Kirk, Kinzer, Maxwell right for county board
When Carol Earnhardt and Diane Holst decided not to run for re-election to the Scott County Board of Supervisors, that set up a scramble for the three seats on the ballot this year.
On the Republican ticket are: John Maxwell, of Donahue, a dairy farmer and member of the North Scott School Board; Bettendorf Alderman Scott Webster, a small business owner; and Carla Williams, a former Davenport council member and a social worker and mental health therapist.
On the Democratic side of the ballot are: Rogers Kirk, a pastor from Bettendorf who has served on a variety of local and statewide boards; Ken Croken of Davenport, who has held a number of executive posts, including at Genesis Health System and currently TAG Communications; and incumbent Supervisor Brinson Kinzer, of Blue Grass, who is a former mayor and works as an electrician.
The county board generally is considered one of the best run of the local governments in the Quad-Cities. With a relatively low tax rate and few controversies, the board has mostly gone about its business with little attention.
For the most part, that's a good thing, though we believe the county could have more convenient meeting times and should move faster to broadcast its proceedings.
We've been impressed with most of what we've heard throughout this campaign season. The candidates all seem to realize that providing mental health services is a growing challenge for the county, that keeping taxes low is a goal, as is providing adequate services, and promoting economic development is an important function.
Today, we are endorsing Brinson Kinzer, Rogers Kirk and John Maxwell. We believe that the three of them, with current supervisors Ken Beck and Tony Knobbe, will ably represent all of the parts of Scott County.
In our discussions with Kinzer, he brought a stay-the-course approach to the board. He is careful with resources but also supportive of the county's approach to the state legislature on mental health issues, which is to lobby for greater authority to fund these needs. With his experience in city government in Blue Grass and his support of working people, we believe Kinzer deserves another term.
We have watched Kirk work in our community for years. As the longtime pastor of Third Missionary Baptist Church in Davenport, he has been a positive force for good in the community. Kirk also previously served on the state Board of Parole, an experience we believe would surely be of use in dealing with the issues facing the county jail.
Kirk also has been clear he would like to see the board change the time for its Committee of the Whole meeting (currently, 8 a.m.) so more people can attend. That's a good idea.
We also were impressed with his concern for shrinking rural parts of the county.
Maxwell's service on the North Scott School Board and his widely visited dairy farm have given him prominence in the rural part of the county, which is valuable for the board. So is his his view on the preservation of farmland, as economic development grows beyond city borders. His view that expanding the sources of revenue for mental health needs beyond just property taxes, is also welcome, though we believe additional property tax authority in this area will be inevitably needed.
We also saw in Maxwell someone who will look for efficiencies in how the county is run. Our impression is that Scott County operates pretty lean, but we believe that his business and government experience will be valuable.
As for the others on the ballot, we've seen Ken Croken advocate throughout the campaign for a more robust role for the county board. There is a lot to be said for his view. Croken has rightly pointed out that the Quad-Cities is not growing as fast as other parts of the state.
We hope he continues to make his voice heard, and not just on the economy but his advocacy for mental health courts, too.
Webster's attention to budgetary detail, meanwhile, makes him the kind of public official that one would hope for. Too many elected officials just leave it to staff. And Williams has a great deal of knowledge about how mental health issues have an impact in our areas. No matter what happens Nov. 6, we hope she continues to make her voice heard.
Tough choices in House races
This year’s Iowa House races in the Quad-Cities only feature competition in the Republican-held districts.
Reps. Ross Paustian, Norlin Mommsen and Gary Mohr all face opponents. But Reps. Cindy Winckler, Monica Kurtz and Phyllis Thede, all Democrats, are running unopposed.
Thus, we are issuing endorsements in the competitive races.
In District 92, Rep. Ross Paustian, R-Walcott, has been in and out of office since 2010 in a section of Scott County that includes the rural, western part of the county, along with Eldridge and parts of north and west Davenport.
