem paying my share of however much is needed in increased taxes to cover the costs of the most appropriate number of both.

So all I am addressing is the analytical adequacy of whatever process the City Council went through in coming to these conclusions.

1. There is no "right" number, no precise and firm way of saying what we "need," and whether whatever that need may be the numbers being urged by the Chief, and considered by the Council, are too high or too low.

2. Whatever the answer may be, the question involves what system analysts call a "peak load problem" (decisions in business, for example, involving a balance between the excessive cost of always having enough on hand of, say, shopping carts in a supermarket (many of which will be unused for most of the 168 hours each week), on the one hand, and the prospect of lost business during those hours of peak shopping cart demand if the investment in the excess carts is not made). Whatever the number of police officers and fire fighters we have, during any given hour of the 8760 hours each year, we will almost always have either fewer than we need or more than we need. Moreover, (a) the times of peak load cannot be precisely predicted, and (b) presumably all would agree that we "cannot afford" to keep hundreds on the payroll at all times in order to be adequately staffed during some worst case scenario when they really all would be needed once every ten or fifty years.

3. A fully trained and outfitted police officer with a car to match is not cheap.
Are there situations in which "less is more" -- for example, what we already do with police on foot or on bicycle? Are there functions he or she is performing that could be done more cheaply by others? Police officers used to be responsible for parking, tickets, and parking meter collections. Are we any less safe today since those functions have been handed off to others? Are there functions performed inside the station house that could be handled by other than police officers? We have 73 officers. If they work 2000 hours a year (50 weeks times 40 hours) that's 146,000 hours. How are those hours allocated among the tasks performed? How does that compare with other communities generally, or other college communities? If we had another, say, 10 officers (20,000 hours) what would the task and time implications of that be?

4. The problem of "overcrowded prisons" would be solved instantly if we'd treat alcohol and drug problems in "drug courts" instead of incarcerating drug users and if we'd stop throwing the mentally ill in prison instead of mental hospitals. Are there similar approaches to our police work that could radically reduce the necessary numbers of police officers (for example -- though I'm not in favor of it -- if we'd go all the way with our lack of concern about underage binge drinkers and leave it entirely, rather than just mostly, for bar owners to self-police)?

5. Whether or not we build more fire stations, what else can we do? As for fire department's "response time" I'm informed that little to no attention has been given to the problem of railroad trains blocking roads. It makes little difference how close the fire house is if your house is on the other side of a parked train from the fire truck. It wouldn't be that complicated to have an automated, computerized communication system from the railroads to a central fire department dispatching desk indicating which roads are blocked and which are open. So far as I know nothing has been done to create such a system (or a viable alternative accomplishing the same thing). There was once a community with a municipally owned cable TV system that attached smoke detectors in every home to the network (along with automatic water meter reading). As a result homeowners' fire insurance rates were cut in half -- along with a speed up, one would assume, in fire department response time.
Are there other things besides additional fire stations that we might do to improve response time? And what is the "optimum (and affordable) response time" anyway?

6. The City Council is looking at comparative numbers on the number of police officers per 1000 population in various communities. That is certainly one useful relative benchmark. Is it the best? Might it be more relevant to consider communities with crime statistics more similar to ours? Or demographic makeup of the population? Or college towns about our size (Ames has fewer officers per 1000 population than Iowa City)?

I'm not looking for an impossible-to-achieve precision. What I would like to satisfy myself exists is an analysis of our needs that goes beyond "security is very important; the police chief says he needs more police officers; therefore, I think we should give him some" and "gee, we really need another fire station for northeast Iowa City in order to improve response time."

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Can You Spell "University of Iowa"?

January 13, 2008, 8:30 p.m.

The Eyes of Pennsylvania Are Upon U-I

Stonewalling Hawkgate

Remember those T-shirts we used to have that read: "University of Iowa, Idaho City, Ohio"?

The only problem with them was that those of us who live here soon found them boring, and those who were visiting from out of town didn't get the joke.

