I have to admit: I don’t normally read the e-mails from the Farm Bureau. I probably should pay more attention to rural politics, but I’m really just in it for the car insurance. And I’ve selected that provider for the most Iowan of reasons possible: My agent goes to church with my family back home. But when I read in one of their updates that U.S. Representative David Young (R-Iowa) had gotten a bill through the House to devote a portion of our nation’s Homeland Security efforts to something called “agro-terrorism,” I perked up. The Securing Our Food & Agriculture Act passed the House last month and its Senate companion – S. 500 – is pending before the Homeland Security Committee.

Although I appreciated the observation about cherry-picking studies to confirm a conclusion, in an essay (“Iowa’s War on Government-Worker Unions: Attacking Organized Labor Is Good, Divisive Politics on an Issue That Deserves Better”) devoted to the state’s alleged war on government-worker unions, the choice of an “unbiased view” was flawed.

Our program at Black Hawk College, Art & Visual Communication, recently received the devastating news that two of our four full-time faculty positions will be cut. Kyle Petersen teaches new media and had just created a photography certificate unique to the western-Illinois region. Melissa Hebert-Johnson teaches full sections of art history every semester and several innovative online sections of art history and art appreciation. She is also department chair. Both faculty are hailed by our students as not only great teachers, but as having strong, positive impact on their lives in general. The justification that has been given is that a consultant recommended dismantling our AAS in Visual Communication and the Art Technology one-year certificate. We have not been granted access to this report.

Mike Schulz’s review of Manchester by the Sea prompts me to write this congratulatory note that’s been my intention for years. Recognizing, analyzing while not spoiling great films for potential viewers in a review is hard enough. Scolding those responsible for lame efforts, filmic messes, and acting disasters is easier but still hard to do without unnecessary snark.

My sincere thanks to Scott County Supervisors Diane Holst and Brinson Kinzer for supporting recording Scott County Board meetings, making them accessible to everyone with a television or Internet access. They are taking the people’s side in cond...

On the first of February, the CEOs of corporations, small- and large-business owners, police chiefs, city leaders, pastors and priests, government and state workers, owners of trucking companies and convenience stores, and farmers participated in ...

Congratulations on the 900th issue of the River Cities' Reader. Keep up the great work on covering the arts and entertainment, news, and politics of the bi-state area, as you have for the last 22 years.

I was a contributing ed...

On November 18, staff and residents at Vera French Pine Knoll, a residential facility for individuals with chronic mental illness, were notified that the Iowa Department of Human Services has proposed that residential facilities (regardless of the number of beds) will not be eligible to receive any Habilitation funds (federal Medicaid funds) after January 1, 2016. Without these funds, Pine Knoll will no longer be able to provide vital services to meet the needs of the residents. The current residents (currently more than 40 individuals) would have to relocate to other facilities or programs in or outside of the Davenport community. Due to the significant lack of residential placements for individuals with mental illness, these individuals will most likely be placed in the community, and may be subjected to a lack of necessary care and services. By placing an individual with mental illness at an inappropriate level of care, it can increase the possibility of hospitalization, homelessness, or incarceration, all of which potentially cost more than the current cost of allowing these individuals to remain in their "home" - which is Vera French Pine Knoll.

In less than a month and a half, more than 40 individuals - some of whom have not lived in the community for some time - will be forced out of their current home and mandated to seek alternative mental-health services. This extremely short notice does not provide enough time to relocate current residents to appropriate care settings. Therefore, these changes to Medicaid rules should not be applied. Currently, there is a lack of openings in community-based mental-health services in Davenport and throughout the state due to the limited number of mental-health providers. It is extremely important to note: The state of Iowa ranks 44th out of 50 states in the nation for mental-health provider availability. It is my belief that these immediate and significant changes are unethical and inhumane when there is already a dire lack of services. How would you feel if your loved one, diagnosed with a mental illness such as schizophrenia, was doing very well in their "home" - working, interacting with others - and they were told that in approximately 45 days they would be moving, possibly to a location quite far from their current home? They would have to quit their job and would lose all local social connections and support.

You may ask: "What can I do?" We all can have an impact on this issue, which can significantly impact individuals within our community. I urge you to advocate for individuals with mental illness in Iowa. You can make written comments on or before December 1 as follows:

• Write to Harry Rossander, Bureau of Policy Coordination, Department of Human Services, Hoover State Office Building, 5th Floor, 1305 E. Walnut St., Des Moines IA 50319-0114.

