Evans: Needless confusion about First Amendment

Forty-five words that were first written with a quill pen 230 years ago form what may be the most consequential sentence in United States history. But that sentence also is one of the most misunderstood – as recent comments from some of our leaders illustrate. The sentence I refer to is the First Amendment. It is the Constitution’s guarantee of fundamental rights of the American people to live their lives without government butting in. For reference, here is what the amendment says in full: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Evans: We don’t need a leader like this one

I was a kid from small-town Iowa when I first laid eyes on the United States Capitol. It was 1962. My family squeezed into our Dodge and drove to our nation’s capital for the vacation of a lifetime. It was all about history. We walked through the White House.

The people behind a rural Iowa school district enduring the coronavirus

Gusty winds blew corn husks through the school’s parking lot on November 16 at South Hamilton Schools. This piece is part of a collaborative reporting project that includes the Institute for Nonprofit News, Charlottesville Tomorrow, El Paso Matters, IowaWatch, The Nevada Independent, New Mexico in Depth, Underscore News/Pamplin Media Group and Wisconsin Watch/The Badger Project. The collaboration was made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. It was another day of the staff trying to keep up with the daily reports of sickened students and faculty, making sure kids pumped hand sanitizer and wore face masks nearly all the time, properly social distanced during band practice and lunch periods, and pivoted from teaching in-person and virtual learners while taking extra time to help those struggling. 

Even the lunchroom is different this year. Cafeteria tables limit seating.

Evans: No justification for shutting out the public

There are some high-minded legal principles written into Iowa laws and rulings by our state’s Supreme Court. But in recent weeks, one of those sound principles has run into a few closed-minded state officials and the closed doors of government. Some officials prefer to conduct the people’s business without being bothered with having the pesky public around. This has occurred during the Iowa Board of Regents process for learning what students and employees at the University of Iowa hope to see in a new UI president. This has occurred as the Iowa Department of Public Health tapped into the advice of medical experts on what priorities should be established for access to the new coronavirus vaccines.

Evans: Unemployment is not the same for everyone

The boss told Gus Malzahn on Sunday that he was no longer needed. His employment was ending immediately. With that blunt conversation, Malzahn became another statistic of 2020. He took his place next to the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs this year — a year when unemployment, at times, rivaled those dreadfully dark days of the Great Depression. But Malzahn is not in the same boat as most of the others. 
He won’t have to be up before dawn to get into a food line.

Evans: U.S. House is wrong place to decide who won

Tone-deaf. That’s the dismal state of the political discourse in our nation these days. Regrettably, Iowa has an all-too-prominent role in this bumbling lack of awareness of how our democracy is being eaten away by the people who want to be our leaders. Pour yourself a glass of Maalox. You will need it, because your acid indigestion will flare up before we get far in today’s discussion.

Coronavirus muddies financial waters for parks

Early in 2020, a movement picked up pace at the Iowa State Capitol to provide more money to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Gov. Kim Reynolds presented the Invest in Iowa Act, which would increase the state sales tax by a penny to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust. It was a move 10 years in the making. In 2010, Iowans voted to create the trust fund through a constitutional amendment, but the fund has never been funded. The governor’s plan would have tweaked the original formula to finance not only water quality and conservation programs but also mental health programs, while cutting income and property taxes.