Iowa City Stories

April 5, 2010

The Shelter House: A Home for the Homeless in Iowa City

Filed under: Local Issues — nawaar @ 11:24 pm

John the “Traveling man” attracts many people with his creative signs  in the pedestrian mall in downtown Iowa City. Read more about him and the business of panhandling in Sherri Healy’s story “Homeless in Iowa City: Business on the streets.” Photo illustration by Nawaar Farooq 2010.

The Shelter House: A Home for the Homeless in Iowa City

By Nawaar Farooq
*Information and content gathered by Nawaar Farooq and Sherri Healy

As residents of Iowa City, many of us have seen the homeless scattered around the pedestrian mall, holding up their signs, seeking our help. Some of us feel sympathetic and offer help, others just pretend they cannot see these people and walk by as if they simply don’t exist.

The truth is, they do exist and homelessness is a serious problem in Iowa City. Although some homeless people choose to panhandle and spend their time collecting money on the streets, others turn to resources that help them normalize their lives in the long run. One of those resources is the Shelter House in Iowa City.

REASONS FOR HOMELESSNESS

It is important to understand that homelessness isn’t caused by a mere few reasons. Not every homeless person is a drunk or mentally unstable. What is unstable is the economy, making it even more difficult for homeless people to find and maintain a job.

Many people make assumptions about the homeless and rather than taking a more speculative look at the underlying problems, they choose to look the other way because it doesn’t affect them in any way.

There are many reasons that these people become homeless according to information gathered by the Shelter House in Iowa City. Some people lose their jobs; others need to escapes hazardous living conditions, including dangerous relationships. There are those that have mental illnesses and have been substance abusers.

Iowa City has the highest housing costs as a percentage of income of any community in the state according to the Iowa City Housing Project Web site. Homeless people have to compete with students for housing that is relatively affordable.

Also, many of the jobs in the area often do not pay much and don’t include benefits. Some jobs are just temporary. It is difficult for anyone with these types of jobs to afford reasonable housing.

In the Opening Doors brochure for the Campaign for the Shelter House, there is a list that breaks down the recent trends in the homeless population. They are as follows:

  • 50% are women and children
  • 15% are veterans
  • 51% of the adults are disabled
  • 20% of all clients are chronically homeless and suffer from disabling health conditions.
  • 100% of clients have either low or very-low incomes

IOWA CITY SHELTERS

The Shelter House is one of the only institutions in Iowa City that provides a home for those who do not have one for varying circumstances.

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) is another program that offers shelter, but it is a bit more limited than that of the Shelter House. The DVIP provides shelter for women and children when their immediate safety is a concern.

It has a 15 bedroom shelter that can house 25-35 women and children each night. On average, the length of stay at the DVIP is 21 days or so, but it can be lengthened or shortened depending on individual need.

According to its Web site, the Shelter House’s mission is to “provide shelter, basic, and transitional resources while encouraging self-sufficiency” to any person in the community who is homeless.

Christina Canganelli, the executive director of Shelter House in Iowa City has seen many people come through the doors of the house in the eleven years she has worked there.

At times it has been difficult to make room for all the people who request to stay each night. With only 29 rooms to house people, an average of 100 people be turned away each month and have to find other arrangements because it is consistently at capacity.

It’s not always easy trying to find a job, especially in this economy, but job placement and learning a progressive matrix of discipline are two main priorities at the Iowa City Shelter House.

PROGRAMS AT THE SHELTER HOUSE

The Supported Training and Access to Resources (STAR) Employment Program is an important aspect of the Shelter House. This program allows clients to create a better life for themselves by helping them find ways to bring in a legitimate income and resources and how to maintain these resources.

This way the clients can work on becoming more economically stable and independently run their own finances at some point. Financial independence leads to a more normal lifestyle.

Clients are able to access these program reasons for a two-year period. Many clients are placed in jobs that prefer and have strong skills in.

The Shelter House offered some of the clients’ thoughts when they were interviewed about Shelter House’s influence on their lives. One particular client, Shawn, had good things to say about the STAR program.

“People that work there (Shelter House and STAR) are awesome. They are very supportive. They help you when you’re trying to help yourself. They make your job easier if you want a better life. They never give up on you. When you are having a bad day, they cheer you up so you feel you can do this (reach a goal),” said Shawn, a single parent and former Shelter House and STAR client.

Shawn is now a Certified Nursing Assistant.

The STAR program has helped 164 adults through the case management program. Also, a total of 89 children directly benefited from the program during the working year.

Other helpful programs include:

  • Emergency and Transitional Shelter: (short term transitional housing).
  • Interim Overflow Project: (overflow shelter services from November through March)
  • Drop-In Center: (from 5:00-10 p.m. the Drop-In Center is open to everyone who may need it and used for laundry/shower facilities, clothing/toiletry donations, evening meal, mailing address for mail, telephone use, place to pick up phone messages, access to outreach workers and staff.
  • In-House Counseling: (required if not for a transitional stay. Purpose is to design client’s own self-sufficiency goals).

Clients can stay a maximum of 90 days out of the year, but most find stable jobs and can support themselves in that time.

Canganelli also mentioned that the Shelter House has an agreement with certain property managers to help with housing for clients.

OPENING DOORS: THE CAMPAIGN FOR SHELTER HOUSE

Fortunately, plans for a new Shelter House facility are in order for October 2010. The new facility will be much roomier, with the ability to house around 70 people.

It will also have separate wings for single men and single women, including military veterans, who will have separate rooms set aside for them. Along with that, there will be an area for families that is designed especially for families with children.

Aside from the actual dormitories themselves, there will also be:

  • Space for staff offices and outreach services
  • Drop-in-Center
  • Training Room
  • Nurse’s Office
  • Kitchen
  • Dining Room
  • Laundry facilities

Food production and provision has been a little problematic for the current Shelter House.  The new Shelter House will be better equipped for food production and will also serve more nutritious meals.

“In the new facility we have committed to serving balanced meals to 70. Dinner meals will be nutritionally balanced,” said Canganelli. “Right now we don’t have the staff that is needed; it is just part of somebody’s job.”

Canganelli also mentioned that the new building will also have a study room and play room for families with children. The current one does not.

Some of the project costs include property purchase, construction, and furnishings. Overall, the project costs are estimated to be $4 million.

Canganelli believes that people need to take a deeper look as to why these people are homeless in the first place instead of dismissing the problem because there isn’t an instant remedy.

“More and more we consume information in the form of factoids. We like that quick fix, almost like fast food mentality,” said Canganelli. “This isn’t a quick fix story. It’s not often that people are going to take the time to come in and roll their sleeves up and get into this and understand the context.”

_________________________________________________________
If you would like more information about the Shelter House or would like to schedule a tour of the current shelter, please contact Christina (Crissy) Canganelli at (319) 338-5415 Ext. 102.  You can also find out more information on the Shelter House Web site.

Please see Sherri Healy’s article regarding panhandling in Iowa City. It is a great look into the life of a panhandler the business of panhandling.

Answer to poll will be provided in one week.

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April 3, 2010

Major Indecision: Issues and Logistics for UI’s Top Five Majors

Filed under: IC Stories: Goater, UI Majors, Iowa City Stories, Local Issues — claegoater @ 1:18 pm

Choosing a major is a difficult and complicated step in a person’s academic journey. Deciding on a major is a source of stress for lots of undergraduates. Even those who have already chosen their major are often plagued by doubts.

In the end, many undergrads sign up for a major based on what interests them, without knowing much about the program. Here, we’ll take a look at the most popular majors at the University of Iowa, and what type of classroom experience a student can expect from each department. To read about gender issues as related to university majors, click here.

Jump to Biology, Communication Studies, English, Political Science, Psychology

Biology

People tend to think of biology as a stuffy, fact-oriented discipline that requires high levels of recall from students. Is it true? How does it translate into the classroom setting?

