The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa on July 22, 1998 · Page 8
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The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa · Page 8

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Des Moines, Iowa
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Wednesday, July 22, 1998
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Page 8
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8 A .The Des Moines Register B Wednesday, Jlxy 22, 1998 Opmon eljc lies Ulomcs Register BARBARA IIKNRY. Publisher and I'msulcnt DKXNIS R. KYKRSON. Eiifor unci Vice Prenidvnt RICHARD POAK. Editorial Pu&e Editor LINDA LANTOR FANDtL, Deputy Editorial Page Editor DIANE GRAHAM. Managing EditorStuff Duwlopmrnt LYLE IK M )NK, Design Editor RANDY EVANS. Axxi.snint Aunuging Editor RANDY KRL'BAKER, Assistant Munugini Editor A GANNETT NEWSPAPER FERNANDO A. FLEITES. Vice President, Human Resources THOMAS L. FOSTER. Vice President, Circulation DIANE GLASS. Vice 'resilient, Aurfcerinj DEBBIE L. IK H.ZKAMI'. Vice President, Advertising J. AUSTIN RYAN. Vic President, Production Sl'SAN A. SMITH. Vice Yesi(cnt, Finance R. DEE WILSON, Vice President, Information Services The Register's Editorials Let Prairie Meadows expand Treat Altoona casino and racetrack like any other gambling operation. Twice Prairie Meadows has sought permission to expand its operations. Twice it has been denied permission by the state Racing and Gaming Commission. It will try once again tomorrow. Will the third time be the charm? Based on the well-documented case for expansion put together by Prairie Meadows officials, it should be. A majority of Racing and Gaming Commission members, however, have shown no interest in changing their minds since they first shot down the plan nearly a year ago. Unless the commission cites a clear, persuasive reason for denial a third time, Prairie Meadows officials should head straight to the Polk County Courthouse to resolve the issue. . The Racing Association of Central Iowa, which operates Prairie Meadows in Altoona, wants to spend $30 million to enlarge the racetrack and casino, mostly to better accommodate gambling patrons in non-casino areas, such as food services and live entertainment. The plan also would increase off-track horse-racing facilities, including barns, jockey quarters and a horse-viewing ring. To pay for this expansion, and to keep Prairie Meadows competitive, RACI wants to add 336 slot machines bringing the casino to 1,500. While the commission has approved the racetrack improvements, and a few more slots, some commission members say Prairie Meadows should not be allowed to substantially enlarge its casino operations. Those commissioners have cited a laundry list of reasons; none holds up under scrutiny. Among other things, commission members have raised objections to the relationship between Polk County (which owns Prairie Meadows) and RACI (which holds the gambling licenses); they have said there is no public support for the expansion; they have objected to leasehold improvements on county-owned land; and they have said there is no justification for a major expansion of Prairie Meadows. In preparation for Thursday's commission meeting, RACI has answers for each of these objections, point by point Perhaps the most persuasive argument is that the commission has treated Prairie Meadows different from any other gambling licensee in the state. Over the years, RACI points out, the commission has approved growth at every gambling facility (by as much as 120 percent in the case of riverboats) while Prairie Meadows has been allowed to grow by less than 6 percent, less than half the rate of other land-based track-casinos. The Racing and Gaming Commission should either approve the proposed Prairie Meadows expansion or come up with a better reason a reason based on some rational policy on regulating the growth of casino gambling in Iowa that applies to everyone alike. So far, all this commission has done is flounder, with no overall policy to guide its decisions, and it displays what appears to be a specific animosity toward Polk County. As a result, public confidence in the state's ability to competently regulate gambling in this state is being seriously undermined. In the Woodward world The same change in philosophy that emptied Iowa hospitals for the mentally ill 30 years ago drastically cut the caseloads at hospital-schools for the mentally retarded. The intent in both cases was to quit "warehousing'' and concentrate on treating. At the Woodward State Hospital-School, northwest of Des Moines, the caseload has fallen from more than 2,000 to between 270 and 280. Whenever possible, mentally retarded residents are moved to residential-style sheltered-living arrangements in Iowa's cities and towns, where they establish routines and often hold jobs. Those still on the Woodward campus are the residents needing around-the-clock attention, meaning someone is awake and on duty nearby at all times, meaning that closing Woodward is not really an option. That's why staff outnumber residents, and the annual per-resident cost exceeds $107,000 70 times the annual grant provided an Iowa welfare recipient. That $107,000 per year in public money, the majority of it federal, is supposed to buy the resident all the freedom he or she can handle and all the protection he or she needs. But trying to provide both means walking a very narrow and often indistinct line. There are residents who will hurt themselves seriously, given a chance, meaning the staffer who tries to provide a resident with freedom risks opening the possibility for injury. Given all the opportunities for things to go wrong in the Woodward world, some are bound