Losing ground

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Public employees have it too good. That’s why the Iowa Legislature last session gutted their unions and took away their collective bargaining rights. They’re too fat and powerful. This week, the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors allowed 2% raises for county workers (the engineer got 3% in a fair negotiated tradeoff). This is pretty much the trend. The snow plow driver actually isn’t getting fat. The Consumer Price Index in January rose 2.1%. There goes the raise and the tax cut.

Schools will be allowed a 1% increase in state aid. Allowable growth has averaged 1.8% since 2010. More than 80% of the school budget goes to salaries, so we can see how that is working out for the teachers.

The biggest employers in most towns — even most county seats that vote these legislators into office every two years — are government and schools. There are serious proposals in state government to close the courthouses in Pocahontas and Sac City. Court services already have been reduced, and will be cut further. That means fewer sandwiches sold and tips received at the downtown diner. Those salaries pay the property taxes in Pocahontas and Sac City. They support that little grocery store, the only one left. And, they did provide valuable, vital services. When you want to collect that unpaid rent, you had better hope the magistrate is paid to show up on Tuesday and that a clerk is there to record the default judgment. But they are not. Neither are the social workers. We have friends who are terribly frustrated — it happened just last week — when they showed up at the Buena Vista County Courthouse for a custody hearing on a child in need of her grandparents. They waited two hours. They then were told it was continued because DHS could not get the paperwork done for the court. Juvenile Judge Mary Timko has written letters to the appropriate officials about it. Those officials won’t comment. The loving grandparents wait, tragically, to deliver that poor girl from bureaucratic limbo so they can rear the girl right.

This is the direct result of mismanagement of a state run entirely by Republicans.

Just so you know, that snow plow driver probably can’t replace his pickup this year because he has been falling behind every year of the past five or 10. No union represents the legion of teacher aides who actually are teaching your children or grandchildren plus wiping their noses for less than $12 per hour. They’re falling behind, too, and living in dilapidated Alta housing about to be condemned. You want the deputy in Marathon to come along after you have run into the ditch on an icy patch, but you wouldn’t want him to get a real raise that could get him ahead.

These vital employees are not getting ahead. The big employers are getting ahead. They aren’t missing any meals at Pioneer or Monsanto, thanks to us. But the people who run the state government for them think that the hired help can go live in a barn. That’s the way we treat them, with contempt rather than respect. If you wonder why your pay never goes up much, look around you. When the teacher’s pay stagnates and the cop’s pay stagnates, your pay stagnates. They have us starving each other, right where they want us.

Facts and fake news

Father Whalen told us in journalism school that if you have both sides barking at you, you probably are dead-center on the right track. Alta Mayor Al Clark was barking at us for publishing “fake news” about his campaign against Westview Park owner Roy Worbets of Canada. Worbets in an interview with Tom Cullen said he was so frustrated he might just sell the place. Now he and his manager claim that is not true. His manager said Worbets does not want to sell “at this time.”

Clark said that he would do everything in his power to clean up the dilapidated mobile home court. He cited the code and chapter, which includes condemnation and eviction. Those are the facts.

Worbets is quoted as saying that he was considering selling to the highest bidder, even if it was the city. Now he denies saying it. But he did.

Clark is terrorizing the residents to get at Worbets. Worbets is terrorizing the residents while raking cash off them every month so they can’t afford to make the repairs he demands.

Our questions are: Why can’t Clark reveal his end-game? Why can’t Worbets clean up his own mess?

Neither chooses to answer the fundamental questions. Why are they pitting residents in a game of chicken? The solution is for the mayor to back off and hire someone who can work with the residents and Worbets in cleaning up the property. That was happening, if slowly. There are plenty of ways for a good lawyer to get Worbets to comply without threatening the residents or making unreasonable demands of people without the capacity to respond.

Shooting the messenger may obscure perceptions long enough to cheat the residents even more, and make their lives more miserable. But eventually the truth will win out, if it is not too late for those who suffer these two men.