Long-time Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement leader, retired farmer and factory worker, Oliver ‘Wayne’ Simmons, 72, passed away on Thursday, June 13, 2013, at the Guthrie County Hospital.  Wayne was born on March 25, 1941, the son of the late Oliver Wolfe Simmons and Helen Etna Ivers.

Wayne graduated from Guthrie Center High School in the spring of 1959.  Following graduation, he began farming and raised both cattle and pigs. Wayne married Diane Etta Sease on September 1, 1962. In that union, came the birth of their daughter, Joni Diane Simmons. A few years later, he began working for Oscar Meyer in Perry as a meat processer. He held this position for 21 years, where he had perfect attendence for 17 of those years. Starting in 1991, Wayne took classes at DMACC where he achieved his associates degree in Marketing, graduating with honors.

Wayne married Stephanie Ann Farmer on August 11, 1991. During their time together, they enjoyed studying the newspaper, listening to NPR and country music, going to the movies, and eating at Ryan’s Steakhouse. Wayne was very passionate about politics, religion, and the environment. He was a devout Christian who enjoyed reading scripture with his dear friends. Wayne was a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and served as vice-president of the Iowa CCI Carroll Regional Chapter.  Wayne was also a proud member of the Trapper’s Association. He also cherished spending quality time with his cat, Buff.

He leaves his loving memories to be cherished by his wife of 21 years, Stephanie; his sisters Nancy Wetzel (Charles) and Judy Flanery; and his daughter, Joni, all of Guthrie Center; his stepson Patrick Douglas Farmer (Jessica) of Granger, Iowa, and his six grandchildren, Jessica Lynn Crannell (Nate), Abigail Diane Thompson, Carter Lee Farmer, Logan Nicole Farmer, Hayden Mitchell Farmer, and Lillie Joelle Farmer. Friends and family were invited to attend the burial at the Guthrie Center Union Cemetery that followed the service.

Below is a copy of the prepared remarks delivered at Wayne’s eulogy by Farming and Environment Organizer David Goodner:

We came from two very different generations, but Wayne Simmons helped remind me about  all that was great about the generation that came before mine.

I remember when I first met Wayne at an Iowa CCI water quality monitoring training back in 2009 out west here somewhere.  We had just came in for lunch and had our nets and our little petri dishes and things.  And we were standing in line and he struck up conversation with me.  Right away, I learned about Wayne’s farm background and why he cared so much about clean air, water, and a rural economy that put people first, before big corporate interests.  But I also learned that Wayne was a former factory worker and union member.  Wayne understood the importance of organization, of unity, and standing up together to fight for what’s right.  He understood the power that people have when we band together.

That day, I invited Wayne to the Showdown in Chicago, one of the largest big bank, Wall Street protests in 20 years, and it was right after the big economic crash.

Over the next several years Wayne and his wife Stephanie became more and more active with Iowa CCI, and I saw them more and more at planning meetings in Carroll and Des Moines, at protests and vigils, and even twice at their house for dinner and coffee.  Stephanie always called Wayne her “chauffeur”, and it was said with such fondness and such love.  He loved you so much, Stephanie.

I remember I once invited a young friend of mine from Des Moines named Justin Norman to Wayne’s house in Guthrie Center because Justin wanted to know more about what life was like in the country.  He wanted to know more about life in smalltown Iowa, and I took him to Wayne Simmons’ home because Wayne was the archetype of that kind of everyday Iowan.  The best this land has to offer.

I learned two things about Wayne at those informal dinner meetings in his living room.  The first was, Wayne was a kind and gentle man, yes, but he was also a fierce and passionate critic of injustice.  If he read something in the paper he didn’t agree with, or saw something on the news he didn’t like, you would hear about it.  He could give a blistering critique when he wanted and that was something I really related to.  We didn’t debate politics, because we generally agreed about these kinds of things, but we often talked about what was wrong with the world and how we could organize to make it better.

The second thing I learned about Wayne from these home visit was how much his Christian values impacted his worldview.  His farm and his work experience drove his labor and environmental activism, but his Christian faith also gave him a unique concern for the poor, the disabled, and the immigrant, the foreigner in our midst.  And he lived out those values everyday.  Wayne lived a christian life, not just in faith, but also in action.