to. Usually they're of little consequence. But something went very tragically and inexcusably wrong earlier this month when the 24-hour monitoring policy was breached and a patient apparently drowned while unattended. The victim, a 55-year-old woman, was also scalded. Inspections and investigations are under way, and an advocacy group serving patients is asking hard questions, as it should. For one thing, something went wrong in the plumbing; only the dishwashing water is supposed to be as hot as that which scalded. That which can be changed by directive will be. Plumbing can be fixed, the need for 24-hour surveillance can be re-emphasized, inspectors can prowl the halls and cottages for weeks, and warnings can be issued along with threats to withdraw financial support. But no book of rules and regulations, no statement of principles nailed to the door, no increase in the staff-resident ratio will cover every contingency, prevent every miscue, assure absolute safety. The well-being of residents lies in the quality of staff, their ability and motivation to identify a problem that may or may not be covered in the rule book and act in a split second before it happens. When the furor quiets, there will still be a need to care for 270 or 280 souls dealt a very raw deal by life. And meticulous attention to the rules isn't enough. What makes Woodward work in the end is the compassion of a dedicated staff. A true friend "H . in V ow are those precious little boys?" Gladys Black asked. She meant the two sons of wildlife specialists Bruce and Marlene Ehresman, whom she'd met on an impromptu field trip. The trip had been years ago, Ms. Ehresman remembers. She also remembers that Black, Iowa's best-known amateur authority on birds, had spoken to the kids as adults, talking directly to them rather than talking down. "She maybe irritated a lot of adults because she was so outspoken," Ms. Ehresman said, "but it was her intensity that made her a good teacher." Black was teaching herself about birds by age 7, and returned to her passion after a career as a public-health nurse. The Register carried her columns for years. Students read her to improve their knowledge of outdoor lore, birdwatchers read her to learn where the eagles soared, legislators pushing a dove-hunting law read her to learn how much 1V Black opposition to expect. (Plenty.) Both Black and Ms. Ehresman worked at mending broken wings; Ms. Ehresman, who f works for the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, is president of the Iowa Wildlife Rehabilitators Association. That meant their paths through the natural world crossed constantly. And Black always had the same question. The last time was from a hospital bed: "How are those precious little boys?" "Gladys," Ms. Ehresman said, "they're 19 and 16. And they remem-- ber you to this day," 10 years after the field trip. "She probably viewed children such as ours as part of Iowa's precious natural heritage," Ms. Ehresman said. Gladys Black died Sunday, at age 89 not in a hospital but in her chair in her Pleas-antville apartment. A whole lot of what's immeasurably important to Iowa lost a real friend. Cartoomst'sVdew v . ey You, Cone oer We ttd V- X: tr '. 'V . '' ' 'iji .i'.'l JOE SHARPNACK Tiie Register's Readers Sy Checkoff money not spent on ads After reading the Register editorial, "Corn and Hogs" in the July 7 edition, it has once again been made obvious that many inaccuracies continue to be perpetuated about the Ag Value Growth Foundation. It is time to clarify things for Io-wans specifically those Iowans who produce the corn and contribute to the corn checkoff fund. Most important, the $25,Q00 investment made by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board in the mission of the Ag Value Growth Foundation has not been spent. In fact, the board's investment was made after the three television commercials all of which promote the need to continue to develop agriculture in Iowa and add value to the commodities we produce so abundantly, including corn - were developed, produced and aired. The 25,000 in question will be used to fund a project of the foundation, determined by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, that will further the mission to educate Iowans about the importance of agriculture to their lives and livelihood, regardless of where they reside or work in Iowa. Your editorial was correct in stating that it is not rocket science to understand that Iowa law does not allow the Iowa Corn Promotion Board to spend any political funds on political activity. The good news is that it has not, nor does it have plans to do that in the future. It is important to note that when questions were raised about the appropriateness of using checkoff funds for a communication that might be considered "political" in nature, the Iowa Corn Promotion Leadership Institute award I was delighted to see the July 8 article on Robert Houser winning the 1998 A. Arthur Davis Award on the front page of the Metro section. Houser has had a long and outstanding career as a business and community leader in Des Moines. It was gratifying to see mention of his honor prominently printed among the other headlines of the day. I must, however, bring to your attention a discrepancy in the story. The A. Arthur Davis Award is bestowed to outstanding community leaders by the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, not the Greater Des Moines Chamber of Commerce Federation. The late Arthur Davis was a founder of the Leadership Institute, and he was the first honoree of the award. The Leadership Institute is an "allied" organization of the chamber but is governed by its own board and its own mission statement. The chamber provides the Leadership Institute