Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | JUNE 10, 2009 7:26 AM

Editorial board needs more balanced representation

Your editorial concerning your opposition to the gender-equity law, which goes into effect in 2012 (Law meant for inclusion will end up sponsoring exclusion, DI, June 9), was hilarious. You put up straw men and then triumphantly destroy them with your examples.

Five of your six most recent columns listed are by men. Emileigh Barnes wrote the only column by a woman.

The editorial-page editor is Adam Sullivan. Three of four “man-on-the-street” responses on buying new cars were from men. Only one of the four, Amy Harken, is a woman.

And your “from the blog” and columnist on June 9 are both men.

That’s roughly the same percentage of women — who represent more than 50 percent of Iowa’s population, according to Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, who sponsored the gender-equity law — who are on Iowa’s local boards and commissions (18 percent).

Gosh; and here I thought there was a problem of sexism in Iowa. What was I thinking?

Maria Houser Conzemius
Iowa City

More than a year after raid, lessons can be learned from Postville

On May 12, 2008, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (a division of the Department of Homeland Security), the Justice Department, along with other agencies, without warning descended upon Agriprocessors Inc., a kosher slaughterhouse and meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa. Given the scope of the raid, the number of agencies involved, and the severity of the action taken, one might have assumed the plant was engaged in illegal drug production, arms trade, selling of contaminated food, or some other act that threatened the lives of local citizens. However, none of this was true. The raid was a response to a reported immigration violation. It would ultimately be the actions of the U.S. government agents that threatened the lives (or at least livelihood) of those in the local community.

Instead of taking a strategic and gradual approach to correcting the immigration problem in Postville, the tactical strike against the community was so broad and devastating that it had the same outcome economically as if the city had been attacked by terrorists. Almost 400 people were arrested and then held captive in a nearby fairground where normally cattle would be detained. The attack on the community was so severe that it affected everyone, including the elderly, children, and other innocent bystanders.

A year later, Postville hasn’t recovered from the raid. Rental properties that were at 100 percent capacity before the raid are now at 20 percent occupancy (an 80 percent decline). Prior to the raid, it was hard to find a home for sale in Postville. Today, 248 homes are for sale at 20 percent below their assessed value. There are only 750 homes in the entire city of Postville — that means that about one-third of the city’s homes are up for sale. More than nine businesses in the community have shut down, and the local bakery, worth $350,000, is now being advertised to sell at $150,000. Agriprocessors previously employed 950 people, but now, a year after the raid, only 300 work there.

Unfortunately, the raid on Postville has punished and harmed many more people than just a few hundred unauthorized workers. The raid harmed an entire community and an entire region — an area that reflects true American cultural diversity. According to some statistics, the regional pricing of agriculture (for Iowa) was negatively affected when compared to surrounding states for current and prior year’s data.

Communities shouldn’t be attacked by their own government in a way that harms everyone in the community. While we can’t change the past, we can look forward and insist that this kind of tragedy not be permitted to happen again.

We can also do our best to help build up and restore Postville in the same way we would assist a town devastated by a natural disaster.

Gregory Johnson
Iowa City

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