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.

“When old ladies in Iowa share the same concerns as kids on the street in Manhattan, it’s time those in power took note.”


Read this article online at www.yesmagazine.org

by Jonathan Matthew Smucker  posted Oct 18, 2011

Much has been made by some news outlets and pundits about the supposed “incoherence” of the Occupy Wall Street protests. “The protesters” don’t have a coherent message, we are told. They can’t even agree on any solutions. What the heck are they proposing?

This angle is wrong-headed. The strongest and most successful social movements in history have always tapped into multiple concerns that are important to different swaths of society, and often articulated in different ways. It’s not typically the responsibility of a broad movement to propose specific policy solutions—at least not at this stage in the process. It’s on us to create pressure to move society in a direction. When we do that successfully, windows will open to fight for this or that specific change. The bigger a movement we grow, the more pressure we create, the more substantial and meaningful those windows for measurable gains become.

The strongest and most successful social movements in history have always tapped into multiple concerns that are important to different swaths of society.

And historical perspective is not all that’s wrong with the “incoherence” frame. There’s a pretty damn clear coherence to Americans’ anger at Wall Street right now. If it doesn’t upset you that the top 1% is still making record-high profits and paying record-low taxes while the rest of us struggle just to survive, then I don’t know that I’ll be able to explain it to you. But I think most people feel it in their gut. That’s why us being here is resonating with so many people. That’s why this movement is drawing so much attention, and why I think it’s going to continue to gain momentum over time.

The momentum is really starting to spread beyond the “usual suspects.” It’s important to emphasize and encourage this. For example, while coastal occupation actions have drawn the most media attention so far, actions are also happening all across “Middle America,” from Ashland, Kentucky to Dallas, Texas to Ketchum, Idaho.

I just heard a first hand report about four hundred Iowans marching in Des Moines, Iowa as part of the October 15 international day of action. I’m working on the press team here at Occupy Wall Street, and I just got the chance to talk on the phone with Judy Lonning, a 69-year-old retired public school teacher who participated in the Des Moines action today. Here’s what she had to say:

People are suffering here in Iowa. Family farmers are struggling, students face mounting debt and fewer good jobs, and household incomes are plummeting. We’re not willing to keep suffering for Wall Street’s sins. People here are waking up and realizing that we can’t just go to the ballot box. We’re building a movement to make our leaders listen.

Cheers to that.

Jonathan Matthew Smucker wrote this article for Beyond The Choir, a forum for grassroots mobilization.

Contact: Natalie Snyders, Organizer 515.282.0484 natalie @ iowacci.org


CCI members to DNR: Crack down on multiple manure spills

Manure spills in Butler and Hamilton County mark seven manure spills in last five months, in five different counties across Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa – Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) are calling on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to levy stiff fines and penalties against two factory farm operators that spilled nearly 20,000 gallons of manure in Hamilton and Butler County over the weekend. This brings the total number of manure spills to seven in just five months.

“We know that factory farms are inherently unsustainable and are not surprised at the high number of manure spills,” said CCI board president Vern Tigges, “Every factory farm in the state is a ticking time bomb ready to go off and release thousands of gallons of manure into our waterways.”

Last Saturday, a 9,500 gallon manure tanker owned by Nick Strohbehn Farms LLC, tipped over and spilled its entire contents near Williams in Hamilton County. Manure spilled into a tile line and flowed to a waterway and killed 200-300 hundred minnows pooled in the water. In Butler County, a second manure tanker owned by Agri-Zone tipped and spilled 9,500 gallons of manure into a ditch.

This is the second manure spill in Hamilton County in the last few months. In August, a factory farm operator caused a manure spill killing 27,456 fish in the South Skunk River. According to DNR sources, there have been seven manure spills in the last five months in Hamilton, Butler, Lee, Benton, Clay and Dubuque counties.

Iowa has the largest concentration of factory farms in the country and some of the most polluted water. Factory farms have caused more than 700 manure spills in the last 15 years in Iowa, resulting in more than 572 polluted waterways.

“CCI members are calling DNR to crack down on factory farm polluters and protect our water. We also must warn the general public to stay vigilant and watch out for spills during the Fall months,” said Tigges, “Due to the number of factory farm operators spreading right now and Governor Branstad gutting DNR funding and enforcement, we need to be the watchdogs out in the field.”

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



[Guest editorial by Iowa CCI Executive Director Hugh Espey appeared in the October 10, 2011 Des Moines Register]

There has been a phenomenal outpouring of support across the country in the past week for a tough, tenacious and genuinely populist response to the ongoing economic crisis.

What started as a movement to occupy Wall Street has mushroomed into a national call to action for distressed homeowners, scapegoated union workers, underemployed youth and everyday Americans from all walks of life who have taken a hard look at our political system and economy and realized that they’re not set up to work for us.

The mainstream media and establishment politicos are having a hard time making sense of what is going on, but those of us who have been pushing economic justice and fairness since the 2008 financial crash know what this is: a massive democratic awakening of everyday people ready to fight back against corporate power.

This new Occupy Wall Street movement is happening because everyday people are fed up with business as usual in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street. We’re fed up with the big banks who crashed the economy and don’t pay their fair share of taxes. We’re fed up with a political system that lavishes bailouts, subsidies and kickbacks on big businesses, Wall Street firms and the top 1 percent while the rest of us are struggling to make ends meet.

This nationwide mobilization is happening because 25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, and millions more have lost their homes. Meanwhile, politicians in Washington are stuck quibbling over cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — ignoring the harsh reality that we would have no deficit if we had single-payer health care and we stopped fighting two wars — and refusing to find real solutions to make Wall Street pay for the mess it caused.

This new populist movement is happening because the corrosive influence of big money in politics has a chokehold on our democracy, and everyday people and hardworking families are ready to stand up and say “enough is enough.” We want an economy that works for everybody and a political system where people matter more, money matters less.

Our political leaders are too busy asking big banks and Wall Street corporations for campaign contributions to push the “put people first” policies that this nation needs. President Barack Obama has failed to issue a moratorium on home foreclosures or push for a financial speculation tax to raise revenue and bring some stability to the financial markets. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has failed to bring the big banks to justice. His 50-state investigation into the national foreclosure crisis is crumbling after the California and New York attorneys general left the coalition because they know the settlement Miller wants lets big banks off the hook.

What the Occupy Wall Street protesters understand — and what Obama and Miller seemingly don’t — is that Wall Street and the top 1 percent are not more important than the other 99 percent of us who work day in and day out to keep this country running. We won’t pay for their crisis. It’s time to put communities before corporations and people before profits.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members are proud to stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement sweeping the nation. The time for action is now. These occupations are a good thing. We need more of them, and we need laws and policies that serve everyday people.


[Guest editorial by Iowa CCI Executive Director Hugh Espey appeared in the August 18, 2011 Des Moines Register]

Pres­idential can­didates, including Barack Obama, must be asked tough questions on the Iowa campaign trail so the nation can learn exactly where the can­didates stand on bread and butter issues that mat­ter most to ev­eryday people.

That’s exactly what members of Iowa Cit­i­zens for Community Improve­ment (CCI) did at the State Fair last week when we asked Re­publican pres­idential can­didate Mitt Romney and Demo­crat­ic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz how they would strengthen Social Secu­rity, Medicare, and Med­icaid with­out cutting ben­efits, and make Wall Street corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

Romney’s head­line-grabbing quip — his as­sertion that “corporations are people, my friend” — was like a kick in the gut to millions of ev­eryday people struggling in the mid­dle of a Great Re­ces­sion that was caused by big bank and corporate greed.

Regard­less of what the Supreme Court says about corporate person­hood, the claim that corporations are people with inher­ent human rights fails the common-sense test and goes against ev­eryday people’s ba­sic notions of de­cency, equality and fairness.

But all the con­tro­ver­sy surrounding Romney’s re­mark obscured Romney’s actual pol­icy propos­als. When a re­tired teach­er from Des Moines asked Romney if he support­ed scrapping the Social Secu­rity payroll tax cap, Romney responded by saying he supports “progressive price indexing” for Social Secu­rity and a “high­er re­tire­ment age” for Social Secu­rity and Medicare.

Trans­lated into En­glish, that means Romney wants to cut ben­efits for Iowa se­niors, a fact that also should have made head­lines.

An­oth­er mis­sed head­line: Too many Democrats also want to cut Social Secu­rity, Medicare and Med­icaid rather than make big corporations and the super-wealthy pay their fair share.

Af­ter Romney’s “corporations are people” gaffe, Wasserman Schultz was quick to issue a state­ment saying that Romney and the GOP are push­ing policies that put corporate inter­ests ahead of the common good. But Wasserman Schultz, a con­gresswoman from Florida, actually voted for the bad debt ceiling deal that cuts trillions in spending with­out any guar­anteed new rev­enues and sets up a “super-committee” with a mandate to cut Social Secu­rity, Medicare and Med­icaid ben­efits. Pres­ident Obama was the Demo­crat who signed the bad deal into law.

That’s why CCI members also asked Wasserman Schultz tough questions at the State Fair. Al­though the Demo­crat­ic Party is already rais­ing mon­ey with a new TV ad tar­geting Romney and his “corporations are people” line, the fact is that the Demo­crat­ic Party all too of­ten adopts populist rhetoric while push­ing the same pro-corporate policies as the GOP.

When we tried to ask Wasserman Schultz to clar­ify her — and Pres­ident Obama’s — po­sition on this issue, she lit­erally ran away from the questions rather than answer them. At least Romney en­gaged in the demo­crat­ic process, faced tough questions and stood his ground.

Pres­idential can­didates and oth­er leaders from both po­lit­ical parties — including the pres­ident — need to know that they can expect tough questions on the Iowa campaign trail and that ev­eryday Iowans will hold them account­able for their answers. If they don’t answer clearly or hon­estly, they should be called out.

There’s too much at stake this year to play “Iowa nice” and let the can­didates have their photo ops and give their stump speeches with­out be­ing chal­lenged on the things that re­ally mat­ter — like how they plan to crack down on Wall Street greed and start putting communities before corporations and people before prof­its.