Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pay honor to Bob Brown

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 8, 2009.

If the Press-Citizen chose its Person of the Year only by the number of nominations received, then Bob Brown would have been awarded the recognition posthumously in 2007. For weeks after the beloved Regina cross-country coach's death from pancreatic cancer, hundreds of people sent in their testimonies about how his life changed theirs.

Regina graduate Matt McCue -- who has written for ESPN Rise, Dye State and Runner's World -- has decided to write much more than a Person of the Year nomination. He has pulled together his high school and college running experiences into the self-published book, "An Honorable Run." The story goes back and forth between the lessons McCue learned from Brown and the lessons he learned under University of Colorado coach Mark Wetmore while running with the Buffaloes.

"An Honorable Run" isn't a story for the ages. It's not "Chariots of Fire" or "The Jesse Owens Story." In fact, the book highlights how, no matter how aggressively McCue would try to turn his body into the perfect running machine -- no matter how often he pushed himself for another two miles, no matter how many times he dropped again into an ice bath to numb his legs from the pain -- he never reached the level of perfection he desired.

"'Chariots' has a lot of rich history," McCue told me last week in a phone interview. "This is much more about running itself. ... But I tried to write it in a way that someone who has never been running could still appreciate a coach's influence."

Nor should "An Honorable Run" be thought of as a biography of Brown. Other than a few biographical details -- a paragraph or two with the basic story of Brown's life and a closing section on Brown's initial recovery and eventual death from pancreatic cancer -- Brown comes across as more of a spectral figure than a fully rounded character. More as a source of wisdom than as a person in his own right.

But that's as it should be for a book written by a student about his teacher and coach. A different kind of author might try to separate the man from the legend. But McCue seems completely -- and understandably -- uninterested in deconstructing his mentor.

Instead, McCue is honest about the limitations of the relationship. He writes about how he seldom followed Brown's advice exactly -- he's always putting his own twists on Brown's recommended exercise routine or paying more attention to time and ranking than Brown would suggest. As with many teaching relationships, it's not until the student graduates and goes on into the real world that he realizes the wisdom of what he's been taught.

Although self-published, "An Honorable Run" has been garnering some national attention. McCue has been interviewed by Runners World, and the Sept. 7 issue of Sports Illustrated includes a short note praising the book as "a moving meditation on the coach-athlete bond."

To hear McCue talk more about his memories of Brown, come listen to him read at 7 p.m. today at Prairie Lights.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at jcharisc@press-citizen.com or 319-887-5435

Cultural history of nerds

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 6, 2009.

It's atypical for a student to come into the Iowa Writer's Workshop with a book already in print. But Benjamin Nugent seems neither a typical writer nor student. Author of "American Nerd: The Story of My People," Nugent said he is in the process of making a change from writing journalism to fiction and memoir.

Nugent demonstrated off that transition Wednesday when, during "Live from Prairie Lights," he read to a packed house from a short story included in the paperback version of "American Nerd." When he turned to the Q&A portion of the reading, however, Nugent focused exclusively on explaining the cultural history of nerds.

Here's some excerpts from an interview I did with Nugent earlier in the week.

Q: So what evolutionary advantage, if any, does "nerdiness" bestow?

A: Nerds have become an economically empowered class or subculture. They benefit because they think in ways that are compatible with technology and are good at thinking like computers. That's a sought-after skill in our economy. Now that the manufacturing economy has decayed, the job market requires people who are mentally capable of thinking like machines -- not just capable of working on a machine with their hands.

Q: So when did that advantage develop?

A: In the early industrial age people started worrying about what happens if people start to think too much like machines. A machine isn't like a tool, which a person controls. The machine at times starts to control the person -- or at least requires some kind of rhythm -- so that it almost seems to start thinking. People start to freak out, and that's when we start to get the concept of the nerd.

Before machines, you can't have a nerd.

Q: How do we go from people freaking about how much machines are controlling their lives to the concept of the nerd?

A: Until the Romantic Era we tended to think of human beings in contrast to animals. We are rational; animals are not. That's what makes us human. Then machines enter the pictures, and we start to get confused. Suddenly, we're not the only things in the world that can think.

So suddenly people who are good at reasoning become identified as being less human. We get Dr. Frankenstein -- who I view as an early nerd -- up in his lab, caring more about his technology than people. He's become a little less human because of how good he is with machines.

Q: As we continue to move into the Information Age, aren't we becoming a more nerd-dominant culture?

A: It's important not to elide cultural empowerment and cultural prominence. Nerds are still not culturally empowered. Economically empowered, sure. But that doesn't make it any easier to be a nerd in junior high. The fact that hipsters in their 20s like to dress like you doesn't make you any more socially empowered within your junior high.

When I talk with junior high kids, they say, "It's great that there are more nerd protagonists on sit-coms, but that doesn't mean people are nice to me."

Q: How is the concept of the "nerd" changing with more people being diagnosed on the autism spectrum?

A: There is a lot of overlap between what we call "nerdy" in our pop-culture and the people who have Asperberger's syndrome. But it's important to say that they are not the same thing. You can be a nerdy kid and grow up into a kid that isn't a nerd. Asperberger's is a neurological condition.

Q: You've subtitled your book, "The Story of My People." Are you a typical nerd?

A: One of the reasons I didn't talk about myself -- I instead interviewed my friends from junior high who were nerds -- is that I'm not that typical. I was a nerdy kid, but I became a frantic social climber as a teenager. So, I'm not a clear-cut case.

Q: What are you hoping readers will take from this book?

A: I hope the fact that you can read a history of the category of "nerd" will help people come to realize the superficiality of the concept. I hope it helps people wake up and see what an inconsistently -- though fascinatingly-- applied historical phenomenon this concept has been.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at jcharisc@press-citizen.com or 319-887-5435.

Questioning the candidates

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 3, 2009.

The Press-Citizen and the Iowa City Education Association are co-sponsoring a forum tonight with the six candidates for the Iowa City School Board. The discussion will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Iowa City Public Library.

We encourage voters to learn as much as possible about the issues facing the school board at this pivotal time. The forum will provide an opportunity to hear the candidates explain their positions as well as to observe how the candidates might interact with the public and with other board members.

In addition to questions of policy and educational philosophy, one of the questions the Press-Citizen Editorial Board routinely asks candidates is, "What conflicts of interest from your personal and professional life do you see arising if voters were to elect you to office?"

• In the past two years, incumbent candidate Mike Cooper has recused himself when the district is discussing making purchases from his employer, Pearson. First-time candidate Anne Johnson, who also works at Pearson, would face a similar decision if voters elect her on Sept. 8.

• April Armstrong said, because her husband is part owner of Apex Construction, she would recuse herself from any voting on any bids from Apex Construction that might come before the board.

• Jean Jordison said, because her daughter and son-in-law work for the district, she probably would not work on negotiations -- even if it isn't determined to be a conflict legally.

• And Tuyet Dorau said her only conflict would be the fact that her son is a student at North Central Junior High -- which seems more of a potential bias than a legal conflict.

But the potential conflict of interest that has been getting the most attention involves Sarah Swisher, who is currently employed as political director for Service Employees International Union Local 199. The question arises because Swisher's employer represents three units of district employees: physical plant workers, school year secretaries and food service workers.

While there is some disagreement on whether Swisher can participate in the discussion of issues directly involving SEIU, there seems to be little disagreement that she shouldn't. Swisher herself told the Press-Citizen Thursday that, if she were elected, she would not participate in bargaining any union contract involving SEIU.

And it seems clear that Swisher, if elected, would retain her right to participate fully in discussions of all issues not directly involving her employer.

In fact, in a March 19 letter answering questions raised by a similar situation in Iowa County, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board suggested that Chapter 68 of the Iowa Code doesn't even make it "an impermissible conflict of interest" for a Teamsters-employed Iowa County supervisor to act "on behalf of the county with a collective bargaining agreement that (his or her) outside employer helped negotiate." That's because the contracts under the elected officials' "control, inspection, review, audit, or enforcement authority" are with the public employees themselves, not with the unions.

Kirsten Frey, an attorney for the district, said the ethics board is correct in its analysis of the Iowa Code. But she points out other court decisions that require a stricter standard whenever public officials face a conflict of interest between their professional and public duties. In an Aug. 28 letter to the district, Frey advises that "an individual should recuse himself or herself whenever the interest of his or her employer might be implicated."

Yet Frey also advises against board members taking any steps to restrict involuntarily the voting purview of other members. That could be a violation of the board member's rights and could lead to its own legal problems. And Frey told the Press-Citizen Tuesday that Swisher would face a potential conflict only in terms of issues involving SEIU -- not on other budget or labor issues.

Frey ends her letter advising the district to seek further clarification from the Iowa Attorney General's Office.

It's just one example of the many complicated questions board members will face.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at 319-887-5435 or jcharisc@press-citizen.com.

Iowa getting its close-up in '16 to Life'

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Aug. 26, 2009.

One of the highlights of this week's Landlocked Film Festival will be Saturday's Iowa premiere of "16 to Life," a film written and directed by Iowa native and UCLA film professor Becky Smith. Smith and the film's star, Hallee Hirsh ("E.R.," "Jag") are scheduled to attend.

