Categories
Living in Society

Iowa Caucuses in Presidential Election Years

Caucus-goer signing petitions.

On July 1, 1971, the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, lowering the voting age to 18 years. I was eligible to vote in the 1972 general election yet I have no memory of doing so. There was little guidance and I recall confusion about whether to register in Iowa City where I attended university, or where I grew up in Davenport. Absent guidance, it was one less vote for George McGovern. I figured I’d vote in the next election.

On Oct. 26, 1972, McGovern gave a speech at a rally in Iowa City on the steps of Old Capitol. His motorcade of small-sized vehicles arrived late. This first paragraph from the New York Times coverage captured the subject and mood of the speech.

IOWA CITY., Oct. 26—Senator George McGovern expressed hope here today that the Nixon Administration’s confidence of an imminent cease‐fire in the Vietnam war was well founded. But he refused, in a carefully worded speech to 15,000 people on the campus of the University of Iowa, to credit the Nixon Administration for the prospect of peace, saying that those who had opposed the war deserved “much of the credit.”

New York Times, Oct. 27, 1972.

We were an anti-war crowd and McGovern was just what we wanted to hear. Many of us had protested the war in 1970 after Kent State and on campus in 1971 where we encountered the Scott County sheriff’s posse, tear gas, and more. I wasn’t worried about using my newly granted voting rights. We were involved in something bigger than one person. I remember this part of the speech.

“The question that haunts my mind this afternoon,” he told the cheering audience “is this: Why, Mr. Nixon, did you take another four more years’ to put an end to this tragic war?

“What did either we or the rest of the world gain by the killing of another 20,000 young Americans these past four years?.

“What did we get from the terrible unprecedented bombardment that has gone on these last four years—bombardment and artillery attacks that we are told have either killed or maimed or driven out of their homes some six million people, most of them in South Vietnam?”

New York Times, Oct. 27, 1972.

As we now know, Richard Nixon won the presidency then resigned in disgrace, making Gerald Ford president.

In 1976, I was serving in the U.S. military and unavailable to attend caucus. After getting rid of Nixon, I didn’t care who was the next president. Anyone would have been better. I was in transit from Fort Benning, Georgia to Mainz, Germany during the general election and did not vote. To be honest, I didn’t think much about voting and was ready to accept whoever was chosen by the electorate. Jimmy Carter was nominated by Democrats and won the general election.

The rest of my Iowa caucus life is as follows:

  • I first attended caucus in 1980 in the neighborhood near where I was born. I caucused for Ted Kennedy, who wasn’t viable. My late father’s union buddies tried to get me to join the Carter delegation. I didn’t. We elected Ronald Reagan that year.
  • I was living in Iowa City in 1984 and caucused for George McGovern. We re-elected Ronald Reagan.
  • In 1988 I was in Lake County, Indiana where I voted for Michael Dukakis in the Democratic primary. I recall cursing Iowans for giving us that guy, even though he did poorly in the Iowa caucuses. George H.W. Bush was elected president.
  • In 1992, still in Indiana, I voted for Bill Clinton in the primary and the general. I had been following him since his keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. I have a copy of the speech sent by his Arkansas staff. Tom Harkin won the 49 Iowa delegates during the Iowa caucus. As a favorite son, he did not have staying power. Clinton won the election.
  • In 1996 and 2000, I skipped the Iowa caucuses. If Democrats couldn’t re-elect a popular president then they should just disband, I thought. Same went for his vice president, Al Gore. Clinton won in 1996 and Gore had the 2000 election decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. We elected George W. Bush.
  • 2004 was when the Iowa caucuses started to get unmanageable.There were a lot of Democratic candidates and some came to our small city in Eastern Iowa. George W. Bush won re-election, beating John Kerry. 2004 marked the beginning of the myth about the caucuses being a vital party-building asset. This turned out to be malarkey.
  • 2008 was the zoo of caucuses. I led our precinct delegation for Edwards AND served as caucus secretary. It was a bitch to just get a count as the Middle School Cafeteria was too small and our delegation bled out into the hallway. Barack Obama got the most delegates and won the general. 2008 was the last time any attempt at diversity in attendance was made. We had people in wheelchairs from the assisted care facility lined up in the hallway just wanting to vote and go home. It was the last year care center people who needed accommodation attended.
  • In 2012 I chaired two precincts that were not my own. We all listened to the Barack Obama webcast and for the last time had serious conversations about platform issues and party building. While his margin eroded in our precinct, Obama won the precinct for the second time, and the general.
  • I got smarter in 2016 and served only as precinct captain for Hillary Clinton. I had learned to talk to attendees as they waited, encouraging them to stay. Clinton easily won our precinct, although statewide, the delegate count was even with Bernie Sanders. Trump won the general, as we know.
  • By 2020, the number of Democrats attending caucus decreased by 30 percent, driven by Republican and No Party registered voters moving into the precinct and Democrats dying or moving out. I led the caucus and that part of it went well. The results reporting process was glitchy, to be kind, and a national embarrassment. Biden won the general.

