Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | APRIL 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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Vote No on jail

The voters of Johnson County will be asked to vote again on May 7 on the same bond referendum proposed to the voters in November 2012. Granted, the curtain wall has changed — less glass, more stone — and the proposal has become slightly less expensive. But this is essentially the same proposal that failed to win 60 percent of the vote in November.

I am an opponent of this proposal; I am not opposed to doing something about our jail and Courthouse. While every opponent of the jail has different reasons for opposing the referendum (this is a very big tent of opposition).

There have been no changes asked of local policing authorities. While the “yes” side has finally acknowledged the issue of race and arrests and the resulting disparity of population in the jail, supporters have made no concrete plans about how to address this issue. Bonding should be more available to those who are not affluent enough to buy their way out of pre-trial detention.

Pretrial detention alternatives should also be available more readily to those accused of nonviolent crimes. Contrary to what the “yes” side states, I don’t think that new physical facilities are needed to help people stay in places other than jail while awaiting trial. There are too many people in jail who pose no real public safety threat to the community. Does the jail have to be exponentially bigger to make incarceration less common?

Courthouse additions should be considered separately from the jail both physically and as a bond issue. I would like to see a proposal for a pretrial detention facility built in a lower density part of Johnson County where the construction costs would be less and the effect on downtown would be minimal. A new jail below Burlington Street will discourage Iowa City’s efforts to bring new development in the area. The likelihood of cost overruns associated with an urban jail could be reduced. Lower density facilities are easier to staff and often require less staff. The fringe of Iowa City is a 10-minute drive from downtown.

The proposed number of beds it too large for a county our size; I believe such a large jail, if built, will be filled with either local detainees or space will be sold to other counties. The United States has more persons incarcerated per 100,000 population than any other nation — Johnson County is not an exception to this trend. Being arrested and going to jail should be an unusual life occurrence.

Please vote no on May 7. Johnson County residents deserve better solutions.

Donald Baxter
University Heights resident

Support Medicaid expansion

As a Graduate Student in the School of Social Work and Intern at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, I see many people throughout the hospital who are uninsured and impoverished. Since I work on a psychiatric unit, I see even more people without insurance coverage.

This is because Iowa Care, the current insurance coverage for people who do not qualify for Medicaid but make too little to afford their own insurance, does not cover psychiatric care in any way. These people not only lack coverage for inpatient hospital stays, which can amount to $1700 per day, but they also lack coverage for outpatient psychiatric care as well.  

An expansion of Medicaid, which is the proposal in bill SF-296 would cover these uninsured individuals and take the stress off of government-run hospitals, which currently provide this care.

Governor Terry Branstad’s alternative proposal “Healthy Iowa” would continue to leave out psychiatric care of any kind and in addition, would only cover those at or below100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), leaving out thousands who would be covered under an expansion of Medicaid.

I urge you to write to your legislators and encourage them to support this bill. Psychiatric care has taken the back-burner in our society long enough and we need to address this issue in a meaningful way. An expansion of Medicaid would do just that.

Kathleen Crose,
Iowa City resident

We are better than right wing

The extreme right-wing outdid themselves in Iowa this week, with three elected officials embarrassing our state.

Congressman Steve King politicized the Boston marathon bombing, using it as an excuse to delay comprehensive immigration reform. 

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz finally admitted his Voter ID proposal is designed to help conservatives win on social political issues. State Senator Dennis Guth took a page from Bob Vander Plaats' playbook, comparing homosexuality to second hand smoke from the floor of the Iowa Senate.

Iowans deserve better than the divisive statements made by these three elected officials this week. We encourage all Iowans sign our petitions, voice their disapproval, and demonstrate that we are better than the extreme right wing. 

Matt Sinovic
Progress Iowa

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