Ban fireworks now

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Nobody spoke in favor of continued use of fireworks in Storm Lake during a city council workshop last Monday. Not one person. The council chambers were filled with speakers. To a person, each said that fireworks should be banned year-round in the city. We do not recall anybody writing a letter to the editor in support of fireworks but we have run several condemning them.

Obviously, many people like to shoot off fireworks because we could barely sleep for three weeks around the Fourth of July. Things were exploding everywhere. The police could not keep up. They wish there were a ban on fireworks.

People are afraid that debris could hit their homes and start a fire. They feel helpless for their pets, which cower under the relentless popping. The mayor said fireworks ruined his hunting dog. There really is no reason to cause all this anguish.

Everyone said they would prefer that fireworks were banned altogether. They understand that people will shoot them off on July 3 and 4. They were willing to put up with that as people of compromise. But they are not willing to put up with three weeks of nonstop booms.

The Iowa Legislature created the problem by legalizing the sale and use of fireworks. It was a stupid decision. Fireworks burned down Spencer and Remsen in the 1930s. Spencer used its discretion to ban their use even if under state law cities cannot ban their sale. City officials urged citizens to contact their legislators. If the gun lobby supports fireworks, which they probably do, that phone call is a waste of a dime.

The call right now is up to the city council.

After that work session, there is no question what the majority of committed citizens want — a complete ban of fireworks. If fans wanted to have their say they have passed on the opportunity.

However, only three council members were present for the workshop. So the council deferred. Again.

Do we have to wait for a child’s eye to get blown out, and then have the poor kid show up at a council meeting to get the point across? Is that what it takes?

Ban fireworks. At the next council meeting. We have had enough time and study. The people have had their say. The council should do what the public begs. As for the legislature, there is an election in 2018.

A big fat mess

Hold onto your wallet. Your property taxes are about to rise, thanks to Medicaid “reform” initiated by Gov. Branstad and embraced by Gov. Reynolds. Local providers that receive payments through the Medicaid system, such as Faith Hope and Charity in Storm Lake, are watching their accounts receivable pile up with no way of knowing when or how much they will get paid for contracted services to profoundly disabled children.

That’s because the insurance companies writing the checks are holed up with the governor’s negotiators trying to clear up their own black hole. The three insurers describe the deal from the state as catastrophic — their term, not ours — as they have lost hundreds of millions administering the program for the state. The Department of Human Services cannot say when these negotiations will end.

Meantime, the state has an operating deficit of at least $100 million that has not been addressed. Gov. Reynolds says she can easily scoop $50 million from cash reserves. But she needs legislative authority to do that and to come up with at least another $50 million to balance the books. That will require Reynolds to call a special session, which she will not yet acknowledge.

The black hole will be much bigger than $100 million, we suspect, when they come out of those secret talks with the insurance companies. These are big companies. They will not accept eating $400 million on a bad promise from the state. They will get paid.

And then they will pay the local health care providers, which struggle even when cash flows more easily. We don’t know when that will be, or how much. They will know when they get paid.

And to pay the insurers to pay the providers, the state will have to come up with the cash to cover it. It will do that by quietly shifting the burden to property taxes. The way the formula has been messed with, residential property owners will shoulder the greatest burden for this shift back to a property tax-based mental health system. We were supposed to be shifting away from that base with the creation of regional managed care service areas, a la Branstad and Reynolds, but what we have done is removed accountability from the local board of supervisors and shifted it to a regional board whose composition is an unguarded secret.

Which all goes by way of saying that this is a big, fat mess that ultimately poorly serves disabled children and property taxpayers. We cannot stand another four years of fiscal incompetence. Education is starving. Nursing homes are closed from lack of payment (North Lake Manor). We have more than 100 lakes in Iowa impaired by pollution. We need a change at the top.