Going forward, I don’t care what the Democratic National Committee does about the nominating calendar. Unless the state party uses the caucus experience for party building, what’s the point? David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register was a peddler of the party building myth. I doubt Democratic activists are willing to swallow that any more. In the meanwhile, Republicans gained hegemony in Iowa.

Who knows if there will be a presidential preference poll at the 2024 Iowa caucuses? More importantly, who cares?

Categories
Living in Society

Into Autumn

Fallen apples, some partly eaten by deer and other wildlife.

It rained the last two days and Tuesday’s forecast is clear in the high sixties. After my appointment in Cedar Rapids, the plan is to work outdoors. There is the garden to glean, apples to pick, dead branches to trim, and a brush pile to build. As I age, progress on my list of tasks proceeds steadily yet more slowly.

I don’t like where the coronavirus pandemic is going. It’s not ending. In fact, there was an outbreak this month in the K-12 schools. It doesn’t appear Iowa will hit anything close to 70 percent of the population vaccinated. The delay in a vaccine for young people is part of the problem. Rejection of the science of vaccines is the rest. Iowa used to lead the nation in the quality of our education, but no longer. Living in society is being dumbed down.

Rain is typical of mid-October and this year it is welcome. I’ll wait a week or two to mow for the last time. I’ll set the deck low to produce a lot of grass clippings for the garden. After that, I’ll schedule the mower in the shop for what is becoming every other year maintenance. I don’t use my tractor for much besides mowing.

We scheduled the HVAC technician to come out and go over our furnace. It is the same shop that installed the system new, although staff changed since 1993. Once that is done, we are as ready for winter as we’ll be.

A pall hangs over everything. Partly it is the isolation caused by participating in so many things via Zoom, Google Meet, Twitch and social media. Partly people are focused on their families. Our politics is unreasonable, and there seems to be less common cause in everything. Dog eat dog, every every person for themselves is the way things are going. The insularity will not be good for society, yet I have no good alternatives.

I’m thinking about the burn pile I need to build. It’s purpose is to clean up the yard of brush from trees and bushes I planted when we arrived in Big Grove. I could have saved the trouble and not planted them. Yet what kind of place would this be without them. It would be the less and we can’t settle for that.

Based on squirrel activity the last two weeks, our backyard will be a Bur Oak forest in ten years. I hope we live to see it.

Categories
Writing

Postcards from Iowa #9

“In All That Is Good, Iowa Affords the Best”

Reverse side: “In All That Is Good, Iowa Affords the Best.” Iowa was admitted as a state Dec. 28, 1846. The Capitol was built 1873-1886 at a cost of $3,296,256. The domes are plated with 22-carat gold. The mural “Westward” hangs at the head of the grand stairway. “Iowa, Her Affections Like The Rivers Of Her Borders, Flow To An Inseparable Union”

We don’t pick the circumstances of our birth. Because life has been tolerable in Iowa I stayed. I had experiences elsewhere: in the military which took me to South Carolina, Georgia and Germany, and a work transfer to Indiana. Both times I returned to my home state. If I had found a place more suitable for living I would have moved there. A person gets used to what they know.

I graduated from the University of Iowa twice yet I don’t consider myself to be a “Hawkeye,” the nickname for graduates. I don’t even follow the sports teams despite large sums of money the state invests in them. I don’t farm or work for someone any longer. As a pensioner I could live anywhere. So far I continue to choose Iowa.

It is not bad living here… yet. Despite growing coarseness in society, where personalities rage at one another, denigrate liberals and intellectuals, and do dumb things, I’m still here. We are a place where Qanon members and dark money lobbyists are close to the governor while I am not. The postcard is not clear about “all that is bad” yet we have plenty of that in Iowa. At the point where there is concern for personal safety I might leave. Where would I go? To a place where my pension dollars would stretch further. Perhaps outside the United States.

The designer of this card was a publicist and an optimist. I recognize the objects on the front side and have been in the state capitol and historical building many times. The idea we are an “inseparable union” is ridiculous in 2021. It would be fitting to mention the two bordering, polluted rivers flow to the Gulf of Mexico where they contribute to a large dead zone. Hardly stuff to be used in promoting the state. The card is undated but is a product of the 20th Century. We are so past that now.

We make the best lives we can. We are handicapped by education, social status and physical attributes. Those handicaps can be overcome. In Iowa I’ve always been able to find work enough to own a house and pay the bills. Emblematic of our financial circumstances is I drive a 2002 automobile. It is low mileage and serves basic transportation needs. I wouldn’t want to make a trip to New Jersey in it.

