Category Archives: Simply Put

Simply Put – December 24, 2014

By Mike Whittlesey

The front page of this Christmas edition of The Progress Review, entitled “Postcards from Home,” contains images of the recent past and present La Porte City. No other holiday evokes memories of home quite like Christmas. Perhaps that is why we are so drawn to images of the Union Carolers decked out in their Victorian attire (besides the incredible beauty of their harmonious vocals) and the sight of a horse and carriage in the snow.
The world certainly is a little more complicated than it was during the days when the horse and buggy was considered a primary source of transportation. In 2014, the holiday season’s digital footprint continues to grow at an increasing rate of speed. Letters to Santa? You can set your pen and paper aside and send your wish via e-mail. While I haven’t taken the time to look, there probably are ways to text the S-Man directly or access some form of a North Pole Facebook page, where you can upload your “likes.”
There is no doubt technology can play a helpful role in our preparations to celebrate the Christmas holiday. With so much hustle and bustle that comes with the season, is it possible to get caught up in all the excitement and lose track of what it is that makes the holiday truly special? Contained in the 16 pages of newsprint you now hold, dear reader, are features we hope will add meaning to your holiday season.
Within this special edition, you’ll find the meaning of Christmas expressed in a variety of ways. We are especially grateful to the area ministers who have taken time from their busy schedules to share messages of peace and hope. If you’re looking for a place of worship to celebrate the season, please note the service dates and times listed among their essays.
Another view of the season comes from La Porte City Elementary School fifth graders, who share what Christmas means to them on pages four and five. It is interesting to note how many references to the word “family” can be found in their writings.
Holiday greetings also abound from area merchants, whose best wishes of the season spread throughout this issue make this special edition possible. We hope you enjoy these features, along with holiday images from the annual Home Lighting Contest and the concerts so beautifully presented by the staff and students in our local schools.
Like the images presented on the front page of this edition, each of these features can be seen as a postcard from home in their own unique way. For more postcards, logon to our website ( or Facebook page ( and click on the link to view a video slide show featuring the holiday lights of La Porte City. Happy holidays and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year from The Progress Review!

Simply Put – June 25, 2014

By Mike Whittlesey

Last week, on the return flight from Washington DC, Jim Coloff encouraged the Honor Flight veterans and their guardians to thank the corporate sponsors that help make such flights possible. Coordinating the effort to transport area veterans to Washington DC and back is a massive undertaking. It is also a costly one, as the bill for airfare, meals, bus transportation and other expenses incurred during the one day field trip to the nation’s capital typically exceeds six figures.
At the heart of Sullivan-Hartogh-Davis Post 730 is a group of volunteers, a committee responsible for organizing the trips, along with raising the money to pay for them. When the final Waterloo Honor Flight of 2014 is made in September, nearly 1,000 veterans in the Cedar Valley will have received an all expense paid trip to Washington DC since the group’s inaugural flight in 2011.
As long as there is a need, the good folks associated with Waterloo Honor Flight remain committed to the task of sending area veterans to Washington DC. The cost to do so, however, is not measured solely in dollars. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to organize each flight, from the paperwork associated with each applicant and guardian, to preparing for potential medical emergencies that may arise during the journey. These duties come with a cost, as the amount of time available for family and friends is compromised.
Over the past four years, the success of the Waterloo Honor Flight program can be traced back to the people and organizations who have stepped up and made a commitment to the veterans of the Cedar Valley when it was needed most. Last month, for example, John Deere followed the example of Burke Miehe and American Pattern & CNC Works, sponsoring a flight with a six figure donation. Likewise, as members of the Honor Flight organizing committee have relinquished their roles, other volunteers have come forward to take their place, offering a renewed sense of energy that has allowed the Honor Flight program to continue.
While dates for Waterloo Honor Flights in 2015 have yet to be confirmed, applications from veterans, guardians and other volunteers are still being accepted. To learn more about the program and to access the application forms, logon to
Earlier this month, the La Porte City Lions Club hosted the 28th Annual Festival of Trails Celebration. While the weather cooperated nicely for the Friday evening parade and fireworks, attendance on Saturday was noticeably lighter, perhaps as a result of My Waterloo Days being held on the same weekend.
Sustaining a citywide celebration for nearly three decades is a challenge. At the heart of the Celebration is a group of volunteers, a committee responsible for organizing the weekend’s activities. As the number of members in the Lions Club has dwindled in recent years, this task has proven to be a difficult one.
The success of the Festival of Trails Celebration the past 28 years can be traced back to the volunteers who have stepped up and made a commitment when it was needed most. This year, for example, volunteers helped coordinate and organize a public relations campaign to effectively promote the Celebration. And Friday night’s parade was bigger and better than ever, thanks to those who worked diligently on the project.
Planning for next year’s Celebration has already begun and you can help. How? Take a few minutes to complete the survey posted online at Your responses will be transmitted directly to Celebration organizers. As you look forward to the 29th Annual Festival of Trails in 2015, what are some of the ways you can contribute?