Matthew 25:40 states “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”  But there is also a related passage earlier in Matthew, Matthew 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

Imagine the reception in heaven Wayne must have had last Thursday night after his long journey!  But just as important as his reception in heaven, is the reception we hold for him here.  Because the truth is, as long as we remember him, honor his life’s work, and follow the call of justice that he followed, than not only is Wayne in heaven alongside the Father and Son, but his spirit is also resurrected here on Earth.

Iowa Board of Regents unanimously elects scandal-ridden Bruce Rastetter as new president

Corporate-political kingpin Bruce Rastetter is the new president of the Iowa Board of Regents, but his ability to effectively lead the board is in serious doubt because there is no public trust in him to put the common good before corporate profit after months of controversy surrounding him and his predecessor Craig Lang.  Lang was removed from the board by the Iowa Senate in April over concerns about academic freedom and corporate control at Iowa’s public universities.

“Rastetter lost the trust of everyday Iowans a long time ago and a very skeptical public is going to be watching his every move as president like a hawk,” said Ross Grooters, a CCI member from Pleasant Hill.   “He’s shown time and time again that he views Iowa’s public universities as nothing more than a tool to further his own pro-corporate agenda.”

Iowa CCI members demand newly elected Regents President Rastetter publicly state whether or not he supports the accountability, transparency, and ethics reform proposals made by the citizen action group such as public comment time at every regents meeting, an end to revolving door lobbying between regents institutions and private corporations, and a clear-cut enforcement process for the Regents internal ethics policy.

“Rastetter has an extremely narrow opportunity here to change course and actually shine a light on how decisions are made at the Regents, the question is, will he take it?” Grooters said.

Join us!  The Regents Transparency Taskforce will hold their next meeting in Des Moines from 9:00am-noon on Wednesday, June 19.  Meet at the CCI statewide headquarters, 2001 Forest Avenue, Des Moines, at 8:00am.

Iowa CCI members demand to know where Regents appointees stand on academic freedom, accountability and transparency measures

Governor Terry Branstad continues to stack the Iowa Board of Regents with big business insiders after appointing an agribusiness attorney and a construction company CEO to oversee Iowa’s public universities earlier today, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members say the nominees should publicly state where they stand on issues like academic freedom and accountability and transparency at the regents.

“Everyday Iowans need to know whether or not Larry McKibben and Milt Dakovich support increased accountability and transparency at the Iowa Board of Regents to protect academic freedom and the public interest from corporate corruption as we’ve seen all too often in the past,” said Ross Grooters, a CCI member from Pleasant Hill.

“We have real concerns about appointing more corporate and political insiders to the regents while other community stakeholders are excluded, particularly when the regents currently don’t even allow public comment at their meetings and refuse to enforce their ethics policy.”

The Regents Transparency Taskforce is scheduled to meet on June 18, but Iowa CCI members say some members of the transparency taskforce with ties to the regents like Nicole Carroll and Tom Evans are standing in the way of common-sense reforms to business as usual.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members are continuing their good government campaign to end corporate corruption at the Iowa Board of Regents, and there are upcoming events in your area where you can help us make a big difference.

On April 17, fourteen CCI members from Central Iowa made a big impact after we attended a public hearing of the Iowa Regents Transparency Taskforce and demanded more accountability and transparency in regent decision-making.  You can read the Des Moines Register coverage here.

Help us continue driving the momentum for real reform at the Board of Regents!  The transparency taskforce has set their next three public hearings at locations across the state of Iowa, and we need to turn out in large numbers and continue to press our “put people first” priorities.

 

If you can attend one of these hearings, please call CCI farming and the environment organizer David Goodner at 515.282.0484 or email david@iowacci.org with your name, where you’re from, and what hearing you plan to attend.
Then be sure to download our primer and our talking points to take to the hearing with you.  It’s important to clearly identify as an Iowa CCI member and to stay consistent with our message and demands so that we have the greatest possible impact.  Again, click on and then print our primer and our talking points.