-Classes

Biology majors will find that a lot of their courses will be large lecture-type classes and discussion. Many other colleges design their biology programs so that every course you take will have a lab section along with it. According to Undergraduate Biology Advisor Amy Korthank Gabaldon, UIuses a different system. “Here at the University of Iowa, we really emphasize research. So we like to see students do a very intensive research project.” Iowa biology students are required to take only a single, intensive lab based on their area of degree specialization.

-Assignments and Skills

The type of work a biology student will perform varies from class to class. Students in lab classes will make up a significant portion of their grade through daily work, papers and lab reports. Lecture courses may be evaluated solely by exams, or through a combination of written papers and exams. Biology students will also have to create presentations and lead class discussions.

“All of the skills that you associate with being a good student are necessary,” said UI sophomore and biology major Chris Ajluni. “You have to be able to demonstrate your knowledge in lots of different forms. You have to be able to communicate what you know on tests and in papers. You’ve got to be able to present information publicly, think on your feet and make yourself understood.”

-Tests

Both Gabaldon and Ajluni agreed that tests are one of the thornier aspects of being a biology major. “You’ve got to be able to study for a long time,” Ajluni said. “It helps if you have your own system for studying, your own way of preparation. Biology teaches you how to study if you don’t already know how.”

Biology tests are notoriously tricky. “You have to apply the material, instead of a regurgitation of facts,” said Gabaldon, “So it’s not a lot of memorization, which I think that students assume that biology’s going to be. Because that, typically, is how science courses are in high school. “

As for the format of tests, most of the them will have some multiple choice and some short answer. Most of the tests also require students to fill in a diagram. “In the sciences, diagrams tend to lend themselves very easily towards exams,” said Gabaldon. “Almost all of the exams in biology will have some sort of diagram problem.”

Stress

Biology may be one of the more stressful majors a University of Iowa student can undertake. “I think it’s one of the harder majors,” said Gabaldon.  “The courses, naturally, because they’re in the sciences, are very hard. A biology major, no matter where you go, is going to be very difficult. You really have to understand the material to be able to do well.”

“I think it’s more stressful than a lot of other majors,” Ajluni said. “The classes themselves are difficult, and they’re very time-consuming. You’ve got long hours in the lab. It can be really frustrating when you don’t get results. It can also be philosophically challenging, say, with religion for instance. If you’re very content with your worldview, very set in your ways, than this is not a good discipline.” (For more on the intersect between science and religion, click here.)

Communication Studies

If biology’s got you at the end of your rope, you might consider majoring communication studies instead, in order to relax you a little. The prevalent image of communication studies portrays it as a major for slackers. But, intrapersonal learners may well find communication studies more nerve-wracking than biology. It turns out that communication studies involves a lot of communication.

-Course Content

Communication Studies Academic Advisor Monica  Madura said that many communication studies majors enter the program with only a vague idea of what it entails. “A lot of them come in with a general idea of what they want to be when they grow up. A lot of people come up with a general idea of what people around them have done, but they haven’t really gotten to do internships, or gotten their feet wet in the field.”

Communication studies covers a whole lot of different areas of study and can be applied to many different careers. “There’s thousands of jobs you can do with a communication studies degree,” Madura said. “So it’s very general. Some people love that aspect of it. On the other hand, some people need to know what they’re going to do.”

According to Madura, Comm studies focuses on theory, not practice. “Are we going to teach you how to talk? No. We’re going to teach you why it’s important. I think that’s the main thing that students need to understand.”

-Classes

The format of communication studies courses change as you progress through the program. Introductory courses are often taught in a large-lecture setting. Middle-layer courses are generally smaller lectures with around 25-50 students. Upper level courses are professor-driven, and have fewer than 25 students. According to UI communication studies major Emily Pink, “Only the large lectures have a lecture format for the whole class, but those classes also have discussion groups. The discussion groups involve a lot of interaction. I would say that the majority of comm studies classes rely heavily on class discussion.”

-Assignments and Skills

As for classwork, Madura said, “We are a more theoretical type major, so a lot of our classes are going to be tests and papers.”

”We also do a whole lot of group work that typically involves a presentation…most of the papers are probably on the shorter side,” said Pink

According to Pink, presentation skills the ability to work in groups is very useful for a communication studies major. But the main skill she sees as necessary is the ability to write. “We have a lot of papers, and we do a lot of writing on exams… The majority of exams tend to be written exams with short answer and essay questions. Even multiple choice exams typically have a writing section included. I’m a person that would much rather take a test any day of the week than write a paper. However, even though I don’t always like it, I can say that it has forced me to work on my writing and communication skills. Those are two skills that are obviously important to have, so while it isn’t my favorite thing, it has been beneficial.”

English

Thinking about an English major? Well, it goes without saying that you better be prepared to read, but you also have to be ready to discuss your experiences with the literature. If the thought of presenting and debating your views on literary works has you shaking, you might want to reconsider English as your choice. On the other hand, you may be pleasantly surprised at the broad perspective that an English major could afford you.

Classes
The English Department is noteworthy for the intimate classroom environment it creates for majors. Classes tend to be smaller in size and are led by faculty who are either tenured or on the tenure-track. “Most of the English classes I’ve been in have had between 20 and 25 people and are heavily based on discussion,” said Senior English major Melissa Brockway. “(There’s) lots of interaction in class, both student-teacher and student-student.” Writing classes tend to be run as workshops.

Tests
According to Chair of the English Dept. Claire Sponsler “Quizzes and testing usually take a back seat to participation and written work.” English tests tend to be essay-based with short-answer or passage identification portions. “A little over half of the classes I’ve taken have given 1-2 exams over the readings,” Brockway said. The ability to recognize themes, meanings, and parallels is often stressed. “You see that on every single test: ‘Identify and give the significance of this character/this location/this event from the novel,’” said Brockway. “And the significance part is always worth more points.”

Assignments and Skills
The bulk of an English major’s workload comes from an unsurprising source. ”There’s just a hell of a lot of reading.” Brockway said. ”For example, during spring break I had over a thousand pages to read in various novels, anthologies, critical theory essays, and historical background essays. Falling behind is inevitable unless you’re one of the 3% of the student population that doesn’t procrastinate.” According to Brockway, a typical one-semester English class “will require you to read 5-7 novels, 7-10 essays or articles by critics or historians, write 2-3 short essays and 1-2 long essays with outside sources.”

A Wide Scope

One of the things that Brockway finds particularly appealing about majoring in English is the wide scope of topics that are covered. Many English classes are organized around time period. In this way, majoring in English can be a great way to get a detailed snapshot of the norms and values of a particular era in history. “Studying English gives you the opportunity to sneak in other studies on the side,” Brockway said. “World War II, racism, mental disorders, zombies, paranoia, imperialism, Ebonics, the nuclear family, extramarital affairs, manifest destiny, apocalypse, religious fundamentalists.” English may be the perfect major for the eclectic or eccentric soul. “I gave a presentation on cannibalism in my Pulitzer Lit class after reading Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road. I literally stood in front of my classmates and 70 year old professor and talked about the origins and prevailing incidents of eating people. The nutritional value. The social assumptions and fears. It was awesome.”

Political Science

Do you curse the fact that you were too young to vote in the 2008 presidential election? When someone mistakes Republicanism for Conservatism, do you die a little inside? Do people refuse to drink with you, for fear of getting involved in a lengthy political debate? Then Political Science might just be your cup of tea. Just don’t go into it with a closed mind and an axe to grind.

