Staff Editorial

Answering DOT call for comments is an example of democracy

A covered picnic table at a Grant Wood themed rest area on I-380 northbound in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Jun. 21, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
A covered picnic table at a Grant Wood themed rest area on I-380 northbound in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Jun. 21, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

An Iowa Department of Transportation proposal to trim the rest area program is the latest example of how residents can and should participate in state government.

Following review of federal guidelines and existing rest areas, transportation officials think they can save the state as much as $30 million over the next two decades by revamping the system.

But the plan requires shuttering 11 of the state’s 37 full-service rest stops and all 16 parking-only areas, resulting in the elimination of about 279, or 35 percent, of authorized truck parking spaces statewide.

Because such changes will affect in-state as well as visiting motorists, the Iowa DOT wants to know what the public thinks about the proposal, even as it continues to gather statistics about its possible impact on the trucking industry.

A lengthy public comment period was opened, extending to September 2019. Regardless of their stance on the proposal, we hope Iowans take advantage of the opportunity.

Rarely, if ever, has a week gone by without an editorial, guest column or community letter lamenting the public’s lack of access to government decision-making appearing in this section. No ink has been spared in documenting the Iowa Legislature’s affinity for closed-door sessions and deal-making, or the lack of transparency in various state government reports.

Fault has been found in elected officials who refuse to hold or attend open public forums. This is because not all Iowans have the luxury of traveling to Des Moines or Washington, D.C., and because standing before representatives to say what you think shouldn’t be a luxury.

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Equally important is the duty of the public to speak out, especially when specifically asked to do so.

A few suggestions:

• Take time to read the full proposal to understand why officials believe certain changes are necessary, and how conclusions were reached.

• Text-only comments are easily submitted via online forms. Drawings and other reference materials are best submitted on paper.

• Assume submissions are public record.

Public comments are vital to democracy. They provide policymakers and lawmakers the benefit of real-world experience and a broad range of perspectives.

Thoughtful participation results in policy that better serves the public. So, let your voice be heard.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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