Tuesday, April 30, 2012 Public Hearing – Muscatine, Iowa
6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

Transparency Task Force origination site:
Muscatine High School, Room 135, 2705 Cedar, Muscatine, Iowa

Other available, remote ICN sites on Tuesday, April 30 from 6-7:30pm:

  • Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency, The Scott Room, 729 21st Street, Bettendorf, Iowa
  • Burlington High School, 421 Terrace Drive, Burlington, Iowa
  • Keokuk High School, Educational Tech Center, 2285 Middle Road, Keokuk, Iowa
  • Ottumwa High School, Room 157, 501 East 2nd, Ottumwa, Iowa
  • Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room D, 123 South Linn Street, Iowa City, Iowa
  • Williamsburg Junior-Senior High School, 810 W. Walnut, Williamsburg, Iowa
  • Sigourney High School, Room 201, 907 E. Pleasant Valley, Sigourney, Iowa
  • Van Buren Junior-Senior High School, 405 4th Street, Keosauqua, Iowa

 

Thursday, May 2, 2012 Public Hearing – Council Bluffs, Iowa
6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Transparency Task Force origination site:
Iowa School for the Deaf, Careers Room, 3501 Harry Langdon Blvd., Council Bluffs, Iowa

Other available ICN sites on Thursday, May 2, from 6-7:30pm:

  • Clarinda High School, Room 126, 100 North Cardinal Drive, Clarinda, Iowa
  • Le Mars Community High School, Room 128, 921 3rd Avenue, SW, Le Mars, Iowa
  • Sioux Center High School, Room 125, 550 9th Street NE, Sioux Center, Iowa
  • Northwest Area Education Agency, Room 103, 1382 4th Avenue NE, Sioux City, Iowa
  • Spencer High School, 600 East 3rd Street, Spencer, Iowa
  • South Central Calhoun Middle School, 100 W. Tonawanda Avenue, Rockwell City, Iowa
  • Creston High School, 601 West Townline Road, Creston, Iowa
  • Iowa State University, Molecular Biology Building, Room 1420, Ames, Iowa
  • Denison High School, Room 127, 819 N. 16th Street, Denison, Iowa

 

Tuesday, May 7, 2012 Public Hearing – Dubuque, Iowa 
6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Transparency Task Force origination site:
Keystone Area Education Agency – Dubuque, Room 2, 2310 Chaney Road, Dubuque, Iowa

Other available ICN sites on Tuesday, May 7 from 6-7:30pm:

  • John F. Kennedy High School, Room 116, 4545 Wenig Road NE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Area Education Agency 267 – Cedar Falls, 3712 Cedar Heights Drive, Cedar Falls, Iowa
  • Clinton High School, Room 143, 8th Avenue and 9th Street, Clinton, Iowa
  • Charles City High School, Room 111, 1 Comet Drive, Charles City, Iowa
  • Keystone Area Education Agency – Elkader, 1400 2nd Street, Elkader, Iowa
  • West Delaware High School, Room 162, 701 New Street, Manchester, Iowa
  • Oelwein Middle School, Room 27, 300 12th Avenue SE, Oelwein, Iowa
  • Vinton-Shellsburg Middle School, Room 200, 212 W 15th Street, Vinton, Iowa
  • Anamosa High School, Room 113, 209 Sadie Street, Anamosa, Iowa
  • Waukon High School, Room S-135, 1059 3rd Avenue NW, Waukon, Iowa
  • Decorah High School, 100 Claiborne Drive, Decorah, Iowa

 

The Iowa Regents Transparency Taskforce has set their first public hearing for 6pm Wednesday, April 17 in Johnston, Clear Lake, Webster City, Algona, Marshalltown, Newton, Knoxville, and Osceola, and Iowa CCI members will be there in force to demand an end to corporate corruption at the Board of Regents and more accountability and transparency in decision-making.

Iowa Regent leaders Craig Lang and Bruce Rastetter have faced enormous public criticism in recent months because of a series of controversial decisions that have put the interests of big-moneyed corporate agribusiness groups ahead of the interests of everyday Iowans.  As a result, the Iowa Senate refused to confirm Lang for a second 6-year appointment to the board, and he will no longer serve as of April 30.  The Iowa Senate has also passed the Regents Accountability and Transparency Act by a 49-1 margin.

Iowa CCI members and our allies have led this grassroots good government campaign since the beginning, and now is the time to continue to push our “put people first” priorities.  Here are some talking points and more information and the location of each meeting this week.