Classes
Classes in the Political Science department are divided into upper-level and lower-level classes. According to Poli Sci Professor and Chair of the Department William Reisinger, the lower level courses generally feature lectures with 60-plus students combined with smaller discussion groups. Freshman and sophomores are going to be in pretty large classes. The upper level courses are smaller and more specialized, generally running about 25-50 students. “What’s good about Poli Sci is the relatively small size of the lectures,” said sophomore Dane Hudson. “The biggest ones that I have been in have topped at around 96 people for the general lecture. Smaller ones {are great} since you have more access to the professor. In the smaller ones, there is a great amount of discussion and we can be easily sidetracked. This is mostly in the upper level classes where students are more learned in the field and have firsthand experiences to speak of.”

Tests
There’s a wide variety of testing styles in the Political Science Department. Reisinger said it’s common for tests to be divided into two equal subjective and objective portions. The first half is usually subjective, and can feature a mix of closed ended (i.e. multiple choice) and open-ended (i.e. short answer) questions. The subjective portion will be comprised by essay questions. “We cover a lot of ground so the tests take a lot of time to study for,” Hudson said.

Assignments and Skills
There’s usually not a lot of daily work in Political Science classes, so most of a student’s workload is going to be comprised of writing papers and reading the assigned texts. In the upper level courses, student participation and “creative” assignments become more prevalent because of the smaller class size. “The type of work in the classes is pretty varied, but one thing is constant and that is a heavy load of reading,” said Hudson.

The ability to read analytically and identify arguments is valuable to a Political Science major. “You have to be able to read something and figure out what is the one thing that this person wants me to remember,” said Reisinger. “You have to learn how to pull apart Political Science writings to get them. I go over it in class. ‘What’s the tune the author wants you to be whistling?”
Hudson stresses the importance of open-mindedness and tact when discussing political affairs.”Don’t be a Poli Sci major if you just like to bicker about partisan issues. You never do that in class. You never know where your professor is on the political spectrum and rarely do you know where your fellow students are, either,” Hudson said.

Psychology


So you’re thinking about a psychology major, eh? Well, depending on how you plan to use it, you might need to start thinking about graduate school. And those of you who are searching for insight into the human mind might be a little surprised by the lack of a “human” element.

Classes
Majors in the psychology department will spend the majority of their time in larger lectures, with corresponding weekly discussion sections. Lectures tend to run longer, usually 75 minutes, depending on the level of the class. Psychology major Rachel Pauley thinks that the lectures are the heart and soul of the program. “I don’t know if I find them {discussion sections} that useful, but maybe it depends on the person and the class.”

Assignments and Skills
There aren’t a whole lot of papers assigned in the psychology department, so the majority of the points that a psychology major will accrue will come from tests. Some classes will have daily assignments as well. Tests in the psychology department tend to be multiple choice format, but short answer and essay questions become more prevalent as a student begins to take upper-level classes. “They’re not extremely hard, so I enjoy that.” Pauley said. “Basically, if you do the reading and you go to class you’ll do fine.”

The major skill necessary to succeed in psychology is diligence. “You’ve got to keep up with the reading, and a lot of people procrastinate,” Pauley said. “You might have one or two chapters a week. You don’t necessarily have to read them, but it’s hard to catch up.”

Studying People (In Their Absence)
One of the things that came as a surprise to Pauley was how abstract and theoretical the conversations were. “It’s a lot more generalized, since you can’t actually interview patients. So you’re kind of learning about how they do it, but not actually doing it.”

Graduate School
Incoming freshman who want to go into the field of psychology might be signing up for more school than they bargained for. “If you want to go into psychology, you probably have to get a doctorate to get a decent job, so that’s at least five years,” Pauley said. “I didn’t know that going in.” There are other options for people who don’t entertain the notion of getting their Ph.D. “If you don’t want to do strictly psychology, you can do occupational therapy or something business-related, which are shorter.”

April 1, 2010

The Question of 21

Iowa City has been described as a unique travel destination, even a Mecca, for people in surrounding communities. But the reason people flock to this town is not its vibrant music scene, nor its diverse theatre community, or even its rich literary tradition.

No, the predominant reason people come to Iowa City is simple: alcohol.

With bar entry set at the unusual age of 19, underage persons come in droves to Iowa City, joining UI students as they crowd into the city’s 52 bars every weekend. City residents have equated the presence of underage bar-goers, from both inside and outside the Iowa City community, with high rates of overconsumption and violence in the downtown area.

And with Mayor Matt Hayek leading the charge, the Iowa City City Council is determined to do something about the city’s “culture of consumption.”

The 21-Ordinance

On March 29 the city council passed its second reading of an ordinance that would raise the bar entry age to the legal drinking age of 21. Both readings of the ordinance passed by a vote of 6-1, with councilor Regenia Bailey casting the only dissenting vote.

Hayek has been among the council’s most vocal supporters of the ordinance, despite having opposed a similar measure two years ago that was ultimately voted down by city residents.

Iowa City City Council

“We know that underage drinkers get more intoxicated than legal age drinkers,” Hayek said at the March 23 meeting. “For the city this translates into public intoxication and other criminal offenses, problems downtown.”

And while Bailey agreed that the downtown culture needs to be addressed, she called the 21-ordinance “paternalistic” and said it unfairly targets a certain age group of young adults.

“I don’t think the local government should play the role of, I guess I call it uber-parents,” Bailey said. “Just because there are some bad apples in [a] class of people, I do not assume that entire class of people deserves to be addressed in a specific way.”

The ordinance will undergo its third and final reading on April 6, and if passed, will most likely go into effect on June 1.

Safety first

Like Hayek, many people are convinced the ordinance is necessary to help preserve the health and safety of city residents.

At the March 23 meeting Charles Green, the assistant vice president for UI police, called on the fact that Iowa City has become a “magnet for other communities” as one of the causes for downtown violence and other criminal behavior.

Green said that in 2009 a majority of public intoxication charges, 273 of 462, actually came from non-students.

“I firmly believe that a 21-law will improve the health and safety of not just our students, but young people in general,” Green said.

Opponents of the ordinance say it will force underage drinkers into neighborhood house parties which will be more difficult to police. Many opponents have also cited the fact that over the last year the Iowa City Police Department has had trouble policing the downtown area alone, with UI police often needed for overtime duty.

Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine sent a memo to the city council in which he assured the council that the department is prepared to handle any increase in neighborhood parties.

Hargadine was not available for comment on this story.

Healthy living

But for many residents the health of underage drinkers is more concerning than public intoxication or PAULA rates.

Victoria Sharp, president of the Johnson County Medical Society, said underage drinking can impact brain development and leads to higher rates of alcoholism and alcohol-related deaths and injuries.

“There’s a significant risk associated with underage drinking because the adolescent brain development continues through the twenties,” Sharp said. “This can have long term consequences for both individuals and communities.”

Sharp suggested that simply reducing access to alcohol could greatly improve the health and safety of the community.

Doug Beardsley, director of the Johnson County Public Health Department, also expressed concern for the health of city residents.

Beardsley said over a third of all alcohol-related ambulance calls in the county are for the downtown area, and the majority of those are for 19-year-olds.

“It just screams out that intervention is needed,” Beardsley said. “The current policy says that we’re really not serious about underage drinking.”

A question of culture

But believe it or not, some say bars aren’t just for drinking.

Many residents have expressed concern that a 21-ordinance will impact the city’s culture by making it impossible for underage persons to take part in the city’s music and arts scene.

Brett Thomas, the owner of Studio 13, which caters to the city’s GLBT community, said the ordinance would eliminate a safe haven for young gay individuals.

“We’re not so much a bar as much as we are a community center,” Thomas said. “Kids use the drag shows and the dancing as an excuse to come out and feel normal.”

Other residents say they are worried about more traditional venues losing visitors as well.

Andre Perry, booking agent for The Mill and founder of the Mission Creek Festival, said raising the bar entry age would limit the number of arts events that young people could attend.

