Northwest Iowa Tourism Video Receives Statewide Honor

Fairfield, Iowa — Northwest Iowa Development has received an award from the Iowa Tourism Office and the Travel Federation of Iowa for a video that they had put together promoting northwest Iowa, called “Beyond Expectations”.
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Shawna Lode, manager of the Iowa Tourism Office says that Iowa is fortunate to have passionate people working hard every day to advance the tourism industry and grow the state’s economy. She says that the Iowa Tourism Awards are a way to showcase those efforts and celebrate the successes of the past year.

We spoke with O’Brien County Economic Development Director Kiana Johnson, representing Northwest Iowa Development. She says awards to both metro and rural areas were made in 13 award categories.

She tells us about the video.

She tells us why they had the video put together.

Northwest Iowa Development received the Outstanding Social Media Execution award for the video.

Hawarden Native Working To Correct Wrongful Convictions

logoDes Moines, Iowa — Hawarden native and former Republican candidate for Iowa Attorney General, Adam Gregg, the State Public Defender, has now established a new “Wrongful Conviction Division” in his office.

Gregg talks about the reason for the new division.

He says when the wrong person is convicted, that means the real criminal isn’t held accountable. The first batch of cases to be reviewed by this new division date back to the 1980s and early ’90s. Gregg says about 100 convictions from that time period involve what is now considered the “junk science” of hair analysis. It was used before D-N-A testing was standard practice. Investigators will try to find the hair evidence in those cases and conduct D-N-A tests to determine if the D-N-A of the person convicted matches the crime scene evidence.

Gregg has hired an attorney who worked for the California Innocence Project to lead Iowa’s new Wrongful Conviction Division. Audrey McGinn will work with students from Drake University’s Law School and other volunteers from the Iowa Innocence Project and the Midwest Innocence Project to cull through what evidence they can find.

Iowa law requires court officials to keep evidence in criminal cases for just three years, but officials rarely dispose of evidence in first degree murder convictions. McGinn says finding conclusive evidence in these cases will be the most difficult part.

Governor Terry Branstad announced the creation of this new Wrongful Conviction Division Monday morning at his weekly news conference.

So-called “Innocence Project” efforts nationwide have so far yielded 330 cases in which D-N-A evidence proves the person convicted didn’t commit the crime, but none of those cases have been in Iowa. If someone IS found to be wrongfully convicted in Iowa, state law automatically makes them eligible for 50-dollars for each day they were in prison.

Second Reading Of Urban Renewal Plan To Be On Tuesday

Sibley, Iowa — On the Osceola County Board of Supervisor’s agenda for their meeting this Tuesday, October 27th is the second reading of an ordinance proposing the establishment of an Urban Renewal Plan that would provide the City of Harris to use Tax Increment Financing to pay for upgrades to their sanitary waste system, as well as improvements to a section of White Avenue.
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A public hearing on the issue was held last week, with several people speaking against the plan.

At issue is the utilization of TIF funds from a wind farm project in northeastern Osceola County to finance the improvements and upgrades needed by the City of Harris.

At the hearing last week, Al Brueggeman chastised the Board of Supervisors for failing to answer any questions about the project.  He told the Supervisors that, “if you approve this, I guess we’ll have to see you in court”, before tossing a draft copy of his group’s proposed lawsuit filing onto the table in front of the Supervisors.

Board members assured the gathered crowd that the decision on this issue was not an easy one.

A motion was made and seconded to establish a Resolution to Declare Necessity and Establish an Urban Renewal Area, and approve the Urban Renewal Plan and Project for the Osceola County Urban Renewal Area #7.  The measure passed 4-1 on a roll call vote, with Supervisor LeRoy DeBoer casting the lone dissenting vote.

According to the county auditor’s office, the measure needs to have three readings at three separate meetings unless one or more of the readings are waived; and then needs final approval and publication before becoming official.

Click here to see a draft copy of the threatened lawsuit.