"16 to Life" is Smith's freshman foray into feature filmmaking after her broad experience in television ("Queer Eye for the Straight Guy") and documentary ("The Daring Project"). She said she had written about 10 screenplays for feature-length films, but she tended to focus only on developing the storyline and never really paid attention to budget concerns. When she started working on "16 to Life," she focused on telling a story she would be "proud to tell" in a way that would be affordable for a low-budget production.

"I had this idea that if I worked really hard and if I developed a good reputation, then someone would ask me to direct a feature film," Smith said in a telephone interview Monday. "But the industry doesn't work that way. If you develop a good reputation, you are more often pigeonholed into the thing you are already doing."

After spending a year writing and rewriting her script, Smith started fundraising and was lucky enough to get a grant to scout for locations. That's when things started falling together and when "16 to Life" became even more of a labor of love to the Okoboji-born California transplant.

Filming in Iowa

At first, Smith had intended to shoot only a few exterior scenes in Iowa. But during trips to her native state, two factors came together to make it possible for Smith to shoot the entire film here:

• Iowa passed a tax incentive program for film productions with budgets more than $100,000 and

• Iowa businessman Terry Trimpe, who helped produce the Iowa-based "The Final Season," agreed to become a partner.

Suddenly, Smith realized her story of a teenage girl who reads more and who dreams more than the other residents of her small town -- a story that very much comes out of Smith's own Midwest upbringing -- actually could be set and filmed in the Midwest.

"I, of course, think Iowa is gorgeous," Smith said. "It's a perfect place to film. I was always disappointed that 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape,' which is supposed to be in Iowa, was filmed in flat, dry Texas -- which doesn't look like Iowa in any shape or form."

Because the story called for a resort town near a lake, Smith considered various sites, including Storm Lake, Clear Lake and the Okoboji area where she grew up. After "making a big circle around Iowa," she decided on McGregor, which she said is her mother's favorite place and where Trimpe had property on which they could film.

"So, I rewrote some of the script for a river rather than a lake," Smith said, "And it turned up to be the best possible idea. We were able to also film this great footage of the rolling hills and the surrounding farms. It was spectacular."

'16 and never been kissed'

"16 to Life" takes place on the 16th birthday of the main character, Kate (played by Hirsh). The tight focus surely helped reign in the film's low budget -- Smith said the film came in at less than $1 million -- but it also helped contain some of the craziness that happens to Kate and her friends on that day.

Smith's film clearly strives to fit into the "indie sitcom" genre opened up by "Little Miss Sunshine." With the main plot focusing on Kate's attempts to change her status of being "sweet 16 and never been kissed," the film feels similar to "Juno" (penned by University of Iowa grad Diablo Cody) and the uniforms featured on the movie poster seem designed to bring to mind the late Adrienne Shelly's "Waitress."

But Smith manages to put her own stamp on the genre. In between the events of the day, she shows Kate reading from "Duck Farm No. 13," a book written by a teenage girl who lived through China's Cultural Revolution. To make the comparison as clear as possible, Smith often cuts from Kate's everyday world -- which includes many beautiful images from around McGregor -- to images from Kate's daydreams about how her teenage, angst-filled problems would look if transposed to China 40 years ago.

Because Smith is writer and director of "16 to Life," she has more control over the final product than many filmmakers have. But she said even she was surprised at how the actors brought depth and sincerity to a story she thought of as "a lighter comedy."

"I wrote it as a comedy very much based on my sense of humor -- which is hard to describe, but has a very droll quality to it," Smith said. "But people after (screenings) would come up and say that it wasn't just a comedy; it was moving. That is something that I have to give the cast full credit for."

There are some remnants of that earlier, lighter comedy. The voice-over narration at the beginning and end of the film, for example, seems to belong to another film altogether.

But in the end, "16 to Life" is not only a film Iowans can be proud of; it's also a film the Iowa Film Office should send out as an advertisement for why other directors should follow Smith's example and start thinking about making their films in Iowa.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at 319-887-5435 or jcharisc@press-citizen.com.

Calling out your inner-nerd

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Aug. 22, 2009.

Nerds, geeks, dweebs and dorks have been warring for decades now. Although most people use the terms interchangeably, the few who proudly claim such labels usually draw very clear distinctions.

• Nerds typically show some degree of blending between intelligence, obsession and social ineptitude.

• Geeks usually show their intelligence and obsession, but are not necessarily socially inept.

• Dweebs usually show their social ineptitude and intelligence, but are necessarily obsessive.

• And dorks are obsessive and socially inept without being necessarily intelligent.

However you may fall on the nerd-geek-dweeb-dork spectrum -- and we all fall somewhere on it -- Prairie Lights Bookstore is giving several opportunities for some inner-nerd soul-searching this season.

• The fall reading list kicks off Sept. 2 with Benjamin Nugent, author of the "American Nerd: The Story of My People." In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls it "a charming and disarmingly serious study of the history of the nerd in popular culture and throughout modern history." Nugent moves beyond the expected sci-fi fandom to dismantle many of the Jewish and Asian stereotypes attached to the term. (Beware: Nugent also dismisses hipster nerds as posers who have co-opted authentic nerdiness for their own sake.)

• A geek-nerd summit of sorts can take place Sept. 14 when Nicholas Meyer reads from his new memoir, "The View from the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood."

Meyer reportedly wrote the best Star Trek film of all time -- "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" -- in a mere 12 days. And his involvement with several other Star Trek projects will allow him to provide interesting answers to questions from even the most obsessive fan.

• On Oct. 16, the spectrum moves beyond its American context when Ethan Gilsdorf reads from his study of fantasy role games played around the world, "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks." Fellow author A.J. Jacobs calls it "a delightful book -- more fun than being a Dungeon Master to a group of high-level mages and thieves."

• On Oct. 19, Lawrence Sutin, author of "Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick," comes to read from his new novel, "When to Go into the Water: A Novel." The short book is being described as "experimental fiction" -- Prairie Lights book guru Paul Ingram said it doesn't even look like a novel -- but Booklist calls it "quite accessible and drolly absorbing."

• And on Nov. 2, Prairie Lights will hold a celebration for the 50th anniversary of William S. Burroughs' still controversial novel, "Naked Lunch" -- one of the landmark publications in the history of American literature. The book was originally banned in many regions of the United States because of its "obscene" language, but it's gone on to become an important cultural touchstone for anyone who refuses to fit into the dominant, consumerist social order.

Although all the authors and poets on the Prairie Lights schedule will fall somewhere on the spectrum, these five readings will help make the denizens of our City of Literature uncomfortably aware of just how nerdy, geeky, dweeby and dorky we all can be.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at jcharisc@press-citizen.com or 319-887-5435. A full list of readings at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., can be found at www.prairielights.com.

When not to resuscitate

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Aug. 15, 2009.

"And I don't have any problem with things like living wills. But they ought to be done within the family. We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on Grandma" -- Sen. Chuck Grassley.

After listening to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's now infamous comment Wednesday, I thought I'd call Mary Wohlford of Dyersville and ask what she thought about all the hoopla surrounding imaginary "death panels" and the provision for "advance care planning consultation" in the U.S. House version of the health care overhaul bill.

Three years ago, a then 80-year-old Wohlford made news worldwide after she tattooed "Do Not Resuscitate" on her chest. A longtime nurse with experience in emergency rooms and hospice care, Wohlford knew full well that medical practitioners usually would err on the side of keeping a patient alive if there was any question about the patient's wishes -- or if there was any risk of a lawsuit from the patient's family.

Wohlford's attempt to make sure her intentions were as clear as possible proved to be an attention-grabbing reminder that we all need to write down our wishes and to talk about them with medical practitioners, family members and friends.

Now 83, Wohlford said she is in excellent health -- "I don't take any pills except for vitamins" -- and continues to live in the house she's still been in for more than 50 years. And she recently attended one of Grassley's other outdoor meetings.

Wohlford said she is no supporter of the Obama administration -- "I'm too pro-life, both at the beginning of life and at the end." And she views the current efforts for health care reform as being little different than those in 1993.

Her own solutions for driving down the costs of health care include:

• Capping the monetary damages awarded in malpractice lawsuits.

• Controlling the lobbying power of pharmaceutical companies.

• Limiting the unnecessary diagnostic procedures she said doctors only do to avoid lawsuits.

Wohlford strongly emphasized that she's neither for abortion nor euthanasia, but she wants to make sure she has a "natural end" after living for so many years. She doesn't want "10,000 tubes put in." She just wants to die a "natural death."

Wohlford said while she disagrees with much of the current proposals for health care reform, she does think people would benefit from talking about end-of-life care with "someone knowledgeable to explain to we old people how we can make up our own minds."

Legal and medical experts in Iowa say that Wohlford's tattoo by itself wouldn't be enough to prevent extraordinary measures from being taken to prolong her life.

But Wohlford -- who expects she has at least another 10 years in her -- is taking the other necessary steps for advance care planning:

• Discussing her preferences with her family.

• Writing a living will about which life-saving procedures she does not want.

• Appointing someone to make such life-and-death decisions for her if she is incapacitated.

Wohlford said her next job is to find a replacement for the tattered "National Health Insurance/Don't Get Sick" bumper sticker she's had on her car since the Clinton years.

