Judge Marsha Bergan declines to dismiss Iowa River Landing suit

After rejecting a request for an immediate injunction to keep Coralville from moving forward with the Oliver McMillan/Von Maur land giveaway, District Court Judge Marsha Bergan dismissed Coralville’s request to have the Iowa River Landing lawsuit thrown out.

Judge denies Coralville’s request to dismiss lawsuit by Emily Schettler in the Iowa City Press Citizen, Mar. 30, 2012

District Court Judge Marsha Bergan has denied the city of Coralville’s request to dismiss a lawsuit against the city over its development practices in the Iowa River Landing.

Attorneys for the city had asked Bergan to dismiss a lawsuit brought by area developers and business owners who were seeking an injunction to prevent the city from completing a proposed land deal with Von Maur.

My short summation of the case:  Coralville is giving San Diego developer Oliver McMillan $1.5 million with which he will buy a prime parcel of land in the Iowa River Landing.  He is then required to turn around and sell that land to Von Maur for $10.  (This is, of course, just a small piece of the ~$14 million puzzle of tricks Coralville is using to incentivize Von Maur to abandon Iowa City.)  Iowa law states that cities cannot sell land below market value, but apparently laws don’t apply when you call a project urban renewal.

Ultimately I’m not sure what the plaintiffs in this case hope to get, and I’m doubtful that they will prevail in the end.  Hopefully, though, this case will open a bit wider the window that is exposing the shady chicanery of Kelly Hayworth and the City of Coralville.


Pink slime, what’s the crime?

I’m going to get to the issue of pink slime in a round about way by explaining how I came to realize I shouldn’t necessarily not eat veal anymore.

For years I didn’t eat veal, I mean eating poor little cows in tiny little houses that can’t move around is pretty damn dismal, depressing, and cruel.  And I still believe that the conditions that veal calves are raised in are dismal, depressing, and cruel.  But then I realized that I eat chicken and their eggs and that the cramped and crowded conditions that they live in, often after having their beaks cut off,  are dismal, depressing, cruel.

So I found myself in a dilemma, either I give up eating chicken and eggs that are raised in inhumane conditions or I am a hypocrite for being willing to have one species suffer in a certain manner but not another.  So weak hearted and human as I am, I decided to at least be consistent.  For my (I think) 31st birthday I ordered the veal at a very fine restaurant in D.C., and you know what, it wasn’t really all that good.  At this point in my life I do still eat some chicken that is raised in conditions about which I know nothing, but the eggs I eat are grocery or farm bought free range.

It is worth noting that similar moral wrestling to the above led Ms. DailyDisgust to be a vegetarian–now an almost exclusively vegetarian flexatarian.

On to the pink slime, or as the beef industry prefers, lean, finely textured meat.  The stuff is pretty gross, don’t get me wrong.  But personally I’m willing to eat hot dogs, well-known as “everything but the squeal,” which have to be treated with nitrates, so I don’t see what is wrong with the beef equivalent.  The same goes, but to a lesser extent in terms of my actually eating them, for chicken nuggets–a product made with delicious mechanically separated meat.

Additionally, yes, the tiny leftover parts of the chickens, pigs, and cows certainly seem disgusting in isolation, but don’t we owe to those same animals to ensure we are getting the maximum use of their bodies after we kill them simply for our nourishment?  These types of processing all, if nothing else, do provide the most meat with the least waste.

Rick “Dick” Santorum to WI youth: “You’re not going to use the pink ball”

This comes from LGBTQ Nation via the blog Christian Nightmares.

Having grown up bowling in Wisconsin and not being a bigot, it upsets me that Rick “Dick” Santorum is visiting WI bowling alleys to warn young boys about playing with pink balls.  Or that it did that once, which is actually the case.

Rick Santorum to young bowler: ‘Friends don’t let friends use pink balls’ from LGBTQ Nation Mar. 28, 2012

At a campaign event at a bowling alley in Wisconsin on Wednesday, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told a boy who reached for a pink bowling ball, “You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera.”

