Government

In Cedar Rapids visit, Michael Bloomberg talks climate action

Possible 2020 hopeful says he's in Iowa to listen to voters

Ron Olson (from left) talks with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and State Sen. Rob Hogg as they look at the solar panels on the roof during a tour at Paulson Electric Company in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Ron Olson (from left) talks with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and State Sen. Rob Hogg as they look at the solar panels on the roof during a tour at Paulson Electric Company in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Whether or not he runs for president in 2020, Michael Bloomberg plans to do everything possible to make climate change the issue of the race.

“It’s already having an enormous impact on all parts of the world. It’s already having a big impact in Iowa,” the former New York mayor said during a stop Tuesday in Cedar Rapids, where he met with Democratic elected officials and activists to discuss climate change, clean energy and his future.

“Every place I have gone, people always want to talk about the climate,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg, 76, started his Cedar Rapids visit looking at snow-covered solar panels on the roof of Paulson Electric and SiteGen Solar in southwest Cedar Rapids.

Later, he headed to Des Moines for a screening of “Paris to Pittsburgh,” a documentary coproduced by Bloomberg Philanthropies and RadicalMedia about the efforts of individuals raising awareness of the threats of climate change. The film includes interviews with Iowans who have experienced flooding or who are involved in clean energy production.

While at Paulson, Bloomberg had a closed-door meeting with about a dozen people including state Sens. Liz Mathis of Hiawatha and Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids; Reps. Kirsten Running-Marquardt and Todd Taylor, both of Cedar Rapids; Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers; Democratic activists Bret Nilles, Lynette Richards and Libby Slappey; and business owners Gary Ficken and Ron Olson.

“It was a really good discussion,” Hogg said afterward. “I’m very excited to have Mike Bloomberg here (and) about the work he’s doing to help folks address climate change, clean energy and so many other important issues facing our state and our country.”

Speaking to reporters, Bloomberg, who registered as a Democrat in October, said he doesn’t know when he’ll make a decision about seeking the party’s nomination. His Iowa visit is part of an effort to learn what’s on the minds of Americans, he said.

“I don’t want to overuse the term ‘listening tour,’ but it’s (about) asking people and listening to them,” he said. He’s also talking about his agenda to address not only climate change, but guns and opioids.

“Nobody wants to take away your guns,” Bloomberg said, but he believes that gun owners agree with him that background checks should be mandatory for all gun sales, and there should be no gun sales to minors, criminals and people with mental health issues.

“The Second Amendment gives you the right to have a gun,” said Bloomberg, who later met with volunteers from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense for America, which is funded in part by Bloomberg. “I think that if you have children at home, maybe you shouldn’t have a gun. That’s just too dangerous, I think.”

Whether or not it’s the prospect of competing in the Iowa caucuses, Bloomberg has tempered his public position on corn-based ethanol, which is a $5 billion industry in the state. In a 2007 MSNBC interview, he said subsidies for ethanol “just doesn’t make any sense, unless what you’re trying to do is to help the people in Iowa and I don’t.”

Tuesday, he said “ethanol and biofuels are part of the energy mix.”

“I do think you eventually want to get to renewables where there is no burning of anything,” he said. “For the moment, it’s part of the mix.”

Hogg, who considers himself the “No. 1 advocate for climate action in the state of Iowa,” agreed that Iowans are “extraordinarily concerned about climate change regardless of party, but it’s not their only priority.

“I think we have a bigger problem immediately of defeating Donald Trump and reuniting our country and bringing politics back to some semblance of normal,” he said. “To me, that’s paramount.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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