Category Archives: Opinion

Questions and Answers About the Iowa Public Information Board

Question: What are the powers and duties of the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB)?

Answer: The IPIB is an independent agent authorized by statute (Iowa Code chapter 23) to issue advice, or declaratory orders with the force of law, regarding the applicability of the open meetings (Chapter 21) and open records (Chapter 22) laws.
It can receive and investigate complaints alleging violations of the laws and seek resolution through an informal process. If a complaint cannot be resolved informally, and the IPIB has probable cause to believe the law has been violated, the board may prosecute the government body or official in a contested-case proceeding under the Administrative Procedures Act (Chapter 17A). The IPIB can issue subpoenas to investigate complaints and prosecute cases, and it can also issue orders with the force of law to require compliance with the sunshine laws.
The IPIB also offers training in Chapters 21 and 22 to government bodies, disseminates information to the public, submits an annual report to the Governor and Legislature and makes recommendations relating to access to government information.

Question: What are the limits of the IPIB jurisdiction?

Answer: The IPIB does not have jurisdiction over the judicial or legislative branches, or over the Governor and Governor’s office. A complaint must be filed with 60 days from the time the alleged violation occurred or the complainant could have become aware of the violation with reasonable diligence.

Question: Do I have to file a public meetings or records complaint with the IPIB instead of going to court? If I file a complaint with the board and am dissatisfied with the result, can I appeal?

Answer: Any person, the Attorney General or a County Attorney seeking to enforce open meetings and records laws can bring the complaint before the IPIB, or the individual can bring an action in state district court, as under current law. If more than one party simultaneously brings an action before the IPIB and in court, the court shall stay the case pending resolution of the complaint by the IPIB. A final IPIB order is subject to judicial review.

Question: Where can I find out more information about the IPIB?

Answer: The IPIB has a website: www.ipib.iowa.gov. You can also contact the IPIB staff by phone at 515.725.1781, by fax at 515.725.1789 or by email at IPIB@iowa.gov.

Simply Put – March 25, 2015

By Mike Whittlesey

In case you haven’t heard, RAGBRAI will be rolling through La Porte City on Thursday, July 23. As excitement begins to build, La Porte City’s participation in the event is being billed as RIDE LPC 7-23.
This year marks the 42nd annual bike ride across the state of Iowa. RAGBRAI was conceived in 1973 by a Des Moines Register editor, John Karras, and columnist, Donald Kaul. Kaul, who lived in Washington, D.C. at the time, agreed to a week-long bike ride across the state to see and write about the people and places of Iowa if Karras, an avid cyclist himself, would join him. Records indicate that a total of 114 riders completed that inaugural ride. By 1983, the last time the RAGBRAI route included La Porte City as a pass-through community, the event had mushroomed to include more than 6,500 riders.
In the coming weeks, we will begin to formulate a plan to welcome thousands of bike riders to our community in what will be a truly unique opportunity to show visitors what makes La Porte City a special place to live. While preparations to welcome thousands of visitors to our community will, no doubt, entail a lot of work, the effort is not unprecedented. Each summer, thousands follow the various trails to La Porte City for the enjoyment of the Festival of Trails Celebration in June.
Thanks to the growth of RAGBRAI, more than 40 years of experience have been condensed into the pages of a handbook that is distributed to pass-through communities along the route. Among the many proven strategies other host communities have found successful over the years are some interesting facts about the ride. Consider:

More than 225 communities are on a waiting list to serve as RAGBRAI hosts.
RAGBRAI limits the number of full-week riders to 8,500.
Each day on the route, RAGBRAI allows for an additional 1,500 single-day riders.
Approximately 3,000 non-riders in support vehicles will also participate in the event.
More than 60% of RAGBRAI participants will come from outside the state of Iowa.

On March 28, members of a group from La Porte City will join other 2015 pass-through communities throughout the state for a meeting with RAGBRAI officials in Webster City. At that time, important information about the ride will be communicated to each host community, with a special emphasis placed on the safety and well-being of the bicycle riders, as well as those who greet them along the way.
The City has already received numerous inquiries from individuals and organizations wanting to help with the plans to welcome RAGBRAI to La Porte City. Certainly, a large number of volunteers will be needed (and appreciated).
The Progress Review is pleased to join the effort to help facilitate communications for the event. Information related to RAGBRAI’s visit on July 23 can be found online at www.theprogressreview/RAGBRAI and on La Porte City’s Facebook page devoted to all things RAGBRAI: www.facebook.com/ridelpc723. E-mail related to RAGBRAI’s visit to La Porte City can be sent to ridelpc723@theprogressreview.co.

