Justice delayed and denied

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Iowa’s starvation budgets of the Branstad and Reynolds administrations are having big impacts in Storm Lake. We have talked plenty about education and Medicaid. Those are basic state functions: running schools and providing care for the sick and working poor. And, there is no more fundamental state responsibility than providing for courts and full access to them. Here, the state should be ashamed of itself.

Hours for clerk of court offices across the state have been reduced for years. So has the help. This directly limits public access to taxpayer-supported services. It creates frustrations for the public and the workers trying to serve them.

The latest insult is the elimination of the Buena Vista County magistrate position. It has been essentially shifted to Woodbury County. District Associate Judge Andy Smith will take over responsibilities previously performed by Magistrate Josh Walsh. We need both of them. These judicial positions are where justice meets the street. They get the calls at 1 a.m. for a warrant or a bond hearing. Court administration pledges that scheduling will be addressed to keep Smith’s load manageable. Smith tells us he will get the job done no matter what. We have no doubt about that.

We also have no doubt that all this is a direct result of freezes and budget cuts that Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady has been addressing for several years before the legislature. And the legislature has not listened.

Storm Lake is host to the busiest courthouse in Judicial District 3A. There is no resident district court judge. There is no magistrate. There is Associate Judge Smith, who covers three other counties. It’s unfair to police, lawyers, defendants and small claims litigants trying to collect bills or resolve petty disputes. This is where the bulk of justice is done in Buena Vista County. And we are gutting the system.

At some point tax and spending cuts come home to roost. We’re feeling it with the loss of a magistrate, with closed nursing homes, and with schools trying to figure out how to squeeze the kids in.

Justice delayed is justice denied. The Republicans controlling the legislative process have no compunctions about slowly suffocating access to justice for the common person, and they certainly have no sympathy for the hired help. They could care less about Storm Lake, which is strange since our own Rep. Gary Worthan is among those controlling public safety appropriations. We doubt he has seen the lines of people waiting outside the magistrate court on a hearing day, as we have. It will be more of the same until voters decide that government must perform basic services competently. You simply can’t do it with one judicial official handling the bulk of the caseload for multiple counties. How long will we be satisfied with this mismanagement?

Tentative trade deal

Ag markets desperate for hope soared Monday morning when President Trump announced that he had reached a trade deal with Mexico. It is unclear whether ag trade issues will be affected by the negotiation. Early reports suggest that the new deal mainly benefits US auto makers. It also is unclear how Canada will react to a bilateral negotiation between Mexico and the United States — after Trump declared that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was “dishonest.”

At least the traders in Chicago figure that Mexican roadblocks to pork and other ag products will be lifted while Trump takes care of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s friends in steel and autos.

If Canada approves, markets will have a reason for positive response. It might alleviate the need for $12 billion in assistance from this phony trade war that would never make it to the farmer’s pocket anyhow.

The biggest question remains China. It is Iowa’s biggest ag trading partner other than Mexico or Canada. Trump continues to roil the waters with threats against the Chinese while his private business borrows huge sums of money from China. We always figured this trade war was some sort of shell game used to personally benefit Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. They will emerge with a deal that they both claim they won without much changing. At least, that’s what the Mexican trade deal looks like. (Also, as part of the deal, Mexico is not building and paying for a border wall, as Trump had promised earlier. Not only has he sold farmers down the river on behalf of Secretary Ross and Friends, and shaved billions of dollars off farm income in mere months, but he also has effectively brushed off the border wall patriots who continue to think he will deliver.

As they say, the crop isn’t in the bin yet. Whatever the markets added Monday they can take off again moments after the next presidential tweet threatening a trading partner. Beware.