staff support and services including programs and communications. Michael V. Reagan, presidetit and CEO, Greater Des Moines Chamber of Commerce Federation, , 601 Locust St., Des Moines. Unions aid professionalism Concerning the attempt to organize heath-eare workers at the University of Iowa Hospitals: One of the concerns is that collective bargaining would adversely affect the "professionalism" of the health-care workers and thus patient care would suffer. I can hardly believe that this would be the case. For more than 20 years, my organization has been involved in collective bargaining with the city of Iowa City. It has had no adverse effect on our professionalism or our concern for the public's welfare I believe it has increased professionalism because it has allowed us to participate in the decision-making process in matters that concern us. It has also increased the professionalism of management by leaps and bounds. My organization supports the health-care providers in their attempt to attain collective bargaining. It hasn't hurt the public in our case, and I'm sure it won't hurt the public in theirs. D. A. Dreckman, president, Police Labor Relat ions Organization of Iowa, 410 E. Washington St., Iowa City. Inconsistent drug policy What's the big deal over Viagra V And why is it still on the shelves? It's been reported that more than 30 deaths were related to the use1 of Viagra, but it's still for sale. ' Has this country put sexuality before life? If so, Fen-phen should have never been taken off the shelves; it helped women and men feel sexual again. Who cares about those people (especially wotaien) who would give up a few years of their lives to lose 20 pounds? ' I, for one, would sacrifice my health to be thin again, and I would like to be able to make that choice, just as many men would do in order to be sexually active again. Where are our principles? In losing weight and having sex or being healthy and living longer? And why keep a deadly product for men on the shelves but ban one many women were using andor would like to use? Tshanta Johnson, 4285 S.E. 1 7th Ct., Des Moines. Enthusiasm dampened Board asked for the Iowa attorney general's guidance. That was thel prudent course of action to take. Throughout Iowa's history, agri-' culture has been, and will continue' '. to be, the backbone of Iowa's econ-t ' omy and the cornerstone of its way of life. Iowans have gained mean- N ingful income and job opportunity . growth through businesses that ' have added value to Iowa-grown, agricultural commodities. It's time to compliment the Iowa Corn Proj motion Board and the other con-, tributors to the Ag Value Growth j Foundation for its efforts to posi : ; tively impact agriculture and eda-cate all Iowans on its value to their: personal lives. ,f ; Mary Boote, executive director, ' Ag Value Growth Foundation, I j 3291 Ironwood Ave., HuU,.: ; Big government sought by people? What hole did David Osterberg crawl out of? Campaigning to un-' seat Senator Charles Grassley, Os-' ' terberg said that many voters who' ' say that they want less government' ' actually support more (July 11 Register, "Grassley's Work Is Ques' tioned by Challenger"). Continuing.f ' he said, "You need to have ther amount of government people want1' to have, and I think people want a lot of government" (in areas like" the environment and crime'' fighting. This voter, like the majority oP the other voters in November, will' tell Osterberg that we want Charles1 ' Grassley to continue to be our sen' ' ator in Washington. Sam R. Hartman, 2300 10th Avenue N., Fort Dodge. - Beat the drum The Titan Tire strike continues with no end in sight and, unfortunately, negotiations seem to be at an impasse. It appears that unless someone steps forward to energize the parties to reopen talks, Iowa. stands to lose a number of good jobs ' and substantial economic activity.! It seems to me that Governo'r Branstad would have, by nowj,' shown some leadership and made a, mighty attempt to get the strike'' settled. At the very least, he should use his position and title to promote,, ' and encourage further talks. , Branstad should be beating the, drum for a special bargaining session rather than a special legislative, session. Don McLainr" 53884 180th Ave., Pocahontas.'-; Positive view Regarding the July 1 Iowa VieC; by Larry Brown about responsible"' firearms ownership: Thank you for printing a more positive article on,,-gun ownership. Steve Ehlers' 10924 Unicorn Rd., Westgate: : I noticed in the July 13 Register that the Republican candidate for governor, Jim Ross Lightfoot, was soaked by a squirt gun in West Des Moines' July 3 parade. May I add the name of the Sacred Heart Adult Band to the list of "soakees" in that event? With the cost of musical instruments and repairs today when woodwind pads become wet they can harden, split and then must be replaced at a cost of iSljtO or more the delinquent children and irresponsible parents who think drenching parade participants with water is fun should foot the bill for any necessary repairs. As director of the band, I may find it difficult to persuade my band members to participate in future parades and be subjected to such behavior. Contrast this with the Urbandalc July 4 parade, which went off without a hitch for the entertainment and enjoyment of thousands of spectators. Jerry Kinney, 4701 Pleasant St., West Des Moines. Letters to the Editor Mail your letter to Letters, The Des Moines Register, Box 957, Des Moines, la. 50304. Bu fax: (515) 286-2511. By Internet: lfttrrs-news.dmreg.com. Please include your complete name, address and daytime telephone ' number. Because of space limitations, letters may be shortened.

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