Paustian is an ardent tax cutter. He told us recently he’s looking to the 2019 session as an opportunity to cut taxes even deeper than the $2 billion measure the Legislature approved earlier this year.
He seems comfortable with the amount of money the state has spent on education, and while he’s taken calls on the privatization of Medicaid, he says the program isn’t any worse off because of the switch.
His opponent, Democrat Jean Simpson, a retired social worker from Davenport, said she’s seen the negative impact of Medicaid privatization firsthand, as well what she says is inadequate funding for education.
Simpson also is critical of the state’s rollback of collective bargaining rights, saying it will negatively affect Iowa’s ability to attract quality teachers.
There is a clear difference between the two candidates.
Paustian's approach has relentlessly reduced revenues to government, while Simpson takes a more nuanced view. We saw in her someone who is thoughtful and inquisitive and less ideologically driven and partisan than Paustian. That fits this district. And while she clearly believes in greater investments in education and other programs, we believe she also is respectful of taxpayer dollars.
The Times endorses Simpson.
Rep. Gary Mohr swept into office two years ago without any opposition.
This year, he faces Democrat Joan Marttila, a retired audiologist from Bettendorf.
Mohr has voted with his party on the most controversial bills that have come before the Legislature over the past two years.
In many cases, we have disagreed with his votes. But Mohr impressed us early on by being willing to face voters, even hostile ones, when the collective bargaining bill came up in the 2017 session.
He met with his constituents on this issue even while other lawmakers were dodging them.
Mohr rightly sees rising spending on the Medicaid program as an issue to be dealt with, but to his credit he told us he doesn’t believe the change to private management has worked well. We would like him to be more vocal about that.
Marttila impressed us. She is knowledgeable and she believes the state needs to make more investments in education, as well as seek higher wages. Marttila’s personal volunteerism also is admirable.
As we look at this race, we see a part of the Quad-Cities -- Bettendorf, Riverdale and a piece of northeast Davenport -- that has a history of being comfortable with conservative lawmakers, and Mohr reflects their priorities. At the same time, he is someone who has been willing to listen to all of the voters in the district.
We endorse Gary Mohr.
This was a really tough call, and we think that voters in District 97 could be comfortable with incumbent Rep. Norlin Mommsen, a Republican from DeWitt, or Tim McClimon, a retired probation and parole officer, also from DeWitt. McClimon is a Democrat.
David Melchert Jr., a Libertarian from Grand Mound, also is running in the district, which encompasses most of rural Clinton County and a small part of upper Scott County.
Mommsen has long been active in representing the rural and agriculture interests in the area for years. He also wants to see improvements to U.S. 30 and an extension of the school infrastructure funding mechanism.
He also has supported legislation to change the hotel-motel tax to raise money to help the area economy.
McClimon impressed us with his common sense approach to governing and his background. He believes in greater education investments and restoring collective bargaining rights.
As a parole and probation officer, McClimon has had to deal with people and families who are dealing with significant obstacles. And he would bring a fresh perspective to the capitol on how to deal with people who have problems with the law.
As we say, this is a difficult choice. But we believe Mommsen fits his district and would be a good choice for another term.
Hubbell can return Iowa to its sensible roots
In the last two years, Iowans have seen their state government take a hard turn to the right.
Finally freed from the constraints of split control, Republicans in Des Moines acted swiftly to enact a raft of changes that, for many Iowans, left their heads spinning.
A lightning strike to scuttle a 40-year-old collective bargaining law.
Approval of perhaps the most restrictive abortion law in the country.
Reversing local attempts to raise wages. And just this last session, the GOP imposed a massive tax cut that, despite claims to the contrary, delivers most of its benefits to the wealthy.
They undercut energy efficiency programs and imposed new voting restrictions.
They've also shortchanged public education. Then, there's the three-year old privatization of Medicaid.
To many Iowans, this isn’t the state where they grew up, where people like Bob Ray and Tom Vilsack represented a sensible middle ground.
It’s time to get back to those roots. We believe Fred Hubbell can take us there.