Practical Money Matters – March 25, 2015

By Jason Alderman

Is Your Teen Ready for a Summer Job?

For many teens, there’s nothing more exciting than receiving the first paycheck from a summer job – a sure-fire ticket to fun and freedom. It’s also a great opportunity for parents to encourage proper money management.
Parents or guardians need to do some necessary paperwork first. Working teens will need his or her own Social Security Number (SSN) to legally apply for a job. They will also need a SSN to open a bank account to deposit their paychecks. Depending on state law, children under 18 may have to open bank accounts in their custodial name with their parents or guardians. It is also important for parents to check in with qualified tax or financial advisors about their teen’s earned income, particularly if it may affect any investments under the child’s name.
After that, it’s about encouraging teens to get a jump on their job search. The recent job market for American teens has been tough and investigating particular kinds of openings should start months in advance of summer hire. Networking is also important – teens can reach out to friends, neighbors and other trusted adults about potential jobs in the community. Also, it is never too early for teens to learn resume writing and job interviewing skills. The Practical Money Skills website’s Landing a Job (www.practicalmoneyskills.com/personalfinance/lifeevents/work/landingjob.php) page offers useful background to help teens get started.
Parents can also assist by monitoring job categories their kids are interested in, encouraging them to meet application deadlines and being aware of federal, state and local child labor laws (www.youthrules.dol.gov/know-the-limits/index.htm) to steer them from unscrupulous employers.
Technology changes quickly, so tech-savvy teens may be ahead of the game when it comes to searching for work online. Leading job search engines are a destination for seasonal job openings, and many allow users to customize searches for specific positions and employers. However, teens may need to be reminded about their social media activity before they begin any job search – anything a teen posts publicly on the Internet may be seen by a potential employer.
Banking is another major step in the life of the working teen, though they don’t need to wait for that first job to get started.
Many parents open bank accounts for their children as early as their first allowance – after all, digital banking makes it easier to monitor and transfer money without a trip to the branch or ATM. Paychecks, on paper or via digital deposit, make familiarity with the banking system an even greater necessity. Check with their bank to see what types of accounts are offered for children and teens – some banks offer a wide variety of custodial accounts where parents can track and assist their child’s spending and saving activity.
A teen’s first job is a great opportunity to introduce budgeting, saving and long-term investment skills. Your child may be working over the summer to save for a particular desired item – a cellphone or a trip – or more extensive goals like future college expenses. The Practical Money Skills site offers a budgeting tutorial (www.practicalmoneyskills.com/personalfinance/savingspending/budgeting/) and budgeting calculators (www.practicalmoneyskills.com/calculators/budgetGoals.php?calcCategory=budget) for a range of purposes.
When the job offer comes, there’s one more thing parents can do. Getting hired means a flurry of paperwork that can be confusing; parents can help their children review those documents before signature. Most will apply to tax withholding, but such documents might also include special workplace agreements that might not always be clear to young workers. When that first paycheck arrives, consider sitting down to inspect a teen’s first paper or electronic pay stub. Many people don’t understand their withholding even as adults, so children can benefit greatly from this lesson at the start of their working lives.
Bottom line: A teen’s first summer job is a great way for parents and children to collaborate on job-hunting and money management skills that will produce benefits for a lifetime.

