“Ped’go!” I would bark out every time I ran into Steve Pedigo, always glad to see him – which was too infrequent these past couple years. Steve was as multifaceted as they come, and he was a lot of things to a lot of people. He was everything from a loving father to a political pundit to a handyman to a motorcycle mechanic to a blues ambassador to a radio disc jockey. Steve’s waters ran deep, and if you named a topic, he could carry on an engaging discussion. I always felt time with Steve was well spent, no matter where, when, or for how long. He was self-deprecating and incisively funny.

How meaningful is the media-fueled binary battle between the deplorables and the corruptibles when the very election systems used to count the votes are susceptible to manipulation and fraud? It’s a topic very few wish to engage with. For, if true, all the spent energy and resources and the lost or frayed friendships over such a contentious national election would be for naught.

This issue's cover story on the business of medical marijuana brings into focus just how hypocritical and duplicitous state government can be when donning its cloak of benevolence. Many people I know were cheering about Illinois making "pot legal for medicinal purposes," seeing the move as a harbinger of more state-government largesse to come. Re-legalizing self-medicating with a plant that one can grow on one's kitchen windowsill, anywhere in America, is really the auctioning of privilege that politicians and bureaucrats will use to fortify their fiefdoms and power structures.

Jonathan Narcisse

If you're an independent candidate for governor in Iowa, you know you're getting traction when your message earns the support of county chairs from both major parties across the state. Your campaign must be striking powerful chords when you get endorsements from both conservative talk-radio hosts and liberal-activist leaders alike.

Jonathan Narcisse is running for governor again. (I have volunteered for and contributed to his campaign.) And if he garners at least 2 percent of Iowa's vote, the Iowa Party will have official party status, which means automatic ballot access for all partisan elections for the next four years. The potency of this political weapon cannot be overstated.

Narcisse points out that partisan politics is the tail that wags the dog in Iowa, keeping voters distracted on presidential and national politics rather than focusing on how citizens' tax dollars are extracted and spent in their hometowns, school districts, and counties - right where they live.

(This was never more evident than when, at the Scott County Republican Party board election, the central committee was told repeatedly by the leadership: "We don't deal with issues here; we're here to get good Republicans elected.")

"The Occupy and Tea Party movements championed their causes through the Democrat and Republican parties, but after they helped get someone elected, they had no mechanism to hold them accountable," says Narcisse. "The Iowa Party is not ideologically driven; it is an accountability party." If Narcisse succeeds, the Iowa Party could be the "None of the Above" party that changes Iowa politics forever.

The River Cities' Reader is beginning its twenty second year and has an opening for a fun, energetic team member in outside/inside advertising sales and marketing.

Late last year, I published a commentary on the questionable policy implementation by the Scott County Board of Supervisors, at the request of staff, to indiscriminately destroy e-mails more than three years old, beginning January 2, 2014 (RCReader.com/y/email1).This new policy was implemented in the wake of Assistant County Administrator Mary Thee issuing a memo to county employees about the increase of public inquiries and litigation requesting e-mail messages.

In the spirit of practicing what I was preaching, namely getting one's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in before the January 2 date (despite the county administrator extolling that her staff has been practicing said deleting for some time), I submitted a FOIA request about a topic this paper has covered more extensively than any local news outlet: the Scott County Emergency Communications Center, a.k.a. SECC911. (See RCReader.com/y/foia1 and RCReader.com/y/foia2.)

Keep in mind that the SECC911 project is important because it was sold to the taxpayers as a cost-saver, only to have its costs more than quadruple the original estimates, ballooning to more than $20 million. And the entity that was created under a 28E, or "emergency services" statute, is made up of un-elected appointees, who possess unlimited, or un-capped, taxing authority. I am still amazed at how few people are familiar, let alone concerned, with this black hole that flies completely under the radar. And, lest we forget, years later we still don't have a consolidated 911 dispatch service.

This request was e-mailed to the Scott County Board of Supervisors as well as Administrator Dee Bruemmer. Below is the text of that request, and the response from Assistant County Attorney Robert Cusack. For those paying close attention, yes, Cusack is the son of William Cusack, one of the supervisors this FOIA request was directed to.

On December 19, the Scott County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt the following language for the information-technology (IT) policy for county staff: "The IT Department will maintain a copy of all e-mails sent or received for a period of three years from the date in which they are sent or received. Records may be retained for a longer time period if it is subject to a litigation hold."

A day earlier, I published an open letter to the board asking it to defer action. (See sidebar.) At the meeting, I was allowed to address the board prior to the vote, and the 14-minute audio recording of that exchange is available below.