We believe if Hubbell is successful on Nov. 6, we could again have collaborative government in Des Moines that is not ideological but practical.
Hubbell is a businessman, the former leader of Equitable of Iowa Cos. He’s not a typical politician. His less-than-polished debate performance demonstrate that. But in the months we have listened and watched him, he has offered a reasoned approach to solving complex problems.
He steered clear of the excesses of some in his party during the primary, refusing to be goaded into throwing his support behind a single-payer health care system.
Despite getting criticized for it, he also made clear he would appeal to Republicans and independents – and not just for votes, but also as a governing principle. Again, this was during the primary.
Hubbell’s main complaint about Reynolds is the privatization of the Medicaid program. He has been somewhat vague on precisely how he would fix it, but his approach is to judiciously move it away from the control of private insurance companies that are cutting services and not paying providers.
That said, Hubbell also has recognized the state needs to slow spending growth in the program. The governor has rightly identified that as an issue.
Hubbell also clearly recognizes this state needs to invest more money in its education system. He and running mate, Sen. Rita Hart, have made it a top priority.
It used to be we talked about three or four percent growth in basic state aid for K-12.
Now, it’s 1 percent, 2 percent at best.
That doesn’t even keep up with inflation. And over a period of years, this is a recipe for disaster. No wonder Davenport is contemplating closing schools.
We have to say that Hubbell has disappointed us with his refusal to release more of his tax returns. But we do not believe this is disqualifying.
As for the governor, we respect her focus on the state’s workforce, and we believe on her watch Iowa took positive steps forward by requiring regional governments to provide more mental health services to Iowans.
She also has taken steps to create a children’s mental health system. We believe that, too, is the right move.
However, we believe the governor’s economic strategy relies too heavily on tax cuts, like the one passed last session.
We have seen no evidence that the previous historic tax cut enacted by Des Moines – the 2013 commercial property tax reform law signed into law by Reynolds' predecessor, Terry Branstad -- incentivized job growth. Frankly, this area already compared favorably to our neighbors in this category.
Meanwhile, the income tax cut approved earlier this year will constrain the state's ability to make investments in education, the true engine of our economic growth.
Hubbell has said he would seek to pay for these by taking a hard look at the suite of tax credits the state offers to corporations.
It won't be easy to roll those back, though. Constituencies exist for each of them.
So, we harbor no illusions about the challenges. But we worry about what will continue to happen with full Republican control of state government.
The excesses of the last two years are not in keeping with the sensible Iowa of our roots.
Our heritage is to invest in our schools, our people and our lands and water.
We work together, raise each other up, all of us, and find a way to do what's best for the common good.
We solve problems with common sense.
There is a way to get back to doing that again.
We endorse Fred Hubbell for governor.
Pritzker offers way forward
The question we think Illinois voters should ask themselves is this: Where we do go from here?
For the last four years, Gov. Bruce Rauner has been locked in mortal combat with House Speaker Mike Madigan. The result: epic dysfunction that led to the state failing to produce a budget for two years.
When he was elected, Rauner pledged to break the way that Illinois had been governed. He took on some well-meaning reform efforts, such as trying to change the state’s expensive worker’s compensation system. But he also made it his mission to kneecap the state’s labor unions.
The Janus Supreme Court decision that damages the ability of unions to raise money was a win for him, but he's largely been unsuccessful on that front.
The state's budget stalemate ended a year ago, but we’re still hearing about the damage.
JB Pritzker offers an alternative.
He clearly sees that raising revenues will be a key contributor to solving the state’s problems. He has promised that a graduated income tax he proposes -- and that would require amending the constitution -- would not hurt the middle class, that it would draw from the wealthy.
There is plenty of skepticism about that, amplified by Pritzker’s stubborn refusal to give details of his plan.
We understand the politics of such a move, but it’s unfair to voters. Pritzker should have been more clear. Having said that, though, we don’t see that a progressive tax system would be the death knell that critics proclaim.