If you think keeping the rest of America clear about the difference between Idaho, Iowa and Ohio was a challenge, let me tell you, that's nothing. When I was a kid the two largest Regents' universities in Iowa were called the "State University of Iowa" and "Iowa State University." (Now you see how WSUI got its call letters; "SUI," get it?) Even alums of both schools had a little difficulty keeping those names straight, and we finally simply gave up on continually correcting the national media.

Now that we're the "University of Iowa" we're back to just worrying about Idaho and Ohio.

As the celebrities say, "I don't care what you write about me, just so long as you spell my name right." And for the most part the media's spell checkers are in working order.

At the University of Texas we used to sing, "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You." Here, it's usually "the eyes of Iowa" that are watching us -- or at least the eyes of the Register, Gazette, Press-Citizen, and Daily Iowan (among others) that see what we're up to and report it to those Iowans who care.

Over the years the University has done a better and better job of discovering and disseminating its good news stories -- thanks to some very able UI news and public relations people.

But they neither make the news nor, seemingly, have the authority to use their best media relations judgment when the news isn't all that good -- as with the current flap over the deafening silence regarding how university administrators handled the latest allegations of a sexual assault by athletes.

Because most publicists counsel administrators that stonewalling is not a very effective way for an institution to deal with bad news, I can only assume our publicists' silence has been ordered by others rather than having been self-imposed.

Although I'd never heard of the Pennsylvania-based national organization "Security on Campus" before seeing the story on page one of the Press-Citizen yesterday [Jan. 12], it was fully predictable that the longer we tried to keep the lid on Hawkgate the further it would go once the steam built up and it blew. Brian Morelli, "National Watchdog Group Keeping Eye on UI," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 12, 2008, p. A1.

So now, it seems, "the eyes of Pennsylvania -- and the rest of the nation -- are upon you," University of Iowa.

As Morelli reports, "Fed-up parents created Security on Campus to push reluctant universities to release campus crime information." When the universities failed to respond to their pleas, the group "helped establish six federal laws, including . . . the Cleary Act" -- which is the federal law the UI may be violating.

"Are they covering something up? That really is the qustion," Morelli quotes the group's senior vice president, S. Daniel Carter, as asking.

There's more to the story, and I won't repeat it all here. Use the link, above, to read it.

Tomorrow, January 14, will mark the three-month anniversary of the alleged assault. Unlike wine and cheese, the University's attempt to deal with the matter with silence (that is, what UI administrators did or did not do, not facts of the case affecting the alleged victim's privacy interests or the Johnson County Attorney's investigation) is not improving with age.

And unfortunately they're spelling our name right.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Earthpark: Day Late, Dollar Short

January 12, 2008, 5:45 a.m.

Earthpark, U.S. DOE Reveal Little Financial Support;
$32.9 of $48.3 Match Was a Pledge From Founder Townsend

Gregg Hennigan, "Documents Show Townsend Came Up With Indoor Rain Forest Money,", January 12, 2008, 12:11 a.m.; Gregg Hennigan, "Founder Pledged Millions for Grant; Bulk of Money Needed to Match $50 Million Came From Townsend," The Gazette, January 12, 2008, p. A1.

As yet one more example of the human penchant for secrecy, the full collection of documents filed by Earthpark with the Chicago Office of the U.S. Department of Energy -- although "public records" all -- has never been made available online (so far as I know) by either Earthpark or the DOE. I was unable to find a link to them from the GazetteOnline page.

However, Brad Franzwa, a concerned citizen to whom we all owe a vote of thanks, has made them available to me, and I have made them available to you here. Be forewarned that this is a 10 MB pdf file, so it may take awhile to download, depending on your connection speed and network traffic.

(Don't you, too, find it a little disgraceful that individual American citizens -- and newspapers such as The Gazette -- need to threaten suit against their government (and the wealthy) to get them to comply with laws they should obey as a matter of course? Whatever the current crop of presidential candidates may mean by their new-found affection for "change," greater governmental openness would hopefully be a part of their definition.)

The full citation for the collection is "Application for Continuation of Existing Grant DE-FG02-04CH11230, Submitted to The United States Department of Energy by Earthpark: A National Center for Science Literacy and the Environment," November 30, 2007, 176 pp.

For a full (perhaps too full :>) !) history and commentary about this project see my "Iowa Child/Environmental Project/Earthpark" Web site -- as well as even more recent blog entries here.