  • Say your name, where you’re from, and that you’re a proud member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.
  • Governor Branstad, Regent President Craig Lang, and Regent Pro-Tem Bruce Rastetter have twisted the role of Iowa’s public universities to serve corporate greed rather than the common good.
  • Rastetter tried to use Iowa State University to back a corporate landgrab in Tanzania by his own company, AgriSol, and that he falsified a financial disclosure statement to do it.
  • The Board of Regents refused to enforce their own ethics policy and kicked citizens out of their meeting rather than allow time for public comment.
  • The Regents hired Rastetter’s personal public relations director to be the new ISU lobbyist without conducting a public job search or following their own diversity-in-hiring guidelines.  This kind of revolving-door action should not be allowed.
  • Lang and Rastetter closed down Price Labs at the University of Northern Iowa without allowing the time and space for a full public debate on the proposal first.
  • Lang and Rastetter infringed on academic freedom by preventing the Tom Harkin Institute of Public Policy from conducting free and open agriculture research.  This was done to protect powerful corporate ag interests and resulted in Harkin pulling nearly 40 years of congressional papers from ISU, which is truly a terrible loss for Iowa.
  • Rastetter worked with a corporate ag lobbyist to try and silence a University of Iowa professor from speaking out against industry practices that threaten Iowa’s water quality.
  • These kinds of actions by public officials is not acceptable.  We will not sit idly by while corporations take over what few public institutions remain accessible to everyday people in this state.
  • There we need to 1) remove Rastetter from the board 2) develop a clear ethics complaint process to enforce the Regents ethics policy and put it in writing 3) mandate public comment at all Regents meetings 4) require additional public hearings four times a year in all four congressional districts 5) end the revolving door between public institutions and private corporations.
If you can attend one of these hearings, please call CCI farming and the environment organizer David Goodner at 515.282.0484 or email david@iowacci.org

Here is the full location information for each hearing this week.

Transparency Task Force origination site:

Johnston High School, Room 226, 6501 NW 62nd Avenue, Johnston, Iowa

Other available ICN sites:

  • Clear Lake High School, ICN Classroom, 125 N. 20th Street, Clear Lake, Iowa
  • Webster City High School, Room 19, 1001 Lynx Avenue, Webster City, Iowa
  • Algona Bishop Garrigan High School, ICN Classroom, 1224 N. McCoy Street, Algona, Iowa
  • Marshalltown High School, Room 173, 1602 S. 2nd Avenue, Marshalltown, Iowa
  • Newton Senior High School, Room 104, 800 E. 4th Street S, Newton, Iowa
  • Knoxville High School, ICN Classroom, 1811 W. Madison, Knoxville, Iowa
  • Osceola-Clarke Community High School, ICN Classroom, 800 N. Jackson, Osceola, Iowa

Academic freedom under corporate attack

Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter, embroiled in fourth corporate scandal, has to go

 

Bruce Rastetter, one of Governor Branstad’s biggest political donors, is back in the news again for abusing his position as an Iowa Regent by continuing to put corporate interests ahead of the common good.

This time he’s making headlines for interfering with independent academic research at the University of Iowa.

An ethanol industry lobbyist complained to the Branstad administration after a UI professor named Jerald Schnoor publicly warned against ethanol expansion because of water quality concerns. Rastetter responded by asking UI president Sally Mason to, in effect, silence the professor.  To read more details about the story, try herehere, or here.

These abuses of power have to stop.  Enough is enough. Rastetter needs to go.

The Board of Regents has been mired in scandal for the last nine months and Rastetter has been involved every step of the way:

  • Last summer, CCI members filed an ethics complaint against Bruce Rastetter after emails showed that Rastetter tried to use his regent connections to push Iowa State University into backing a land grab in Tanzania by Rastetter’s private multinational corporation, AgriSol.
  • Last fall, the Board of Regents also hired Rastetter’s personal lobbyist and public relations officer, Joe Murphy, to become ISU’s new university lobbyist – without publishing the job opening, conducting an open search, or following the university’s diversity-in-hiring guidelines.
  • Last month, Senator Tom Harkin chose not to leave 40 years of congressional papers at his alma mater, Iowa State University, because of repeated attempts by Lang and Rastetter to limit the academic freedom of the Tom Harkin Institute of Public Policy.

Our public officials should work for the common good, not to advance a corporate agenda.

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