Area Home Base Iowa Declarations Being Awarded This Week

Home Base IowaNorthwest Iowa — Governor Terry Branstad will be in northwest Iowa Tuesday and Wednesday to deliver Home Base Iowa Designations in O’Brien, Lyon and Sioux Counties.  Home Base Iowa is an initiative designed to provide a welcoming atmosphere to military veterans who are leaving the service, to provide them encouragement to live and work in the Home Base Iowa communities.

The Governor’s first Home Base Iowa stop will be Tuesday afternoon when he presents the Home Base Iowa designation to O’Brien County in a ceremony at the Veteran’s Memorial at the City Park in Sheldon.  That ceremony is scheduled for 4:00 pm Tuesday.

Sheldon Chamber and Development Executive Director Curt Strouth tells us what counties and communities are required to do to earn the Home Base Iowa Designation.

Strouth says an incentive package also has to be put together to attract the veterans.

He says the Home Base Iowa areas also need to provide proper signage.

As part of the Home Base Iowa designations, Governor Branstad will also be designating Northwest Iowa Community College as a CHAMPS institution.  NCC President, Dr. Alethea Stubbe tells us what the CHAMPS designation is.

Dr. Stubbe says that, while most of the requirements for the CHAMPS designation are already in place at NCC, there were a few additional things the college had to do to qualify.

Dr. Stubbe says that one of the educational benefits of CHAMPS is that veterans and their dependents receive automatic in-state tuition, regardless of residency requirements.

The O’Brien County Home Base Iowa Designation Event is scheduled for 4:00 to 5:00 pm Tuesday.

After the O’Brien County event, the Governor will head to Glynlyon in Rock Rapids for the Lyon County Home Base Iowa designation, which is scheduled for 7:00 Tuesday evening.

The final Home Base Iowa event for the Governor’s trip is scheduled for 8:30 Wednesday morning, when he’ll take part in the Sioux County Home Base Iowa event at the Sioux County Courthouse in Orange City.

United Fund Giving Slows, Still On Pace Overall

Sheldon, Iowa — Donations to the 2015 Sheldon United Fund are slowing, but the fund drive is still on pace to finish on goal.

The drive continues through the rest of the year. The goal this year is $31,000.United Fund 2015 The funds are now at $14,314.

The fund drive is now 42% finished. The funds are at about 46% of goal. Over $16,500 has yet to be raised. To finish on goal, the drive now needs to average about $1,770 per week through the rest of the year. In the last week, donors only gave $295.

Contributions may be left at any of the four Sheldon banks, or you can also send them to PO Box 41, Sheldon, IA 51201. Essays explaining each organization are available at the banks.

Each week we’re mentioning a few of the organizations that benefit from your donations. This time the list includes:

  • Family Crisis Center of Northwest Iowa
  • Foster Grandparent Program
  • Girl Scouts
  • His Little Ones Preschool
  • Love In the Name of Christ

The United Fund will be assisting 25 different organizations in Sheldon and the surrounding communities this year, and they thank you for your contribution.

All School Districts Now Part Of Teacher Leadership Program

Des Moines, Iowa — Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds have announced that all 336 Iowa school districts have applied to join the state’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System — what they call, “the most comprehensive teacher leadership system in the nation.”
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They say that this targeted effort to tap into the expertise of top teachers to better support the more demanding work that teachers are expected to do and to raise student achievement, is the centerpiece of the landmark education reform package adopted by the Legislature and signed by Branstad in 2013.

The legislation created a three-year phase-in process to develop a statewide teacher leadership system, with the goal of all school districts participating by the 2016-17 school year. As of the end of last week, all school districts in Iowa have developed and submitted local plans to participate in the teacher leadership system. When the teacher leadership system is fully phased-in, it will cost $150 million annually.

Brandstad and Reynolds say that the teacher leadership system rewards outstanding teachers with leadership opportunities, attracts promising teachers with competitive starting salaries and support, and fosters greater collaboration for all teachers to learn from each other.

Reyonds says that in order to achieve our goal of making Iowa schools the best in the nation, we must continue to be innovative in our approach.

Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said feedback from Iowa teachers and principals has been overwhelmingly positive.

For more information on the teacher leadership system, click here.