Are Americans sheep? Letting corporations, banks & government railroad them? Not in Iowa!
JOHNSTON — As members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) voted on new board members, attended workshops and completed other traditional state convention tasks this weekend, four buses quietly pulled up and patiently waited. Although only staff members were aware of the exact destination, more than 200 Iowa residents from every walk of life excitedly palmed signs they’d brought from home and boarded the incredibly hot buses.
“Do you know where we are going?” a man asked.
“No,” replied his seat mate on the bus, “but I bet it is going to be good.”
The purpose of the trip, which was revealed once the buses were underway, was to pay a visit to the Iowa governor’s mansion, Terrace Hill, and the Republican gubernatorial campaign headquarters. Both Chet Culver and Terry Branstad, the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor respectively, had been invited to meet with Iowa CCI members during the convention. Neither chose to attend. In response, convention attendees took their message of “put people first” to both men.
“The candidates have done nothing but bicker instead of listening and responding to the constituents who will be voting for them this fall on the issues we care about,” said John Blasingame, a retired laborer and CCI member from Silver City. “Everyday folks across the state are concerned about issues like local control over siting of factory farms and corporations paying their fair share of taxes. As the candidates campaign this summer and fall, they will see us, hear us and be accountable to us.”
CCI members contend that Culver, the sitting governor in Iowa, campaigned on local control, but has not yet followed through on the issue. They also note that Branstad, who served as governor from 1983 to 1999, signed House File 519 into law, allowing corporate-backed factory farms in the door.
In 2009, Culver discussed combined corporate reporting, but has backed down in the face of pressure from business interests, the members say. Branstad has gone on record as saying that corporations pay too much in taxes, and as wanting to do away with corporate taxes altogether.
“No matter what the issue and what the candidates are proposing, we know the real solutions — we need to put people before corporate profits and greed,” said Shari Hawk, a nurse and CCI member from Ankeny. “Thousands of CCI members will be educating voters and turning them out to the polls this fall. CCI will be the grassroots organization challenging the candidates to be accountable to the people. We will build our power, and no matter who is elected, we will call on the governor to lead — to truly put people first.”
While neither Culver nor Branstad were present at the street-level protests conducted by Iowa CCI, the group left behind identical letters for both men that they hope will provide a clear view of their message. The full text of the letter is below (emphasis same as original):
We invited you to meet with us today — you decided not to. So, we are bringing our meeting to you.
Iowa CCI members, thousands strong, want you to know that we are fighting for justice. We have a long history of organizing everyday people — rural & urban, black, white, Latino, young and old — to stand up for economic, environmental and social justice. For our local communities we join together to push for statewide policies that put people first.
Putting People before polluters —
- We fight to protect Iowans’ water, air, and quality of life. We push for tougher permitting standards and local control to give local people the final say on whether a factory farm can build in their area.
Putting People before profits —
- We stand for good, affordable credit for all. We push for policies that would cap interest rates on payday loans to crack down on predatory practices which trap consumers in a cycle of debt.
Putting People before politics —
- We want to make college affordable for all of Iowa’s high school graduates, regardless of immigration status. The IOWA Act would allow immigrant students who grow up in Iowa to pay in-state tuition to attend state schools.
Putting People first –
- We are sick and tired of our state’s budget being balanced on the backs of everyday working Iowans. We push for combined corporate reporting, which would close corporate tax loopholes, and require out-of-state corporations to pay their fair share, leveling the playing field for Iowa businesses and adding millions to our state’s strained budget.
- We fight for fairness in our elections, and for all Iowans to have a greater voice in our democracy. That means campaign contribution limits and enacting a system for fair elections — Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections.
As you travel the state this summer and fall, you will see us, you will hear us and you will be accountable to us. It’s time to Put People First!
Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement