“It’s not only unacceptable, it’s illegal.”

 

On Friday, December 2, two dozen Iowa CCI members and supporters from Occupy Des Moines paid a visit to Margarita’s on Des Moines’ Southeast side. We were there to collect $5,545 in unpaid wages owner Ivan Escalona owes former bartender and CCI member Angelica Sandoval – the equivalent of seven month’s pay.

Sometimes Angelica’s paychecks would bounce. Other times Escalona would only pay for some hours and make up excuses to put off paying her the rest. She came to Iowa CCI after she heard that by working with CCI a former co-worker got Escalona to pay her over $2,500 in stolen wages.

This is the fourth complaint we have received about Margarita’s not paying their employees for their hard work.

Members and staff have spoken with Margarita’s owner on the phone and tried to set up multiple meetings for him to make the situation right. After tonight’s action Sandoval will file a wage claim with Iowa Workforce Development.

“I’m very happy because we made our point here. Now everybody will know what kind of business he is running,” said Sandoval. The action was picked up by Des Moines TV Channels 5 and 13 and the Des Moines Register.

Iowa CCI organizing has helped54 workers win back $122,014.90 in stolen wages in the past year and a half.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 14, 2011

Contact: Natalie Snyders, Environmental Justice Organizer
515.282.0484, Natalie@iowacci.org

DNR must answer EPA deadline tomorrow

 

Federal EPA has ordered Iowa DNR to provide written response to Clean Water Act investigation by tomorrow

 

Des Moines, Iowa – Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members are calling on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to publicly release the agency’s written response to an audit recently performed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to an October 28 letter from EPA to DNR, the deadline for DNR’s written response is tomorrow, November 15.

Earlier this month, top EPA officials made on-site visits to DNR field offices across the state and conducted a thorough and intensive investigation and review of DNR files, documents, and records, a result of a Notice of Intent to Sue filed against the EPA in August by Iowa CCI members, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club for the DNR’s failure to administer Clean Water Act permitting and enforcement programs for factory farm polluters.

In June, the DNR’s Environmental Protection Commission voted to scrap tough new rules designed to bring Iowa’s factory farm enforcement program into compliance with the Clean Water Act after nearly 40 years of noncompliance.

Iowa CCI members will attend tomorrow’s Environmental Protection Commission meeting at 10am at the DNR Air Quality Control Building, 7900 Hickman Road, to demand copies of DNR’s written response.

There have been more than 750 manure spills since 1995, including more than two dozen since Governor Terry Branstad was elected to office last November, and more than nine in the last few months. Iowa has more than 572 polluted waterways.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a group of everyday people who talk, act and get things done on issues that matter most. With thousands of members from all walks of life — urban and rural, black and white, immigrants and lifelong Iowans — CCI has been tackling tough issues and getting things done for more than 35 years.

For more information about Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, visit www.iowacci.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  November 10, 2011

Contact: Natalie Snyders, Environmental Justice Organizer 515.282.0484, Natalie @ iowacci.org

CCI Members to Rastetter: We’ll be back

On Thursday, the Iowa Ethics and Disclosure Board voted to scrap members’ August 16 conflict of interest ethics complaint against Rastetter

 

Des Moines, Iowa –  On Thursday, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board voted to put factory farm polluters before environmental protections and dismiss an ethics complaint filed by members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) against Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) member Brent Rastetter.

CCI members say Rastetter’s private role as the owner and president of the multi-million dollar factory farm construction company Quality Ag, Inc, creates a clear conflict of interest with his public duty as an EPC commissioner to stand up for clean air and water and crack down on factory farm polluters.

Iowa CCI members filed the ethics complaint after Rastetter’s June 21 vote to scrap a Clean Water Act rulemaking package that would have brought Iowa into compliance with federal law after nearly 40 years of noncompliance. The new rule, if passed, would have directly impacted Rastetter’s business.

An official copy of the complaint can be viewed here.

“Brent Rastetter’s service on the EPC is like the fox guarding the chicken coop, and doesn’t pass the common-sense test.” Said CCI member and family farmer Larry Ginter from Rhodes, IA, “The Campaign and Ethics Disclosure Board just gave good government a black eye.”

Iowa Code 68B.2A, “Prohibited outside employment and activities — conflicts of interest” states:

Any person who serves or is employed by the state or a political subdivision of the state shall not engage in…outside employment or an activity that is subject to the official control, inspection, review , audit, or enforcement authority of the person, during the performance of the person’s duties of office or employment.

“It is the mission of the EPC and DNR to protect our environment, and we will continue to push EPC commissioners and DNR staff to stand up for clean air and water, and to crack down on factory farm polluters” Said Barb Kalbach, a nurse & 4th generation family farmer from Dexter. “And whether it is rulemaking or cracking down on factory farm polluters, we will be there to make sure that DNR & EPC are taking a tough stand. If they don’t, we will continue to pursue every option available to stand up for the environment and everyday Iowans.”

There have been more than 750 manure spills since 1995, including more than two dozen since Governor Terry Branstad was elected to office last November. Iowa has more than 572 polluted waterways.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a group of everyday people who talk, act and get things done on issues that matter most. With thousands of members from all walks of life — urban and rural, black and white, immigrants and lifelong Iowans — CCI has been tackling tough issues and getting things done for more than 35 years.