Iowa and a lot of other states have had such a system for years. And if raising more from upper income Illinoisans who benefit from the existing flat tax can help to buy down property taxes then that would be a boon to areas like the Illinois Quad-Cities.
The key, of course, is to follow through – just not shovel new money into an open maw that will spend it on pet projects for state lawmakers and lobbyists.
We are open-eyed about this risk. But the imbalance in real estate taxes between our two states is surely a major reason growth has largely been confined to the Iowa side of the river. We don’t think that helps any of us, and something has to be done.
We should also note that Pritzker has raised the idea of bringing in more money to state coffers by expanding gambling and legalizing marijuana. Achieving either, or both, is probably going to be more difficult than imagined.
Steering clear of the pork barrel also will be a necessity if Pritzker’s idea for fixing the ailing state pension system – essentially, putting more money in up front -- is to work.
Throughout this campaign, we have listened to both Rauner and Pritzker talk about how to ignite Illinois’ economy. Here in the Quad-Cities, we know full well that the post-recession recovery hasn’t fully landed here. The labor market started to improve in Rock Island County this year, but it has been a long time coming.
Pritzker has a record of job creation. The 1871 small-business incubator in Chicago he founded is credited with creating thousands of jobs, and it’s that kind of success we need here.
Unfortunately, we have not seen results from the governor’s approach to the economy. To his credit, he also recognizes the damage high property taxes have done. But, yet, they remain.
We think it’s worth seeing if Pritzker’s approach will work. We also are interested in seeing how he deals with Madigan.
We’re hopeful, especially when it comes to political reforms, he’ll be aggressive. Pritzker told us he would not sign a remap of legislative boundaries that is “unfair.” Another redistricting will occur in the next few years. Pritzker's promise leaves some wiggle room, but Illinoisans have plenty of experience with what “unfair” maps look like. We'll know it when we see it.
As we noted earlier, we wish Pritzker had been more forthcoming about his income tax plan. We also are disappointed with how he has approached the scandal over the removal of toilets from his house, earning him a much lower property tax bill. Pritzker is paying back $330,000, but the whole episode has left many Illinoisans rightly disgusted.
So, we end where we began. Where does Illinois go next? We don’t think the answer is where we’ve been before.
The Times endorses JB Pritzker.
Smith, Cournoyer best choices for state Senate
When state Sen. Rita Hart joined Fred Hubbell’s Democratic gubernatorial ticket in June, it threw into doubt what was anticipated to be one of the most competitive Senate races in the state.
The 49th district includes all of Clinton County and parts of upper Scott County, including LeClaire and Princeton.
Early on Republican Chris Cournoyer jumped into the race. The president of the Pleasant Valley School Board, Cournoyer is running against Patti Robinson, a Democrat from Clinton who has extensive experience in the human services field and who got into the race after Hart switched contests.
We’re impressed with Cournoyer’s wide-ranging experience. In addition to being on the school board, she’s a reserve deputy for the Scott County Sheriff’s Department, serves on the governor’s STEM council and is a business owner. She understands the need to grow the economy and add skills to the workforce.
She also seems to recognize that local governments need the flexibility to raise revenues to pay for additional mental health mandates from the state, even as she wants to keep property taxes down.
She also said she opposes rolling back state funding that replaces revenues local governments lost because of the 2013 commercial property tax law.
Cournoyer was vague on how much she believes basic state aid for K-12 education funding needs to be increased, but she said the one percent approved last year isn’t enough.
As for Robinson, she is well versed on the flaws in Iowa’s precipitous move to private Medicaid management. In fact, she lost her job at Clinton County because of the changeover.
Robinson talks knowingly about possible solutions, such as how to deal with the costliest parts of the program. She also would like to see the state focus more attention on mental health services, treating it under the law like physical illnesses.
Robinson also says the last two years of Republican control has left Iowans vulnerable, and that while people want to keep the costs of government low, they still want services. To us, she seems to take a balanced approach.
