Get Des Moines out of Storm Lake

FILLERS

BY JOHN CULLEN

It’s good to know that the City of Storm Lake is working on the poor condition of our city’s streets. Mayor Mike Porsch says streets are the main source of complaints he receives and he was going to address that topic at a meet-the-mayor meeting Thursday.

Deteriorating infrastructure is not a unique problem for Storm Lake. Cities and states across the nation are facing crumbling roads, bridges, sewers, waterways and electrical grids. In our quest to reduce taxes for the rich, we are starving our communities.

You can see it plainly in Iowa. In recent years our Legislature has starved funding for education in particular; K-12 funding has been held below the rate of inflation, while spending at our state universities has been cut drastically; student tuition and subsequent debt have skyrocketed to make up the difference. Highways 71 from Early to Storm Lake and 110 from Schaller to Storm Lake are an alignment shop’s delight.

Years ago the city had a street improvement project each summer in which roadways were continually updated. That fell by the wayside due to other pressing needs and reduction in state support. The Legislature is all in favor of home rule when it comes time to campaign for reelection. But when local entities want to determine their own spending priorities, that’s not allowed.

Cities, counties and school districts have been limited by the Legislature to how much they can raise and spend in taxes. If Storm Lake wants to pave our streets with gold, that should be our choice, not the pols in Des Moines who have been bought off by the lobbyists. The same goes for livestock regulation. Local residents have essentially been forbidden by the Legislature from having any say over where smelly livestock confinement operations can be located.

On top of that, we give hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and other incentives to lure wealthy corporations to Iowa — primarily Polk County, which doesn’t need any help. The latest is Amazon, building a fulfillment center in central Iowa. Despite its massive wealth, the mail order goliath pays no federal income taxes. We’ve done the same with Wells Fargo, Apple, Google and Microsoft. And a fertilizer factory headquartered in Egypt.

Iowa will continue to fall behind the rest of the nation as we race to cut taxes at any cost. You can’t save your way to prosperity. Iowa used to have a reputation for good schools and good roads. That distinction has been slipping away because of legislative shortsightedness. I noted in a column a few weeks ago that in a recent eight-state tour to the West Coast, Iowa had the worst roads.

Maybe we wouldn’t have to raise taxes to pay for better roads if our state spent our money more judiciously. For example, the privatization of Medicaid championed by Governors Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds has cost us hundreds of millions of dollars with worse service than when the state managed the program. Taxpayers have been saddled with millions more dollars in settlements for sexual misconduct by state legislators and agency heads. And a $150,000 lawsuit over sexual discrimination has cost the state millions of dollars in legal fees because two governors have been too stubborn to quit appealing a case it continues to lose on appeal. That money would pave a lot of streets.

We need the legislature to get its fingers out of local government so our mayor and city council, superintendent and school board, and county supervisors can run our local agencies they way they need to be run, not the way the lobbyists want them run.

In the meantime, thanks to Mayor Porsch and the city council and staff for seeking ways to rejuvenate our streets.

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