A “no go” today in Waterloo

As you may know, Iowa Department of Economic Development director Mike Tramontina resigned abruptly late Friday as problems with the Iowa Film Office came to light. Erin Seidler, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Economic Development, sent an advisory Sunday afternoon, saying a news conference in Waterloo scheduled for Monday which was to feature Tramontina will be “rescheduled.” Here’s the Seidler’s Sunday email:

Press Conference on Single Family New Construction Program in Waterloo To Be Rescheduled

WATERLOO, IA (September 20, 2009) – The press conference to be held on Monday, September 21st on the Single Family New Construction Program in Waterloo will be rescheduled. The date of the press conference has yet to be determined.

So what was the event that was cancelled? Read about it below (again, it will be rescheduled and will NOT happen Monday).

Single Family New Construction Program Builds New Houses to Replace Flood-Damaged Homes

WATERLOO, IA (September 17, 2009) – Officials with the City of Waterloo, Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED) and Rebuild Iowa Office (RIO) will announce plans to construct new housing at a press conference in the Summerland neighborhood on Monday, September 21. The Single Family New Construction Program was created earlier this year to build affordable replacement housing units to replace those housing units damaged during the flood.

This program will help fund the construction of 22 new housing units, including 20 single family homes and two condominiums, in 2009. Two local builders and developers participated in the program. The combined total for all of these construction projects is $4 million.

WHO: Waterloo Mayor Tim Hurley, RIO Executive Director Lt. Gen. Ron Dardis, IDED Director Mike Tramontina, Builders Jason Guthrie and John Rooff, City Councilman At-Large Bob Greenwood

WHAT: Press conference to announce Single Family New Construction Program

WHERE: Summerland Neighborhood,  5538 Summerland Dr., Waterloo, IA

RAIN LOCATION: Council Chambers, Waterloo City Hall, 715 Mulberry Street, Waterloo, IA


Through the Single Family New Construction Program, eligible property owners are offered assistance up to 30% of the purchase price for down payment and closing costs of a new housing unit built for less than $180,000. This program is providing a total subsidy of $1.256 million for the 22 housing units. Construction has already begun on most of these properties.

Qualified applicants must be at or below 100% of Area Median Income by household size established by Housing and Urban Development (HUD). All assisted homebuyers must be able to support a mortgage as evidenced by a firm loan commitment and must maintain the property as their primary residence for five years. Assistance from this program cannot be combined with the Federal Jumpstart Homebuyer Assistance or State Jumpstart Down Payment Assistance programs for the same house or owner.

Houses eligible for this program must be located within the corporate limits of Waterloo and cannot be located in the 100-year floodplain. Properties must be single family dwellings, single family unit condominiums or modular homes on permanent foundations. The housing units must be built by an approved builder and cannot exceed $180,000.

Gronstal on IPERS shortfall

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) is fond of telling a story about a childhood bicycle accident that sent him to the doctor’s office. As Gronstal sat on the examination table, the doctor asked Gronstal’s dad:  “Do you have good insurance?”

As Gronstal tells this story in the context of the health care reform debate, Gronstal reveals that he is the son of a banker and his family did, indeed, have good insurance and as a child he knew enough to be relieved that they did.  But in the context of a current debate about the state of the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System, it may highlight one of Gronstal’s wonky qualities: this son of a banker is good with numbers, statistics, and investments.

It’s one of the reasons Gronstal was the floor manager of a bill back in 1996 which made some major changes in the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System. (Click here to read that bill! Thanks to Ed Cook of the Legislative Services Agency & Eric Bakker of Gronstal’s office for finding the bill online.) Gronstal called into the Radio Iowa newsroom this afternoon and I’ll share some of our conversation about the consultants hired by IPERS which reported the fund is in trouble.

“The same people who are suggesting we have a long-term funding problem here are the folks that recommended a dozen years ago,” Gronstal began before he started citing actuarial tables. “…This is immensely complicated and there’s no way it will end up on the radio

“What they said 12 years ago was we had this unreasonably low actuarial assumption of investment returns and at the same time we had this unreasonable assumption that the covered wage base would never rise.  So, on the one side of the ledger we had unrealistically low expectations and on the other side of the ledger unrealistically highexpectations. We brought those two in line in 1996 and this most recent economic downturn has been sharper than those in the past and it’s provided a real challenge so we’re going to evaluate that, but making decisions about a system that’s got a 40-year life span — making decisions in any one year are exceedingly speculative.

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Grassley turns 76 today

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-New Hartford, Iowa) turns 76 today.  He is not (so far) celebrating with a text.  His Twitter account has been silent all week.

One of the Democrats who hopes to face Grassley in 2010 has decided to mark the occasion by writing new lyrics for a familiar tune.  Read candidate Bob Krause’s news release below. (Historical note: Grassley’s 2004 opponent, Art Small, sang in his own campaign ad. During a stateshouse news conference announcing his candidacy, Small also sang part of the theme song to a cartoon to underscore his underdog status.)

U. S. Senate candidate Bob Krause offers Singing Telegram to opponent on birthday

Bob Krause, Democratic Candidate for the U.S. Senate, offered his opponent, Senator Charles Grassley, this singing telegram today on the senator’s 76th birthday:
(To the tune of “Happy Birthday”)

Happy Birthday to you
we wish that you too,
would Twitter to your following,
that heath care can go through.

Instead you persist,
With opportunities missed,
and say that poor Granny
will sadly be dissed.

The problem so far
Is the fear that you are
listening to the lobbyists
instead of your heart!

When health care is done,
And the public option is won,
Then we can all Twitter,
That the country has won!

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday Senator Grassley,
Happy Birthday to You!