In the end, though, we believe Cournoyer has a broader range of experience and a grasp on a wider range of issues facing state government.
We also see potential for a new consensus builder in Des Moines. We hope, if she’s successful, Cournoyer will go to Des Moines remembering the financial needs of school districts in the state and then use those consensus-building skills to convince her fellow Republicans of the wisdom of greater investments.
In District 47, Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, is seeking a second term. Smith says his goals in the upcoming session will be to work on Davenport’s education funding inequity and seek solutions to juvenile crime issues.
We appreciate that Smith played a leading role in the Senate this year in getting a small down-payment on closing the funding gap that means Davenport schools, as well as North Scott, are capped at spending about $30 less per student than the typical district in the state – and, compared to a small number of districts, up to $175 less.
Smith also recognizes that mistakes have been made on the privatization of Medicaid, and while that program is in the governor’s hands, he’s said he’s open to pursuing ideas that could move some of the program’s most chronic population away from managed care.
He also said he wants to make sure providers are paid. We hope he follows up on that.
Like other Republicans, Smith has largely supported what we consider to be an ideologically-driven agenda in the legislature the last couple of years. But he also has worked on a spate of local problems to make things better in his district, which includes Bettendorf, Riverdale and parts of eastern Davenport.
An example is a largely unnoticed bill that allows local governments greater flexibility to invest their idle funds, which Davenport city officials say is starting to pay off.
Smith is running against Marie Gleason, a Democrat from Bettendorf who is a human resources project manager at Deere & Co.
Gleason said that her focus would be to properly fund education and support women’s health care. She also faults this year’s state tax cut as being tilted too much to the wealthy, and she adds Smith has not listened to all of his constituents or reflects their values.
We appreciate Gleason's willingness to step forward and run for office, which she told us stemmed from her alarm over the 2016 election results. However, Smith's answers to our questions were better thought out and more specific.
We believe Smith deserves another term.
Dave Loebsack a good choice for his district
You rarely see Dave Loebsack on the cable television news shows. That's a good thing. The former college professor, who has represented large swaths of eastern Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past 12 years, doesn't draw the bright lights of Washington, D.C., that, for some lawmakers, seem to define their public service.
Instead, Loebsack grinds it out every day. He's been a solid vote to preserve a government that works for all and for sensible steps to grow our economy and improve health care. He's pushed for expansion of rural broadband and has sought to address skills gaps in the workforce.
For the last eight years, he's mostly stood up against the ideological impulses of the Republican-controlled House. That includes attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the debt-expanding tax cut.
Loebsack has been faulted sometimes for not being sufficiently progressive. He backed the Keystone XL pipeline, which got him criticized by the left. And, notably for us, he voted for a measure in 2015 that would make it more difficult for Syrian refugees victimized by the war there to get asylum in the United States.
Still, he mostly gets it right. And he has worked hard to support the needs of local constituents, such as on flood relief, the Rock Island Arsenal and renewable fuels. That day-to-day work is pivotal for any lawmaker.
Loebsack is running again this year against Republican Christopher Peters, a surgeon from Iowa City. He defeated Peters by about 7 percentage points in 2016.
As with two years ago, Peters focuses much of his attention on health care, what he calls a more patient-centered approach. He's advocated for a system that incentivizes health savings accounts for routine needs and high deductible insurance plans for major and unexpected illnesses.
He's also made it clear he'd like to slow defense spending and take a lower military profile overseas.
We admire Peters' independence. He has criticized the Trump administration's tariffs, as well as the president's "hateful" tone on immigration. But Peters, who said he is worried about the debt, also told us he would have voted for the Republican tax cut bill last year. That's troubling. The non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation says the bill will add nearly $1 trillion to the federal debt over 10 years.
Also on the ballot this year are Libertarian Mark Strauss, of Bettendorf, and Daniel Clark, of Mt. Pleasant.