“All we want to do is make sure that these kids have an outlet, something to do,” Perry said. “Much of what we do is just focused on giving people an artistic outlet.”

And while there are already provisions in the current ordinance that allow venues to conduct all-ages shows through cooperation with the police department, people like Perry are still worried about the impact of a 21-only law.

“I’m not afraid of losing business,” Perry said. “I’m afraid of Iowa City losing culture.”

Money matters

But unlike Perry, some business owners are much more concerned about the economic impact of the ordinance.

Marty Maynes, owner of The Union Bar, told the council that his business would almost certainly fail and force him into bankruptcy if the ordinance were passed.

Maynes said he has continually worked with the council on the issue, and even said he’s paid $20,000 of his own money to increase police presence and help curb violence in the downtown area.

“There are some of us out there doing it the right way,” Maynes said. “There’s other options I believe that we can do.”

A magic bullet?

And indeed there have been an abundance of alternatives proposed. Suggestions include everything from targeting specific bars as 21-only, to a two-tiered system where alcohol is only served on one level of a bar, to maintaining a constant police presence in the bars.

And despite all the arguments for and against the ordinance, most agree that the solution to the city’s problem with alcohol goes beyond any one ordinance.

Councilor Susan Mims articulated that sentiment at the March 23 meeting.

“I don’t think any of us up here are naïve enough, nor any of you there, to think that this is going to solve the problem,” Mims said. “It’s simply one piece to a much bigger problem.”

Women’s Rights in Iowa City

Women are still fighting for their rights even now, in the 21st century. In Iowa City, the biggest issue is sexual violence. Another big issue in women’s rights is abortion.

“I think a lot of people would say, ‘I have everything I need. I have all my rights. I’m not discriminated against,’” said 21 year-old Jill Kacere. Kacere has been involved with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, a University of Iowa women’s rights group, since she was a freshman.

“We [women] have most of the rights that we need,” said Kacere, “but that doesn’t mean that we’re living in a society that is completely fair.”

The United States is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. This United Nations convention is meant to protect women’s rights. Having women’s rights as an idea in our culture is important, said Kacere. The United States is an example to the rest of the world.

There are only eight countries in the world that have not signed the convention. These countries include Iran, Sudan, and Somalia.

Sexual Violence in Iowa City

Karen Siler, 43, is the Johnson County Services Coordinator at the Rape Victim Advocacy Program. She says rape is effected by how a society views gender rights. Society still thinks it is the fault of the victim when an act of sexual violence is committed against them, she said despairingly.

“Maybe they were taking a risk,” said Siler, “but they have a right to drink and a right to dress like they want.”

Kacere agreed that women should not be blamed for the acts committed against them just because they happen to dress a certain way.

“I hate that,” Kacere said, “Because it’s like, if you got raped, then obviously you didn’t follow these rules and therefore it’s your fault.” She disagrees with education that targets what a woman’s actions as being wrong. It’s not about the risky behavior, because that doesn’t address the root of the problem.

According to Siler, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program focuses on teaching people how to notice others and how to respond. For example, if someone is putting someone who is drunk and passes out into a car, check to see if it is someone they know. Find their friends.

Groups are another big way in which people can protect themselves and others. “It’s just common sense,” said 20 year-old Katie Nicklaus.

Nicklaus recalled her days in Girl Scout camp. Even councilors weren’t supposed to walk alone, she said. “If you would fall and twist your ankle, you need someone to limp you home,” she said.

Sexual violence is a huge concern for women, especially in Iowa City. “I do think that sexual violence is ridiculously out of control,” said Kacere, “especially in this community.”

Citizens are not alone on the streets at night. When you walk around the college bar scene, there is usually law enforcement present. Siler noted that police and hospitals are doing all of the right things, but “things can always be better.”

The only way to stop violence, including sexual violence, is for people to make the choice to not be violent. “All violence is a choice,” said Siler, “Even if its self-defense, it’s a choice. You have options.”

A policy that is attempting to make things better is the 21-ordinance. Siler personally supports the ordinance in hopes that it will lessen the atmosphere of violence.

Siler declined to take a stance on whether or not the 21-ordinance would have any effect on sexual assaults in Iowa City. What she is hoping it will do is create less violence.

“If it lessens the amount of people all in one place stirring things up, I’m all for it,” she said.

Abortion

Abortion in regards to the health care bill was a topic of discussion last Monday at the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance meeting. The group talked about abortion as a right not yet realized.

“I think women’s rights typically mean women’s choice,” Said Kacere.

The group hoped for abortion to be destigmatized. One group member compared it to how many religions are treating premarital sex. Religion still believes it’s wrong, but people don’t stigmatize it anymore.

“If you are really religious, that’s wonderful, live your life by that,” said Kacere. But, religion should not be brought into the argument about abortion because of the separation of church and state.


Many people still decline to make a big statement about the health care bill passed last week because they are unsure of what it entails. One thing that Kacere and the Alliance know is abortion rights were taken out. CBSnew.com has a summary for the bill on their site. It points out that no federal funds will be used to fund abortions.

Kacere disagrees, saying that the choice of abortion should be available for everyone. “You can think that abortion is cruel and wrong,” she said, “but when it comes to you, then don’t do it.”

The CBS summary of the bill makes exceptions for “rape, incest, or the health of the mother,” but Kacere doesn’t think a women’s reasoning should be a consideration. It’s all a matter of choice.

“You can do what you want because it’s your body,” said Kacere, “and whether I agree with your reasoning or not, is irrelevant.”

The abortion argument tends to be about a belief or a right. “I think it’s neither,” said Nicklaus. “It is a medical procedure” Abortion should be treated like any other medical procedure.
The health care debate has not disappeared with the passing of the health care bill, and the debate will surely rage on.

~

One basic right that has still to be realized is equal pay. According to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations site, women made 77 cents for every dollar a man made in 2007. Women who are in a minority group, tend to make less.

“I don’t think the fight for women’s rights will ever be over,” said Kacere.

Kacere urges women to educate themselves and get involved.

“Things might be a problem,” she said, “but you have to look at where it starts.” Don’t just tell women not to do something, ask why it is happening.

Iowa City, IA – the city of parking citations

Filed under: Local Issues — hydeikim @ 1:45 pm

The culture in Iowa City is filled with great people, mouth-watering food and fantastic entertainment. Being the home of the University of Iowa, this city attracts many individuals from across the nation, which means parking is crucial to the town. Unfortunately, Iowa City is aware that parking is an important factor to the city and parking citations and towing are taken advantage of leaving students, parents, and tourists unhappy.

Students and citations

Many students chose to live off campus causing their trip to campus longer than others, which is why most tend to drive to save a lot of time yet others stick to walking because they don’t want to deal with tickets.

For example, I was running late for work so I decided to drive. Assuming the main library parking lot was for the public, I assumed wrong. About four hours later when I was done with my shift, I see a parking ticket tucked into the windshield wiper for $15.00.

I read the ticket thoroughly and read that it gave you an opportunity to appeal it but why should anyone be ticketed in a public parking lot?

Kerry McGurn, a junior at the University of Iowa, currently has a car at school and doesn’t find herself driving to class anymore from the outstanding amounts of tickets she has received from the university.

At the beginning of the semester, McGurn drove to Carver Arena to pick up her football tickets for the season. As she was walking to her car, she saw a man writing her a ticket and politely asked to get out of it but he declined.

“I just think that if you’re two minutes late, you shouldn’t get a parking ticket. It’s a little extreme.”

But where do we draw the line?

“I know you need to be there on time but I was literally walking to my car, a minute past the meter, and he handed me the ticket. They’re just psycho about parking here.”

Junior at the University of Iowa, Kyle Thomann, experienced the same incident as McGurn. It would be a plausible for Thomann to drive to his classes but he chooses not to because he “doesn’t mind the walk plus it saves money.”