"You have to rattle the cage every once in a while," she said.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at jcharisc@press-citizen.com or 319-887-5435.

WWII enlisted man meets a novelist and poet

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Aug. 11, 2009.

"But that's where cool Mr. Bob Schultz took over and engineered the Little Hawks to an almost unbelievable victory."

That's how Press-Citizen sports writer Gary Bales described Little Hawk quarterback Robert Schultz's contribution to the Oct. 17, 1969, inaugural football game between City High and then newly opened West High. City High won the game 26-21 and kicked off the four-decade rivalry between the schools.

As a high school senior at the time, Schultz -- son of former University of Iowa basketball and baseball coach Dick Schultz -- had little idea that he eventually would serve on faculty at Luther College for nearly 20 years and at Roanoke College in Virginia for five more. Nor could he have known that he would become a published novelist ("The Madhouse Nudes") and poet ("Winter in Eden" and "Vein Along the Fault").

And Schultz definitely couldn't have known that, nearly 40 years after that historic game, he would be returning to Iowa City to read from his most recent book, "We Were Pirates: A Torpedoman's Pacific War" (Naval Institute Press, 2009).

"When I was earning my MFA degree," Schultz told me in a phone interview, "I never imagined that I would be writing a work of non-fiction, military history."

Yet engaging military history is what Schultz and his co-writer, James Shell, provide in "We Were Pirates." In a book based on the war diary and personal recollections of Robert Hunt -- a charismatic World War II veteran who lived near Schultz in Decorah -- Schultz and Shell go on to place Hunt's experiences into the broader context of the war in the Pacific. As a result, they provide a well-written version of enlisted man's perspective that has been overlooked in the war accounts written by officers and scholars.

The book's form fits the subject well. The project grew out of Schultz's early conversations with Hunt and began in earnest once Hunt gave Schultz access to the "treasure trove" of archival material in his basement. It seems fitting for Schultz and Hunt to want to add yet another voice to their conversation to help flesh out the historic importance of Hunt's observations.

Critics have praised "We Were Pirates" for how well the authors alternate between providing the up-close and personal accounts of Hunt with passages that sweep out into a broader historic record. But Schultz said he feels most confident in the book's veracity because Hunt was involved at every stage of the writing and publication.

"If there was something that he didn't think was right, he was not shy about telling us so," Schultz said of Hunt. "He is very proud of the finished project because he thinks we got it the way he knew it."

Schultz said he already has begun another book-length work of non-fiction, titled "Father, Son and Sports." In that collection of essays, he'll discuss his relationship with his father as well as, hopefully, draw on anecdotes from his Iowa City years.

Anyone looking to reminisce about World War II -- or about how Iowa City was four decades ago -- can find Schultz reading at Prairie Lights at 7 p.m. tonight.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at jcharisc@press-citizen.com or 319-887-5435.

Our View - Which two names best represent Iowa's history?

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 20, 2009.

In the U.S. Capitol, each state's present-day concerns are represented by two senators and a number of representatives determined by the state's population. Each state's past, however, is represented by two statues -- one located in the National Statuary Hall and the second placed in some other prominent location in the Capitol building.

Given that it's been nearly a century since Iowa chose its two statues, it's long past time to re-evaluate which two Iowans best represent the history of the Hawkeye state.

The question took on more political relevance after last week's death of Iowa-born Norman Borlaug. Iowa Rep. Tom Latham recently sent a letter to Gov. Chet Culver and Iowa's Republican and Democratic legislative leaders requesting that state approve a statute to be constructed in honor of the world-renown scientist and placed in the hall. One big problem -- besides raising the money for such an endeavor during these difficult financial times -- is that, to make room for a Borlaug statue, Iowa would have to get rid of one of its current statues.

• The statute for Samuel Kirkwood was unveiled in 1913 and now stands in the Statuary Hall. Kirkwood was governor twice, serving first during the Civil War and then during Reconstruction. Kirkwood, a Republican, also served as a U.S. senator for two partial terms.

• The statue for James Harlan was unveiled in 1910 and now stands in the Hall of Columns. Harlan was a U.S. senator before and during the Civil War and served as secretary of the interior.

Latham didn't suggest which of the two statues should be removed, so the Press-Citizen asked some scholars of state history which two Iowans they would like to see enshrined in Statuary Hall.

Loren Horton, co-editor of "The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa," said that, of the many names in his book, Kirkwood definitely would be among the two he would choose to represent the state's history.

"Harlan was exceedingly important at the time his statue was chosen," said Horton, "but his overarching importance waned in the last quarter of the 20th century."

But Horton added that his second Iowan wouldn't be Norman Borlaug; it would be Henry A. Wallace --Franklin Delano Roosevelt's secretary of agriculture and vice president.

"I met Norman Borlaug," Horton said, "and I admire him greatly. He had a world-wide influence, but not really an Iowan or national influence. He was internationally known, but for work in other places. Whereas Wallace's influence was clearly felt in the state and country."

Timothy Walch, director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, took the question in a different direction.

"We Iowans need to do a better job educating ourselves and our children about the values we cherish as reflected in the lives of those who have lived and worked here before us," Walch said. "Iowa has lots of heroes worthy of statues, but few of these individuals get the recognition they deserve."

Walch, of course, would like to see Herbert Hoover recognized in Statuary Hall, but he also notes that this is an opportunity to expand the list of usual suspects offered to represent Iowa.

"How about George Washington Carver? Carrie Chapman Catt? Nile Kinnick? Jesse Shambaugh?" Walch asked.

If the Legislature is going to discuss giving this honor to someone other than Kirkwood and Harlan, it needs to expand the list of Iowans under consideration.

Our View - Curfew isn't an inappropriate response

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 19, 2009.

Add us to the list of reluctant converts to a citywide curfew.

We still have concerns about the degree to which the ordinance actually will address the issues raised by the Iowa City police and many residents of the city's southeast side. But police officials said Tuesday that the curfew could be a "helpful tool" in responding to the neighborhood problems identified by southeast residents, and some parents report that a curfew could give them more leverage over their children's behavior.

Besides, the restrictions are hardly draconian -- kids younger than 14 have to be off the streets by 10 p.m., 14- and 15-year-olds by 11 p.m. and 16- and 17-year-olds by midnight. And the ordinance is full of justifiable exemptions.

Police likewise say that they plan to issue citations only as a last resort -- after verbal warnings and other strategies have been used. And even the fine associated with citation ("not in excess of 50 dollars") is worded vaguely enough to give magistrates discretion based on the specifics of the case and, presumably, on the ability of the minor's family to pay.

But we're now reluctantly supporting the curfew ordinance because we think passing it would help put the City Council into are more active mindset -- as opposed to local government's usual "let's not do anything that we are not absolutely sure will solve each and every problem we have" mentality.

We know that no one on the council thinks the curfew in itself will solve all the problems in the city -- especially on the southeast side. But the councilors need to be able to respond to some thorny short-term issues before they can move on the even thornier long-term issues about public safety and neighborhood inclusiveness.

Despite our concerns about whether a curfew will de-escalate problems on the southeast side, the proposed ordinance seems a tempered and appropriate response to residents' concerns. And if problems come up in the implementation of this ordinance, then those problems can be addressed by the council and, if necessary, the council can remove the curfew altogether.

Zero tolerance for crime -- tempered by acceptance, inclusion and genuine compassion for all individuals -- will do more for the safety of our community than any well-intended laws. We hope the latter is always the servant of the former.

In the meantime, however, the city needs to show residents that the elected officials, the police, juvenile court officers and neighborhood activists can work together to help make sure that no residents have to feel unsafe in their home.

Our View - UI balancing accessibility, preparedness

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 13, 2009.

We're not quite sure what to make of the news that University of Iowa freshmen are among the least likely to return for a second year of university education. But it's definitely not a statistic anyone should be proud of.

According to a recent survey from U.S. News and World Report, UI has an average annual freshman retention rate of 83.5 percent, which ranks last in the Big Ten. Northwestern University, in contrast, ranks highest in the Big Ten with a 96.8 percent freshman retention rate. And even Iowa State University ranked slightly ahead of UI with an 84.8 freshman retention rate.

Ernest Pascarella, a professor in the UI College of Education, reminds us that retention numbers can be misleading -- especially when you compare a public university such as UI with universities that have far more exclusive admission standards.

"What is the preparedness of students you admit has nothing to do with what they do afterwards. It has nothing to do with quality of education," said Pascarella, who studies undergraduate education, including retention rates. "UI has a state legislature that says you folks have to take certain people. We are there to serve the people of Iowa, and I don't think that should change just to move up in U.S. News and World Report."

But the measures by which UI is made accessible have changed in recent years. The Iowa state Board of Regents used to make a promise that any Iowa student who graduates in the top half of his or her graduating high school class would be admitted automatically to the state's universities. A few years ago that simple formula was expanded into an index that would take into account a student's grade-point average, class rank, ACT composite score and the number of core subjects taken.

The change was supposed to better assess whether a student was properly prepared for the rigors of an academic environment. (Potential students can input their information into the "Regent Admission Index Calculator" at http://www2.state.ia.us/regents/RAI/index.html.)