The bottom line for us is this: Loebsack offers a record that balances the 2nd District he represents, from the liberal Iowa City area, to the more conservative rural southern tier of the state, to the less politically predictable Quad-Cities.
We would note that Loebsack sits on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose portfolio includes such big issues as health care, technology and energy. If Democrats take control of the House in November, we would like to see Loebsack use that base to seek a higher profile, even if it's not on cable TV. That would be good for him and for our district.
The Times endorses Dave Loebsack.
Anderson has broad support
In Illinois’ 36th District state Senate race, Republican incumbent Neil Anderson and Democrat Gregg Johnson are squaring off in what is proving to be an expensive and nasty fight.
So far, we’ve seen beyond the pale TV ads that try to scare voters about the other side. Such is the nature of today’s politics.
But our discussions with Anderson, a firefighter who was first elected four years ago, and Johnson, a retired corrections officer and supervisor at the East Moline Correctional Center, don’t reveal anything scary.
Instead, they come at Illinois’ problems from different perspectives. Johnson says he believes Illinois needs to grow its way out of fiscal trouble, while also throwing his support behind a graduated income tax that would ask more of millionaires.
Johnson also says a capital bill is needed to work on the state’s infrastructure, which would grow the area economy.
Anderson, who touts a list of endorsements from pro-business, public safety and education groups, says the state’s latest budget is proof it can come to a compromise on fiscal matters. And his preference is to focus resources on public safety, education and human services, while working to reduce the state’s massive backlog of unpaid bills.
He is clearly skeptical of a graduated income tax but said he would support the public having a referendum on the question. Anderson has supported Gov. Bruce Rauner in some of his initiatives, like voting last year against the income tax increase, even as he voted for budgets that included its revenue. But Anderson also has fought the governor on some anti-union measures.
He also believes in term limits and a fairer way to draw legislative boundaries, with the latter mirroring Iowa’s exemplary system.
Anderson also was a leader in the far-reaching energy bill that contributed to preserving hundreds of high-paying jobs at the Exelon Quad-Cities Generating Station.
The Future Energy Jobs Act was good for energy efficiency programs in the state, as well as for development of renewable energy. Its subsidies for the nuclear industry drew fierce opposition, but for this area’s economy it was a big win.
Anderson played a key part in that and deserves a lot of credit.
We believe Neil Anderson deserves another term.
Bustos pragmatism works
Six years ago, Cheri Bustos got elected to Congress, pledging to stand up to the excesses of Republican congressional rule that threatened to cut Medicare and shrink the social safety net.
Since then, she's risen through the ranks, and a few weeks ago said she'd run for the Democratic caucus's fourth highest leadership post if the party retakes control of the House.
Bustos has been fortunate in that she's not faced much competition at the polls since being elected. That's enabled her to help her party find and elect candidates in the Midwest and other parts of the country. And she's received widespread attention for her pragmatic approach to winning elections, and at governing.
You won't find Bustos agitating for abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, impeaching the president or in the vanguard of the single-payer health care movement. But she has been a strong liberal voice, calling out the president, criticizing the tax cuts that lavish too much on the wealthy, and she has stood up to threats to cut Medicare.
With the federal debt growing, it's clear some Republicans in Congress again have Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in their sights.
Bustos has also looked after her district, fighting against misguided attempts to bog down the Farm Bill with ideological crusades and seeking to help the Rock Island Arsenal.
This year, the Moline Democrat is running against Republican Bill Falwell, a a real estate professional from Galena, Ill.
In August, Republican Party leaders in the state disavowed his candidacy, citing, among other things, his social media posts that refer to some mass shootings as "false flag" events. He also has questioned whether the U.S. government was involved in 9/11.
Bustos, who previously was an East Moline council member, hospital executive and a journalist at this newspaper, has proven herself to be a hard-working lawmaker who's stayed in touch with her community. She's risen through the ranks of her caucus but, at the same time, has remained rooted in the views of people who live here -- and sensitive to those who belong to the opposing party.
Cheri Bustos deserves another term in Congress.