Santorum added that, “Friends don’t let friends use pink balls.”

Now, Rick, are you suggesting that the pink ball with make the boy gay or a girl?  Either way, the fine people of my native state of Wisconsin don’t need you spreading your particular brand of exclusionary hatred.

And to the boy who was subjected to this: play with what ever balls you want, just remember to keep your wrist straight before your release and don’t step over the foot fault line.

Judge Marsha Bergan rules in favor of Coralville in Iowa River Landing hearing

On Monday Judge Marsha Bergan issued her ruling in response to a request for an injunction to stop Coralville from moving forward with their development plans involving Von Maur and the San Diego Developer Oliver McMillan.  The suit was brought by local businesspeople who argued that the city’s actions were in violation of state law and provided terms that were unfair to other developers.  Judge Bergen declined to issue the injunction, but the case itself will go forward with a motion by the city to dismiss to be heard sometime down the road.

Judge denies injunction request for Coralville Von Maur project by Gregg Hennigan with reporting by Dave Dewitte in the Cedar Rapids Gazette Mar. 26, 2012

The city agreed to give San Diego-based Oliver McMillan a $1.5 million economic development grant to buy the property on the condition the firm would then sell the land to Von Maur for $10.

That sale is expected to occur in the next week or so.

The plaintiffs argued the land deal violated state law preventing a city of disposing of property by gift. Bergan, however, agreed with the defendants that Iowa’s urban renewal law says a public body shall not be restricted by other statutory provisions and that the transaction was not a gift because it involved commitments beyond money that must be taken into consideration.

So I guess when you call something urban renewal, other laws don’t apply.  I’m not surprised by this ruling, and it seems to be the right legal response–still, what Coralville is doing at the Iowa River Landing vis a vis stealing Von Maur from Iowa City and using every trick in the book to do so is wrong.


Notes and thoughts on the healthcare issue

The issue of healthcare/health insurance in America and Obama’s reforms to the same are a huge issue–too large to be explained or even fully considered in any single blog post.  So instead, below are some of my thoughts related to the issue.  I encourage those who know more/think differently/have anything at all to add to do so in the comments.  Rich?

  1. To be clear, I support a government mandate to carry health insurance.  I would prefer universal coverage, but I see this as an acceptable compromise.
  2. I wish that those on the right would refocus their anger about the mandate to the freeloaders who are happy to go without insurance and then rack up large medical bills that are picked up either by the government or rolled in to higher rates for the insured.
  3. I was badly burned when I was living and working in Japan.  I spent two months in the hospital and had three major skin grafts. By virtue of my resident status and Japan’s universal healthcare insurance, the vast majority of the costs were covered by the government.  The remaining portion was covered by insurance provided by my employer–but would not have bankrupted me had I been responsible for it.  The care I received through this nationalized health care system was excellent.  While I realize this is only one anecdote, it is always at the front of my mind when we discuss health care.
  4. A question: how many of the protesters outside the Supreme Court today don’t already carry some form of health insurance?
  5. Another question: what is it with conservatives and their distaste for broccoli?  First President George H.W. Bush, now Justice Antonin Scalia:  “Everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food; therefore, everybody is in the market. Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.”
  6. I’m no lawyer, but I think I do understand the basics of how insurance works.  And based on that understanding, this statement by Michael Carvin who is representing the National Federation of Independent Business makes no sense whatsoever:  “There’s a perfectly legitimate way they could enforce their alternative, i.e., requiring you to buy health insurance when you access health care, which is the same penalty structure that’s in the Act.”  Um, that would be like trying to buy car insurance after you have an accident.  (As an aside, Mr. Carvin was a lead lawyer for Bush in Bush v. Gore.)

Scooped by Paul Krugman!

Well, I guess that’s why he has a Nobel and all I have is a bitter memory of coming in second in the 4th grade spelling bee.

