ICCI lobbies for clean air, water, elections

They talk, they act, they get it done. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) showed how well they could get it done with their annual Lobby Day on January 29th. Roughly 100 people braved the subzero winds to come to the Capitol building in Des Moines to show our local government that it is time for people to matter more, and money to matter less. The day started out with speeches by CCI members to get everyone pumped up and ready. “If we stand together, we could have more power than money could ever buy,” said CCI member Judy Lonning as people were rallying. The energy in the room was invigorating as everyone chanted and cheered for their cause. The main issues at hand were local control of factory farms, a $23 million study to research odor from hog farms, and clean elections. CCI called for complete local control, which would mean that counties would have the final say on where and whether factory farms can be built. This would protect natural resources, lessen congestion of feeding operations, and protect the health of the general public in the area. CCI strongly rejects the odor study. The CCI Legislative Agenda states that “factory farms should use their own money to control the odors and air pollution they create.” Clean elections would have the biggest direct effect on most Ames residents. Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE) is a piece of legislation that would take away politicians’ reliance on special interest money and level the playing field, so the politicians who ran the best campaign and represented the people most would be elected. A small group of Ames residents lobbied state Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames on these issues. Quirmbach stopped short of endorsing complete local control but did support the idea. He also mentioned that he was a strong proponent of the VOICE legislation. “You need to work at the public education level,” said Quirmbach, in reference to the VOICE legislation. “You guys have done a great job with that but I don’t think the job is done… You may need to work with leaders to persuade them that they really need to rethink their approach to the system.” Later, the group of CCI members met with Eric Tabor and Bill Bruch from the Attorney General’s office. “We know if anyone is going to speak up, it’s the members of CCI,” said Bruch, in response to a question about a consumer protection bill. After the meeting with Bruch and Tabor, the group of CCI members met with Governor Chet Culver’s Chief Policy Advisor, Jim Larew. The group started by expressing their concern with the odor study and the failure of the advancement of VOICE legislation. “I will take a close look at the VOICE legislation, I personally support the idea, though,” said Larew. “The Governor expresses daily concern about the power of lobbyists.” An audience member then stood up and reminded Larew that Democrats have been talking about this legislation for over 40 years and now it is time to get it done. On March 4th ICCI will be having another lobby day wherein they will meet with Governor Culver himself. They plan to lobby Culver further on the VOICE legislation along with the odor study. At the end of the day, the group of ICCI members was in high spirits and ready to continue their strong message come March 4. “There is strength in numbers; it is also interesting to get a better idea of how these things operate,” said Keith Carlson, an ICCI member and former English teacher at Ames High, in response to a question about the effectiveness of the lobby days. “Everyone can do something, we can all encourage each other.”