At the same time, the University of Iowa began a more direct partnership with community colleges. The goal was to ensure that students who were not quite ready for a four-year university environment -- or those who just couldn't afford four years of tuition at the university's rate -- could take classes at community college that would readily transfer toward a four-year degree.

And then, while helping to ensure that some of Iowa's lesser prepared K-12 graduates could get up to speed in a community college environment, state and university leaders were talking passionately about transforming UI into a destination university -- one that attracts lots of out-of-state students and additional tuition dollars they pay.

So, that leaves us wondering which group makes up the bulk of the freshmen who fail to return for a second year at UI:

• The under-prepared Iowa students who should have been tracked to community colleges in the first place (a situation that reflects badly on Iowa's K-12 systems)?

• Or the out-of-state students who either couldn't get into or couldn't afford their own state universities (a situation that makes us wonder about what type of "destination university" UI has become)?

We're proud of the state's commitment to keeping its public universities accessible both financially and academically to all Iowans. And we agree with Pascarella that such a standard shouldn't be changed just to "just to move up in U.S. News and World Report."

But the low retention numbers suggest that many of the programs that are supposed to be assessing and assisting potential students are not working as effectively as they should be.

Our View - Choose between two good options for Hancher

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 12, 2009.

On Sept. 27, 1972 -- the day the University of Iowa's Hancher Auditorium opened -- the Press-Citizen Editorial Board wrote the following:

"The building, and the opening series of events, however, offer but a promise of what Hancher Auditorium can offer to this community and all of Eastern Iowa. Fulfilling that promise next year and in the years to come will require a continued emphasis on the performing arts at the university and judicious selection of visiting attractions. Above all, realizing the vision of Virgil M. Hancher in the auditorium named in his honor will demand widespread support by the community he loved and served for so much of his life."

Little did we realize back in 1972 just how resilient "the vision of (former UI President) Virgil M. Hancher" would prove to be even after the auditorium named in his honor was devastated by the flood of 2008.

In the past 15 months, however, we've learned firsthand that the half-century-old vision of a university arts center can never be contained within any single building or complex made of brick-and-mortar. The Press-Citizen's "The Hancher Decision" -- which runs today, Sunday and Monday -- tells the story of how that vision has developed over the past four decades.

Even before the flood, we had a sense that Hancher's mission and reputation extended far beyond the Hancher-Voxman-Clapp complex. We saw its portability and expansiveness clearly on display during the outdoor performances the Joffrey Ballet gave throughout Iowa in 2007. But we now know what we only sensed then: That the name "Hancher" is much more than a mere waterlogged auditorium -- it's a brand, a spirit.

Last year, Hancher officials had to scramble to find temporary facilities for the already scheduled 2008-09 season. And this year Hancher officials pulled together an impressively eclectic list of events that will be in Chicago, Des Moines, Riverside and Cedar Rapids as well as in the Iowa Memorial Union, The Englert Theatre and City High.

Most importantly, the resilience and flexibility of the Hancher staff has given UI and state officials sufficient time to winnow down the possible relocation sites to two almost equally good options:

• Just up the hill -- and out of the river floodplain -- from the location of damaged Hancher Auditorium. (A location, in hindsight, we all wish UI officials, hydrologists and engineers would have suggested building the structure on back in the 1960s.)

• A two-block stretch of land on the south end of the Iowa City downtown. (A location that has city planners and downtown boosters dreaming about the cultural and economic development opportunities.)

But now the staff's effectiveness could be as much a detriment as a benefit to the discussions about where to locate the new physical manifestation of Hancher's vision. Because Hancher staff is doing its job so well, UI and state officials might be tempted to take more time than necessary to make this decision.

Like the rest of the community, the Press-Citizen Editorial Board is almost evenly split between the options. We have members who think this is a time for the university to dream big and to expand Hancher's vision to a more urban environment. And we have members who love Hancher's bucolic setting and who worry that the longtime patrons would be frightened away by a downtown setting.

With UI officials facing a choice between two good options, we think it's time they move quickly to choose one and then allow the community to respond. Many Hancher supporters worry that the longer UI officials wait to make a decision about a new auditorium, the more difficult it becomes for Hancher staff to keep in touch with the patrons and the donors who help keep the vision alive.

We think Hancher can succeed in either of these two locations. UI officials now just need to choose which dream will be just a dream and which vision of Hancher will be realized.

Our View - Hold off on chicken rules until next year

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 11, 2009.

Two Iowa City staff members are presenting a mixed recommendation to the Iowa City Council concerning whether in-town property owners should be allowed to raise chickens in their backyards. The council will discuss the matter Monday.

Both Douglas Boothroy, director of housing and inspections services, and Misha Goodman, director of animal services, agree on an extensive list of minimum standards they think should be put in place if the council does decide to allow backyard chickens. In addition to detailed instructions about how the birds should be housed, the list includes:

• Requiring residents to apply for an annual permit that will include an inspection,

• Limiting backyard chickens only to properties whose primary use is single-family dwelling,

• Requiring residents to notify all abutting property owners before a permit is issued and

• Limiting the number of birds per property to four hens, no roosters.

But Boothroy and Goodman disagree on whether the city should allow chickens in residential areas at all. Goodman said the chickens wouldn't present any more difficult problems for her staff than other animals do. She said her staff would handle problems with owners who mistreat or abandon their chickens just as they handle similar situations with the problem owners of dogs, cats, iguanas, etc.

"To me, there has to be a good reason for this not to happen," Goodman said. "We have a lot of citizens requesting the ability to keep chickens in their backyards. It's not something that is harmful in most ways. So I don't see a reason not to do it."

But Goodman also said she knows whenever the city council implements a rule, someone, somewhere, violates it. So she is asking the council to wait to make any changes in the current policy until at least next year. Because animal control is still dealing with the aftermath of last year's flood, she is concerned about giving any additional responsibility to her officers right now.

Boothroy goes even further and recommends the council not approve backyard chickens at all because his department doesn't have the staff to deal with the complaints. He said he also worries that, because it's been decades since chickens were allowed in city residential areas, backyard chickens would spark additional feuds between neighbors who differ in their perceptions of whether chickens are a threat or a benefit to the quality of their lives and to the value of their property.

We side with Goodman in this debate. The rules she and Boothroy have suggested would provide clear guidelines that owners can understand and that city staff can enforce. And because the permits would have to be approved annually, chicken owners -- and their neighbors -- will have ample opportunities to re-evaluate whether the birds are as beneficial as once thought.

We hope the council sees fit to approve the restrictions ironed out by Goodman and Boothroy and to have Iowa City join the growing list of cities that are allowing residents to raise a limited numbers of chickens in their backyards.

Our View - Dorau, Johnson, Swisher will bring change to board

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 5, 2009.

Communication. Vision. Leadership.

Those are the qualities we're looking for in candidates for the Iowa City School Board. They also are the qualities that have been lacking in the current board's response to the many issues that have caused attendance at school board meetings to swell.

With the public's goodwill and trust exhausted after the six-month battle over Roosevelt Elementary, and with the announcement that the district needs to cut $6 million over the next two years, we think it's a time for change on the Iowa City School Board.

That's why we're backing the candidates in Tuesday's election we think can effect the most change in the right direction: Tuyet Dorau, Anne Johnson and Sarah Swisher.

Not only does Dorau have an inspiring personal story -- she was on the free and reduced lunch rolls when her mother, a refugee from Vietnam, worked three jobs while going to school full time -- but the West High graduate also now oversees grants and other projects as coordinator for multi-site clinical trials for the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology. We want her to bring a similar attentiveness to school board budgets and finance reports as she pushes the board to be more fiscally responsible and more transparent about its decision making. And we want her to do so with the same directness she's displayed during her campaign.

Like Dorau, Johnson is a product of the Iowa City school system -- having attended Wood Elementary, South East Junior High and City High. She now lives in North Liberty and has been instrumental in forming the group, Advocates for North Corridor High School.

There are some who worry that Johnson is a single-issue or regional candidate, and we do think she would be an effective advocate for this fast growing area of the district. But Johnson's performance in interviews and forums shows that her job at Pearson -- as well as her experiences with the district on both sides of the river -- gives her a broad perspective on the array of issues facing the district.

Swisher already is a known agent of change in local politics. Not only is she political director of SEIU Local 199 -- which represents three bargaining units in the district -- she also successfully co-chaired the "Yes for Kids" bond campaign in 2002. Because Swisher personally helped persuade her fellow citizens to trust the district with their money, she has a personal stake in ensuring that the district is trustworthy in how it spends money from the 2002 bond and the 2007 SILO.

There are some who worry that Swisher would politicize her position on the non-partisan board. But Swisher has pledged to recuse herself from voting on contracts or grievances negotiated through her employer, and the state ethics board and the district's attorney are clear that Swisher can participate in all discussions that don't directly involve her employer.

We also appreciate the blend of common sense and "out of the box" thinking Swisher has brought to the discussion so far. As Charlie Funk, her co-chairman for the "Yes for Schools" campaign, writes in his endorsement letter, "I found her to be energetic and very skilled at rallying persons toward a common goal. Our campaign faced a few bumps in the road in the early weeks, and she displayed a healthy amount of pragmatism as we worked through these problems."

