Today’s main event

“So, here we are.”  — Governor Chet Culver, January, 25, 2010.

The governor’s staff billed it this way in a media advisory:  “Governor Culver will hold the first of his weekly press conferences of the legislative session.”

So, this morning at 9:30 a.m., a group of statehouse reporters and photo journalists were waiting for Culver to arrive in the Kennedy Conference Room on the ground floor of the statehouse.  Culver was a few minutes late, as he was just “finishing some things upstairs” according to Troy Price, Culver’s press secretary.  (The “upstairs” would be Culver’s formal office in the statehouse.)  Once Culver got things started in the Kennedy Conference Room, the event lasted just over 31 minutes. 

In minute number 30 of the news conference, Kathie Obradovich of The Des Moines Register asked Culver a two-part question: “Governor, I understand you’re going to try to meet with us on a weekly basis from now on.  Why are you making that change now and what do you hope to achieve?”‘

Culver gave a 27.3 second response:  “I’ve always tried to regularly communicate with all of you, whether it’s formally or informally, I’ve had press avails throughout my tenure as governor.  It was,  after talking with a number of my friends in the press corps, they thought the idea of a Monday morning press conference was ideal during the legislative session, so, here we are.”

Just in case you’re wondering, I am not one of the “friends in the press corps” Culver consulted.  

Culver started this morning off by saying he’d brief reporters about three things: the ice storm, his budget and the job situation in Council Bluffs & Sioux City where two meatpacking plants will close in a few weeks, putting more than 2000 people out of work. Here and here are a couple of Radio Iowa stories on that last topic. 

Also, read more about this morning’s war of words between Culver and the mayor of Carroll.  That spat was fueled, in part, by Culver issuing a Gary Hart-esque* declaration. “The mayor apologized to me last night,” Culver said this morning. “He admitted that he did not have all the facts and he did not have all the information and so you might want to check with him today.”  So we at Radio Iowa did, with the help of KCIM Radio news director Jeff Blankman in Carroll.

*In case you don’t get the Gary Hart reference, Gary Hart issued a challenge to reporters in 1984:  “Follow me around.  I don’t care.  I’m serious.  If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead.  They’ll be very bored.”  And that, boys and girls, is how the Donna Rice/Monkey Business story was born.

Back to this morning, Culver was asked a series of questions on other non-monkey business topics.  Here’s a brief review:

  • Culver will release details of his state budget plan on Wednesday.  He’ll have a news conference “probably on Wednesday afternoon” to “give you all the details.”  Later, Culver hinted at the information roll-out. “We’ll flip a switch and it’ll be live and the whole world can see it.  We’ll use all sorts of ways to get this word out,” Culver said.
  • Culver discussed recent estimates of savings from the state government reorganization proposals percolating through the statehouse.  “I think we have an opportunity to save $200 million or more,” Culver said.  “…We’ll provide you with some more information about savings that we believe are still real.”  That’s a reference to the consultant’s report Culver solicited.  Culver maintains many of the 50 ideas his consultant outlined were not included in the estimate.
  • Culver said he knows next to nothing about the gambling proposal unveiled Friday “It’s the first I’ve heard of it and look forward to talking to any legislators that is interested, but I had not heard anything prior to that report,” Culver siad. As for whether he favors or opposes the idea: “Well, we’ll have to have further discussions about that.  I don’t think it’s an official Iowa legislative session without a discussion or debate about gambling, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s the political will upstairs to talk about some form of expansion, especially given the fact that the Racing & Gaming Commission is going to be meeting this spring and summer to consider granting an additional license or more for casinos, but I’ve not spent a whole lot of time at all.  Again, I’ve not had no discussion with any legislator on expansion of gaming, so I’ve, but I do think if they want to talk about it, I’m willing to sit down.”
  • Culver was asked whether in a time of state budgets the state can afford to hire inspectors to monitor federally-licensed dog kennels“Well, there is a certain level of regulation that is required by state and federal law and so at a minimum we would need to follow those rules and laws that apply,” he replied.
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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.