Gable gets “standing O”

Dean Borg of Iowa Public Radio covered a Delaware County Republican event in Manchester last night.  Five of the men who hope to be the Republican Party's nominee for governor next year spoke, for about five minutes each. Borg reports the five sat and watched as Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable gave a rousing pep talk to the crowd of about 130.  That crowd rose to its feet and gave Gable a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks.

The coach's advice for turning around the GOP's fortunes: "From where we are and where you want to go — if you wantto go to the highest level – it's going to be commitment like you've never seen before, otherwise you're never going to make it."

Gable spoke with James Q. Lynch of The Cedar Rapids Gazette, too   Gable told Lynch he made the right decision NOT to run for governor in 2006 and that decision (not to run) will probably stand "forever."

“Draft Branstad” ad airs; Democrats offer rebuttal

This past Monday the “Draft Branstad” folks announced they’ve purchased air time on the radio to tout former Governor Terry Branstad’s accomplishments.  Today (two days later), the Iowa Democratic Party issued a rebuttal. The “Draft Branstad” announcement is posted below, followed by the Iowa Democratic Party’s news release/response.

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Iowans vote on resolution “disapproving” of “You lie!” outburst

Here's your scorecard on how Iowa's congressional delegation voted on a House Resolution accusing South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson of committing a "breach of decorum" last week for yelling "You lie!" at President Obama during Obama's health care reform speech in the House chamber:

Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo, Iowa) — Yes

Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Mount Vernon, Iowa) — Yes

Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-Des Moines, Iowa) — Yes

Congressman Tom Latham (R-Ames, Iowa) — No

Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron, Iowa) — No

King has defended WilsonHere's video of King, accusing Obama of throwing the first punch in the fight over whether illegal immigrants will be covered by the health care reform bills percolating through congress. 

"God bless Joe.  He said what we were thinking," King said.  "I don't think there's ever been a president come to the house of representatives as a guest of the members of the house and make a declaration like he did. I mean, the president threw the first punch….Joe's a man of honor. He's an officer and a gentleman and a patriot."

King went on the House floor on Monday morning to defend Wilson.  King also went on MSNBC Monday afternoon, too.  "This thing needs to be put away," King said, referring to the resolution. "We've got a country to run. We shouldn't be mired in this." 

King was on FOX Monday as well, talking about Wilson and about ACORN.

You can follow King on Twitter.  He denounced Tuesday's House vote on the resolution as "a shameless partisan stunt."

Grassley on Baucus bill

(Hello, friends of The Blog.  I'm back from a brief vacation.)

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-New Hartford, Iowa) issued a statement early this morning (7:43 eastern) to complain about the "artificial deadline" that Grassley suggests has forced Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus to release his own health care reform bill this morning.  Here is a detailed summary of the Baucus bill, a link that's courtesy of Ben Smith of The Politico.  Baucus wrote an op-ed that appeared in this morning's Wall Street Journal.

In his statement, Grassley complained Republicans are being "pushed aside" by Democratic congressional leaders. Read Grassley's written statement below.

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Al Franken on “The Fry” and his map drawing skills

Senator Tom Harkin's annual "Steak Fry" fundraiser has been a launching pad for some political luminaries (see Barack Obama, Harkin Steak Fry '06 keynoter).  Senator Al Franken (D-Minneapolis, Minnesota) is the headliner for this year's event.

Franken, though, is quick to downplay the idea he has his sights set on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "I guess that most people who speak at the Steak Fry eventually run for president. I guess that's been the history but I'm not interested in running for president," Franken said earlier this afternoon during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa. "I'm coming because I like Tom Harkin and I like steak." 

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National Day of Service

A couple of Iowa politicians — one a Democrat and one a Republican — who are serving in top spots in the Obama Administration are among those listed by the White House as participatants in National Day of Service events tomorrow, September 11.

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is now U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and, according to the White House Media Affairs Office, this is how Vilsack will spend his midday: "Secretary Tom Vilsack will prepare meals that will go to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and feeding programs with participants of DC Central Kitchen’s culinary job training program." 

Former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach is now chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and, according to the White House Media Affairs Office, this is how Leach will spend part of his afternoon:  "Chairman Jim Leach will attend the Illinois Humanities Council’s “Meaning of Service” program sponsored by City Year Chicago that engages volunteers in discussing short stories, poems, and essays that reflect on the nature of justice, service, and related themes."

From the White House: The September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance is the culmination of a seven-year effort started by 9/11 family members and support groups to establish the service day as a way to honor the victims and heroes of 9/11 and to rekindle the spirit of unity and compassion that followed the attacks. September 11 was officially recognized as a National Day of Service and Remembrance by the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, passed with strong bipartisan support and signed into law by President Obama in April.

And from the desk of O. Kay Henderson:  Leach and Vilsack both have ties to Kennedy through their stints at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Leach served as the interim director of the Institute for Politics for the 2007/2008 academic year and Vilsack was a "resident fellow" at the school.

King presses tort reform

Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron) is pressing tort reform today, a day after President Obama said it was time to move forward with "demonstration projects" in certain states as had been suggested by President Bush.

"I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I've talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs," Obama said last night in his address to congress.

Read King's news release below.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In response to President Obama’s health care address, Congressman Steve King and Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee today called on Chairman John Conyers to schedule a hearing and markup of a proposal to enact law abuse reform and reduce health care costs nationwide.  The Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2009 (H.R. 1086) includes the same types of medical lawsuit reforms that several states have enacted to reduce costs and enhance care. Republican members asked Chairman Conyers to respond with a date for a hearing by September 17. 

“Last night, President Obama continued to advocate for the same policies a majority of Americans reject,” King said. “We do not need mandates, triggers or cuts to the benefits received by seniors. We need real solutions like lawsuit abuse reform that will immediately lower health care costs. This is a real, bi-partisan solution and it is time for Congress to make it happen.”