There is a migration of young people leaving the state. Why would they stay? Drawn to large cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, they also move to Colorado where Denver has become a gathering place for young professional people. Florida used to be a destination until Governor Ron DeSantis came along. Now there is an ongoing exodus from Florida as well. Iowa’s governor seems resolved to follow DeSantis’ lead. It’s another reason young people leave the state.

I like this postcard and wish the slogans were true. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Categories
Living in Society

School Board Election Coverage – 2021

My coverage of the Solon School Board election can be found at this link.

I’ve written what I intended before the election with the exception that I will attend the Oct. 20 candidate forum. If there is anything to report, I will write a post. I learned what I need to know to pick three. After doing so, it’s hard to be unbiased in my coverage, so I’ll stop. I will wrap up the election once the results are known.

Thank you so much for following along. I hope readers in the Solon Community School District vote and encourage their friends and neighbors to do likewise.

Click here for all 2021 Solon School Board Election Coverage

Categories
Reviews

Book Review: The Decarbonization Imperative

It’s easy to write a post on social media that says we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions then add a hashtag like #ActOnClimate. What’s harder is knowing what greenhouse gases are at work across the economy and the steps required to reduce them. The upcoming book by Michael Lenox and Rebecca Duff is here to help.

The Decarbonization Imperative: Transforming the Global Economy by 2050 takes “a deep dive into the challenge of climate change and the need to effectively reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.”

When the authors say “deep dive” that means the book doesn’t read like your parent’s latest mystery novel. It is packed with details and examples, along with questions about whether society can make the transition to a decarbonized economy effectively and in time to avert the worst effects of climate change. The authors remain positive about the prospects even if their narrative presents a bleak answer to both questions. The book welcomes a reader already engaged in how to combat climate change. It takes them beyond generalities.

“The challenge before the world is overwhelming, requiring a profound shift in so many large economic sectors over the course of a few decades. But try we must,” wrote Lenox and Duff. They present five sectors of the economy for review: Energy, Transportation, Industrials, Buildings and Agriculture.

Running throughout the book is the theme of electrification as a way of economic decarbonization. Energy, or electricity generation more specifically, is a key consideration. The other four sectors depend to varying extents upon the energy sector, according to the authors.

Lenox and Duff name all the carbon-free operating methods for generating electricity and point to solar as the one with the most promising capability to disrupt current patterns toward decarbonization of the economy. The narrative is familiar: solar technology is effective, it is currently inexpensive, and costs continue to decline. “Utility-scale solar is now competitive with fossil fuels,” wrote the authors.

Nuclear power is mentioned multiple times in the book as a potential solution to decarbonize electricity generation. Readers of this blog know my skepticism about building new nuclear power generating stations. Like many, I point to the failures at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). According to the nuclear regulatory commission, “Today, the Three Mile Island-2 reactor is permanently shut down and 99 percent of its fuel has been removed. The reactor coolant system is fully drained and the radioactive water decontaminated and evaporated.” The other two disasters remain ongoing.

Lenox and Duff acknowledge the high cost of current nuclear reactor technology. They also mention Bill Gates’ nuclear project. In his 2021 book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, Gates wrote, “I put several hundred million dollars into starting a company to design a next-generation nuclear plant that would generate clean electricity and very little nuclear waste.” While Lenox and Duff acknowledge new nuclear power is too expensive for economically disruptive potential by 2050, Gates’ investment is of the kind for which they advocate throughout the book. If Gates’ company resolves issues with nuclear power, as is its stated goal, it may be worth another look.

The authors emphasize no sector of the economy is without challenges in getting to decarbonization. The benefit of reading the book is its broad overview of these challenges.

There is a lot to absorb in The Decarbonization Imperative. Unless advocates are willing to do the work to understand this narrative, what’s the point? I recommend the book for its analysis by sector and for the ways each sector is connected with others. Climate advocates often focus on electricity generation and electrification of transportation yet to decarbonize the economy, all sectors must be addressed. Zero emissions will be a tough nut to crack, especially when zero means zero.

The Decarbonization Imperative: Transforming the Global Economy by 2050 by Michael Lenox and Rebecca Duff is scheduled for release from Stanford University Press on Oct. 29, 2021. Click here to go to the book’s page at Stanford University Press.

About the authors

Michael Lenox is the Tayloe Murphy Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He is the coauthor of Can Business Save the Earth? Innovating Our Way to Sustainability (Stanford, 2018) and The Strategist’s Toolkit (Darden, 2013).

Rebecca Duff is Senior Research Associate with the Batten Institute at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. She also serves as the managing director for Darden’s Business Innovation and Climate Change Initiative.