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Prior to the meeting, I had phone conversations with Chair Larry Minard and supervisors William P. Cusack and Carol T. Earnhardt. On these calls, it was explained to me that "all the important e-mails will be saved." When asked about details - such as who will be determining what e-mails are important - the answers varied from department heads to staff to one or two county attorneys. When pressed what the criteria were for retention past three years, the answers included "We just have to trust staff to know what to do" to "The frivolous e-mails will go." The policies of the State of Iowa and the City of Davenport were cited several times in these phone calls and at the meeting, but no particulars were given. The party line was that these entities destroy old e-mails much sooner than the county was proposing.

(Note: Links to PDF documents can be found within this article.)

This photo, entered into evidence by the Scott County assistant attorney in the jury trial of Keith Meyer, shows Meyer on his property at 1012 Marquette Street in Davenport.

Last week, justice was served in Scott County when a jury of 12 level-headed Iowans found Keith Meyer, Davenport's former Ward 3 alderman, not guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor: "assault while displaying a weapon." In November, Meyer was accused by his neighbor, John Fahs - with whom he has a well-documented history of trouble - and arrested by Davenport police. If convicted, Meyer could have been sentenced for up to two years in prison.

Meyer chose to represent himself in this matter, which necessarily consumed his time and energy for four months. It is no small matter to represent yourself in the administrative code system, because the rules are stacked against regular folks without attorneys. But Meyer is not your typical go-along-to-get-along citizen, and he is clearly smarter than your average bear. In addition, he is nearly totally deaf. Yet he prevailed, albeit largely because the prosecutor's case was so weak.

The case against Meyer should never have been brought. There was no injured party. It was bogus from the jump. Back when courts made more sense, any charge that could potentially result in being jailed for more than 30 days required a grand-jury indictment. Today, however, under administrative procedural rules, county attorneys have effectively usurped the people's authority by removing grand juries from the process.

In the 1940s and '50s, print and TV ads depicted, of all things, doctors and professional athletes enjoying the soothing benefits of smoking cigarettes. One TV spot stated, "In a repeated national survey, doctors of all branches of medicine, doctors in all parts of the country, were asked, 'What cigarette do you smoke, doctor?' More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette" (RCReader.com/y/cigs).

Of course, since then we've all wised up and realized the absurdity of the message that cigarettes are a healthy habit. Under the premise of healthful living, in 1952 the City of Davenport contracted with the Iowa Water Company to add fluoride to the public water supply (RCReader.com/y/agreement). Sixty years later, it's time to wise up and realize the absurdity of this practice ... or at a minimum, with the benefit of scientific research, have a public debate about medicating the populace through the public water supply.

In December 2010, the Reader published a cover story titled "Don't Drink the Water? Author Paul Connett Wants People to Take a Fresh (or First) Look at Fluoridation" (RCReader.com/y/fluoride). This article explored Connett's book The Case Against Fluoride and how he hoped it would get people to consider fluoridation "beyond the endorsements of professional societies and public-health officials."

Managing Editor Jeff Ignatius wrote in this article: "While the provocative subtitle is How Hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water & the Bad Science & Powerful Politics That Keep It There, the book's primary concern is science. ... The simplest way to state the ... premise is that until better scientific studies can be done on the effects of fluoridation, the risks of health problems far outweigh the proven benefits, which The Case Against Fluoride says are negligible."

Quad Citians concerned about the health and well-being of all who must rely on the public water supply are fortunate that environmental toxicologist Connett will be speaking at two free public events, January 14 at the Bettendorf Public Library and January 15 at the Moline Public Library. Both events will begin at 6:30 p.m. and together will launch a public-awareness campaign being positioned by opponents of fluoridation as "Have the Debate." Connett will give a presentation on the first evening, while the second evening will be a debate forum at which proponents of fluoridation will have the opportunity to publicly prove Connett wrong.

We are what we eat is an age-old adage that has more implications than ever in the context of modern-day science and biotechnological experimentation with the genetic makeup of the food we eat. Whether it is the highly processed corn- and soy-based products that permeate nearly everything we consume or the animals we eat that are fed the same corn-based products, the long-term effects of consuming genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified organism (GMO) food are yet to be fully documented. (This does not include the cross-breeding of cows and goats with spiders, for instance.) Of course, mankind has been cross-breeding plants for millennia, so some ask: "What is the controversy about?"

The controversy emerges when mega-corporations (also known as big agra) such as Monsanto produce seeds that are injected with the DNA of other species to produce specific effects such as resistance to chemicals and herbicides. Beyond the self-perpetuating - some might say monopolistic - marketplace this creates (Monsanto sells the herbicide Roundup that the seeds it sells are resistant to), critics are concerned about the long-term effects to human health by tinkering with Mother Nature so much.There's a Catch-22 at work here, too. The long-term studies that would allay consumer fears are not pursued by the purveyors of the GMO products, but those same purveyors fiercely defend their intellectual-property rights so that third parties cannot publish their own independent studies done with the GMO products. If the GMO products are so wonderful, then why not open the doors wide on independent research?

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