Living in Society

Political Funnel Land

Iowa State Capitol

Monday’s date was written on an almost completed to-do list. I failed to figure out why.

I think it was because South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg held two public events in the county seat. At 2:30 p.m. he was hosted by the University of Iowa Democrats at a local bar, and at 7:30 p.m. the Iowa City Book Festival and Iowa City Public Library hosted him in one of a series of LIT Talks where he read from and discussed his book, Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future. Buttigieg is a Democrat running for president in 2020.

Glad I’m not obsessing with the horse race to be president. I also wish my memory was better.

The political news originates from Des Moines where the Iowa legislature’s “first funnel” is this week. That means bills must be introduced and passed out of committee to remain viable for debate during the remainder of session. That is, unless someone, typically in the majority party, wants to stick the language into the end of year bills to balance the budget and close the session. A bill is dead if it doesn’t pass the first funnel, but not dead, dead.

I checked the daily bill roster several times yesterday and found one I believe has merit pertaining to pioneer cemeteries. I wrote an email to the county supervisors:


House Study Bill 234 pertaining to pioneer cemeteries was introduced to Representative Bloomingdale’s committee on Local Government today. I read the bill and find it to have merit.

I served as a Big Grove Township Trustee for one four-year term. We managed Fackler’s Grove Cemetery near Seven Sisters Road which meets the criteria for a pioneer cemetery outlined in the legislation. George Fackler is said to be the first person who died in the township and is interred there. The cemetery had been neglected for many years and despite efforts between the trustees and the Ely Historical Society, little progress has been made identifying the graves, if that’s even possible at such a late date.

The question the legislation poses is whether management of the county pioneer cemeteries should be by the township trustees or a centralized county commission for that purpose. I favor the commission approach because of its potential to make the county approach to pioneer cemeteries more uniform.

I realize you have a lot on your to-do list, but if this bill makes it out of the first funnel I hope you will support it.

Thanks for your work on the board.

Regards, Paul

Many bills were filed yesterday addressing fundamental issues with government. There was a bit of fluff, but you’ll have that.

This morning I wrote the chair and ranking member of the State Government Committee about HF 608 which is “an act relating to the tracking and counting of mailed absentee ballots.” The post office no longer uniformly postmarks mail but they do affix a bar code with a time stamp in it. This unresolved technical issue could have changed the 2018 general election results in House District 55 where a number of ballots that lacked a postmark, yet had a bar code, weren’t opened or counted. The law needs fixing to keep up with post office practices and so voters will not be disenfranchised by a minor process deficiency going forward. We’ll see what the legislature does this week.

Adults in Iowa spend some part of their time discussing politics and the rest of their time pretending politics doesn’t exist. Yesterday was a day to spend in political funnel land. I’m not sure I’m the better for it.

Living in Society

Maintaining a Pioneer Cemetery

George Fackler Marker
George Fackler Marker

FACKLER’S GROVE— What should be done with an old cemetery? Fackler’s Grove is a pioneer cemetery that has not been used for interment for more than a hundred years. There are that many years of neglect. The remains of George Fackler, the first person to die in the township, are here, along with those of more than three dozen others. Some think we should do something with the cemetery.

The Ely Historical Society initiated a project to clean up Fackler’s Grove, and their first project day is Saturday, June 1. Check out the Ely History Blog post about the cemetery cleanup here. The group has been thoughtful about their approach, and have phased the work so a better understanding of the needs can be gained through their engagement.

The question for the Big Grove Township board of trustees is how many tax dollars should be spent to maintain a cemetery that many local residents don’t know exists? Today, the answer is unclear.

One line of thinking is to move the remains to a designated section of the Oakland Cemetery near the town of Solon. This has been investigated previously, and there are legal obstacles to consolidating the two cemeteries. Another way to look at it is the cemetery is sacred ground and should not be touched, except to remove brush, and to maintain trees, fencing and what artifacts remain there. The historical society project leads in that direction. A third way to look at it is to do nothing. Fackler’s Grove has been neglected for more than a hundred years, what harm is there in leaving it alone for a few more?

The thing is that when people are interested in donating time and money to maintenance of township property, the resources should be used to supplement the operating budget. I welcome the Ely Historical Society initiative. How the work will unfold over time is something in which I will engage, and report on from time to time.