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Letters to the Editor/Online Comments

BY DI READERS | APRIL 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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Vote yes on justice center

The proposed Johnson County Courthouse enhancements and expansion of the jail need to be approved now. The thoughtful improvements will resolve long-overdue security and legal system shortfalls in the Courthouse and eliminate the costly shortage of jail capacity.

Johnson County residents cannot afford to postpone these needed improvements any longer. I don’t want to continue spending $1.3 million per year to house our criminals outside of Johnson County when we can use that money to eliminate that need. And these unnecessary costs will increase as our criminal population rises with our growing county.

Similarly, the critical improvements to our outdated Courthouse judicial space will only escalate in cost if we don’t vote yes on this proposal. The well-designed improvements will greatly increase the efficiency of the court-system operations and result in quicker legal resolution.

A particularly critical need is the security aspect of the Courthouse improvements. Unfortunately, without the proposed weapons screening for judicial visitors, it is only a matter of time before a tragedy occurs in Johnson County.

I urge my Johnson County residents to resolve these issues now. Join me in voting yes for the justice center on May 7. We can’t afford to wait any longer.

John Lundell
Coralville resident

New  justice center needed

On May 7, voters will decide the fate of the proposed Johnson County justice center. Voters deserve assurance that a “yes” vote will result in a building that is both compatible with the historic Courthouse and energy efficient.  

Because the Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, the center will follow the guidelines set by the U.S. secretary of the Interior for additions to historic buildings.

The character-defining features of the historic Courthouse will not be radically changed, obscured, damaged, or destroyed.

The justice center will be clearly differentiated so that the addition does not appear to be part of the historic Courthouse.

The justice center will be located at the rear or on an inconspicuous side of the historic courthouse.

The size and scale of the justice center will be limited in relationship to the historic Courthouse.

The materials used on the exterior of the justice center will complement but not mimic the Courthouse materials.

The grand sandstone exterior of the Courthouse with its ornate details is one of Johnson County’s treasures.  Any attempt to copy or simulate the Courthouse architecture on the new justice center would be cost-prohibitive and diminish the historic character of the Courthouse.  

Participation in the MidAmerican Commercial New Construction Program will provide design assistance to optimize the energy efficiency of the justice center. The program provides computer modeling to determine the most cost-effective design for the building envelope, HVAC systems, and lighting and help the design team evaluate onsite renewable energy sources including solar, wind, and geothermal. Other sustainable features to be included in the design are natural lighting, water conservation strategies, pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled construction materials, and heat-recovery systems.

Locating the justice center next to the Courthouse will minimize vehicular transportation for the Sheriff’s Office, the county attorney, judges, and court-support staff. The location is readily accessible to pedestrians, bicycles, and public transportation, reducing the necessity for and environmental impact of automobiles.

The design of the justice center is still in the conceptual stage.  The Johnson County Board of Supervisors and the design team are committed to an open, public design process allowing for ideas and input from the entire community. The justice center will be a sustainable building serving the citizens of Johnson County for generations to come.   

Please vote Yes for Johnson County on May 7.

Dwight Dobberstein
Iowa City resident

Back the justice center

I will support the bond referendum for the justice center. But I understand the reluctance of voters to approve a $43.5 million project.

Public buildings, which are typically designed for 100-year life spans, involve considerable upfront costs.  The new federal building in Cedar Rapids and the many additions to the University Hospitals are cases in point.

We have a growing community. With growth comes growing pains. We need new schools to accommodate the growing K-12 student population, which requires a commitment from taxpayers.

Similarly, the county has inadequate Courthouse and jail facilities. As taxpayers, we need to bite the bullet and fund a justice center to address the very real concerns of space, safety, and security.

Given historically low interest rates, now is an ideal time for the county to issue bonds.

I ask the community to show the same foresight as those who built the existing Courthouse at the turn of the 20th century and vote yes.

Mike Streb
Iowa City resident

Kindness rules

Sigma Pi Fraternity is putting on a weeklong event called Random Acts of Kindness Week, in which brothers will perform a variety of “acts of kindness” around the University of Iowa campus in an effort to give the community a more positive atmosphere, such as various acts ranging from passing out water bottles to students on campus to baking cookies for hospital patients.

Sigma Pi has been established at the University of Iowa since 1918. It consists of 81 members and plays an active role in many aspects of campus life.

DITV’s audience will appreciate that there are people at the UI that are determined to make a difference and “spread kindness” to members of the Iowa City community. This is the first time a greek organization is doing this kind of project around the UI campus. If you have any questions about this event, I am more than available to talk with you this week.

Patrick Minnick
secretary, Sigma Pi Fraternity Intl. – Xi Chapter

Religion favored over health

The Secular Coalition for America on Monday submitted comments to the Department of Health and Human Services  expressing strong opposition to the proposed rule changes for “religious employers” regarding preventive health-care services. The comments were signed by a coalition of 12 organizations representing atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other secular Americans.

If adopted, the proposed rule changes will have a significant effect on American women across a wide spectrum of the workforce. The changes would broaden the religious-employer exemption to include all nonprofit organizations that self-certify as a “religious employer.” Furthermore, the changes put the religious interests of a few employers ahead of immense health and social benefits for all Americans.

“The proposed exemption set a terrible precedent for religious interference in individual choice,” said Edwina Rogers, the executive director of the Secular Coalition for America. “If adopted, this exemption gives employers the ability to impose their particular religious beliefs on employees, infringing on the religious freedom of potentially millions of Americans.” 

In February 2012, Health and Human Services announced final rules regarding exemptions to contraception requirements that exempted houses of worship and other “religious employers.” However, in February of 2013, pressured by religious groups including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Helath and Human Services rescinded three out of four requirements needed to comply with its earlier definition of “religious employer” broadly expanding the number of qualifying exempt organizations.

Lauren Anderson Youngblood,
Secular Coalition for America and its members

RE: ‘Endorsement: Vote for HOUSE Party in upcoming student election’

Has the HOUSE Party completely ignored this article from the *DI* a couple months ago? About the multicultural bus stop? Here is a brief transcript.

“In order to make changes to the bus routes, Cambus Director Brian McClatchey said, bus officials would have to gather data on the users it would benefit. However, he doubts whether the proposed plan would be feasible.

“The route could do that; the problem is that the stop at Slater Hall is a critical stop for the Interdorm, which exists to serve the dorms,” he said.

If the Interdorm route were to travel down Melrose, it would skip the Slater and law-school stops. This would be problematic, because the Slater stop serves what McClatchey described as “numbers in the low thousands.” The main issue, McClatchey said, would be the degree of ridership.

“Because of the nature of the roads, the current route is what makes sense,” he said."

I know representatives for the culture centers have talked to Cambus officials a couple times this semester and have been told that is isn’t going to happen anytime in the next few years, at least.

Sarah Brown

Fortunately, Sarah, UISG exists to represent the students. As current UISG vice president, I can say we have accomplished numerous initiatives that administrators and university officials never thought we would. UISG seeks to serve the students, and if enough students want the Cambus route changed, then trust me, they can do it.

Jessie Tobin

RE: ‘Richson: Make all socializing private’

Employers should not have access to private social media information like passwords. However, they have every right to look up employees or potential employees on social-media sites and base their hiring or employment decisions on the content. I have dismissed employees on content where they have been trashing either me as an employer or their coworkers. I have also asked employees to take down potentially offensive content or risk termination.

Dave Thoensen


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