Help Desk – March 18, 2015

By Mike Whittlesey

Where People Count Most: The Shelf Life of News

In April 1973, readers of The Progress Review were greeted with a new masthead that featured a sketch of La Porte City’s (really) old water tower and a tagline with four simple words: “Where People Count Most.” For the next 18 years these four simple words remained a fixture on The Progress Review’s front page, a constant reminder of the newspaper’s commitment to its readers.
Forty years later, one of the biggest challenges weekly newspapers face in 2015 is shelf life. The evolution of smart phones and advances in technology allow the average American to remain connected with information sources in ways not thought possible as recently as twenty years ago. The abundance of information and the smorgasbord of news choices now available at our fingertips makes it an exciting time to work in the newspaper industry.
One of the advantages of producing a weekly newspaper like The Progress Review is the amount of time our small staff has to invest in the stories we publish. When we do our job well, the belief that people do, in fact count most should be clearly evident in The Progress Review’s pages. That is why we encourage you, dear reader, to share with us news that may be of interest to the greater La Porte City community.
When it comes to reporting news, its “shelf life” is an important commodity, much like the carton of milk that sits on a grocery store shelf. In addition to advertisers, it is The Progress Review’s subscribers that make it possible to produce the newspaper 52-53 times a year. Because of this, we have established some guidelines that speak to the timeliness and frequency of publishing community news items.
One example that comes to mind is the request to publish the same (or very similar) article about an upcoming event more than once because it would be “a great reminder” for our readers. We typically do not honor such requests unless the “reminder” is formatted in the form of an advertisement. While some of our subscribers may appreciate seeing such reminders, others view the repetitive content as sour milk. We believe the purchase price readers pay for The Progress Review entitles them to new feature stories each week. Unlike a television network, there are no tangible benefits for airing repeats in The Progress Review.
The decision to limit the number of times feature stories are published is not a one-size-fits-all policy. Many of the stories we publish are directly related to non-profit groups and organizations. Some events, like La Porte City’s Festival of Trails, require additional coverage because of their magnitude. In such cases, The Progress Review tries to find ways to provide the desired coverage in cost-effective ways.
Two examples of this include dedicated space provided for upcoming library events (“Hawkins’ Happenings”) and news from the La Porte City FFA & Historical Ag Museum (“Artifacts”). Both of these features typically appear on page three.
For questions regarding The Progress Review’s policies on publishing community news items, please call 319-342-2429.

Practical Money Matters – March 18, 2015

By Jason Alderman

Involving Kids in Family Vacation Planning

Family vacations produce memories for a lifetime, but they can also teach kids great money lessons they’ll need as adults.
Involving kids in planning family vacations not only helps them appreciate the overall benefits of travel, but offers an opportunity for even the youngest kids to learn lessons about budgeting, saving and essential money management they will encounter every day.
If you have trouble tearing your kids away from their smartphones, you might be in luck. The technology kids use can be very effective in budgeting, pricing and planning travel. Surfing travel destinations can teach kids a great deal about what travel really costs.
The first step in planning the family vacation should be creating a budget for the trip. Set a realistic dollar limit for the trip and be prepared to discuss why that limit exists. For example, if there is a home renovation project scheduled that particular year, explain how that affects the overall family budget and the resources for the trip. It’s an important lesson in balancing fun and family priorities.
After these limits are discussed, work with kids to create a detailed budget for accommodations, transportation, food, special event tickets and souvenirs, particularly souvenirs kids might buy for themselves. For tips, check out (practicalmoneyskills.com/travel) for saving on and this online calculator (practicalmoneyskills.com/travelcalculator) to help plan.
Once the budget is set, point kids in the direction of certain travel websites to start and let them bring back as much information as they can on potential locations and costs.
Putting the kids in charge of travel planning gives them an opportunity to learn about trade-offs. For example, a cross-country trip that involves substantial transportation costs might contain a valuable lesson in finding affordable accommodations. Depending on the age of the children doing the research and how much advance time is available to plan the trip, they can also learn how traveling in season and out of season might help the budget. Many peak summer destinations become significantly more affordable if a family chooses to travel over the winter holidays.
Above all, trip planning can teach an important lesson in spending and savings. If children want to buy souvenirs or treats on the trip, that’s an opportunity to have them set aside part of their allowance or chore money to pay for their special purchases on the trip. To get them started, help them save for their goal using this online calculator (practicalmoneyskills.com/savingforagoal).
Finally, once everyone is home, parents and kids might find it useful to discuss how the vacation went overall and what improvements can be applied next time. Encourage kids to start researching next year’s destinations immediately so the money and activity conversation can begin even earlier.
Bottom line: Involving your children in family vacation planning allows them to see the world and to practice good budgeting, saving and spending habits.