In Iowa City, you’re either paying in the parking ramps, in public parking lots or meters so parking within the city can really hurt your wallet.

Pay to park in Iowa City

Because the University of Iowa is in the heart of Iowa City, people usually forget there are those who aren’t affiliated with the university and go about their daily lives living in Iowa City. Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter if you are a student or a parent; we all face the same consequences.

Chauncey Swan Ramp on Washington Street in Iowa City

Iowa City has several parking garages for those who do not want to continuously pay their meter throughout the day. Some parking garages charge you $0.75/hour while the other ones are $0.15 cents cheaper at $0.60/hour.

On the Iowa City website, it lists 10 parking violations, leaving you with yet another ticket.

Iowa City has a different approach with parking violations. If you receive a ticket from the University of Iowa, it is usually priced accordingly to the violation, where as in Iowa City, the more tickets you receive, the fee increases. The first ticket is a simple warning but as the offenses continue, the citation raises by increments of $5.00. If an individual vehicle reaches up to nine or more offenses, the ticket is stamped at $25.00.

Towing takes a toll

Katlyn Scheeler finds herself constantly paying parking tickets and picking up her Jeep Cherokee from the pound.

Katlyn Scheeler pays a meter to avoid tickets.

Scheeler has paid over 10 parking tickets ranging from $5.00 to $25.00 from Iowa City but “after the ninth ticket, the increments remained the same at $25.00.”

Over the winter, Scheeler parked her car on Dodge St. so she wouldn’t have to worry about parking tickets from the University of Iowa and/or Iowa City, in general. She then had to run some errands and went back to Dodge St. to no longer find her car where she parked it.

Without warning or notice from the city, she immediately went to the Iowa City Police Department to find out her car had been towed due to the recent snowfall. She had to pay an initial fee of $75.00 for the tow charge, plus an additional $15.00 for every day the car was spent in the pound.

“If I knew they towed cars after a snowfall, then I would have immediately moved my car. I didn’t know. No one told me that my car was even towed. I just think it’s unfair. I had to pay tow charges and a ticket,” Scheeler responded.

Pay the ticket or pay the price

Most students, like myself, prefer to buy parking spots with their landlords. I found that paying $985.00 for my yearly lease would be at my convenience and peace of mind, rather than continuously putting money in meters and/or paying fines.

After receiving numerous amounts of tickets, McGurn finally settled to paying close to $1,200/year for a parking spot that isn’t even in her building. Parking in Iowa City is something everyone has to worry about so some are willing to cash out more than a thousand dollars out of their pockets to save themselves the stress of parking on the streets.

“I just didn’t want to have to keep worrying about paying meters at the given times and having to always move my car on ‘even/odd’ days out of the calendar. I’d rather pay what I pay now, then having to keep stressing myself out and wasting my time paying parking tickets. It was either a matter of money or time”

Even apartment buildings charge their tenants close to a grand for yearly parking. Luckily, McGurn and I have underground parking, making winters not so brutal for our cars but apartment complexes like the Pentacrest Apartments are not so lucky having outdoor parking.

Here, on Linn St., are empty parking spots because others would rather walk than worry about paying to park

Walking and parking

In general, Iowa City is a city too beautiful to ignore but parking in this city can cause serious headaches. I personally believe students and citizens prefer to walk everywhere because 1. it’s good exercise and 2. there are no tickets to worry about, right?

When my friends and family came to visit, parking is always such a burden to their visit. Yes, this popular city is doing a great job receiving money from tourists and citizens of the city with multiple parking ramps and parking spots but sometimes, tickets and tows can really take away from the experience of this beautiful city.

Residence Halls Consider the 21 Ordinance



The ARH is looking for help from students for improvement, and positions for next semester.

They could be new lyrics to an old tune: “How you gonna keep ‘em down at the dorm after they’ve seen the bars?”

With one more reading, The Iowa City City Council is poised to pass the so-called 21-ordinance for Iowa City bars.  It would restrict people under 21 from being in downtown bars after 10 p.m.  The city council is under pressure to curb student binge drinking, and proponents of the ordinance say it’s a step in the right direction.

But it’s an unpopular idea with students under the age of 21 who frequently go out to the bars on Thursday nights or weekends to socialize.  Students have argued to the UI student council that preventing underage students from entering a bar after 10 p.m.  will simply make them go to house parties or other places in Iowa City to find alcohol and drink.

Enter the Associated Residence Halls

With thousands of under-aged drinkers under their roofs, campus dorms are ground zero for the movement opposing the 21 ordinance.  It’s not that the UI doesn’t try to keep dorm residents sober and out of trouble.  Activities sponsored by the University have always been in place around campus to offer alcohol free alternatives to hanging out at the bars.  The Associated Residence Halls group has sponsored events in the dorms to promote these alternatives.  While some students attend these events, many, like 19 year old sophomore Yani Anastis, are skeptical.

“Kids are definitely not going to do that,” said Anastis, who lives in the Currier residence hall.  He doesn’t believe there are many activities at the dorm that could compete with going downtown to hang out on the Ped-Mall with friends on a bar crawl.

“No one wants to stay in the dorms during a Friday night, and there’s not much to do around.  It’s just kinda hard,” said Anastis.  He said he goes out to bars at least once a week , usually on the weekend.  What non-alcoholic fun could the dorms offer to keep him entertained?  “I’m not too sure,” said Anastis.  “I can’t really think of much.”

The Associated Residence Hall organization admits that it struggles to keep students interested in their events, and they’ve recently begun talking about plans to beef up their programs to keep students coming back for more.  ARH member Mark Schwenker works with all the other members of ARH and the student governments in each residence hall.  He says ARH members have started to talk about the 21 ordinance, and they are trying to create a contingency plan if it passes next week.

“ARH is working with all of the individual hall governments on preparing for the 21 ordinance. Discussion with any others outside of residence hall government has not occurred,” said Schwenker.

The Next Course of Action

While the Associated Residence Halls hasn’t actually sought the advice of students outside their group, there are flyers being distributed at the residence halls’ dining facilities encouraging students to get involved in ARH, and to become members.  Students I talked to had ideas, but they were not positive these would make any sort of difference in terms of curbing the appeal of a house party with alcohol.  “Maybe more movies, cause back home we’d do that.  I don’t know – it’s Iowa –  so people are going to go around the rules,” says Samantha Nasca, an under-age student who lives in Rienow Hall.

The residence halls coordinators are well aware that students will still leave the dorms if the 21 ordinance is passed and find a way to party the night away with an alcoholic beverage in hand.  But with a “zero tolerance” of alcohol in dorm rooms, the ARH’s Schwenker says they will continue issuing fines to students who break the rules.  The dorms are committed to being “dry.”

The Plan So Far

While ARH is just beginning to consider what to do in order to offer alternative activities for students, it may be too early to say what will actually happen.  “One idea is to provide more late-night events for residents going from about 11pm-2am,” said Schwenker.  ARH believes that if students are able to have an enjoyable time at an event that goes later into the night, there won’t be as much interest in leaving the dorms to go looking for other activities in Iowa City.

However, students are doubtful about any plans the dorms come up with.  “Nothing’s going to top going out,” said freshman Hannah Thompson, who lives in Rienow.  When asked how to appeal to students like Hannah, who opt for Iowa City’s night life over the residence hall events, Schwenker said, “I ask how can we make it interesting.  ARH is asking itself, ‘what makes residents want to go downtown?’”

Looking Ahead

The ARH is also aware that it needs more money to sponsor events that are more frequent and consistently fun for students.  How to raise those funds is another problem.  Ideas include reallocating housing contract money, or even applying alcohol fines to sponsor “dry” social events.   However, students seem ambivalent towards the efforts made by ARH.