Categories
Living in Society

School Board Conflicts of Interest

In the many and complicated discussions between voters, social media users, bloggers and candidates the 2021 Solon School Board election has generated some concerns about conflicts of interest. They can be addressed.

The Iowa Association of School Boards has specific guidelines about conflict of interest for school board members. I clipped the following image from their website.

Concerns about conflicts of interest were raised about Dan Coons, Stacey Munson and Cassie Rochholz. I’d point out the district has counsel that could guide the board through potential conflicts of interest and how to handle them. I’m not an attorney and am just reading information that is commonly available to voters. Here’s where we are:

In his response to my questionnaire, Kelly Edmonds asserted the following:

Dan Coons and Stacey Munson have spouses who work for the district, they would have to recuse themselves from voting or even being part of the upcoming 2023 contract negotiations.

Kelly Edmonds via email Oct. 8, 2021.

The Iowa Association of School Boards addresses this directly. “Iowa law does not prohibit a school employee’s spouse from serving on the school board.” While it may make some voters uncomfortable to have a school board member with a spouse that works for the schools, in my reading of the IASB site, it is permissible. If this matters to a voter, there are plenty of good candidates from which to choose.

What about upcoming contract negotiations in 2023? Wouldn’t spousal relationships affect them? We can look back to the communications disaster that was the 2019 negotiations and learn.

In 2017 the Iowa Legislature removed much of what could be collectively bargained with public employee unions. The way the board presented contract options in 2019 in light of the new law was more the problem. Every school employee had an opportunity to know the legislature gutted the collective bargaining law. The school board chose to bludgeon employees in the represented bargaining unit with the fact the law changed. As we saw in the 2019 school board elections, despite whatever anti-incumbent movement was created by contract negotiations, voters chose incumbent Adam Haluska for reelection. The school board’s handling of contract negotiations alienated teachers and community members.

Conflict of interest, in my view, is low on the priority list of issues as it relates to collective bargaining. Communications between parties is a more important issue. If I had advice for that school board it would be to avoid use of legal counsel to state the obvious.

The question of whether Cassie Rochholz’ employment with Edmentum represents a conflict of interest is more relevant.

At Edmentum, a single mission guides and inspires us as it defines our core purpose and the contribution we make to society: Founded in innovation, we are committed to being educators’ most trusted partner in creating successful student outcomes everywhere learning occurs. To help us work toward that mission while operating business, our key values guide our priorities and are evident in everything we do.

Edmentum mission and values statement from their website.

Edmentum sells learning solutions to schools, including those in the district. Cassie Rochholz has worked there as a director since December 2019, according to her LinkedIn profile. According to the IASB website, the restriction regarding conflict of interest is specific: “prohibiting being an agent of a textbook or school supply company selling to the district.” Rochholz was asked about this on her public Facebook page and I clipped the following discussion:

Cassie Rochholz campaign Facebook page.

I confirmed Edmentum products were used in the Solon School District. The basic framework of this concern is accurate: there is a potential conflict of interest in that Rochholz’s employer, where she is a director, sells to the district. Rochholz has addressed it. It is now up to voters to decide if her explanation is sufficient.

Conflict of interest is “in the weeds” of what voters look for in a school board candidate. Voters do appear to be interested in learning more about the candidates in 2021. Not many vote, though. 1,225 voters went to the polls in the 2019 school board election. The candidates got votes as follows:

Johnson County Auditor website.

If the 2021 school board election is like 2019, every issue will matter to voters. In my view, concerns about conflict of interest are reasonable. Candidates for office have a responsibility to address voter concerns on this or any topic. Any board member may have to recuse themselves for a number of reasons. Administrative staff has the resources to determine an appropriate course in specific situations or on specific votes. Concerns about these specific conflicts of interest, in my opinion, don’t rise to the level of being actionable. They certainly don’t disqualify anyone. In any case, voters should look at the whole person when selecting three on Nov. 2. There are seven candidates, each of which has much to offer and could be considered for the board.

Click here for all of my coverage of the Solon School Board Election.

Categories
Writing

New Writing Computer

Drying drainage ditch leading to the lake before the rain.

Friday I moved my 2013 CPU and installed a new one on my writing desk, a consequential decision for a writer.

On the one hand, things go bad with old hardware and I don’t want to crash and lose files. On the other, there is a lot to learn about using the new computer even though for most applications the transition has been reasonably smooth. I have a lot of files to deal with.

The most consequential decision was to convert from my 2006 version of Microsoft Office to Microsoft 365. The concern is I haven’t been through all of the email files going back to 1999 and that remains on the to do list for my autobiography. I don’t really want to import all those files to the new hardware or put it in the cloud. Luckily the new version of Outlook can synchronize with the web version of Gmail, or so it seems I’ll have access to that part of the archive. Is it worth a three-hour tutorial video to learn the functionality? Probably.