Calling for a "year for change," of course, means that we are not endorsing incumbent candidate Mike Cooper. Elected to a three-year term in 2007, Cooper had one year shaved off when Iowa made school board elections bi-annual instead of annual. It's true that Cooper might have come into his own in his third year of service. He often has disagreed with the board majority -- at least in discussion, if not during the actual vote. And during his candidate interview, he owned up to the criticism that he spent too long trying to learn and to understand the system and didn't start soon enough asking critical questions to challenge "the way things have always been done."

So we can understand why Cooper's supporters think he now will be the change candidate they hoped he would be two years ago -- and if voters elect him Tuesday, we hope Cooper will live up to such high expectations. But we don't find the possibility a safe enough bet to endorse Cooper for a four-year term.

Instead, we recommend our readers vote for Dorau, Johnson and Swisher. And then we urge everyone -- regardless of their vote -- to continue coming out to meetings and participating in discussion of our district's future. That's the only way we can ensure the board members improve their communication, vision and leadership.

Our View - Big editorial shoes to fill at The Iowa Review

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 3, 2009.

If you flip over the most recent issue of The Iowa Review, you'll see the list of names of contributors on the back cover are arranged into four couplets and a tercet. Some of the rhymes are very strong and obvious (Blair/Bear, Mutel/Bell); others require more creativity (Cook/Pick, Kinsella/Will, Keene/Kern/McKeen.) But nowhere in the issue is it announced that this small poetic flourish is the work of David Hamilton, who is stepping down after 32 years of editing the magazine.

Next year, The Iowa Review celebrates its 40th anniversary. That means the magazine's national reputation as a premier literary journal is due predominantly to Hamilton's vision, energy and personality over the past more than three decades.

"The magazine is a reflection of David," said Russell Valentino, chairman of the University of Iowa Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature. "It has a quiet quality that is contemplative as well as playful. ... It's understated, but full of little subtleties that go far beyond the mere collection of material."

And the most recent issue, the last under Hamilton's editorial control, showcases many of the qualities that have made The Iowa Review such a success:

• It focuses on timely, interesting material from a wide variety of perspectives. In this case, the issue overflows with stories, essays, drawings, poems and photographs about rivers -- including even a bizarre "articulated river as a stream of sound."

• It comes across as a very welcoming magazine that publishes unknown writers alongside much more familiar names.

• It depends upon the participation of an impressive number of smart, creative, committed folks -- not only those who submit their writing for publication, but also those who read through the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts to pull out those good pieces that might otherwise be overlooked.

• And the contemplative playfulness Valentino describes is on display in Hamilton's introductory story about one of his experiences eating fish caught in the Iowa River: "The fish tasted fine, by the way, grilled, with chemicals infusing the olive oil and lemon. Maybe an occasional fish from the Iowa River is like shots I used to take as a kid, little bits of many things making my allergies manageable. But I wouldn't want to count on that."

The issue, in fact, seems an extension of the uncountable number of literary friendships and mentor relationships that Hamilton has developed during his time as a professor of English and non-fiction writing at UI.

"David is friends with so many people," said Valentino, who also faces the daunting task of taking over as the magazine's new editor. "I have come to be overwhelmed by that. The magazine is an expression of his personal connections."

Valentino said he hopes to pull from his own experiences and connections in nonprofit publishing, comparative literature, translation projects and the Writing University taskforce, but he'll definitely be looking to Hamilton as a model for how to balance inclusiveness and high standards, humor and sophistication.

"David has developed and cared for these relationships over years," Valentino said. "It's not the type of thing I can step into and immediately mimic. It would just be mimicry on my part."

To hear more nice things about David Hamilton, attend the reading and reception being held at 7 p.m. today in the Old Capitol Museum Senate Chamber. Our local city of literature is lucky that Hamilton is just stepping down from the magazine -- not from the university -- and will continue to teach and to mentor many once and future writers.

Our View - 'Chicken or egg' questions and flood mitigation

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 2, 2009.

Building a levee at Taft Speedway and No Name Road is one of dozens of potential flood mitigation options being considered by Iowa City officials. The city has applied for community development block grant public infrastructure money for the estimated $10 million project. There is no guarantee, of course, that the money will be approved, and even then, the Iowa City Council still would have the final say in whether the project would move forward.

Jeff Davidson, Iowa City director of planning and community development, said that raising Taft Speedway would allow the city to address two issues simultaneously:

• Provide emergency access to the rest of the Peninsula area. Davidson said about 500 people, whose homes were otherwise "high and dry," still had to be evacuated for nearly two weeks last year after water poured across Foster Road, the only access to their homes.

• Help protect Parkview Church and the 92 residences in Idyllwild. Because those residences are part of a condominium association, Davidson said Iowa City was unable to use federal money to buyout any of the properties unless the owners of all 92 properties concurred.

Unfortunately, the proposal would leave some other property owners -- owners who said "no" to the city's offer for a buyout -- on the wet side of the levee. Davidson said those owners were apprised, at the time they rejected the city's offer, that there could be some flood mitigation project that could leave them on "the wrong side of it." Yet we think those property owners still are right to worry about how the levee would worsen the effect of future floods on their property.

And city officials don't have exact details on what the effect the levee would have on those properties in the floodplain. That level of research and design won't take place unless and until the project receives enough outside funding.

The debate over this specific proposal illustrates "the chicken or the egg" question that comes up with nearly every city project. City staff members don't always have the time and resources to fully research the consequences of a project unless and until there is a good possibility the project will receive outside funding. Yet the city can't really know if the project is feasible politically and of practical benefit until city staff spends the time and money to research all the consequences.

Although city staff keeps saying, "The City Council will make the final decision," it becomes much more difficult to halt a project once outside funding has been secured. Even when the project has clear negative consequences -- as this one would for some owners whose property has been in their families for generations -- the institutional inertia usually is on the side of those working to see the project completed.

If city staff members are successful in securing enough outside funding for this project, the Iowa City Council still needs to proceed with caution and to make sure it's not protecting some property owners to the absolute detriment of other property owners.

Because these property owners rejected the city's buyout offer, we think they should not be eligible for further government assistance if and when their property floods again. But neither should the city take steps to make flooding worse for them.

Our View - Take it slow on curfew, other ordinances

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Sept. 1, 2009.

The increasing severity and number of crime incidents in Iowa City's southeast side show that the current laws on the books are not enough to help police, city officials and neighborhood activists turn the tide in the neighborhood. Police say they need more authority to pick up juveniles for causing trouble, and they need more discretion on whether to take the kids home or to the police station.

While some residents have called on the Iowa City Council to impose a curfew citywide , Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine last month told the Iowa City Council he would prefer the council pass a delinquent behavior ordinance. Rather than lock down on every teenager in the city, Hargadine said, such an ordinance would allow the police to focus on the juveniles who are causing problems.

Hargadine makes a good case for the benefits of a delinquency behavior ordinance over those of a curfew. Charges under the delinquency ordinance would be simple misdemeanors and wouldn't necessarily be sent to the magistrate court, as those under the curfew would be. Instead, the type of ordinance he has in mind would give the juvenile court system jurisdiction. And, to be used most effectively, the ordinance would require Iowa City police and juvenile court officers to improve their communication.

A majority of councilors seem generally open to implementing both a curfew and some version of a behavior ordinance, but they are waiting to see the specifics of the plans before giving support. The police have provided a list of possible offenses to be included in such an ordinance, and the city attorney is looking through the list to identify which offenses already are on the books in some way, which offenses the city could add to the code and which offenses might conflict with constitutional or other statutory provisions. The issue is scheduled to be discussed next at the a special council meeting on Sept. 10.

Although some residents want the council to move more quickly toward passing these ordinances, we think it's right for the city to take a few weeks to evaluate the police department's recommendations. The process will require much communication and cooperation between the police, the city legal department and county prosecutors. And because city police officers would have discretion on whether the ordinance has been violated, the council will have to consider how to address the inevitable disproportionate implementation of the ordinance in some neighborhoods and on specific racial or socio-economic groups.

Our View - Curfew to curb crime in city's southeast side?

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Aug. 18, 2009.

"I feel like this neighborhood is out of control," said Brandi Mastain during a meeting Saturday in which more than 120 Grant Wood neighborhood residents met at Fairmeadows Park to share concerns about the neighborhood.

For months, Mastain and other residents have been expressing their frustrations about:

• Being awakened many times during the night by rowdy neighbors,

• Children being left on their own to roam at all hours,

• Streets and sidewalks being blocked by large groups of teens, and

• Gunfire -- most recently in the area of Lakeside Drive and Regal Lane about 11 p.m. Aug. 5.

The participants gave a variety of perspectives on the causes and solutions for the neighborhood's safety issues:

• Some said the issues were more important than the binge and underage drinking issues downtown.

• Some challenged the Iowa City Council's priorities by questioning the benefits of parks and bike paths if people are afraid to walk down the street.

• Others encouraged their neighbors to call the police if they see a gathering of kids they are concerned about.

• And still others expressed their discomfort at all the hyped-up language of "that side" or "those people."