Krugman had an excellent piece in yesterday’s New York Times on the insidious and nefarious threat to our various states that is the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Lobbyists, Guns and Money by Paul Krugman in the New York Times Mar. 25, 2012

What is ALEC? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism. (Emphasis added.)

I’ve been thinking about writing about ALEC for a while now–sparked by an email from my father just over a month ago with a link to the following article:

Campus Connection: UW profs shed light on ALEC’s threat to public education by Todd Finkelmeyer from the Capital Times, Feb. 20, 2012

University of Wisconsin-Madison professors Julie Underwood and Julie Mead are expressing concern over the growing corporate influence on public education in an article published Monday.

In particular, they are highly critical of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which connects conservative state legislators with like-minded think tanks, corporations and foundations to develop “model legislation” that can be enacted at the state level.


Citing past research and articles, Underwood and Mead write that model legislation from ALEC seeks to “influence teacher certification, teacher evaluation, collective bargaining, curriculum, funding, special education, student assessment, and numerous other education and education-related issues. Common throughout the bills are proposals to decrease local control of schools by democratically elected school boards while increasing access to all facets of education by private entities and corporations.”

I am a public school teacher who believes that government on the whole is a good thing so, not surprisingly, I am wholly opposed to efforts to privatize any aspects of our public school system.  (Read my piece on the push to allow online-only schools that are only nominally administered through Iowa school districts while 97% of the state education dollars for the students enrolled are funneled to out of state corporations.)  (Come to think of it, I need to look into if Iowa’s online-only schools are something that ALEC has advocated for.)  Fortunately work by Professors Underwood and Mead and others has helped to bring the pro-business, ultra (severely?) conservative out-sized influence that ALEC has wielded to light in Wisconsin.

This was not the first time I’d heard of ALEC, however.  I was first alerted to this group that seeks to bring power to the powerful by a letter in my home town paper from David Johnson, a candidate for 73rd district seat in the Iowa House.

Letter: Kaufmann should pull ALEC membership by David Johnson in the West Branch Times, Aug. 3, 2011.

In 1973, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was formed. ALEC brings together state legislators and big business for the purpose of creating template legislation.


Per information obtained from Charles Smithson, chief clerk of the Iowa House, every member of the Republican delegation is a member of ALEC by virtue of not opting out of such membership. Membership dues are paid by the state; that is, by taxpayer money.

I, for one, have no desire to have my tax dollars used as a means for big business to gain privileged access to our state representatives.

I would ask Mr. Kaufmann and other representatives to terminate their membership in ALEC and reimburse the taxpayers for the dues incurred during their time in office.

Mr. Kaufmann is Jeff Kaufmann, our moderate-talking, conservative-voting current district 79 Iowa House member.  His district was made a part of the new 73rd district, and he has subsequently opted to run for Cedar County Supervisor instead of for reelection.

So the moral of this story, friends, is don’t procrastinate writing about something important, or Paul Krugman will steal your thunder much like a certain redheaded girl did back in 1985 in Wingra’s 4th grade spelling bee!

Madonna grasps at relevancy by dropping drug references

Say what you will about Madonna, she clearly is a legend in her own time.  Desperately trying to stay hip by tossing out drug references probably has no real upside as far as her career or her legacy, however.

Madonna Slammed By Deadmau5 In Expletive-Filled Rant by Jocelyn Vena from MTV.com Mar. 26, 2012

Deadmau5 took to his Facebook after her cameo to criticize the singer (who just dropped her album MDNA this week) for a joke she made. It was Madonna asking “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?” that left the producer a bit perturbed as Molly is a thinly veiled reference to the drug MDMA, which is also referenced in the title of Madge’s new album.

“Very classy there madonna. ‘HUR DUR HAS ANYONE SEEN MOLLY???’ such a great message for the young music lovers at ultra. quite the f’n philanthropist. but hey, at least yer HIP AND TRENDY! F—ing cant smack my head hard enough right now,” he wrote on his site.

Now I’m against the War on Drugs and all, but c’mon, using your position of fame and adoration to push a seriously hard party drug is definitely not a good thing.