Simply Put – May 7, 2014

By Mike Whittlesey

ar•chive 1. Usually, archives. documents or records relating to the activities, business dealings, etc., of a person, family, corporation, association, community, or nation.  
2. any extensive record or collection of data.

Unlike the Tribunes and Heralds of the newspaper world, The Progress Review has anything but a common name. The combination of two previous La Porte City newspaper names dating back to the latter half of the nineteenth century, the title aptly describes two primary roles this newspaper continues to perform after more than 140 years of existence: 1) the reporting of events deemed newsworthy (progress) and, 2) the archiving of said newsworthy events for historical preservation (review). This week, The Progress Review announces the upcoming release of two historical records that may be of interest to you.
For more than 40 years, Dolores Bader’s voice in The Progress Review offered commentary and bits of wisdom under a variety of banners. From “Siftings,” a column that began in 1967, to  “Connections,” most recently ending a run of more than a decade, Dolores has  written volumes about life in our part of the world. Her essays encouraged us when times were tough, and challenged us when we needed it most. In the coming weeks, a collection of her columns, published in The Progress Review from 2010-2013, will be available in paperback form. It is a unique look at our community’s recent history, told from the perspective of one of our city’s most prolific writers.
The second project The Progress Review has been working on is an archive of a different sort- electronic media.  Much of what we report in this newspaper is related to an important part of the community- our schools. Imagine if you could gather all the news, photos and video related to the events and activities conducted at the high school and compile them into one convenient package. You would have what we are calling The Progress Review Digital Record: 2014 Union High School. Beginning in August 2013 and ending with the commemorative graduation program published later this month, every news story, photo gallery and video clip published about Union High School during this ten month period will be accessible on your personal computer via DVD. For those keeping track, that’s nearly 4,000 photos, over an hour of video and slide show footage, combined with every feature story, honor roll listing, Senior Spotlight and high school sports statistic published in The Progress Review during the 2013-14 school year. It’s not a yearbook. It’s a piece of history in an interactive, digital format that will be available for a special, introductory price during the month of May.
The Progress Review is currently accepting pre-orders for both of these special archives. You may reserve your copies by logging on to

Simply Put – April 16, 2014

By Mike Whittlesey

If you’re reading this in the Print Edition of The Progress Review and have not yet filed your federal tax return, you may have a problem. The month of April is a significant one when it comes to taxes. In addition to the April 15 federal filing deadline, the state of Iowa will be looking for state returns to be completed by April 30.

According to the folks at the Tax Foundation, there is another reason why the month of April is significant from a tax perspective. Tax Freedom Day officially arrives on April 21, 2014. This is the day when the nation, as a whole, has earned enough to pay its total tax bill for the year. It’s important to note that Tax Freedom Day, the federal event, arrives three days later than last year. Experts attribute this to continuing economic recovery, which will boost the federal tax revenue collected through the corporate, payroll and individual income tax. Tax Freedom Day is calculated by economists using federal budget projections, data from the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

For residents of the state of Iowa, the tax burden is slightly more favorable. April 13th was Tax Freedom Day for state residents, with Iowa the 18th of 50 states to reach the milestone. Comparing taxes among the states can be challenging due to the wide discrepancy in tax policies that exist from state to state. Generally speaking, though, the states where residents have higher income but also pay higher taxes typically celebrate Tax Freedom Day later in the year. For example, Connecticut and New Jersey (May 9th) and New York (May 4th) are the states that attain tax freedom the latest. Louisiana (March 30), Mississippi (April 2) and South Dakota (April 4), on the other hand, arrive there the soonest.