Several neighbors said they have appreciated how, since the reports of shots fired on the Aug. 5, the police department has assigned additional investigators and patrols to the southeast side. But the police cannot maintain those patrols without additional staffing -- especially when university classes start up soon and the downtown pedestrian mall again fills with mobs of college-aged bar patrons at various stages of inebriation.

Indeed, the current laws on the books don't seem enough to turn the tide in the neighborhood.

While some neighbors were calling on the Iowa City Council to impose a curfew, Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said he would prefer the council pass a delinquent behavior ordinance. Rather than lock down on every teenager in the city, such an ordinance would allow the police to focus on the juveniles who are causing problems.

Hargadine, who was scheduled to discuss the issue with the Iowa City Council Monday night, makes a good case for the benefits of a delinquency behavior ordinance over those of a curfew. Charges under the delinquency ordinance wouldn't be required to be sent to the magistrate court, as those under the curfew would be. Instead, the ordinance he has in mind would give the juvenile court system jurisdiction. To be used most effectively, the ordinance would require Iowa City police and juvenile court officers to improve their communication -- which as been less than ideal in the past -- but Hargadine said some preliminary steps to that effect have been taken.

Although we understand the appeal of the delinquency ordinance over that of a curfew -- and although something needs to be done to address these public safety concerns -- the council still has to ask many questions and to hammer out many details if it decides to follow the chief's recommendation. Specifically, because police officers would have discretion on whether the ordinance has been broken, the council will have to consider how to address the inevitable disproportionate implementation of the ordinance in some neighborhoods and on specific racial or socio-economic groups.

In the meantime, we commend the organizers of and participants in Saturday's forum for facilitating such a candid discussion. We urge them to keep working on this until all discussion leads to practical solutions and broader community involvement.

Our View - 'Death panel' bunk drowns out other parts of health care discussion

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Aug. 15, 2009.

We understand how the pressure is on Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley to appease his Republican base. And we can excuse those occasional misstatements that happen when the national media pay close attention to your every word. But we're at a loss over how Iowa's senior senator -- and the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee -- stoked irrational fears this week about a provision for "advance care planning consultation" in the House version of the health care overhaul bill.

"There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end of life. And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear," Grassley said during an outdoor meeting Wednesday. "You shouldn't have counseling at the end of life. You ought to have counseling 20 years before you're going to die. You ought to plan these things out."

One could assume Grassley was just being overly empathetic. Maybe he was just telling the crowd that he understood their fears about all the misinformation and negative hoopla surrounding a provision in the House bill that would pay for patients to be able to sit down with a doctor and talk about what they want for their end-of-life care. Maybe Grassley was trying to dispel the rumors -- like President Obama tried to do earlier in the week in New Hampshire -- and he just got carried away with his "aw shucks" rhetoric.

But then Grassley said, "And I don't have any problem with things like living wills. But they ought to be done within the family. We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on Grandma."

What Grassley says is true: No one wants want a government program to determine when people should die. But Grassley also knows that there is no such provision in the House bill. And he also knows that reform opponents have taken the provision for voluntary "advance care planning consultation" and transmogrified it into having a panel of bloodless government bureaucrats decide who lives and who dies.

If he was trying to alleviate his audience's fears, he failed miserably. Instead, he stoked those fears to become even hotter.

Discussing end-of-life care

Talking about end-of-life care is a subject that most people already find scary enough. We fear that the media firestorm around this non-existent "death panels" not only will distract people from a rational discussion of long-need health care reform, but will also scare people further away from taking the steps necessary to make sure their family and their doctor know their preferences for end-of-life care.

If people don't prepare some form of advanced care directive, then their family members are left trying to figure out what their wishes would have been. If those family members disagree passionately enough, then the courts are left to decide.

Indeed, if the media circus surrounding the Terri Schiavo case in 2005 had any positive consequences, it was to get family members talking with each other about what type of medical intervention they would consider essential -- a feeding tube, a breathing apparatus, etc. -- and at what point they would just like to let go.

Such discussions are not merely theoretical. The only thing each of us knows for certain is that we are going to die one day. If that death comes quickly, no decision needs to be made. If it is prolonged, however, then the situation can become overwhelmingly complicated.

Avoiding a family, legal meltdown

Iowa law sets up a process that allows for the withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining procedures if a doctor agrees with the person who has been appointed to make decision for the individual. If there is no one appointed, the law basically sets up a hierarchy of individuals who can consult and agree with a physician: The appointed proxy, the incapacitated person's guardian, the person's spouse, a majority of the person's adult children, the person's parents and then the person's adult siblings.

If discussions about end-of-life care can be done when everyone is lucid and able to think rationally -- albeit the discussions themselves can often get emotional -- then they save everyone pain and anguish at a time when few are able to think rationally.

Government has an interest in encouraging such decisions to be made ahead of time. And the House bill simply provides for people who voluntarily want to have such a discussion with a qualified physician or nurse practitioner.

Grassley is right in that the most important part of this process is for family members to talk with each other about these decisions. Because people change their minds about what counts as appropriate life-saving measures -- a healthy 35-year-old will view these issues differently when she becomes a chronically ill 75-year-old -- it's important that these discussions happen on a regular basis.

Hopefully those discussions will continue despite Grassley's ill-chosen words.

Our View - Women's historian herself becomes part of history

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Aug. 13, 2009.

Since 1971, Linda Kerber has been teaching history at the University of Iowa. Throughout that time, she has been working to overturn the once conventional assumption that the historical events that matter most -- the ones that require the most serious historical scholarship -- involve men alone.

Digging into historical sources overlooked in the past by historians who thought them unimportant, Kerber has been able to reconstruct the lives and experiences of previously unsung women and to present those stories in such books as "No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship" (1999).

Now the historian who has made a career out of documenting the lives of other women has been recognized herself as a woman whose story needs to be documented and shared with all Iowans. The Iowa Commission on the Status of Women is inducting Kerber into its Iowa Women's Hall of Fame (for a full list of names, visit www.friendsoficsw.org/4.html).

Kerber said she is accepting the recognition on behalf of the generation of feminist historians who, like her, came to professional maturity in the late 1960s or early 1970s. When Kerber's cohort started looking around for what to write about after finishing their dissertations, they found a growing women's movement hungry for the history they could provide.

"I've only recently come to realize now how incredibly lucky we were," Kerber said. "We found ourselves at a moment in which there was a need for a history that had not been written and that both men and women needed to write."

Kerber said she also has depended immeasurably on the smattering of female historians who came before her generation. Since receiving news of the recognition, Kerber said her thoughts have turned to the late Louise Noun -- a fellow Iowa Women's Hall of Fame member who conceptualized, initiated and endowed the Iowa Women's Archives in 1991 so that future historians would have access to the records.

"(Noun) had to do what she did largely alone," Kerber said. "That's why she became so committed to developing the archive."

Having been at UI for nearly four decades, Kerber still finds herself adjusting to the fact that she is no longer one of the "young ones who didn't follow the rules." She has served as president of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians and the American Studies Association. And her mentoring has inspired at least two more generations of scholars.

"I've been witness to her powerful impact on students at the University of Iowa and elsewhere," said Mary Bennett, who is special collections coordinator for the State Historical Society of Iowa and who studied with Kerber in the 1970s. "She opened the door for many young females in the profession."

In her letter of support for Kerber's nomination, University of Arizona professor Judy Nolte Temple added, "Kerber's national and international reputation brings honor to the state of Iowa, her adopted home. Linda has held many national presidencies and been a visiting scholar in a variety of places, but she returns to Iowa, where she has diligently trained the next generation of scholars who create new knowledge about women."

We agree with Nolte Temple, and we're glad the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women is recognizing this inspiring historian herself for being an important part of Iowa history.

Our View - When should a city shut down a bar like Los Cocos?

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Aug. 12, 2009.

Although bar owner Heather German decided Tuesday to close Los Cocos permanently, Iowa City officials are left with an important lingering question: Under what conditions and under what authority could and should city government close an establishment for presenting a sustained, serious risk to public safety?

It's a question that the city attorney's office will need to explore before Iowa City ever again sees a bar that in its first 11 months, according to police, requests more than 210 calls for service -- which required 396 officers to be dispatched and resulted in 74 arrests and three warrant arrests. A bar that then, in its 12th month, has patrons allegedly involved in a stabbing, a display of a handgun and eventually a shooting.

The Iowa City Council does have the authority to deny a liquor license renewal request, but even that's not enough to shut down a bar quickly. The downtown bars Etc and the Field House, whose license renewals the council denied last month, have the option to appeal the decision to the state and stay open while their appeals are heard.

But the Etc and Field House decisions were based on the number of times police had issued citations to patrons for underage possession of alcohol. Police say Los Cocos doesn't have an excessive number of alcohol violations or underage possession charges -- just a disproportionately high need for police response.

After contacting German and holding what Police Chief Sam Hargadine called a "frank discussion," the police, the city and German were able to reach an agreement about what problems the bar would have to address to keep its license.

The council agreed with the police recommendation last month and gave Los Cocos a six-month renewal with stipulations that the bar owners and staff:

• Not violate any laws.

• Enforce occupancy limits.

• Sufficiently staff the bar with appropriately trained people.

• Meet monthly with the police to discuss concerns.

• Not host any after-hours events.

• Eject patrons causing problems, ban them for the calendar year and turn over their names to the police.