The Iowa City City council’s final reading of the 21 ordinance is scheduled for Thursday, April 6.  If it passes, it goes into effect June 1.  However, it could be repealed later next fall.   Dorm resident Samantha Nasca was clear.  “I hope it gets repealed in November,” she said.

Iowa Smokefree Air Act Sees Little Enforcement in Iowa City

Filed under: IC Stories: Ackerson, Smoking, Iowa City Stories, Local Issues — tylerackerson @ 1:17 pm

Nick Wilson walks down the T. Anne Cleary Walkway every day on his way to class smoking a cigarette and nobody tells him not to, despite the fact that it’s illegal.

Under the Iowa Smokefree Air Act, which went into effect July 1, 2008, smoking is prohibited inside campus buildings and within 25 feet outside of a campus building.  Also, those who smoke outside can only smoke adjacent to public streets.

Two students smoke right outside Currier Hall. Under the Smokefree Air Act, smoking is not permitted here, but the ban does little to persuade students to move.

With the second anniversary approaching of the Iowa State Legislature enacting the Iowa Smokefree Air Act banning smoking in certain areas, students are seeing little more enforcement of the ban than they did when it went into effect.

“It’s a stupid ban in the first place,” said Wilson, a 19-year-old sophomore from Arlington Heights, Ill.  “I can’t think of one person that’s been ticketed since it went into effect.”

Campus Police Policy

Lt. H.W. Lang of the University Department of Public Safety said the policy of the department hasn’t changed much since the ban went into effect.

“When the ban first started, our policy was more about educating the public rather than fining them,” said Lang.  “Now we will issue citations, but it’s on a case by case basis.”

According to Lang, the department issues citations on a case by case basis because some of the people violating the law are from out of state visiting students at the UI and aren’t familiar with the laws.  In such cases, those violating the law will be instructed on where they can and cannot smoke, said Lang.

In most cases where students violate the law, they are either instructed to move to a spot not prohibited by the ban or issued a warning, said Lang.  However, multiple warnings could result in a student being issued a citation.

Lang noted that the area where the most citations have been issued was the parking ramps at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. No smoking is permitted in any of the four parking ramps or along Hawkins Drive in front of the hospital under the ban.

Student Reactions

Some students are cynical about the enforcement of the ban.  One student, Michael Dale-Stein, a 21-year-old senior from Edina, Minn., said there was no reason for him to believe the ban would ever be successful and should be scrapped.

“It’s not enforced to the point that anybody will conform to the law,” said Dale-Stein. “The subjectivities of law enforcement issuing citations or warnings needs to be addressed.”

He also believes that smoking has not decreased on campus since the ban went into effect and that the campus will never be smoke-free.

“The only way the campus could possibly become smoke-free is if cigarettes are federally outlawed,” said Dale-Stein.  “As college students, we feel impervious to the dangers of deadly activities such as smoking; therefore, there’s no way college students will nix the habit.”

Dale-Stein said the highest concentration of smokers on campus can be found on the north side of the Main Library and by the English-Philosophy Building. His hypothesis is that areas of high stress like the Main Library or parking ramps at the UI Hospitals and Clinics harbor greater numbers of smokers.

On the other hand, another UI student, Derek Wilson, said that he thinks the ban is working.  He said that he believes he has seen a decrease in the amount of smokers on campus since the ban went into effect.

“I don’t see as many people smoking on campus, so it must be doing something,” said Wilson, a 21-year-old engineering major from Tama, Iowa.

Wilson also said that since people have to move away from campus buildings, he has noticed a reduction in the amount of cigarette butts on the ground near buildings.

“I see a lot more people actually throwing their cigarettes into the trash since they’re smoking near them,” said Wilson. “It’s nice because the campus looks a lot better and it’s better for the environment.”

Iowa City Police Policy

The Iowa City Police Department has seen very few complaints about violations of the ban and issued no citations since the ban went into effect, according to Sgt. Troy Kelsay.

Kelsay also emphasized that the Iowa City ordinance is different from the University’s ordinance.  An example is people who smoke in their car while inside an Iowa City parking ramp cannot be ticketed, but if they smoke inside their car in a University parking ramp, they can be ticketed, he said.

The difference exists because the Iowa City Police Department views the Iowa City parking ramps as an extension of a public street, and the rules of privacy inside a car on a public street apply inside the parking ramp, said Kelsay.

As for bars and restaurants, there have been very few complaints, said Kelsay.  When complaints were made to the police, the bar or restaurant owner was contacted and told to deal with it, he said.

“We’re not saying you can’t smoke in Iowa City, just not in a select few areas,” said Kelsay.  “The state says you can’t smoke in bars and restaurants, but the University is saying you can’t smoke anywhere.”


Reckless Abandon: The sad truth of recycling in Iowa City

Filed under: IC Stories: Coons, Recycling, Iowa City Stories, Local Issues — jnc0420 @ 1:15 pm

I owe this entire project to the Iowa City Yacht Club’s Tuesday night Dance Parties. If not for the obscene amount of plastic cups we bartenders dole out to thirsty patrons, I may have never noticed the lack of recycling done by downtown businesses.

Then again, strolling through downtown alleys, the problem is pretty much in your face.

The fact is, in a city that seems to pride itself on shopping locally and boasts a very hip bicycle culture, it’s a bit surprising to learn that, as a community, we suck at recycling. A fact that is only confirmed by many local businesses and apartment dwellers.

Why residents don’t recycle

As many local apartment dwellers know all too well, the city doesn’t offer on-site recycling services to buildings with more than four units.

This is a serious –and complicated– problem that city officials are hoping to address within the next few years.

The problem with offering recycling to larger buildings is that the system currently in place doesn’t allow for expansion to large units.

In order to implement recycling in larger units, each unit would be issued a small receptacle for curb-side pick-up. This would be both expensive, and a logistical nightmare come pick-up day, according to Iowa City Recycling Coordinator, Jennifer Jordan.

Even the 55 to 60 percent of Iowa City residents who have the option to use the city’s curbside pick-up service for their recyclables don’t always opt for the service, and though there may be a variety of reasons for not “going green,” when it comes down to it, there is one simple explanation.

“People absolutely hate sorting their recyclables,” said Jordan.

The system currently in place calls on residents to do the labor prior to pick-up. So, even if you only have to walk the stuff to the curb, you still have to organize it beforehand.

If you live in an apartment, chances are you have to haul the load to one of the six recycling centers in town.

“I’m busy with too many other things,” said downtown resident Colin Zhalhofer, “my cans and bottles go to the bums and everything else goes in the trash.”

Why businesses don’t recycle

Businesses are responsible for paying for their own means of recycling, according to Jordan.

However, it is apparent downtown that, even if a business paid for recycling bins, in many cases there simply isn’t any room for more receptacles.

“It’s really sad that Iowa City thinks of itself as such a progressive place and all that crap yet they have no system for recycling downtown,” said Iowa City Yacht Club Manager, Pete McCarthy.

McCarthy stores all of the bar’s cardboard in an unoccupied room. When enough cardboard has accumulated, the owner of the bar, Scott Kading takes it to City Carton on Benton Street.

The bar’s liquor bottles get placed in the alley, where they are left for the taking.

Plastic, however, goes right into the garbage.

New Belgium Brewery sponsors beer specials at local bars, requiring the bars to use plastic cups bearing the brewery's logo.

“We’re a small bar and usually only use plastic cups for dance party,” said McCarthy. “Bars like The Union use plastic cups every day and I know for a fact they don’t recycle.”

The Union and The Yacht Club aren’t alone. On a grander scale of waste, restaurants like The Airliner and Quinton’s don’t recycle anything but cardboard. Considering they are getting large food service orders in weekly, the waste adds up quickly.

