Disappointing vote

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Storm Lake Public Safety Director Mark Prosser was the first to stress that the Keepers of the American Dream Award with his name on it, given by the National Immigration Forum in Washington, DC, was really an award to The City Beautiful. The chief, who is retiring next month, said upon learning of the honor that he was simply working for the city council and administration in community policing. No boss ever told him to do otherwise.

So that is something everyone in Storm Lake should celebrate. We have become known as the world’s hometown for our embrace of diversity. It’s because of the schools, churches, businesses, civic leaders and, yes, voters. Prosser emerged as a national advocate for a rational and compassionate solution to our broken immigration system first through national law enforcement executive forums and later through the National Immigration Forum, a center-right organization that seeks realistic solutions to immigration issues. It is populated by the country’s faith leaders, police chiefs, corporate executives and politicians from both parties. The National Immigration Forum is widely respected as a moderate voice in the shrill immigration debate.

This award is a big deal.

Prosser was thrilled that City Manager Keri Navratil, Mayor Mike Porsch and Councilman Kevin McKinney attended the award ceremony in the nation’s capital this month. Porsch and McKinney were a surprise to him.

The city paid their way to attend, as well it should have. The community of Storm Lake seldom, if ever, has received such an honor. The gracious thing to do is to send the mayor, a council representative and Prosser’s boss, the city manager, to recognize our community’s gratitude for being held up as a model for the nation.

City officials met in July to discuss sending a delegation. Councilman Tyson Rice reportedly was invited to the meeting but did not attend. He later said he was caught unaware that the city had paid for the trip. Rice at Monday’s city council meeting put up a motion calling for Porsch, McKinney and Navratil to repay the city for their expenses. It passed. That was disappointing. It makes Storm Lake look cheap and it hurts staff morale.

It’s one thing to ban travel if the streets or parks need cash. It’s quite another to claw back money from elected officials who barely get paid, and a city manager who all are following established policy agreed upon last summer. The demand violates good faith.

It looks chintzy.

Storm Lake may be bare bones, but we have some class.

The council should reconsider its vote. In the future, the council should decide, we suppose, in advance if travel is allowed (if the council really wants that job). Clawing back money from officials who thought they were following policy and expressing pride in outstanding work is self-defeating.

Support free speech

We are awfully proud that our reporter Tom Cullen was elected last week to serve as president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. Cullen has served on the board of the non-profit that advocates for government transparency and First Amendment rights since 2016.

The council was founded decades ago by about 50 people from varied backgrounds, convened by executives of The Des Moines Register. They were instrumental in writing the Iowa Open Meetings Law and the Public Records Law, and rules that expanded media access to the courts. It is a statewide organization that has joined in a number of lawsuits over the years involving public access to police videos, open preliminary court hearings, and defining what constitutes public records. The council offers legal assistance in defending First Amendment rights, and lobbies for open access to government. The Storm Lake Times is deeply grateful to the assistance that the council has provided in keeping the public informed in Buena Vista County, and is proud to be a sustaining member of the IFOIC.

The council is funded entirely by donations, which are much harder to come by as the news industry has been put on its ear by social media behemoths that do not support First Amendment work in Iowa. As the holidays approach, we hope you will consider a gift in support of the First Amendment, free speech and open government by and for the people of Iowa. As a free press is under attack around the world, few causes are more important. Please send your gift to: Randy Evans, executive director, Iowa Freedom of Information Council, PO Box 8002, Des Moines, Iowa 50301.

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