For more information about Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, visit www.iowacci.org

 

In early November, CCI members took part in a national call-in day of action to stop the big banks from financing one of the greatest wealth-stripping schemes of our time: payday lending.

CCI member, and fourth-generation family farmer and nurse from rural Iowa, Barb Kalbach shared how her call went:

Last week I called the offices of Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan to tell him to stop financing payday lenders.

I talked to a young man in Moynihan’s office and told him that I thought payday lending was an outrageous, predatory practice, and if Bank of America was serious about investing in communities they would get out of the business completely.

I told him that I live near Creston, IA, a small town of about 5,000 people that has a community college, a large nursing home, and three payday lenders.

Now, why in the world would a town of just 5,000 people need three payday lenders?  In this case, I believe it is because they are targeting the students and aging population of Creston.  They are preying on people who might fall into a desperate situation and making people poor.  Every year in Iowa nearly $40 million leaves our cash-strapped state in fees to out of state payday lending corporations.

I told that young man in Moynihan’s office that there’s no other way to describe what these payday lenders are doing except to call it disgusting.  I told him that as long as Bank of America continued to finance payday lenders, I wasn’t going to be doing any business with Bank of America.

To be a huge bank, to take from the poor in such a shady way, is just so unethical.  I told them they should be doing something positive – take that money and invest in communities.  Bring that money back to places like Creston, a community that could really use some fresh development.

If you feel the same way as Barb or have your own story to share, make your call today.

Iowa Campaign Ethics & Disclosure Board to meet on our conflict of interest complaint

 

Brent Rastetter is the owner CEO of Quality Ag, Inc- a factory farm construction firm that rakes in $5-10 million a year in profits building factory farms around the state.

Rastetter is also Governor Terry Branstad’s newest appointee to the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) – the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) citizen oversight board.

EPC commissioners have a duty to stand up for clean air and water and crack down on factory farm polluters. Having Rastetter sit on the EPC diminishes public trust in the EPC and DNR and creates the appearance of unethical conduct.

That’s why in August, CCI members filed an ethics complaint with the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board against commissioner Rastetter. As citizens, we shouldn’t have to wonder if he’s protecting our environment or his own bottom line.

Tomorrow (November 10, 2011), the Iowa Ethics Board will make a decision on our complaint and whether to move forward with an investigation on Rastetter.

Take Action today!

Join us for the meeting Thursday – meet us at 10:30 am at the CCI office (2001 Forest Ave, Des Moines) and we will head down to the meeting at Noon (Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board office, 510 East 12th, Suite 1A, Des Moines) They will have time for public comments at the meeting.

Make a comment to Ethics Board director Megan Tooker-she will make a recommendation to the board about our complaint. Click here to send her a message.

Thanks for all that you do. We’ll keep you updated as this moves forward.

 

A packed crowd of over 115 CCI members and others met with Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy and Des Moines Police Captain Todd Dykstra and Lt. Joe Gonzalez Nov. 2 to voice concerns about fair treatment and to ask Sheriff McCarthy to end participation in a federal program inaptly named “Secure Communities”.

Dozens shared their stories and the Sheriff and Police Departments felt our unity and heard our message loud and clear. In the meeting McCarthy stated that the county will not fingerprint for misdemeanors – a move that will reduce the number of unnecessary deportations – saying, “We believe our job is to investigate and solve crimes and we cannot do that if you are afraid to talk to us.”

“It’s good to know the law enforcement wants to hear from the Latino community. Everyone deserves to feel safe. It’s better for all the whole community,” said member Natalie Espinoza (photo) from Des Moines, who shared her story.

We got several commitments and clarifications from local law enforcement. Most notably:

  • Sheriff McCarthy announced that the Polk County Jail will not fingerprint those brought in for misdemeanors. This is a big win and a bold move that will reduce the number of unnecessary deportations under “Secure Communities”. If undocumented immigrants are not fingerprinted then their information is not sent to ICE. His announcement comes after months of CCI and like-minded groups working to denounce “Secure Communities” in the media, at the city  meetings, and to Sheriff McCarthy directly.
  • Police officers may not ask for anything more than a license, car registration, and proof of insurance. Meaning, they cannot ask about immigration status. Police Lt. Joe Gonzalez passed out official complaint forms so people can come forward and make a complaint if they feel they have been racial profiling or are bullied about immigration status.
  • Sheriff meetingSheriff McCarthy (photo) committed to send an officer to the Iowa CCI office if anyone wants to make a complaint about treatment at the Polk County Jail. And, Chief Sheriff Deputy Victor Munoz reaffirmed that you do not need to be documented to visit family in the jail, all they need to bring is some form of ID.
  • Des Moines Police told the audience that everyone has the right to an interpreter so they know why they were stopped and/or what they are being charged with. An officer cannot deny access to an interpreter and officers should be carrying cell phones with a translation service with them at all times.

We will be following up with the Sheriff on the specifics of his new fingerprinting policy. And, as always, we will be holding both departments accountable to their own rules. When they will not call an interpreter or if they ask about someone’s immigration status, CCI members will be there to make the complaints and hold them accountable.

Thanks for a great meeting! If you attended, we would love to hear your thoughts.