• Continue to report all criminal activity even as they work to achieve an immediate reduction of fight, disturbance, assault, weapons, intoxication, littering and narcotics calls.

But last month's stabbing and Sunday's shooting suggests an escalation of violence rather than "an immediate reduction."

German, who said she was in Los Cocos every night the bar was open except Wednesdays, said she always felt safe in the bar until early Sunday morning. That's when, after word spread that someone in the bar might have a gun, employees cut the music and — without explaining why — asked everyone to leave the bar and re-enter after being passed over with a metal-detecting wand by staff.

Police have not said German or her staff did anything wrong in how they reacted to the situation. Nevertheless, police also say that, while standing outside waiting to re-enter Los Cocos, Bernard James Butler of Cedar Rapids shot Cortez Parker of Iowa City in the abdomen during a fight.

Even German agreed that whatever steps the bar took to address the violence were inadequate. She said she wanted to close the bar for a while to see if the problems in the neighborhood will die down, but told the Press-Citizen Tuesday night that she had decided to close the bar for good.

City officials didn't seem to be in a rush to close the bar. Iowa City mayor Regenia Bailey said she did not expect the city council to address Los Cocos' liquor license until it came up for renewal at the end of the year. And Iowa City Police Sgt. Mike Brotherton said that, while Los Cocos has its problems, "they're not any more significant than other bars in the downtown."

Given recent events, we're glad German has taken the step on her own to close her bar. But we'd still like to know the answer to the lingering question: Under what conditions and under what authority could and should city government close an establishment — anywhere in the city — for presenting a sustained, serious risk to public safety?

Our View - Questions for Iowa City School Board candidates

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Aug. 8, 2009.

Here are some of the issues we're going to ask the eight Iowa City School Board candidates before the Sept. 8 election. We suggest you ask the candidates about them as well.

Decommissioning Roosevelt

• What, if anything, should the board have done differently when considering whether to decommission Roosevelt Elementary as a K-6 school and to build a new elementary school near Camp Cardinal Road?

• What does the district need to do for the next two years to ensure a safe and productive learning environment in a school building they no longer consider a good investment for continuing as a K-6 school?

• What should be done with the Roosevelt building after the new school opens in 2011?

Redrawing boundaries

The decision to close Roosevelt and to build a new Camp Cardinal school will require redrawing boundaries between the west-side schools of Roosevelt, Kirkwood, Horn and Weber. But there also seems to be a groundswell of support for addressing the gross disparities between the district's elementary schools by redrawing boundaries districtwide.

• How do you think the board should go about redrawing school boundaries? What kind of public input should be allowed? What kind of timeframe would be required?

• As the board redraws the boundaries, which factors should be considered more important: geographic proximity, minimizing disruptions in students' educational experience, using current capacity, school size, equalizing educational opportunities or balancing socio-economic demographics?

• Should school attendance areas be considered primarily static entities that the board seldom changes, or is it time to start thinking about school boundaries as being more fluid and requiring more regular evaluation?

Neighborhood schools

The district's five-year facility improvement plan released earlier this year didn't include any major improvements for the district's two oldest elementaries, Mann and Longfellow. Because of the board's decision to decomission Roosevelt in 2011, groups like We Love Our Neighborhood Schools worry that this is a policy of "benign neglect" toward those older schools.

• How do you define a "neighborhood school"? Which schools in the district do think fit your definition? What is the value of maintaining (or implementing) a "neighborhood school" philosophy?

• How committed should the district be to keep existing facilities functioning as long as possible? At what point is it in the district's best interest to tear down an existing facility and to rebuild it somewhere else?

• Would the Iowa City Council have been out of line if they had sent a letter to the school board expressing their concerns about how closing Roosevelt would negatively affect the Miller-Orchard neighborhood?

Educational quality and content

In philosophy and in practice, the district has focused on making its educational facilities as comparable as possible. While there are distinct differences between the schools -- such as, mobility rates, poverty rates, PTO contributions and standardized test results -- the district tries to provide the similar educational quality and content at each school.

• How much of a priority should it be for the district to ensure educational quality and contents are as similar as possible for each school?

• As the district considers redrawing elementary boundaries and bringing a third high school online, is it time for the district to allow (or even to encourage) some of its schools to become magnet schools with more specialized or individualized curriculum?


• The district has been in slashing mode in order to eliminate about $6 million from its budget over the next two years. How fair and effective do you think the district has been in deciding what to cut? How might the district have avoided the short fall in the first place?

• How well is the school board living up to the promises made before the 2007 SILO vote?

New high school

During public discussions of high school enrollment, the overwhelming sentiment seemed to be: It's not a question of if the district will build a new comprehensive high school; it's a question of when. But the district recently estimated that a new comprehensive high school with a capacity for 800 students annually would cost at least $1.7 million to operate.

• The High School Enrollment Task Force recently recommended the board should move toward building a new comprehensive high school as soon as the district has "adequate student enrollment" and "it is financially feasible." What do those vague phrases mean to you?

• How should the district address overcrowding at West and underutilization at City before a new high school comes online?

'Those people from Chicago'

As soon as any child enrolls in the district, he or she becomes a student of the district. As such, any problems facing the Iowa City School District shouldn't be framed as us-against-them, or as "the outside students are threatening our good Iowa City kids."

• To what degree is the district responsible for the academic success of every student?

• How well are administrators, staff, teachers and families working together to ensure that students know what to expect and how to behave?

Board/community relations

Past school boards have wrestled with the question of how to get more community participation in their sparsely attended meetings. This year, however, the meetings have been filled with parents, teachers and other area residents concerned about how the board's decisions will affect their school and community.

• How well has the board listened to the concerns of the public? How could its listening skills be improved?

• Should the board always address the public through a consensus opinion, or would it be better for individual members to be allowed speak out publicly on school issues as individuals?

Our View - The benefits of Iowa City bars going 21-only

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Aug. 5, 2009.

Boy, we caught a little glimmer of hope during the July 28 Iowa City Council meeting.

George Etre, owner of Etc., told the council that he was thinking about making his bar 21-only because Iowa City is now including the rate of Possession of Alcohol Under the Legal Age charges as one of the criteria for evaluating liquor license renewal requests. Since February, if a bar has an average of more than 1.0 PAULAs per police visit, then the police department automatically recommends the council deny the license renewal request.

The council, of course, still has the option to ignore the police department's recommendation -- and, say, recommend a six-month probationary license with stipulations. But bar owners probably shouldn't take the probationary license unless they are confident they can get their establishments into compliance with the law in those next six months. Otherwise, the owners actually hurt their chances with the state -- or the courts -- if they choose to appeal a council's eventual denial.

That's why Etre told the council he was interested in the possibility of going 21-only.

"I don't feel comfortable telling you to extend my liquor license for six months or a year or however long, knowing that I have to get PAULAs under 1.0 because there's so many variables involved in the PAULA that are out of my hands, that I can't control," Etre said during the July 28 meeting. "For me it would be easier to just be a 21-bar, not deal with 19- and 20-year-olds, not have to worry about PAULAs."

Denying a license renewal because of PAULA rates, after all, is very different than denying a license renewal because of the number of alcohol sales to minors. The one is a sin of commission in which a bar employee is clearly violating the law. The other is a sin of omission in which bars may have done nothing wrong -- other than to provide a locale in which underage people can enter and get their older friends to buy alcohol for them.

By holding bar owners accountable for the underage drinkers in their establishment, the city may have altered the local economic environment just enough that more bar owners -- like Etre -- will be looking to negotiate with the council to go 21-only voluntarily.

Those negotiations, however, need to take place before a bar is out of compliance. That's why we think the council was right to vote 6-1 to deny Etre's renewal request -- despite a modicum of improvement between February and June -- and to vote unanimously to deny the request from the Fieldhouse bar.

The council's decision isn't the last step in the process, however; it's just the beginning. Bar owners have every right to appeal the decision to the state's Alcoholic Beverages Division, and if they don't like the answer there, to appeal the decision through the courts. It could take years to reach a final conclusion -- years in which the bar gets to keep its license and keep operating.

Yet appealing the decision has economic consequences in that it dramatically increases a bar's cost of doing business. Bars could see their dram shop insurance rate go through the roof, or they could lose their insurance altogether -- and thus have to go out of business. Plus, bar owners will have to pay what's sure to be hefty fees to get lawyers to argue their case before the city council, the state board and the courts.

Of the 110 liquor licenses in Iowa City, police say that only six are in jeopardy of having a rate of more than 1.0 PAULAs per police visit for the past 12 months. Although many of those 110 licenses belong to restaurants, the vast majority of bars in Iowa City are still able to comply with this very reasonable standard.

We highly encourage bars that are unable to comply to think about the benefits of going 21-only.

Our View - Once shooting probe is completed, officials must release all details

Printed Iowa City Press-Citizen, Aug. 1, 2009.

HOMICIDE, n. The slaying of one human being by another. There are four kinds of homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether he fell by one kind or another -- the classification is for advantage of the lawyers." -- Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary" (1911).

There nothing good about the shooting of a homeless Sudanese refugee by a 24-year veteran of the Johnson County Sheriff's Department. And while the Iowa City police and state agencies investigate the shooting, the local community is left to debate which of the four labels listed above should be attached to the death.

