Evil knows no color

EDITORIAL

BY ART CULLEN

University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts was murdered by a Mexican immigrant, Cristhian Rivera, 24, authorities said Tuesday. Within minutes politicians weighed in about our immigration system, including Gov. Kim Reynolds who faulted our policies, and of course President Trump had to weigh in. We were relieved then to read a statement posted on social media by Mollie Tibbetts’s aunt, Billie Jo Calderwood.

She said: “Please remember, evil comes in every color. Our family has been blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship and support throughout this entire ordeal by friends from all different nations and races. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”

Tibbetts went out for a jog July 18 in rural Poweshiek County. A man came along in a car. He worked as a hand at a nearby dairy owned by the brother of Craig Lang, Farm Bureau leader and former member of the Iowa Board of Regents and unsuccessful candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. The man was Cristhian Rivera. He worked on the farm for four years. His employer said he thought papers were in order. Rivera’s lawyer insists that Rivera is not undocumented.

He started jogging next to her, and then he murdered her and dumped her body in a cornfield. He confessed to almost all of it that he can remember. He was in and out of reality and memory. He is apparently deranged.

So is the white citizen who murdered his wife and children last week. And so are the black men who shoot up the South Side of Chicago every weekend. And so was the Asian man who murdered his wife in Storm Lake.

The Storm Lake Police Department reports every year that Latinos commit crimes at about the same rate as any other demographic group. Other studies tell us that undocumented immigrants actually commit crimes at a lower rate than the rest of the population for fear of losing a good job and being deported. Some undocumented immigrants are bad actors. So are some top officials of presidential campaigns. Among 10 million to 14 million undocumented immigrants in the country, we are aware of two or three high-profile crime cases involving undocumented Latino laborers. Almost all mass shootings and serial killings involve white males, some highly educated and privileged and others not.

Mollie Tibbetts was a beautiful young woman full of promise at the University of Iowa. A state mourns for her. Its politicians cannot help but exploit her death. But Mollie Tibbetts’s aunt reminds us of the truth, that evil wears many faces among all of us. There is no doubt that Cristhian Rivera will spend the rest of his life in an Iowa prison. But the young fathers who labor in the dairy barns or packing houses just trying to feed their families do not deserve to be sentenced to a life of fear and deprivation just for one man.

A complicated question

Good for Buena Vista County Assessor Kathy Croker and County Attorney Dave Patton for pressing the Iowa Attorney General’s Office for an opinion on how to tax improvements to wind turbine complexes. The request was made months ago, but as Chris Vrba of the Pocahontas County Record-Democrat reports, the attorney general has been slow to respond. A spokesman says he is looking into it. This is not an issue that the office is eager to wade into, no doubt, if only for its complexities. Those complexities make it a most difficult question:

When a wind developer such as MidAmerican Energy upgrades blades and turbines for greater efficiency and output, can that improvement be taxed at a rate greater than the 30% cap of the original cost of construction? No. That’s the way the Iowa Department of Revenue reads the law, written decades ago to spur wind energy in Iowa. As a result, Iowa has the highest per-capita wind energy output of any state.

Current plans are written with the tax exemption in mind. If we change policies, that might impact the projects. Or, it might put Iowa at a competitive disadvantage with other wind states like Nebraska or Kansas. Increased efficiency benefits property owners who pay taxes by bringing them lower-cost power. These appear to be public policy considerations made by legislators when they created Iowa’s renewable portfolio.

Yet the utility companies are making handsome profits off their wind investments that could mean tens of millions of dollars for Buena Vista and surrounding counties. We need the revenue. If the companies are getting that much wealthier because of the improvements, there should be a consideration to the tax base.

The question is urgent as utility companies want to proceed, and county auditors head into budget work this winter. The attorney general can offer valuable insight into the law and what the unintended consequences of change might be. It would assure assessors and their county attorneys who are not legal scholars on taxing renewable energy. Absent guidance, it behooves the assessor and county attorney to raise the question in court. It seems an awkward and clunky way to do business. Guidance from the attorney general soon is a much better way forward in interpreting the law for everyone. And, it suggests that the legislature should take a more serious look at our renewable energy incentive structure, other than ignorantly just eliminating solar development tax credits.