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Don’t leave these 10 local news stories in 2022

In case you missed it, some of the most memorable stories of the year

Construction, labor shortages, and housing issues were common themes in 2022. Before ringing in the new year, take time to remember these news stories from the staff at The Gazette.

Homelessness has tripled in Cedar Rapids since 2019

The City of Cedar Rapids cleared a homeless encampment on Sinclair Levee Dec. 1. This displaced a community of people who helped one another survive despite homelessness brought on by the pandemic, derecho and personal hardships. In this series, The Gazette’s Elijah Decious and Savannah Blake put names and faces to an issue hiding in plain sight.

Mobile home residents waited years for new homes but development was abandoned

In 2019, a $200 million project was approved to redevelop Iowa City’s blighted Forest View mobile home park into a multifamily housing and commercial space. Forest View residents were promised first consideration for the new housing. But economic conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic halted the project. In April 2022, the Iowa City Council approved a voluntary relocation program for Forest View residents. Eligible households received relocation assistance of $15,750.

Meet the Westerns, Black farmers in Iowa for more than a century

The Western family has owned farmland in Iowa since 1864, and the tradition continues. The Westerns’ farm is one of only about 1,700 Heritage Farms — 150 years or more — in Iowa, and likely the only one owned by a Black family.

“I’ve had people upset me that have said, ‘Why don’t you just rent this out?’” Christopher Western said of the Black Hawk County farm. “That wouldn’t have done him (their father) justice for how hard he worked. I’m sure he’s very proud of us that we came together and kept this going.”

What will it take to make Iowa’s beaches safe again?

Iowa’s public beaches are plagued by bacteria and algae. Kevin Gull, a 65-year-old farmer from Guttenberg, avoids touching Iowa waters entirely after a vicious infection almost killed him after sitting with his feet in the Mississippi River. Gull still suffers from ongoing health risks from the encounter.

An analysis of 20 years of state beach monitoring data by The Gazette and Investigate Midwest showed that although some beaches’ tests display some progress, Iowa’s beaches overall show little to no improvement in the past two decades.

Proposed pipeline hangs in the air

Having wrapped up its required public informational meetings, Wolf Carbon Solutions is moving into the next stage of its work toward building a carbon sequestration pipeline across a portion of Iowa. The pipeline is one of three being proposed in Iowa, and it’s the only one that would pass through a portion of Linn County.

Meanwhile, the Linn County Board of Supervisors is poised to consider approval of an ordinance in 2023 that would dictate how close to structures a hazardous pipeline could be built. A draft of the ordinance was approved on first reading in December, but supervisors tabled it to give the county more time to consider the ordinance’s language.

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The Gazette asked experts how much carbon dioxide would pipelines actually remove.

Labor shortages affect education, courts, health care

School districts are struggling to attract and retain staff. The Cedar Rapids Community School District lost 126 teachers at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, up from 100 the previous year. Teachers — especially special education teachers — and bus drivers are in high demand.

Meanwhile, the country is facing a “crisis level” shortage of court reporters and nurses. The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reports the pandemic was, “ … like a gust of wind toppling a house of cards, nurses near retirement, looking for better pay or smoldering toward burnout submitted two-week notices in droves.”

One solution to labor shortages may lie in child care.

Ingredion workers on strike in Cedar Rapids

In August, members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Works and Grain Millers Union Local 100G at Ingredion in Cedar Rapids went on strike to oppose proposed overtime changes and job cuts.

In November, as the strike entered its fifth month, Gazette Social Video Producer Bailey Cichon spoke to picketers. They expressed their frustrations with negotiations and the corporation, whose spokeswoman via email expressed its continued interest in “reaching a mutually beneficial agreement.” Ingredion has maintained operations during the strike using existing employees and workers from an outside staffing agency.

How do police communicate with non-native English speakers?

Iowa does not offer incentives for officers who speak more than one language. The Gazette spoke with 39 law enforcement agencies in Eastern Iowa. Twelve agencies had at least one bilingual officer. Of those 12, all but one spoke Spanish.

Cedar Rapids development projects continue to take shape

Construction will remain a common site near downtown Cedar Rapids as work on a mixed-use development continues. The plan for the land is First and First West, a development that includes housing, hotel rooms, restaurants and a brewery. Meanwhile, a flood barrier was installed downtown and there are plans for flood control in all four quadrants of the city. Additional projects are in the works throughout the city. These projects focus on improving multifamily housing, underdeveloped business districts and greenway space.

Why Cedar Rapids streetlights glow purple

The inconsistent lighting on the S-curve of I-380 through Cedar Rapids was not on purpose, officials told The Gazette in June. It comes from the deterioration of LED streetlight heads, and was being replaced by the Iowa DOT.