If state leaders won’t lead, local leaders in Iowa are showing they will take up the job.
On three big issues in the last several months, we have seen this:
- Des Moines Water Works is suing three counties in northern Iowa to deal with ag-based water pollution. Leaders there say they need help dealing with the dirty water that comes to them; the Governor says they’re declaring war on rural Iowa. But his Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a toothless document, depending on volunteerism to stop agricultural pollution, when a large share of farmers will not even acknowledge the problem.
- Davenport School Superintendent Art Tate is going to defy state limits on school funding. He has funds in reserve that he cannot spend while making cuts — all while state law holds his per-pupil spending below that of neighboring districts. The Legislature won’t pass adequate school aid or spending authority, and won’t close the equity gap, even when revenues are strong. So Tate is taking it upon himself.
- The Johnson County Board of Supervisors, dissatisfied with state inaction on the minimum wage, is moving ahead with a local minimum wage increase to $10.10 in three steps. The supervisors know $7.25 isn’t enough for people to make ends meet. If their proposal takes effect in January 2017, it will do so nine years after the state’s last minimum went into effect, assuming no state action next year.
I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to see a trend.
Public policy matters in Iowans’ lives, in critical ways. We elect people who can take care of it in a way that works for all Iowans, but not enough who will. In the absence of state-level leadership, it’s inevitable, perhaps, that local officials who also are hired to work for their constituents will find a way to help them.