• Fax comments to (515)281-4980.

• E-mail policyanalysis@dhs.state.ia.us.

You are also welcome to attend a public hearing at the Scott County Administration Building Boardroom at 600 West Fourth Street in Davenport on Wednesday, December 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. to share your concerns.

For more information on this legislation, you can refer to "DHS Notice of Intended Action, ARC 2242C, items 24 and 25": https://rules.iowa.gov/Notice/Details/2242C and https://www.legis.iowa.gov/publications/search/document?fq=id:491097&q=habilitation#441.77.25

As Ghandi says, we all need to "be the change we wish to see in the world." I'm urging you to take action. Mental illness impacts one in four individuals; it may not be impacting you personally, but is likely impacting a coworker, neighbor, or friend.

Ashley Adams
Davenport

Which state has the highest taxes in the Midwest? Not Illinois, that's for sure.

The Illinois Policy Institute is claiming otherwise, citing "new research." But that research was actually based on tax collections from Fiscal Year 2013, when the Illinois state income-tax rate was 5 percent. Today - in Fiscal Year 2016, more than two years later - the state income tax rate has dropped to 3.75 percent. So if you look at tax collections in the first six months of this year, under the new rate, Illinois' state tax collections come out to $1,597 per person - more than $60 lower than Wisconsin's $1,661. That's just a fact.

Beyond that basic inaccuracy, that letter simply ignored some fundamental facts about state taxes - the first being that comparing state tax burdens is like trying to compare apples and mashed potatoes.

Take Indiana. Its income-tax rate is a flat 3.3 percent - which looks pretty good next to Illinois, right? But in Indiana, almost every county imposes its own income tax - which can range up to almost 3 percent, for a total income tax rate of 6.3 percent. That's a whopping 68 percent higher than Illinois!

And while it's true that people in Illinois pay more in income taxes, per person, than people in Missouri, there's a very good reason for that: We make more money. The average per-capita income in Illinois is $29,666 - above the national average, and substantially higher than the Missouri per-capita income of $25,649. So if you want to move to Missouri and pay less, remember that's because you're likely to make less.

Then there's the huge issue of comparing Illinois' regressive flat income-tax rate with our neighboring states' progressive rates. In Wisconsin, people in the highest income bracket pay a top rate of 7.65 percent. Iowans pay almost 9 percent on taxable income over $68,000. And people in Minnesota pay a hefty 9.85 percent on taxable income of $154,951 and above.

Here's the real point: When you start cherry-picking statistics on state tax rates, you can prove just about anything you want. The real task is figuring out the best, fairest way for a state government to raise the revenues necessary to pay for the services that its people demand. And you can't develop smart, effective tax policy based on a misleading, simplistic, and out-of-date chart.

But if you could, I'd choose one from the Tax Foundation (that same place the Illinois Policy Institute cited) that ranked the combined state and local tax burden in every state. Illinois comes in at number 13 - compared with Wisconsin, which had the fifth-highest tax burden in the nation.

Elizabeth Austin, Vice President for Policy & Communications
Innovation Illinois

I don't know how many public officials or candidates have ridden the Davenport buses recently, but they should. I did recently and learned a lot while talking with the drivers and the riders. More was learned when discussing the problems with other Davenport citizens who don't take the bus.

If we want to make Davenport thrive, improvements must be made. I've already begun working on a public-private partnership for heated bus shelters. However, the hours and days have to be expanded. Some people haven't taken jobs because of the limited transportation. I know some ministers who'd be happy to see new faces at the services. Meanwhile, stores and entertainment centers would see a boost in sales, and Davenport would see more revenue from sales taxes.

Nearly 5,000 people ride daily. That is a lot of commercial activity.

We know the City of Davenport wants to attract young professionals and has steadily been improving the downtown area partly with that intent.

There are great minds in this city. Let's use them to find solutions. We have the money if we use financial resources smartly. Perhaps Scott County and Rock Island County can team up for a regional transportation authority.

We need a public transportation system that will take people from where they live to where they work and where they want to spend time. The bottom line is that we have a good system now, but we can and must make it better.

Bob Babcock
Davenport

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