The other decision pertains to photos. I used Google Picasa since close to its inception. I have files from the earliest days of my conversion from film photography to digital, including a photo of Barack Obama taken on my flip phone at the Harkin Steak Fry in 2006. I began curating all the photos yet I hadn’t planned to convert software while I did. Google stopped supporting Picasa in 2016, which shows how closely I follow that segment of the internet. I don’t remember a notice from Google. I’m looking at newer photo managing software like Fotor and GIMP, but I may finish the curation project on my old CPU with Picasa and use the new software going forward.

Saturday morning I looked up a lot of passwords. I kept the old monitor, Made in China in October 2003, according to the sticker. I should likely upgrade to a new one when the budget gets a bit ahead of where it is now. A new monitor is not as critical as a new CPU. Other old peripherals bought long ago continue to function so they won’t be replaced until they die.

Sometimes I think we’d all be better off with a text-based command line interface to the internet. But for IBM, Apple and Microsoft, that could have been our future. It would have been a different digital world.

I needed this change. As I approach my seventieth birthday there is an urge to discard stuff not worth passing along to those who succeed me. Old computer files may be one of the least important legacies to leave behind. Curation work is full of memories and I appreciate that aspect of it. Curating files keeps me busy without spending money, which is also something a pensioner needs.

I welcome the new Dell CPU. Hopefully I won’t have to buy many more.

Categories
Living in Society

SSB Candidates Respond

On Oct. 1, 2021 I mail merged a letter to each of the seven announced candidates for school board. Below is the text of the email. Following it is the verbatim response I received from each candidate in alphabetical order by last name. It is all good information.

Dear (Insert name),

I am a retiree who lives in the Solon School District. I’m reaching out to you for information so I can make an informed decision in the Nov. 2, 2021 school board election. I’d appreciate your direct answers to the following questions by return email.

I am asking all seven candidates the same questions. I plan to post the responses, without editing, on my website pauldeaton.com on Saturday, Oct. 9. If I don’t hear back from you, I will say so in my post.

Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

Regards, Paul

Paul Deaton, Solon

1. Why are you running for school board?

2. What experiences qualify you for this office?

3. What issue or issues seem most important to address if you are elected/re-elected?

4. Why should voters pick you over other candidates?

5. Would you seek to negotiate another employment contract with Superintendent Davis Eidahl when his current one expires? Why or why not?

6. Do you have a website, Facebook page or other place where voters can get information? Please provide a link.

A couple of notes about me:

I am taking a non-partisan approach to my reporting and am interested in providing information to district voters. I will not formally endorse any candidates and don’t plan to say who I am supporting on my website or in other public places before the election.

During the 2019 school board election, some of my posts about the election campaigns got more than 700 views. The highest vote-getter, Adam Haluska, got 446 votes.

I got your email address from the Johnson County Auditor website.

Email sent to Solon Community School District board candidates Oct. 1, 2021

Erika Billerbeck

  1. Why are you running for the school board?

I grew up in a family of public school educators. My mom was an art teacher and my dad was a high school principal. My desire to run for the board is partially influenced by my upbringing which always placed an emphasis on education. I was raised to be a critical thinker and to serve my community.

As a parent of two kids, who are both different in terms of their academic and social/emotional needs, I want to see my own children thrive in school. And, of course, I want to do what I can to ensure that all of our kids succeed in the classroom, regardless of their own backgrounds, interests, and individual challenges.

Learning about the many issues facing a significant number of Solon teachers also compelled me to run. In order for our students to be successful, we need to have teachers who feel empowered and supported. I’m interested in ensuring that the faculty has input on, and access to, quality curricula so that all state standards are being taught in literacy, math, social studies, science, and 21st-century skills.

As a school board member, I would strive to establish an environment of trust with the faculty, staff, and administration. Honest transparency is essential and one step toward achieving that goal is to revise the current school board policy, specifically that which dictates the “chain of command.” Rather than promoting an ethos of cooperation and mutual respect among all, as the policy is currently stated, school board members are dissuaded from engaging in open discourse with faculty, staff, and the public, and critical thinking is discouraged. This needs to change.

  1. What experiences qualify you for this office?

As a state peace officer, I have 21 years’ worth of experience serving in the public sector and resolving conflict. I understand the importance of problem-solving, listening, de-escalating stressful situations, enforcing and abiding by laws I may not always agree with, and having the ability to approach issues from more than one perspective. And the end, I must accept my share of accountability for the outcome.

During my career working for a complex state government system in a law enforcement capacity, I have had the opportunity to interact with a wide array of people in a variety of settings and circumstances. Almost every week, my job requires me to work, collaborate, cooperate, and compromise with people who often have very different values, beliefs, ideas, and priorities than my own.