There will be more commentary later.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Limits of Duct Tape

January 9, 2008, 5:30 p.m.; January 10, 2008, 7:00 a.m.

Volvos and Violence

For years -- and probably well over 100,000 miles -- I drove a 1963 Volvo that had nearly 200,000 miles on it when I bought it from a friend for $300 in the 1970s.

The engine was fine and would be running still, but for the rust that caused my mechanic to finally refuse to continue work on it out of concern for my safety.

I sanded. I painted. It never helped much, and any superficial improvements quickly vanished.

Because the rust was not on the surface. It was from within.

This experience occurred to me this morning as an apt analogy when reading Heiu Pham, "Schools Talk Next Steps for Safety," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 9, 2007, p. A1.

Having served on the school board, I have sufficient confidence in the ICCSD administration and board to believe that they will acquire and apply, if not the most expensive, certainly an adequate variety of good quality duct tape and paint to the violence in our two conventional high schools, City and West: more and brighter lighting, video cameras, ID badges, and locks on the doors.

This is commendable. Besides they have to "do something" -- and what it looks like they are going to do is to take these conventional and widely advocated steps that are unlikely to generate much opposition, along with the possibility of armed guards, metal detectors, and locking up those students who misbehave.

But none of these approaches will do anything to even slow, let alone stop, the increasing internal "rust" in our conventional high schools that take the form of violence.

The fact is, we have deliberately created these rusting high schools. We knew what we were doing. We were told one of the consequences would be increased violence. Why did we do it anyway? For a lot of reasons -- including a desire to maintain a record of winning football teams.

And what is it I'm talking about?

I'm talking about the fact that, handed $40 million by taxpayers, the ICCSD Administration and Board decided to spend it to make our two conventional high schools even larger rather than build more, smaller high schools. The data is overwhelming that, as high schools increase in size above about 600 students there is a related increase not only in violence but in dropouts, absences, alcohol and drug abuse, bullying, graffiti, teen pregnancy, and other behavior we find disturbing -- not to mention, often, a decline in academic performance.

They are behaviors, not incidentally, involving and affecting all socio-economic classes.

It's not always true that "you get what you pay for" (as Consumer Reports has been pointing out for 70 years). But this is one instance in which it is. We paid $40 million, we increased the size of our high schools notwithstanding the warnings that we were buying increased levels of violence, and we got what we paid for.

Want more?

I've written about the subject more than once before, most recently in Nicholas Johnson, "What's the Answer to High School Violence?" in "Violence at City and West High," December 15, 2007, 7:00 p.m. I won't repeat it all again here today.

But I do wish the Board and Administration would give more attention to building schools that won't rust from the inside, and less to the duct tape and paint.

[Jan 10.] Interested in K-12 issues generally? Take a look at Editorial, "Look to Lauded Schools for Improvement Ideas," Des Moines Register, January 10, 2008; and the detailed professional evaluation of K-12 education state-by-state in Education Week, "Quality Counts 2008: Tapping Into Teaching/Unlocking the Key to Student Success/State Highlights Reports," Education Week, January 10, 2008.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

UI, Sexual Assaults and Secrecy

January 5, 2008, 11:00 a.m.; January 6, 2008, 4:00 p.m.; January 7, 7:00 p.m./January 8, 2008, 7:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m./January 9, 2008, 4:45 p.m.

[Jan. 6] Update: Tom Witosky, "Iowa Football: Attorney Orders Secrecy in U of I Assault Case," Des Moines Register, January 6, 2008.

[Jan. 7/8] Update -- this is big: Brian Morelli, "Lyness: UI Responsible for Open Records Denials," Iowa City Press-Citizen (online), January 7, 2008, 5:34 p.m.; Brian Morelli, "Lyness: UI responsible for denials; Says she did not advise officials to withhold records," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 8, 2008, p. A1 -- and see State29, "The Next Scandal," January 7, 2008.

