Local Press Covers Local Campaign Finance

You can learn a lot — or at least learn a lot about what questions you might have — looking through campaign disclosures, and local races are no different. Iowa makes it pretty easy to access the reports, which are due before Election Day, for candidates running for city, school and state offices.

The graph above comes from George Shillcock of the Press-Citizen, who put together a very nice breakdown of the financial reports for Iowa City candidates while his colleague Cleo Krejci has a breakdown for school board candidates. Meanwhile The Gazette is reporting on the Cedar Rapids races.

It’s nice to see coverage of this since the only way these reports matter are if voters are aware of the reports and digest the context they offer, and the best way for that to happen is, well, reporting on them.

A COVID Serenity Prayer

Lucy McBride in The Atlantic:

Human beings have always coexisted with threats to our health: violence, vehicular crashes, communicable diseases. And many of us have meandered through our perilous existence without thinking much about it. Sure, people may drive more cautiously at nighttime, use condoms with a new partner, and avoid walking through dark alleys alone. But before the pandemic, we didn’t lock down our lives to eliminate all risk. Schools didn’t close during flu season. Doctors didn’t preach abstinence for all in the face of herpes and HIV. We had accepted the inherent riskiness of being human, and we took reasonable precautions where possible.

But for many of us, the pandemic blew apart our complacency—at least when it came to the risk of contracting COVID. People rejiggered their lives with a singular goal in mind: Don’t get infected with the novel coronavirus.

The Kinnick Covid Wave

It’s hard to imagine something exemplifying the failure of Iowa’s leadership through the pandemic more than highlighting its college football stadium, just shy of its 69,250-person capacity, celebrating the end of the first quarter by waving at a full pediatric hospital with lots of immunocompromised kids who cannot yet be vaccinated against a disease that’s killed more than 648,106 people in the United States. 

Style over substance.

I wonder how many members of the crowd, waving in unison, believe that masks are about control and the vaccinated are just mindless followers.

Kim Reynolds Responds to ‘COVID Kim’ Nickname

Nikoel Hytrek at Iowa Starting Line:

Last year, Iowans unimpressed with Gov. Kim Reynolds’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic gave her a new moniker: “COVID Kim.”

Since then, the name has become common among Reynolds’ critics online. WHO 13’s Dave Price asked her about it in an interview that aired Sunday.

Name calling is cheap, even if it’s fitting. Let’s look at what she says.

“People never 100 percent agree with the decisions I make.”
This is true of every elected official, so it doesn’t actually mean anything.

“You know, I have to take a look at the data, surround myself with experts that give me feedback, we did that.”
Data was the free space on Reynolds-press-conference bingo last year. I don’t doubt she looked at data. I don’t doubt she had experts offer input. I just don’t believe she prioritized either.

“I’ve tried to be transparent with Iowans.”
Unlike with Utahns.

“I put my trust in people to do the right thing. They did the right thing.”
She trusts them unless they run any sort of school or work in local government. Some folks did the right thing and some carried on like nothing happened. About six out of 10 got vaccinated. Some spread lies online and in their social circles.

Poorly-drafted Law Opened Door to Iowa City Mask Order

Good analysis from Laura Belin at Bleeding Heartland:

Republican lawmakers intended to prohibit schools, cities, and counties from requiring masks when they amended an education bill on the final day of the legislature’s 2021 session. But House File 847, which Governor Kim Reynolds rushed to sign within hours of its passage, was not well crafted to accomplish that goal.

An apparent drafting error opened the door for the mask order Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague announced on August 19, with the full support of the city council.

Most news organizations missed the care this order was crafted with and followed with stories focused on Iowa City defying state law.

Despite Gov. Kim Reynolds maintaining that cities cannot issue such orders, the question hasn’t actually been tested in court.

No Longer a Premonition

One of my very first go-into-a-store purchases once I was fully vaccinated was Michael Lewis’s The Premonition, a very Michael Lewis-y look at public health’s preparation for a big pandemic.

The book was supposed to be my coming-out-of-Covid reading. It was supposed to be something I could read and find amusement in, the same way I reflect on the time I almost died on the interstate heading to buy a stockpot for my mother for Christmas after an ice storm.

But, because I read books in fits and spurts, it’s turned into my rise-of-Delta reading. And instead of amusement, it fills me with apprehension.

There are plenty of moments, in the Bush- and Obama-era pandemic planning, when data led to a plan including steps with expected big prevention benefits at relatively little cost. Many of these steps, such as closing schools, were expected to be unpopular. They would require leaders to make decisions quickly in the face of public pressure to absolutely not do the thing that would save lives.

And here we are, facing a wave on an even more contagious variant of Covid, failing to act decisively. Failing to increase vaccinations. About to send millions of unvaccinated children back into school buildings.

Hold on tight. It’s going to get bumpy.

We Don’t Really Get to Pick This Supervisor

Zachary Oren Smith for the Press-Citizen:

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors has a vacancy, but unless you are one of the 350 or so delegates for the local Democrats, you won’t have much of a say in who fills it.

I’ve made a light mockery of the “who’s running?!” intrigue surrounding the Johnson County Board of Supervisors vacancy, but this is why: the choice will be limited to a tiny number of folks. (For the record: I am not one of them.)

The county government deserves coverage. But reporting resources are extremely constrained. Should those resources be devoted to writing profiles of five declared candidates, remembering that there could be a nomination from the floor we don’t even expect?

County government deserves real coverage. So let’s reflect: almost everyone was surprised by the resignation; where’s the coverage of how we got here? How did we have a supervisor who, allegedly, was putting in just six hours of work each week, or, as another supervisor wrote, “both literally and figuratively calling it in”?

Social Media Managers and the Vortex of the Internet’s Hate

Ed Zitron:

I think that it’s going to take a long time for anyone to really study and understand how social media affects us.

The whole piece is interesting, but I pulled this mostly unremarkable bit because, well—

Lately, watching For All Mankind in which everyone is smoking at NASA and everywhere else all the time, it struck me that social media could, in 50 years, be a thing we look back on like smoking: harmful and dumb and active.

Authentic shows about the 2020s made in 2070 will have to have all their characters checking Facebook and Twitter and Messages and Instagram their phones all the time.

Worse, we let our pre-teens do it and Facebook has developed its answer to Joe Camel.

Vaccinated, but Really Not Ready to Leave the Pandemic Cocoon

Steve Petrow writing in The Washington Post:

I know I can only keep my vaccine status quiet so long — without appearing to be anti-vaccine. (Clearly, I’ve blown my cover with this essay.) To help me, I’ve found myself thinking about the yoga retreats I’ve attended. Toward the end of these retreats, the teacher will usually ask, “How do you take what you learned on the mat off of the mat?” The answer: intention and discipline.

The stress I currently feel with regards to the pandemic is more about the growing pressure to re-emerge into public. At the end of 2019, I had the goal to slow down and say no to more. For folks like me (which I suppose might mean an undiagnosed social phobia of some sort), the pandemic was freeing.