Ban fireworks

BY ART CULLEN

The only good thing to come out of legal fireworks in Iowa was when downtown Spencer burned to the ground in the 1930s, and was rebuilt in spectacular Art Deco style. It makes Spencer what it is. It started with a from a sparkler in a fireworks store that went up in what must have been a spectacular display. We like Storm Lake’s downtown the way it is. We would not like to see it blown up by fireworks, as Spencer was. We do not want to see a little boy lose a thumb to a Black Cat, either. Or a girl to lose an eye from a bottle rocket on the Fourth of July. We have seen both happen in Storm Lake.

Legislators didn’t much care about that history when they approved legal fireworks for the state.

Good that the Storm Lake City Council does. City staff recommends a continued ban — allowable under the new state law — in Storm Lake of firecrackers, bottle rockets and the like. Snakes and sparklers would remain legal in The City Beautiful. But not things that blow up. They are unsafe. They are for experienced people like Orren Knoffloch and crew for the Star Spangled Spectacular. Those fireworks are enough. We used to have a good old dog named Jack. On about the evening of July 3 every year the firecrackers would start popping. Jack would retire to the closet and make a mess, so scared he was of the war going on outdoors. It would be like that for two days. We don’t like fireworks for that and many other reasons.

We hope the city council votes unanimously to protect the peace and safety of Storm Lake, to protect poor dogs, even, and continue the ban on fireworks in the city. We hope the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors does the same. They can have their fireworks someplace else, like South Dakota.

Unraveling Iowa

This just in from the Legislative Service Agency, a bulletin about the May 11 Iowa Natural Resources Commission meeting: “Legislative Session: Director Gipp discussed legislation passed during the 2017 Legislative Session, which made the following changes to the Department’s funding:

“A reduction to the General Fund Operations appropriation in the Department of Natural Resources reduced the $12.9 million appropriate to $11.5 million for FY 2017.

“A second reduction for FY 2018 reduced the General Fund Operations appropriation to $11.3 million …

“There was a discussion of HF 631 (Natural Resource License Fee Bill) which would have allowed the DNR to increase fishing and hunting licenses through the administrative process. This bill passed the House but did not pass the Senate. The bill remains eligible for debate next year.

“Operations changes: Director Gipp also discussed how the department will be handling the decrease in appropriations. Changes include:

“State park seasonal help will be reduced from 240 employees to 150 employees.

“If a state park has one full-time position that is a permanent position and the person employed in that position retires or resigns, that state park will be closed.

“The Springbrook Education Center at Springbrook State Park has been closed. Activities at the center included teaching young adults how to hunt and fish.

“There is a hiring freeze at the DNR on positions funded with general fund Fish and Game Protection Fund moneys. If an employee quits or retires, the vacated position will not be replaced.

“Further projections will be available when insurance costs and salary increases have been determined.”

It is all there as factual as can be. State parks will close if the ranger retires. We think of AA Call State Park in Algona, the smallest and the prettiest. Programs that teach troubled young men how to fish and claim themselves will end. Few as there are, fewer scientists yet will be devoted to taking care of Storm Lake and Black Hawk Lake and the Little Sioux River. Julie Sievers does not occupy a DNR office in Storm Lake any more. We miss her.

This is another fact: Gov. Branstad spent too much money on the wrong things the past several years. It came home to roost. Tax credits for fertilizer companies were not reduced. State parks were. Community college funding was. Tuition is going up, again, at the three state universities. Farm income is going down. Iowa wages are flat. You cannot blame it on Tom Vilsack or Chet Culver. They did not cut the DNR staff. Vilsack did not starve K-12 schools. Property taxes on your Storm Lake residence went up under the Branstad Administration in its second iteration. They went up again when Republicans took complete control of the legislative process this year. And Iowa has grown weaker. Those are not our facts. They are facts presented in large part by Chuck Gipp, a former Republican legislative leader, a sensible and pragmatic man who cares about this state’s blessings, who must stand by for the execution of it all. It must make him ill.