Lest we get bogged down in the details of the numbers and how they are calculated, the computation of Tax Freedom Day has value when we take a “big picture” view of the trends over time. As recently as the year 2000, Americans paid 33 percent of their total income to taxes. That compares to just 5.9 percent in 1900, the year when tax freedom arrived on January 22nd.

“Arguments can be made for why the collective tax bill is too high or too low, but in order to have an honest discussion, it’s important to understand where we stand,” said Tax Foundation Economist Kyle Pomerleau.

“Tax Freedom Day gives us a vivid representation of how much we pay for the goods and services provided by governments at all levels.”

As part of that conversation, consider the following: Americans will spend more on taxes in 2014 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.

Simply Put – February 26, 2014

By Mike Whittlesey

I went to a wrestling meet and couldn’t believe the twisting, turning, gyrations and body contortions I witnessed. And the wrestlers? They were pretty good too!

Last week, seven wrestlers from Union High School competed at the State Wrestling Tournament in Des Moines. Fans of the Union Knights certainly have much to be proud of, as the “magnificent seven” handled themselves like champions throughout the three day event, humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Two Union wrestlers, Max Thomsen and Jacob Holschlag achieved the ultimate prize, a state championship. Yet there were no back flips, imaginary golf tee shots or gestures to the arena that screamed, “look at me” from the Knights when their victories were secured.

One of the moments I was most impressed with came shortly after Max Thomsen earned his third consecutive state championship. For some who watched Thomsen win every match of the season and pin his first three opponents of the tournament, another state championship was a foregone conclusion. His final match at State came against Andres Gonzalez of Clear Lake, described aptly enough by Union Head Coach Pat Hogan as a “big strong kid.” In this first meeting between the two, Gonzalez more than held his own and actually had a brief lead in the match, pushing Thomsen harder than perhaps any other wrestler in the state has all year. Minutes after Max had rallied for a 5-4 decision, the top eight wrestlers at 138 lbs. in Class 2A were taking their places on the podium. As he ascended to the top step, Thomsen reached out to shake Gonzalez’ hand. At a moment when no television cameras were rolling, no photographers snapping pictures, this simple gesture of respect and sportsmanship from one fierce competitor to another made a lasting impression and speaks volumes on the character this young man possesses. There is a reason why so few athletes in the history of Iowa high school wrestling have earned four state championships. Though Max may make it look easy at times, those of us who admire his achievements have no idea the amount of work and sacrifice it has taken him to reach such an elite level.

Okay, enough of the soapbox and back to contortions and gyrations. This was my first look at the State Tournament at mat level, and like most sporting events, the view up-close is much different than watching it on television. As the tournament progressed and there was more down time between matches involving Union wrestlers, I began to take notice of the drama of a different sort playing out on the periphery of the mat. The body language of the coaches was almost more interesting to watch than the wrestlers themselves. Believe me, there were a lot of passionate wrestling coaches gathered under one roof and some of them wouldn’t have to train very much to win a professional limbo competition.

As close matches moved into the third period, the leans that went left, right, forward and back became more pronounced. While some coaches preferred the tried an true method of leaning forward and shouting instructions through cupped hands, others simply could not help themselves. It was as if they could extricate their athlete from the grasp of an opponent if they just leaned far enough. So, with extra time on my hands and an empty memory card in the camera, I did what any responsible journalist would do. I started taking pictures of coaches. The resulting video slideshow is entitled “Competitive Fire: Coaching at the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament” and I invite you to logon to to view it.