Published with permission from the January 2021 issue of The Prairie Progressive, Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter. The Prairie Progressive is funded entirely by reader subscription, available only in hard copy for $12/yr. Send check to PP, Box 1945, Iowa City 52244. PP archives can be viewed here.
Prairie Dog’s Honor Roll for 2020
When the Trump administration escalated its war against diversity and inclusion programs, Iowa State University wasted little time in terminating John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, as director of Iowa’s 4-H program in the ISU Extension Office. The native of Guatemala had long reached out to youth of color and had pointed out incidents of discrimination and indifference by ISU administrators, but his creation of a transgender youth policy gave ISU the excuse it needed to fire him. Two years later, the State Appeal Board agreed to settle Chaisson-Cardenas’ lawsuit for $550,000 and changed his official departure from termination to voluntary resignation. Congratulations to him and attorney Roxanne Conlin for resisting the power of the federal government and right-wing Christian groups, and for insisting that 4-H opportunities should be for all kids.
Rhonda Martin, city council member in Johnston, Iowa, got fired up after a march in Washington and decided to run against Brad Zaun, the longest-reigning Republican in the Iowa Senate. Martin’s long shot challenge came within 975 votes out of 42,962 cast, one of the closest races in a bad year for Democrats. Martin stood up and put on notice an anti-reproductive freedom, anti-public education, anti-sensible gun laws, pro-privatization legislator of the worst kind. Like Kayla Koether, House candidate in northeast Iowa, she lost but succeeded in building a grassroots network, holding those in power accountable, and showing that meaningful change can happen over time.
Prairie Progressive subscribers reached into their prairie pockets quickly and generously in response to our fundraising request for Iowa Legal Aid Services. Readers can continue to contribute at legalaidfoundation.org,
Common Good Iowa is the new name of two organizations that joined forces for stronger advocacy, economic research, and analysis of state policies. Mike Owen and Peter Fisher of Iowa Policy Project and Anne Discher of the Child and Family Policy Project are long-time watchdogs of government budgets, steadfast champions of a progressive agenda, and true believers in public programs that benefit everyone. Read their vision and contribute at commongoodiowa.org.
Iowa’s government has been plagued by charges that its hiring processes are discriminatory and excessively secretive. Marty Ryan, longtime watch dog and Prairie Progressive contributor, smelled something fishy when a new director of the Dept. of Corrections was confirmed by the Iowa Senate. Ryan, a former Iowa ACLU lobbyist, accused the Board of Corrections of violating open meetings law by not announcing publicly the candidates it recommended to the Governor. State Auditor Rob Sand and other good government advocates confirmed his judgment. Ryan also continues his exemplary work for Iowans Against the Death the Penalty, another worthy cause for Prairie Progressive readers to support.
Premier political pollster Ann Selzer stunned Iowans when the gold standard Des Moines Register Poll the weekend before Election Day showed Trump leading Biden in the state by 7%. Even more shocking, her poll showed Ashley Hinson leading Rep. Abby Finkenauer by a landslide. Democrats and long-time observers wondered if Selzer had finally lost her mojo. She had not.
Good local journalism, like that of The Storm Lake Times, is a critical antidote to the poison of our country’s ever more nationalized news. Like the Prairie Progressive, editor Art Cullen believes that “print is permanent and establishes credibility. The internet is fleeting and can be manipulated by malefactors… But information needs to be credible, no matter what the format.”