A plan, but no trail

Buena Vista County has a trails committee. And a subcommittee. They talk. They mull. They look at a map and come to the conclusion that the subcommittee needs to meet in a month or so. They will talk about a strategic plan. There might be a water trail, too. We could save them a lot of breath and coffee with one specific suggestion:

The most popular trail in Buena Vista County, bar none, is the LakeTrail on the north shore of Storm Lake. But it only goes so far. Then a bicyclist must take to the dangerous airport blacktop to ride around the lake. We lament young people leaving rural areas, and young people like to bike, but we refuse to provide them a safe route on the obvious excursion around the lake.

You can ride around the Iowa Great Lakes easily. You can ride around Black Hawk Lake.

You can ride around Storm Lake if you don’t mind getting flattened by a livestock truck.

We have had our chances, such as when the airport road was rebuilt in the past few years. Put on a wider shoulder and paint a line for a bike safety lane.

No way.

More than half the county’s population lives in or within a mile of Storm Lake. No doubt, it would be nice for a trail running from Linn Grove to Peterson to Sioux Rapids. It would be used. But not like a trail around the lake.

Keep on planning, folks.

The only way to take the work seriously is when somebody from local government starts talking seriously about eliminating a serious safety hazard for bikers along the airport road.

It can be done. If can be affordable — we would bet that private funds could be raised for the work so the county need not be troubled.

It won’t happen because the county does not want it to happen, no matter what some committee may or may not say.

Taxing information

Gov. Terry Branstad always has been an advocate for open government and transparency. Branstad was the ramrod for a new public information board that will hear complaints about closed government meetings and access to public records. He is a former member of the Iowa Newspaper Foundation Board. The governor has always been accessible personally, and we believe that he believes in accountability and transparency.

Except when it comes to his administration, apparently.

The governor insists that the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo is right to charge The Des Moines Register $32,000 to tell the newspaper how many children have been kept in isolation cells, and for how long. The Register revealed that several teens had been kept in solitary confinement at the “home” for up to a year. These children are not juvenile delinquents, they are homeless youth with no parents and no prospects for a foster setting. Sometimes when they act up — as any teenager is apt to do — they are locked in an isolation cell.

That’s cruel and unusual punishment. If we did that with our children, the courts rightly would throw us in the Buena Vista County Jail.

State authorities say it’s a lot of work to figure out a list of children who were down in the hole. At a rate of $32 per hour for research, the total tab to answer a simple question is the price of a brand new car.

That’s effectively a tax on public information. If you can’t afford it, don’t bother to ask.

One would think that state officials would have a log of any child locked in solitary confinement at a group home or a reformatory. One would think such a log would exist at adult prisons. You should be able to pull out the log and answer the question within five minutes.

Either the governor is disingenuous about his commitment to open government or he is trying to cover up abject incompetence in how his administration handles troubled youth.

Thanks to The Register for uncovering this abuse. The governor should come to his senses and quash the bill. Then he should quickly fix what is wrong with our juvenile in need of assistance process. Nobody belongs in the hole when they have committed no crime, especially a poor child.