Reynolds must listen to succeed

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I’m simply hoping Gov. Kim Reynolds listens.

Sure, business interests, donors and partisans backing her politically will have the new governor’s ear plenty. She’ll, of course, have an inner circle of advisers providing counsel.

What I’m talking about is making a real, concerted effort to hear other points of view from the ranks of Iowans former Gov. Terry Branstad didn’t seem to care much about. Our outgoing governor had an awesome ‘stache, but his ears weren’t always functional.

During her inaugural address Wednesday, Reynolds said she gets the importance of reaching out and across the aisle.

“Because I learned it from my grandfather. He was an FDR Democrat, so we saw the world a little differently. As we sat around the kitchen table, we would debate — even disagree — but always with respect for each other’s view,” Reynolds said.

“Where I come from, party label didn’t matter nearly as much as getting the job done. I took that same approach with me to the Legislature, which means bringing people together to work for Iowans,” said Reynolds, a former state senator.

Welcome words. Now we need some proof.

Reynolds should resist sustaining the Branstadian custom of swiftly dismissing critics as petty partisans, enemies of growth or slackers unable to cope with change.

She should reject her predecessor’s penchant for taking big, unilateral actions affecting real people, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, without listening first to those who will be affected.

And Reynolds will do more listening if she truly wants her accomplishments to endure.

If Reynolds wants accomplishments built on sand, she’ll use the model deployed by Statehouse Republicans to wipe out collective bargaining rights for public employees. Instead of sitting down with varied interests to craft an Iowa solution, they rammed through cookie-cutter Legislation regurgitated by outside groups. It was signed into law behind closed doors.

That’s a recipe for change that won’t survive the next political wave.

Tax reform will be a good test. It’s one of Reynolds’ priorities. But will this simply be policy spawned by the usual suspects or will Reynolds dig a little deeper into how changes might affect average Iowans, their pocketbooks, the schools where they send their kids and the services they depend upon?

Water quality, sadly, didn’t make her list. But I still hope Reynolds will find out what’s really happening by seeking out experts and voices beyond the farm lobby, maybe including her husband, Kevin Reynolds, a soil conservationist. How about becoming the first Iowa governor to visit the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and the communities it affects?

I’m not saying Reynolds can’t be a Republican governor enacting Republican priorities. I’m saying she could be a far more credible governor, enacting far more credible policies.

I’m not wildly optimistic for much change. Next week, Reynolds’ historic promotion will be celebrated at a big Republican fundraiser. It will no doubt be full of business interests, donors and partisans. They’ll get first crack at the new governor’s ear.

l Comments: (319) 398-8452; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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