IowaWatch accepting nominations for returning Berry, Brubaker awards

URBANDALE, Iowa – IowaWatch is taking nominations for the Stephen Berry and Randy Brubaker Free Press Champion awards. The awards are being presented this year after a break in 2020 due to COVID-19. “We are thrilled to bring these awards back after a year off,” Suzanne Behnke, editor of IowaWatch – the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. “These awards recognize the Iowans who bolster democracy as journalists and open records advocates, often persisting through opposition. I can’t think of a more important time to honor those who do this important public service work on behalf of Iowans.”

Nominations can be sent to Behnke at Suzanne-behnke@iowawatch.org by Oct.

Evans: Government cuts corners on public participation

Several times a week, someone contacts me because they had difficulty learning about a government meeting or ran into obstacles trying to get government records. These calls and emails to the Iowa Freedom of Information Council come more frequently than just a few years ago. This is a troubling trend because there is growing citizen distrust of government at all levels. It should not be this way. Government officials in Iowa already have the power to make these citizen frustrations disappear — if they want to.

Evans: Charter schools must have sunshine, too

The 2021 session of the Iowa Legislature will end in a few weeks, and one big issue moving toward a final vote would make charter schools easier to create as an alternative to the traditional K-12 public schools. Others can debate the pros and cons of charter schools and House File 813, the bill that is awaiting debate and a vote in the Senate. That’s not my purpose here today. But I want to sound a cautionary note:

If the Legislature wants to make it easier to establish these independent schools and provide them with state tax money to operate, then lawmakers should amend House File 813 to ensure these schools are subject to Iowa’s public records laws. As written, the bill already states that meetings of the charter schools’ boards of directors would have to be open to the public.

Iowa officials stymie public information requests during pandemic

COVID-19 has Iowans wanting more information from federal, state and local governments to guide life-or-death decisions raised by the unprecedented pandemic. Is it safe to go to the store? Do masks prevent spread of the virus? Should my kids go to school in the fall? At a time when Iowans need accurate and complete information, some state agencies, including the Governor’s Office, are ignoring questions from reporters, refusing to do interviews and stalling on public records requests – sometimes for months, Iowa journalists said.