And this is bigger: "Ferentz to Emphasize Off-the-Field Conduct," Iowa City Press-Citizen (online), January 8, 2008, 1:17 p.m., especially the video of the interview on which the story is based, Andrea Quann, "Ferentz Talks About Player Conduct, Discipline," Iowa City Press-Citizen Video, January 8, 2008 (he reveals there are lots of other incidents that are not known outside of Athletic Department; he usually knows of incident almost immediately, and tells Barta; his sense of proper procedure involves keeping it within football program; makes no mention of need to do better job of recruiting -- watch the video);

[Jan. 9] and see Andy Hamilton, "Ferentz 'not proud' of rocky '07; Iowa coach disappointed by on field, off field problems," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 9, 2007, p. B1.

Public Records and Secrecy in the Academy

[Jan. 5] The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports this morning that it has brought legal action against the University of Iowa under the Iowa public records law. Brian Morelli, "Press-Citizen Sues UI in Assault Case," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 5, 2008, p. A1 [there are now 27 comments from readers associated with this story; Jan. 6, 4:30 p.m.].

Off hand, it looks like the UI is not yet practicing the sage advice that, "When you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is to stop digging." Having rejected the paper's repeated polite requests for public records, it now finds itself being sued once again for what at least looks like yet another example of stonewalling and secrecy.

That's not to say there may not be some arguments that can be made on the University's behalf. It's only to say that if a persuasive case can be made it has not yet been made public. Perhaps getting a court to resolve the issues will turn out to be the best resolution of the conflict. But it's not immediately obvious why it had to come to this.

There have been allegations that a sexual assault occurred on the University of Iowa campus last October 14, 2007 -- now going on some three months ago. (A chronology of what's happened since has been created by the Press-Citizen and is reproduced at the end of this blog entry.)

These events have created two stories.

(1) What occurred? Who was involved? These, and related questions, could involve matters of personal privacy and possible compromise of a criminal investigation and what could potentially become a criminal trial (thus raising some of the so-called "free press-fair trial" issues). Many individuals -- lawyers and lay persons alike -- would agree that there may be good reasons for maintaining secrecy regarding much of this information, at least until the Johnson County Attorney has come to a decision to, or not to, begin criminal proceedings.

(2) But there is a second story -- to which Erin Jordan has added a third. The second story involves information, not about students, but about UI administrators. Not what students told them, but what the officials told each other (with students' names or other matters of personal privacy redacted): which UI officials were involved, and when, and which other officials they communicated with, and what was communicated (that does not need to be redacted). These facts and documents become relevant in evaluating whether the University followed its own procedures.

I wrote about this "two story" distinction a couple of months ago, and will simply incorporate that blog entry by reference and link rather than repeat its analysis here.
Nicholas Johnson, "The Greatest 'Story Two' Never Told" in "Not Getting Answers," November 21, 2007. And see, Nicholas Johnson, "The Greatest 'Story Two' Never Told/Maybe It's Only Human" in "To Err is Human, To Keep it Secret Even More So," December 14, 2007.

Those who've commented on this morning's story on the Press-Citizen's site -- both this morning and the 10 who put up comments when the story was uploaded there yesterday -- often fail to note this rather fundamental distinction, savaging the paper for going after story one notwithstanding the fact that it is (almost exclusively) only going after story two.

(3) A third story, brought to light by the Des Moines Register's Erin Jordan, involves the extent to which the UI standards may violate federal law. Erin Jordan, "At U of I, Review Shows Little Push to Report Assaults," Des Moines Register, November 26, 2007.

The law in question is the "Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act," 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1092 (f), "Disclosure of campus security policy and campus crime statistics."

The supporting federal regulations provide, among other things, that the UI's policies must include:

(b) Annual security report.

. . .

(4) A statement of current policies concerning campus law
enforcement that--

. . .

(ii) Encourages accurate and prompt reporting of all crimes to the campus police and the appropriate police agencies; . . ..
34 C.F.R. Sec. 668.46 (b)(4)(ii)(2007). This is the legal requirement, followed by most Big 10 universities, that it is suggested is not complied with by the University of Iowa -- and was not followed in this case.