As a sergeant, I’ve successfully helped lead and provide oversight for the officers in my district. I’ve learned how to push agency goals forward while maintaining respectful discourse with coworkers and the public. I believe my ability to listen and be an open-minded critical thinker will be an asset for serving on the SCSD board.

  1. What issue or issues seem most important to address if you are elected?

*Improve teacher morale and retention: A number of talented, experienced teachers have left our district as a direct result of a toxic work environment and the disrespectful treatment they’ve been subjected to. These problems have been exacerbated by an apparent lack of response by the school board. Numerous current and past teachers reached out to me to express their frustrations with the current board and superintendent, prompting me to make this one of my priorities.

*Improve communication: The prevalence of inadequate, untrustworthy and sometimes completely lacking communication from leadership to teachers, staff, parents, and students is a source of frustration to me as a parent and community member. I am quite aware that others share my frustration.

*Improve accountability: Currently, SCSD leadership avoids being held accountable when problems arise. This may be due to the present policy that discourages board members from performing their due diligence in terms of oversight.

  1. Why should voters pick you over other candidates?

I believe that everyone running for the school board is doing so with the same desire to lend a positive influence on the present and future SCSD and I have no doubt that one could find some common ground between my “platform” and those of other candidates. However, unlike some other candidates, I do not have any “conflicts of interest” such as a personal relationship with a school employee, nor am I employed by a company under contract with the district.

  1. Would you seek to negotiate another employment contract with Superintendent Davis Eidahl when his current one expires? Why or why not?

Currently, I cannot commit to seeking to negotiate another employment contract with Davis Eidahl any more than I can commit to seeking to terminate the employment contract. However, I do have concerns about the role he has played or failed to play in terms of addressing low teacher morale and the retention of our talented staff.

I think it is fair to say that the SCSD has a number of “hot button” issues that need to be addressed. From my perspective, experience, and in my discussions with Solon teachers and staff it is also fair to say that Mr. Eidahl has played a key role in turning up the temperature on those issues while failing to take any steps to defuse or resolve the problems.

  1. Do you have a website, Facebook page, or other places where voters can get information?

https://www.facebook.com/Billerbeck-for-Solon-School-Board-100985075683571

Tim Brown

Paul,

It is good to hear from you again. I am catching up on email after being gone for the weekend and wanted to get back to you on your request. This year, there have been more request for questionnaire responses than in the past and I will not have time to meet the timelines for the ones that came in more recently. I have already submitted responses to the League of Women Voter’s questionnaire which I believe are posted online already and I am finalizing the responses in the questionnaire from the Economist before I have to leave town later this week. I will also be participating in the forum that the Economist is hosting on October 20th.

With existing work, personal and volunteer commitments, my bandwidth is very limited over the next month. I hope you can understand, and perhaps we can talk at the forum.

Kind regards,
Tim

Dan Coons

Paul,

Thank you for reaching out and informing me about your need for more information to make an informed decision. Many of the questions you are posing will be answered in the Solon Economist by all of the candidates. We will also be having a live forum in October.

Please feel free to post the above response on your web page.

Best regards,
Dan Coons

Kelly Edmonds

Why are you running for school board?

Since moving to Solon and raising my family in this community, I have become passionate about improving the school experience for my sons and other children in our community.  My wife and I moved to Solon because we heard such great things about the school district. We were excited to be in a smaller community and in a district known for education and activities. What I have noticed now that we have lived here for several years is that Solon does have some outstanding educators and staff, a great athletics program, and there are lots of other activities that similar sized schools do not have. However, in speaking with parents in the school district, there is a lot of concern about current leadership, policy, and how decisions are made. I believe my experience as a business leader coupled with my passion to create a better future for our children and community makes me an ideal person to take an active role on the school board and can help the district make improvements to benefit students, staff, teachers and the community. 

What experiences qualify you for this office?

As a husband, father, business leader, volunteer, and board member of a nonprofit, I am always planning for a better future. The roles that I have assumed at this point in my life have taught me that an effective leader is a good listener and that nobody knows the strengths and weaknesses of an organization better than those on the front lines. To think that one can make the best decisions from afar or without consultation is foolish. I constantly strategize how to make the organizations or members I serve poised for growth, higher achievement, higher efficiency, safer, and more effective.  These are all the things that our district needs now, as it always has. Coupled with my passion for my own children’s education and wellbeing, as well as all of the kids in our community, I will work tirelessly to achieve the goals of the district as I do towards all endeavors that I pursue.

What issue or issues seem most important to address if you are elected/re-elected?