“We recycle our cardboard but not our plastic. Though I wish we would, because we throw away a shit-ton of it,” said Quinton’s employee, Zech Ward.

Ward also worked briefly at the Atlas, and said that they were much more sensible about the environment than most restaurants he’s worked at. The Atlas recycles metal, cardboard and plastic.

The Airliner uses plastic cups, plates and silverware daily, all of which are thrown away, according to employee, Kori O’Brien.

“It’s too much work to not use plastic. Without it, Airliner would be overrun with dirty dishes,” said O’Brien.

The more restaurant and bar employees I spoke with, the more it became apparent that, when it comes down to it, the businesses don’t want to pay for recycling services, regardless of the restaurant’s size.

Even a large chain like Red Lobster tosses recyclables, according to employee Courtney Taylor.

“It’s a choice (the businesses) make based on willingness and ability,” said Jordan.

Solutions

“We’re in the midst of the go-green trend, now’s the time to (recycle) by their own merit,” Jordan said of why local businesses should take it upon themselves to reduce waste.

However, Jordan doesn’t see that happening without a push from the city.

She has proposed a variety of ideas to the city, based on what has worked for other cities in the area.

Cedar Falls and Waterloo have an incentive program for businesses to recycle. The program gives official recognition to businesses that recycle by awarding them with a sticker they put in their front window.

The city may also consider offering financial incentives for businesses that choose to recycle.

Another option would be for the city to make recycling mandatory for businesses and force apartment complex owners to provide recycling dumpsters for their tenants.

The problem here is that the recycling regulations could be at odds with other regulations in place for property owners, according to Jordan.

An example would be parking issues. Currently, the city requires apartment complexes to have a certain amount of parking spaces, depending on the size of the complex. In many cases, the lots bear the minimum amount of spaces. If recycling dumpsters took up another parking space, owners may be penalized for not providing enough parking.

Yet another option would be for the city to take over recycling and garbage removal altogether. Which would not be in the best interest of small waste removal companies.

“I hope you’re starting to see that this is a very complicated issue,” said Jordan.


Jordan has presented two ideas to the city recently: single-stream recycling and dual-stream recycling. These practices, though expensive to implement, rid the public from the hassle of sorting almost completely.

Both Des Moines and Cedar Rapids have successfully implemented single-stream recycling. As a result, Cedar Rapidians recycle over twice as much as Iowa Citians (70 percent, 32 percent).

However, Jordan is leaning more toward dual-stream recycling due to contamination problems with single stream. With dual-stream recycling, cardboard, magazines and paper would be separated from everything else.

“With single stream, we may see a 15 percent increase in recycling but a 20 percent increase in contamination,” Jordan said, adding that with dual-stream recycling, the risk of contamination is significantly lowered.

Jordan hopes to implement dual-stream recycling in Iowa City by July 2011. While the service would initially only be available to residents with access to curbside pick-up, she hopes the program will expand to include businesses and apartment complexes.

“We’re trying to come up with a system that doesn’t cost the city a lot of money and is easy for the public to use,” said Jordan.

Renewable Energy at UI

Filed under: Local Issues — Aubrey @ 1:10 pm

It would take 39 million trees one year to absorb the over 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by coal burning at University of Iowa annually. To decrease its carbon emissions, UI utilizes some alternative, renewable energy sources. UI has several groups and project working to reduce energy costs, increase energy efficiency and decrease the university’s dependence on coal.

“Our vision is to transition away from coal,” said Ferman Milster, Associate Director of Utilities and Energy Management.

The Oat Hulls Project

One of the most promising renewable energy efforts is called the Oat Hulls Project. This project was made possible by a partnership with Quaker Oats Cedar Rapids Plant.

Oat hulls, a cereal-making by-product, produce energy through combustion when combined with coal in a special boiler, called a circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boiler.

Since oat hulls are a biomass, plant or animal materials used as fuel, they do not release new carbon into the atmosphere. This means that, during the life stage of the oats, they absorb carbon already in the atmosphere. When the oat hulls are burned, they release the carbon they absorbed during their life cycle.

Fossil fuels, such as coal, release carbon from below the earth’s surface, increasing the levels of carbon in the atmosphere when burned.

Oat Hulls at UI

After three years of testing, the UI used oat hulls full time in 2004. Oat hulls now represent 20 percent of the fuel consumed at UI’s power plant. Oat hull use represents three of the 15 percent of UI’s energy generated on campus.

Oat hulls save University of Iowa close to $1 million a year and displaced 103,185 tons of coal. In 2006 alone, UI used 41,514 tons of oat hulls, displacing 27, 424 tons of coal and reducing carbon emissions by 67,627 tons.

Due to the cost-effectiveness of oat hulls, UI charges less for the excess energy it sells.

“Everyone benefits from the savings,” Milster said.

Why Not Use Oat Hulls Nationwide?

The Oat Hulls Project is possible due to a partnership with the Quaker Oats Cedar Rapids Plant. Cedar Rapids is close enough to UI to make transporting and using oat hulls both cost effective and environmentally savvy. A longer commute would make transporting such a light material in high quantities no better or cheaper than coal.

Oat Hull Awards

So far, the Oat Hulls Project has won several awards. Two of these awards, both Governor’s Iowa Environmental Excellence Awards, were earned in 2004. In 2005, this project earned an Effective and Innovative Practices Award from the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers.

Other Honors

In addition to these awards, UI is a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange.  It was the first Iowa-based commercial unit to join CCX. UI has been a member since 2004. It is one of only seven public universities belonging to CCX.

What is the Chicago Climate Exchange?

CCX is North America’s only and the world’s first greenhouse gas emission registry, reduction and trading system for six types of greenhouse gases.

CCX is self-regulatory. Membership is a voluntary but legally binding commitment. To become a member, UI reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 46,800 metric tons more than required to meet the condition of a CCX membership. A member could release no more than 264,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide. UI releases 217,200 metric tons.

CCX Phases

UI is currently in phase II of their CCX membership. Phase I required UI to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions more than 4 percent below its baseline. The baseline is the average emissions generated annually from 1998 to 2001.

Phase II requires UI to reduce its emissions another 2 percent for a total 6 percent of reductions by 2010.

Other Goals

In addition to a 6 percent reduction in greenhouse gases, UI also aims to have renewable energy represent 15 percent of UI’s total energy portfolio by 2010. Currently, less than 11 percent of UI’s energy portfolio is renewable.

UI continues to explore cost-effective, renewable energy sources.

Aside from oat hulls, Milster said UI is looking to other renewable energy sources, including:

  • wind power
  • hydropower
  • anaerobic digester methane.

ADM is created through a series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in landfills that is not exposed to oxygen. This process reduces landfill gas being released into the atmosphere and is a renewable energy source.

“We could potentially fuel UI using energy generated from the Iowa City landfill,” Milster said.

The Future of Energy Consumption Control at UI

UI Power Plant

A recent addition to UI’s energy-conserving groups is the Energy Control Center. It opened partially in fall 2009. The purpose of the ECC is to monitor, analyze and dispatch utility systems.

ECC allows energy production and consumption to be viewed as a single system. The ECC uses weather data to predict necessary energy consumption on campus. Using this information, the software predicts necessary water use for all buildings connected to the system up to 24 hours in advance. This information helps decide what boilers, chillers or turbines to use in the following days. It also helps UI with the purchase and utilization of coal, natural gas and electricity.

“Anywhere you can save energy can lead to a reduced carbon footprint,” George Paterson, administrative assistant of Utilities and Energy Management said.

“The project has been part of UI’s strategic energy plan since 2004. The ECC will enable trained staff to monitor the building systems and utilities usage, including electricity, steam and water and look for any abnormal usage. This will allow them to take a proactive approach in dealing with the building system. It monitors energy use in all buildings, viewing production of energy and consumption through energy management software. Energy engineers evaluate this information. This helps identify places where UI can save energy,” said Zuhair Mased, associate director of Utilities and Energy Management.

