116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Gov. Kim Reynolds wants the 2022 election to be about “school choice,” drag shows and “pornographic” books in public schools. New abortion restrictions are coming. Toss in some tax cuts.
But what about competency? Old fashioned, I know.
We found out this past week, thanks to the reporting of Iowa Capital Dispatch’s Clark Kauffman, that hundreds of complaints against nursing homes are sitting in a holding pattern. That includes 201 complaints that are more than 120 days old and 24 that have been awaiting action for more than a year.
The Department of Inspections and Appeals blames the pandemic for the backlog.
In 2021, Kauffman reported on how training requirements for nurse aides, who provide much of the care in nursing homes, were waived during the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, Iowa ranked 50th in on-site in visits to facilities.
These are just a few examples of the governor’s greatest misses.
Looking back at the early days of the pandemic, when coronavirus was spreading and Iowans were dying, the governor gave a no-bid $26 million contract to some Utah tech bros who formed Nomi Health. Nomi led the state’s coronavirus testing program. She hired the company on the advice of Iowa-born actor Ashton Kutcher. Has he even played a doctor on TV?
In January 2021 the governor and her aides appeared in a marketing video for Domo, one of the companies along with Nomi that launched the testing program.
Reynolds used $21 million in federal COVID dollars for a human resources computer system, even though the contract for the system was bid before the pandemic. State Auditor Rob Sand cried foul, as did the federal government, and Reynolds had to return the money. She also used $450,000 in COVID bucks to pay 21 staff members in her office for three months.
"What is not clear, is why these salaries were not included in the governor's budget set prior to the fiscal year and prior to the pandemic," Sand said in an audit report.
You might also recall when Reynolds and the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration took the word of meatpacking company executives who claimed they were doing all they could to keep workers safe in close quarters. Thousands of meatpacking workers contracted COVID and some died. The state underestimated the number of meatpacking cases and refused to tell reporters which plants were affected unless they were asked about a specific outbreak.
Earlier this year, a U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said executives from the largest meatpacking companies “engaged in a concerted effort with Trump Administration political officials to insulate themselves from coronavirus-related oversight, to force workers to continue working in dangerous conditions, and to shield themselves from legal liability for any resulting worker illness or death.” They also falsely claimed there was a meat shortage.
In May 2020, Reynolds met with former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence to tout the state’s coronavirus response, including at meatpacking plants. She thanked the president for using executive authority to mandate that plants remain open.
"One of the great stories of the coronavirus outbreak has been that our food supply has continued to work every day, from the field to the fork, from the grocers to the meat processors," Pence said. No mention of the workers.
Corporate hog executive were more fortunate than meatpacking workers. In January 2021 the Associated Press reported that the Reynolds’ administration coordinated COVID testing at the suburban West Des Moines headquarters of Iowa Select Farms in July 2020. Owners of the large hog producer are among her largest campaign donors.
In 2019, a foundation tied to Iowa Select auctioned off an afternoon with the governor, for $4,250.
Testing in schools? Not so much. Reynolds turned down $95 million to pay for surveillance testing in schools. So the same governor who banned mask mandates in schools and took local control away from school districts trying to contain the virus didn’t want kids tested. Nothing to see here.
In February, the state paid out $4.9 million in fees to attorneys who represented former students of the Boys State Training School in Eldora. They sued over the use of isolation and restraints and a lack of available mental health care. U.S. Judge Stephanie Rose said school officials showed “deliberate indifference” to the students’ constitutional rights.
In April, Reynolds announced the closure of the Glenwood Resource Center, a move long overdue. But it came only after years of problems and a Department of Justice investigation. In December 2021, federal inspectors reported that Glenwood violated the constitutional rights of residents, denied them proper medical care and subjected them to human experiments, including sexual arousal research.
The governor still faces a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and news organizations over her administration’s failure to follow Iowa’s open records law.
In 2020, she said she regretted that Iowa didn’t get to sign on to a lawsuit filed by Texas attempting to void millions of presidential votes cast in four states, all in the service to the big lie claiming rampant election fraud where none existed.
After a shooting outside a Des Moines high school left one dead and two wounded, Reynolds blamed “our educational system.”
Iowa’s child care and mental health care systems have remained inadequate to meet growing needs under her watch. University tuition is rising. Her assault on public schools has contributed to a teacher shortage. Iowa’s waterways remain dirty and impaired. The list goes on and on.
At least some of these sagas would be appropriate fodder for the Legislature’s Oversight Committee. But Republicans who run the Golden Dome of Wisdom have seen no reason to provide any oversight. If a Democratic governor did this stuff, the hearings would never end.
You may notice a thread running through these stories. Vulnerable Iowans and constituencies the governor doesn’t care about were often are on the losing side. Nursing home residents, meatpacking workers, mental health facility residents, etc. There’s a cruelty wrapped up in this incompetence. As for her high-dollar donors, they’ve got to be sick of all the winning.
Forget about the drag shows and other distractions for a moment. Is this the person we want running our state?
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