The Press-Citizen, unlike the UI, has kindly provided the full text of its relevant documents as links from Brian Morelli's story this morning:

Text of the Press-Citizen's lawsuit against the University of Iowa (PDF format)

Letter from Press-Citizen attorney Paul Burns to UI General Counsel Marc Mills from Dec. 11 (PDF format)

Letter from Mills to Burns from Dec. 27 (PDF format)
I've done no legal research on this one (aside from providing the links to the relevant law, above), but I must say I think Paul Burns has done an impressive job (in the documents linked above) on behalf of the Press-Citizen.

On the other hand, while I have great respect for Marc Mills and his legal ability, it seems to me his response is a little sketchy:

[B]ecause of the significantly different facts and circumstances involved in this matter - student privacy concerns, the integrity of ongoing University and criminal investigations, and the possibility of criminal charges being filed - I am unwilling to do that [i.e., prepare the kind of "document log" identifying the documents that are not being made available, as was done with a request last March] at this time.

That is not to say that the University won't provide more information in the future. In fact, once a decision is made regarding possible criminal charges, it is my hope that the University will be able to share more information regarding the process it has used in looking into this matter. But at this point in time, I'll have to ask for your patience . . ..
(Excerpt from "Letter from Mills to Burns, December 27, 2007," linked above.) That is to say, "sketchy" because -- at least from a public relations, if not legal perspective -- the response does not indicate specifically why the content of any of the documents requested (once redacted) would create any of the general concerns listed.

The Press-Citizen's Alleged UI sexual assault timeline

•Oct. 14: Between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. a female University of Iowa student is allegedly sexually assaulted at Hillcrest Residence Hall. Three Iowa football players are later questioned during the investigation. UI police later acknowledge they received a “rape kit” from University Hospitals on this night.

• Oct. 19: The Press-Citizen initially begins probing the university about the alleged incident. Athletics director Gary Barta would not acknowledge the alleged incident. UI police director Chuck Green said his department was not investigating any such allegation, and he was unaware of the alleged incident.

•Nov. 5: The alleged victim first contacts UI police about the alleged incident. Green said this is the first time police had any knowledge of the incident.

•Nov. 7: The alleged victim files an official police report.

• Nov. 12: The Press-Citizen e-mails Green asking again if police had any information about the alleged sexual assault. He does not respond. Iowa Code chapter 22.4.5 requires UI to disclose this information.

• Nov. 13: The Press-Citizen files an open records request seeking correspondence involving top UI officials, Barta, Associate Athletics Director Fred Mims, Football Coach Kirk Ferentz, Associate Provost Marcella David, Vice President for Student Services Philip Jones and Associate Dean of Student Thomas Baker.

• Nov. 13: The Press-Citizen presents UI with Chapter 22.4.5, and again requests reports of sexual assaults dating back to the beginning of October.

•Nov. 13: Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness said she has no knowledge of an alleged sexual assault at UI.

• Nov. 14: The Press-Citizen attempts to contact Green about whether there was an alleged sexual assault.

• Nov. 14: UI issues a news release that for the first time acknowledges a sexual assault allegedly occurred, and it is under investigation.

•Nov. 14: UI police and the Department of Criminal Investigation investigate Hillcrest.

•Nov. 16: Iowa state Board of Regents President Michael Gartner sends UI President Sally Mason a letter that indicates regents officials would be investigating whether UI followed proper procedures in handling the incident.

• Nov. 16: District Court Judge Amanda Potterfield signs the order to seal five search warrants in the investigation for 60 days.

• The Iowa Hawkeyes football team play their final game of the season, a 28-19 lose.

•Nov. 19: Gov. Chet Culver issues a statement that raises questions about UI’s handling of the investigation.

•Nov. 20: Mason in an editorial board meeting with the Press-Citizen says UI officials have handled the situation properly and says UI has let the victim dictate how the investigation has proceeded.

•Dec. 3: Twenty days elapses, and UI has not complied with the Press-Citizen’s record request. This violates Chapter 22.8.4.d of the Iowa Open Records statute.

•Dec. 7: UI releases 18 pages of documents sought in the records request. UI withholds an unknown number of other documents, and it refuses to reveal how many more documents there are and to redact confidential information in order to unseal it. UI will not provide a reason for declining these requests.

• Jan. 4: The Press-Citizen sues UI for violating open meeting laws.

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