Initial police reports say that on July 24, 26-year-old John Deng got into an argument with 63-year-old John Bohnenkamp -- an argument that turned physical and resulted in Bohnenkamp being stabbed. Deputy Terry Stotler then lethally shot Deng after the man made what the plain-clothed officer perceived as a threatening move toward Bohnenkamp.

The situation is further complicated politically because Deng -- who has a list of encounters with Iowa City police stretching back two years -- had no known address for at least five months. A newly formed community group, Iowa Citizens for Social Change, already has been pressing the police to release more information about the shooting.

Because this is a community where many can recall vividly a police shooting 13 years ago, we too hope the reports from the police and state investigators will answer all of the community's questions. We urge investigators, after they have completed their investigations and announced their conclusions, to make public as much information as possible.

In the meantime, here are the answers to some of the questions the community has been asking over the past week.

Questions authorities have answered:

• Stotler is a civil deputy. What exactly does a civil deputy do? Why are they in plain clothes? And how much training do they have to carry a gun?

Civil deputies are responsible for serving court summons, documents and eviction notices. They have as much training as any other deputies, but they normally perform their duties in plain clothes, carrying only a badge, a gun and handcuffs. A uniformed officer, in contrast, typically would have access to pepper spray, a Taser or a night stick.

• Who will make the final determination of whether Stotler's shooting of Deng was justifiable?

Once local authorities have completed their investigation -- with the inclusion of an autopsy and toxicology report -- the updated materials will be sent to the state attorney general's office. Officials in that office will determine whether Stotler could have reasonably perceived that he or another person was under the threat of deadly force. They will make the decision on whether to file criminal charges against Stotler.

• What information from the investigation will be made public?

If charges are filed against Stotler, then information from the investigation could be made public through testimony and court evidence. If no charges are filed, we hope the state still provides more than enough information to justify the decision.

Questions still being investigated:

• Had Deng been drinking or using drugs?

The toxicology reports won't be back for weeks.

• How much (if any) had Bohnenkamp been drinking before he confronted Deng for breaking bottles on the 300 block of Prentiss Street?

We don't know.

• What was said to escalate the confrontation so quickly?

Bohnenkamp has offered no comment on the incident.

• Did Stotler identify himself as a police officer when he drew his gun?

According to police, several witnesses say that he did.

• Did Deng have a knife in his hand when Stotler shot him? And was he acting in a threatening manner?

According to police, several witnesses say that he did have a knife and was being threatening. Two men told another media outlet that Deng was not being threatening. The police have recovered the knife, but they said they are not releasing a description of the knife because the matter is still under investigation.

Questions that require more police, media and public research:

• If Deng is one of the "lost boys of the Sudan," how did he end up in Iowa City? Why did he stay? Why didn't his family know that he was homeless?

This could be an interesting story. There are many books and films about the more than 27,000 boys who were displaced and orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War. Through help from the public, the police recently notified Deng's family members who came to Iowa City to identify the body.

However Deng came to Iowa City, he has had several run-ins with the Iowa City police in the past two years. Police records show he was arrested for public intoxication on July 11 by Iowa City police, his third such offense since March 2008. Deng was arrested for drunken driving in August 2007 by Iowa City police and has several other offenses on his record, including a charge of disorderly conduct -- fighting or violent behavior stemming from a June 2007 incident.

• How well did Deng speak and understand English?

Iowa City Police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said, despite being born in another country, Deng seemed to have an understanding of the English language in his past experiences with the Iowa City police. Crissy Canganelli, the director of Shelter House, said the shelter staff ranked Deng as a 5 out of 10 in terms of language ability, with 10 being fluent.

Our View - We need to make sure the watchers are watching the watchers

Originally printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 31, 2009.

The recent news stories about the early morning Feb. 11 drunken-driving arrest of state Rep. Kerry Burt (D-Waterloo) have brought to light some disturbing questions about how well Iowa's lawmakers can oversee their own rules on ethics and campaign disclosures when the Legislature is in session.

A report filed Wednesday shows lobbyists for the Iowa Pharmacy Association paid about $2,400 in drinks for the Feb. 10 reception that Burt attended a few hours before his arrest. Unfortunately, the association didn't file the report until after reporters recently started asking questions about the Feb. 10 reception in the Embassy Suites hotel in downtown Des Moines -- a reception attended by lawmakers and Gov. Chet Culver.

That's five months late. Iowa law requires that such session function reports be filed within five business days following the date of the reception if it takes place during the Legislature's session and every lawmaker is invited. And it seems unlikely that anyone any time soon would have noticed the report hadn't been filed without the recent interest in Burt's arrest and the additional allegations that Burt failed to make proper tuition payments to a state-run school his children attended.

The pharmacy association CEO Thomas Temple told The Des Moines Register that the late filing was due to administrative oversight.

"We made the House and Senate offices aware of the reception, so it's not like we were trying to hide anything," he said.

But even taking the lobbyists at their word, the situation shows the state House and Senate ethics committees aren't being diligent enough in double-checking the reports. Back in 2005, state lawmakers stripped enforcement authority for session function reports from the nonpartisan Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board and gave it to the ethics committees themselves. One advocacy group, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said Thursday that allowing the lawmakers to oversee themselves has resulted directly in fewer reports being filed.

"What other profession in the state is allowed to regulate themselves?" said Ed Rethman, a group member from West Des Moines, in a news release. "Are doctors allowed to license themselves?"

Burt's alleged behavior during his Feb. 11 arrest highlights the many problems with allowing lawmakers to police themselves. According to police reports, an Ankeny police officer parked at a gas station noticed Burt's car had a flat tire and front-end damage. A preliminary breath test showed Burt had a blood-alcohol content of .131 -- well over the .08 percent legal limit for driving. Burt -- a Waterloo fireman -- then allegedly asked for a professional courtesy from the officers. The report states that Burt also began to name drop that he was a state legislator who had been at a reception and restaurant with the governor and thus couldn't be arrested. Eventually, he was charged with first-offense operating while intoxicated.

We think the allegations against Burt are beyond the pale for an elected official. But we're equally concerned that state law doesn't give the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board enforcement jurisdiction over the filing of these reports from the lobbyists who are paying to wine and dine such officials.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Our View - Board inches toward changing school boundaries

(Iowa City Press-Citizen "Our View," July 20, 2009)

During Tuesday's meeting of the Iowa City School Board, administrators outlined a possible transition plan to alleviate overcrowding at West High and to use available space at City High until a planned third comprehensive high school opens for the 2014-15 school year. The proposed transition plan would require moving about 35 graduates from west-side elementary schools to South East Junior High and, starting in 2011-12, changing Northwest Junior High into a 7-9 school with about 150 ninth-graders.

Lest anyone mistakenly think the Iowa City School Board already has made up its mind about the plan, every page of the document has the word "DRAFT" scrawled across it. Yet only a few of the five boundary-change scenarios offered in the document seem to fit best within the district's "Secondary School Attendance Area Parameters."

That long list of parameters -- in addition to minimizing disruptions in students' educational experience and trying to ensure that students attend the school closest to their homes -- includes:

• Using current capacity in order to be fiscally responsible,

• Addressing immediate, short-term and long-term needs,

• Balancing socio-economic and ethnicity demographics,

• Keeping schools from growing either too large or too small,

• Considering transportation boundaries and

• Ensuring equity in education opportunities for all students.

We're already on board with the suggestion that the board and administrators need to fundamentally change the way they think about boundaries. Rather than consider attendance areas as static entities that should be largely left alone except for an occasional tweaking, it's time they start thinking about boundaries as being more fluid and update them more regularly.

If the school board is going to start the process with redrawing the boundaries between the district's two comprehensive high schools, then it makes sense to start with some elementaries on the boundary line. The proposed plan breaks up the school attendance areas for Lincoln, Hills and part of Roosevelt into six different neighborhoods or "building blocks":

• Block 1: Manville Heights;

• Block 2: North Lincoln, east of Dubuque Street;

• Block 3: North Lincoln, west of Dubuque Street;

• Block 4: Roosevelt/Hills south of Highway 1 up to and including Lacina Drive and Meadowview Lane;

• Block 5: Hills south of Lacina Drive and Meadowview Lane and east of Highway 218; and

• Block 6: Hills south of Lacina Drive and Meadowview Lane and west of Highway 218.

Redirecting students in Blocks 1, 2, 4 and 5 is the scenario with the fewest number of "con" bullet points in the document. But there is still a lot of room to argue about which of the parameters should have more priority: Proximity? Crossing boundaries like Interstate 80? Moving at least 35 students per grade level? Balancing ethnicity and poverty levels?

Likewise, we've called on the board to begin the process of redrawing boundaries between the district's elementary schools -- which are disturbingly out of sync with each other in terms of poverty, mobility and achievement statistics. Any short-term changes to the high school boundaries must be made with an eye to the long-term changes to the elementary boundaries.

As school board members continue to debate these controversial issues, they need to keep in mind some of the other recommendations of the High School Enrollment Task Force:

• They must actively and publicly solicit input from the affected schools and families, and

• They must demonstrate that they fully understand the consequences of whatever decision they make.