Due to software delays, ECC was not fully functional until January 2010. Some components, including the display room and steam metering and electrical systems, which show steam and energy usage, were partly operational in Fall 2009.


Iowa City Draws new Lines for High School

Iowa City has been going through some changes within the last couple of years.

There has been an influx of people from Chicago moving into Iowa City, specifically the Southeast Side.

This has caused lots of turbulence within the community and has even started some racially fueled debates.

A product of these events was the segregation of local high school, West High and City High. One high school being known to house almost all the minorities and the other being for the majority or whites.

The School District has now been trying to redistrict the schools in order to desegregate the community.
This movement has been met with much protest within the community.

Many parents fear for the well being of their children along with an increase in violence.

At a recent protest parents said, “The quality of education would drop if the schools were to be rezoned.”

University Professor Rene Rocha lives in one of the neighborhoods that is most likely to be rezoned. “My neighbors are pretty upset with this whole situation,” said Renae “they ask me what I think but I don’t think they realize that I am a minority myself.”

Mr. Rocha is of Latino decent and thinks that the ordinance would be a great way for cultures to meet and build racial tolerance at an earlier age.

Other neighborhoods do not think this is such a good idea.

The current school board made up of seven members has the ability to vote on several different scenarios.

The School Board has involved teachers in their redistricting committee but has had a hard time meeting to discuss any further action.

After trying to meet for several weeks the committee finally had March 24 to discuss the the redistricting of the High Schools.

The committee came up with some criteria in which the redistricting should follow:

  • Demographic Considerations- this is the ability to have children from different socioeconomic backgrounds at different schools.
  • Fiscal Considerations-this is the ability for the redistricting to be within the school districts budget.
  • Neighborhood Schools and Neighborhoods Intact-students should attend schools that are closest to them but the lines should not split neighborhoods.
  • Building Utilization-the lines should maximize student attendance without the danger of exceeding capacity in the future.

These four ideas are the building blocks of not only the committee’s concerns but also the Iowa City community.

Something that Dr. Bruggs, member of the committee, emphasized was the ability for this plan to eventually encompass all grades.

The committee has already arranged 5 scenarios for the Elementary, Junior High and High Schools.

Each one of the plans illustrates a different way to intergrate the schools but one important topic for the Iowa City community is the building of a third high school in North Liberty.

Parents of the North Liberty area have been pleading for a third high school for years and this may be their time to get it.

Due to the fact that North Liberty has been overcrowded for some time some officials thought it was about time to finally start building another high school there, said Tuyet Dorau a member of the redistricting committee.

Another alarming fact that Sarah Swisher another board member brought up was that West High would soon be at capacity making huge problems for Iowa City.

With the population continuing to grow board members not only have to deal with demographic issues but also the feasibility and ability for application of each scenario.

Something that all board members are ready to cope with is that fact that not everyone will be satisfied with whatever option they take said Pattie Fields president of the board.

Until the whole Iowa City community comes to a compromise on a scenario nothing can be done and nothing will be.

So for now the community must cope with these problems, and find a resolution that is both fair to all of its constituents but also a move in the right direction for future of Iowa City.

Amidst Health Reform Signing, Obama Looking To Further Build Support

Filed under: Local Issues — Tags: , , — Kent Nessa @ 12:21 pm

President Obama speaks to a supportive crowd at the Field House in Iowa City.

Signing Day

March 23, 2010 marked an incredible milestone for the Obama Administration and the United States. It marked the end of a century-long battle, starting with Teddy Roosevelt, to reform the nation’s healthcare system.

President Obama did something that no other president before him: he passed healthcare reform.

Many other presidents have tried to reform healthcare with no results. Not even Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK, Nixon, nor Clinton accomplished what Obama did just slightly over one year into his term.

While part of the country rejoiced over the passage of health reform, there were some who weren’t supportive.

Obama made a planned visit to Iowa City, Iowa to continue to build support for health reform two days after signing it into law.

A day before his visit, however, there was a gathering for those who weren’t in favor of reform.

Resistance

On a cool and rainy evening in Iowa City, citizens who opposed reform gathered on the east lawn in front of the Old Capitol to express their discontent with the new bill. A number of guest speakers, many of which were Republicans looking to run against incumbent Democrats, were some of the guest speakers.

Christopher Reed was one of the earlier speakers at the rally. Reed is the Republican nominee looking to unseat incumbent Democrat, Congressman Dave Loebsack, for Iowa’s 2nd District seat in the House of Representatives.

“Our elected officials strapped us with a bill we, the people, don’t want,” Reed stated to the crowd; which was met with roaring approval. “You, as the voting pubic, have a lot to think about,” he continued referring to this November’s midterm elections. “No more, Mr. President! Not without a fight!”

Brenna Findley, the Republican nominee for Iowa Attorney General, came two speakers after Reed. Findley discussed that 13 states’ Attorney Generals filed to take the new health reform legislation to court in hopes of repealing it.

“Where was our Attorney General?” Findley asked the crowd. She continued by claiming incumbent Attorney General, Tom Miller, wasn’t protecting Iowans’ rights.

Supporters of Reform

While there are a number of people who opposed the new healthcare reform legislation, there are those who support it.

Jake Shkolnick is a University of Iowa student who favors the legislation. “[It] keeps costs down while keeping a better quality of life,” he said. “I’ll get to stay on my parents’ health insurance. When I do get a job, I know I’ll have health insurance” due to the tax incentives the government gives businesses. “If I get sick, they can’t take it away from me,” he continued.

Shkolnick wasn’t shy, though, about discussing some of the shortfalls of the legislation. “I would certainly like to see a not-for-profit public option,” he said, “[and] even more tax breaks for low-income individuals if they can’t get it through their employer.”

Rick Spooner is a 47 year-old Iowa City citizen with cerebral palsy. Spooner hasn’t had health insurance for a number of years, but is on Medicaid and Medicare.”I think medical care is a right for every American citizen,” he said.

He supports the current legislation, but is still concerned that it may not be enough for those who currently don’t have any type of health insurance. “[It’s] gotta be better for people with lower income. As I get older, my medical condition could get worse. I can barely afford groceries now. Somebody’s gotta do something.”

Spooner discussed that he can’t do any sort of preventive health procedures unless it was an emergency, because Medicare and Medicaid won’t cover the costs of such procedures or he’s unsure of which procedures, if any, are covered by either one. “If I get a serious medical problem, I don’t know what what Medicare and Medicaid will cover.”

Any preventive procedures he wants to take would cost him out-of-pocket. “[The] last physical I took I had to absorb costs. There would have been several times I would have gone to a physician just to feel better.” But since he didn’t have any health insurance, he didn’t go.

“If I have to be in a wheelchair, who’s going to pay for that? What if I can’t do regular household duties? What if I can’t afford a maid to help me if I can’t do that when I’m 70? The current system doesn’t remove the insecurities or absorb the costs for preventive medicine,” he added. “I don’t know what else to do.”

Far From Over

While the long battle of whether or not health reform was going to become law is over, the actions of repealing it are not.

Obama was met with overwhelming support when he gave his speech at the Field House on the University of Iowa Campus March 25. Obama quickly reminded people that there is still plenty of work to be done, but the bill, as is, is accomplishing more than the previous status quo.

President Obama recognized that it was far from over. His response to Republican threats of repealing the bill: “Go for it.” He was confident in his response, stating that Republicans would have to explain to their constituents why they are wanting to take away their right to healthcare.

There may be a sect of the population that aren’t in favor of health reform, but there are a number of others who are relieved that a major hurdle has been successfully conquered. The fight for improving the health reform legislation will continue for years to come.

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