I would like to see a greater level of transparency in our district.  From my perspective, decisions have and are being made by the administration or the board without seeking input from parents, educators or using guidance from experts. I have been made aware of numerous examples of educators and staff speaking up about current policy or practices in the district only to have their voices go unheard and, even more concerning, those who have brought forth these issues have been punished and/or humiliated for questioning the district’s leaders. I’ve spoken to many parents who have contacted the current board and superintendent and have gotten no response to their written concerns.  Additionally, I would like to review fiscal policy and make sure that our tax dollars are being used to the maximum benefit to students, teachers and staff.  Solon historically spends less than 80% of its annual allocated budget which highlights a “tax and save” policy, yet funding for programs have been cut, our teachers are paid less than neighboring districts, all while parents are being asked for donations for simple items such as playground equipment.  Investment in our district should be a priority.

Why should voters pick you over other candidates?

I believe voters deserve to have a public school in a community which listens and responds to them. The two incumbents do not have a good track record of responding to questions from parents. Additionally, this past week, the Iowa City Press Citizen published responses from all seven of the Solon School Board candidates. The two incumbents, Tim Brown and Dan Coons, plus a new challenger, Cassie Rochholz, declined to respond to their questions. The school district does not need more members who decline to respond to concerns from the community.

Additionally, because Dan Coons and Stacey Munson have spouses who work for the district, they would have to recuse themselves from voting or even being part of the upcoming 2023 contract negotiations. If they are both on the school board, this would potentially leave only three board members to decide on such an important issue. When deciding who to vote for, please think about the implications of what it will mean for your child’s educational experience if contract negotiations go the way they did in 2019 and more teachers leave the district.

Would you seek to negotiate another employment contract with Superintendent Davis Eidahl when his current one expires? Why or why not?

My current understanding is that Davis Eidahl has not been interested in listening to public health experts when it comes to COVID-19 mitigation in the school building. I have also heard accounts from many staff and parents that he rarely consults educators on educational decisions and since his tenure, Solon schools have been a “hostile work environment” and that he engages in “bullying tactics.”  I have heard similar stories from his tenure at the Ottumwa school district. In fact, there was an Ottumwa opinion piece that alluded to this issue (https://www.ottumwacourier.com/opinion/a-new-better-path-for-ottumwa-schools/article_8367e8ca-b059-11e7-b397-9bd9db783f26.html).

However, I am willing to assess his performance as superintendent in more detail and work with him before making a final decision about his future as Solon’s superintendent.

Do you have a website, Facebook page or other place where voters can get information? Please provide a link.

https://www.facebook.com/Edmonds4Solon/

Stacey Munson

Why are you running for school board? 

I have given thought to running for school board for several years and decided that now is the right time. My background in healthcare management helps me to be uniquely positioned to understand complex finances, challenges with recruitment and retention of staff, and data driven analytics; all while maintaining an intentional focus on the people we are here to serve – our students and families.    

What experiences qualify you for this office? 

I am a 2001 graduate of Solon High School and am extremely grateful for my experience at Solon as well as my post-secondary education experiences. I am the daughter of a retired educator, and my husband is an educator at Solon High School; thus I have lived my entire life listening to educators talk about what they do and why they do it. My three children attend school in the district. These experiences as well as my professional experience working in healthcare management have helped me to be uniquely poised to understand our school district from a variety of viewpoints as well as to have the necessary financial and analytical skills to successfully function as a school board member.   

What issue or issues seem most important to address if you are elected/re-elected? 

If I would be elected to the Solon School Board, I would want to focus on the following: 

  1. Increasing transparency and communication between the school board and community. This includes holding school board meetings in a larger space that is more welcoming for parents, students, and community members to attend. 
  2. Working to ensure that all students and families in our district are represented and heard by our school board. It is diverse experiences and opinions that build strong communities, and we must build confidence that not only majority opinions are heard and listened to by our board and administrators. We need to foster open dialogue about the issues that are controversial or concerning for our families.   
  3. A deeper evaluation of vacant positions that have not been filled is in order. Over the past several years there have been several positions that have been vacated and left unfilled. I would like to explore why this has occurred, what classes or services are no longer offered because of these vacancies, and the fiscal impact of these vacancies. In addition, discussing and understanding the potential barriers to reinstating these positions would be an essential component of this evaluation.  
  4. Understanding past and current spending practices, why these practices have continued, and discussion among administration and board members about if these practices should continue; namely discussion around any percentage of the authorized budget that is left unspent. 

Why should voters pick you over other candidates? 

My personal and career experiences as well as my commitment to Solon make me an excellent candidate for school board. I am moderate in much of my thinking and believe that in most issues, common ground can be achieved between divided groups.  I strive to understand situations and issues prior to making judgements, and seek this position only to serve my community.  

Would you seek to negotiate another employment contract with Superintendent Davis Eidahl when his current one expires? Why or why not? 

I cannot offer a fair and educated opinion on this matter at this time.  Prior to weighing in on the employment contract for any administrator, I would need to have the opportunity to work directly with that individual for a period of time.  

Do you have a website, Facebook page or other place where voters can get information? Please provide a link. 

https://m.facebook.com/Stacey-Munson-for-Solon-School

Michael Neuerburg

Why are you running for school board?

I am a dad whose daughter has attended SCSD since kindergarten and she is now in the 4th grade. She loves attending SCSD, and I have been impressed with the teachers and the student achievement at the schools. However, I have heard from many teachers that they are not getting the support that they need from the school board at the SCSD. I believe we need to help our teachers so they can help our kids. That starts with making certain that they are appropriately compensated, valued, and have the support and autonomy that they need to do their jobs.

What experiences qualify you for this office?

As a lawyer, I have fought for the underdog in employment discrimination cases. One of the first cases that I worked on was a case in which an FBI agent from the Midwest was fired because he had a prosthetic hand. We took the case to trial in Virginia and after a jury verdict he was reinstated as an agent. I have represented many veterans with disabilities ranging from hearing loss to diabetes to PTSD in employment cases. As a member of the school board, I would represent the community and it would not be in an adversarial role. I would use my skills and professionalism to listen to all sides, seek to understand all sides, and reach common goals for our community. Additionally, I volunteer on the Board of the Directors of The Arc, an organization that helps kids and adults who have disabilities. Sometimes people who are not in positions of power need support to make their voices heard, and I am able to provide that support.

What issue or issues seem most important to address if you are elected/re-elected?

There are important issues to address in SCSD. We are doing many things well, but can do some things better. As mentioned, the most important issue is teacher retention. Many of our excellent teachers have been leaving the district. My daughter started in kindergarten at SCSD and is now in the 4th grade. Two of her four K-3 teachers have left the district as well as her elementary school principal—and Solon’s statistics show this is just part of a wider problem.

Another issue at SCSD is the program opportunities available for students with specific needs, so that every individual gets the help they need to improve. I have heard very positive feedback about Solon’s special education work, but also understand that sometimes things could be done better. There is a TAG/ELP program, but the students in this program do not meet regularly and I believe this is an area that could be improved. We can build on Solon’s successes to make the school work better for all students and expand our programs for specialized students.

Why should voters pick you over other candidates?

My goal is to make sure that every voice is heard, from teachers, parents, staff and students. We will not always agree, especially in these polarized times, but we can have open and respectful communication. My work in employment discrimination advocating for the underdog shows that I can listen well, ask questions until I have an understanding of all sides, and be an effective voice for our community.

Would you seek to negotiate another employment contract with Superintendent Davis Eidahl when his current one expires? Why or why not?

It is too soon to make a decision about Superintendent Davis Eidahl’s contract. I look forward to working with him as part of the school board and learning more. I would not prejudge him or others at the school, but would make decisions based on all the best information I can get at the time.

Do you have a website, Facebook page or other place where voters can get information? Please provide a link.

Yes, I have a Facebook page located at https://www.facebook.com/MikeforSolonSchoolBoard

Cassie Rochholz

Hello Paul,

Thanks for reaching out.  I am going to refrain from answering questions via social media, however I encourage you to attend the public forum on Oct 20th and review the candidates information being published in the Solon Economist.

Have a great week,

Cassie

Click here for all of my coverage of the Solon School Board Election.

Categories
Kitchen Garden

Fall is in the Air

Ash and Maple trees starting to turn, Oct. 7, 2021.

It may be a while before the first hard frost. Peppers, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and greens continue to grow in the garden. I want one more picking of Red Delicious apples before letting the rest go to wildlife. Fall is in the air and hopefully rain will come with it. It remains exceedingly dry.

Wednesday I mulched the garlic patch so planting this year for next is finished. I won’t start onions and shallots until late December in channel trays under a grow lamp. As I look to 2022, this year has been a great one for our garden.

For now, accept it that fall is coming and with it a an eventual end of the growing season. We live on the edge between abundance and scarcity. Hopefully we’ll have enough food between the pantry and commercial shopping to last until spring. One never knows in a time of climate change.

Categories
Living in Society

SSB Candidates Respond to Press Citizen

On Thursday, Oct. 7, the Iowa City Press Citizen published responses to a questionnaire sent to the seven Solon School board candidates. Because of technical challenges with Twitter and Facebook, I am posting a printed version from the online newspaper to which I subscribe here.

If readers subscribe to the newspaper, here’s a link to the article online.

I will have comments on the candidates once the responses to Journey Home and the Solon Economist are in. For now the Press Citizen responses can stand on their own. I will point out that the circulation of the Solon Economist is less than 1,000, and there are 3,541 registered, active voters in the school district. Those who didn’t respond to the Press Citizen may have missed an opportunity on their way to 500 votes on Nov. 2.

Click here for all of my coverage of the Solon School Board Election.