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Obama Visits Newton on Earth Day PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 24 April 2009 15:33

President Barack Obama used a visit to Iowa on Earth Day to announce that his administration is establishing a program to authorize for the first time the leasing of federal waters for projects to generate electricity from wind as well as from ocean currents and other renewable sources.

"This will open the door to major investments in offshore clean energy," Obama said. "For example, there is enormous interest in wind projects off the coasts of New Jersey and Delaware, and today's announcement will enable these projects to move forward."

The program being established through the U.S. Department of Interior will develop the renewable-energy projects on the waters of the Outer Continental Shelf that produce electricity from wind, wave, and ocean currents. These regulations will enable the nation to tap into the ocean's sustainable resources to generate clean energy.

In a three-hour visit Wednesday, Obama toured and then spoke to an invitation-only crowd of about 200 at Trinity Structural Towers in Newton, the former Maytag appliance factory that now houses a green manufacturing facility producing towers for wind-energy production and employing dozens of former Maytag employees.

Richard Mulbrook of Trinity Structural Towers said that it's good to know the company's hard work hasn't gone unnoticed. Mulbrook used to work for Maytag before the plant closed in October 2007 and is now the maintenance manager at Trinity.

"I remember when I got let go from Maytag and the plant was closing," Mulbrook said. "It was a tough day for Newton. I worked there for 22 years, and I wasn't really sure what I was going to do afterwards. Out of the blue Trinity showed up. And Trinity, in real fashion, they came in here and made it happen in a very short time. We had some hope. We had a new beginning."

The Iowa legislature shut down much of the day Wednesday so Democrats could attend the event. Among those present were U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell, Governor Chet Culver, First Lady Mari Culver, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, Vilsack Chief of Staff John Norris, Senate President Jack Kibbie, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Michael Kiernan, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, state Senators Jack Kibbie, Bob Dvorsky, and Dennis Black, and state Representatives Tyler Olson and Ako Abdul-Samad.

Obama said his budget invests $15 billion each year for 10 years to develop clean energy, including wind power, solar power, geothermal energy, and clean-coal technology. He said if the nation fully pursues its potential for wind energy on land and offshore, wind can generate as much as 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030, creating as many as 250,000 jobs in the process.

Obama also said he believes that putting a cap on carbon pollution would be another step toward encouraging cleaner and renewable energy sources. "And in this way, every company can determine for itself whether it makes sense to spend the money to become cleaner or more efficient, or to spend the money on a certain amount of allowable pollution," he said.

Senate Passes Changes to Iowa's Sex-Offender Rules

Some Republican and Democratic senators exchanged hugs Thursday night after months of work behind closed doors to change Iowa's controversial law that prevents sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools and day cares. The legislation was met with unanimous approval by the Iowa Senate.

"This bill is an example of what is good in politics," said Senator Pat Ward (R-West Des Moines). "Democrats and Republicans have come together and worked to improve the 2,000-foot rule that applies to sex offenders. This is 2,000-foot plus. It's smarter, it's tougher, and it's safer than current law.

"This bill restricts where a sex offender is at all times, not just where they sleep at night," Ward said. "We're adding 16 hours of restrictions to each sex offender's day - restrictions on where they can go and what they do. ... As a parent, I believe that our kids and our grandkids will live in a safer state as a result of this law. One of the primary roles of government is to provide for the safety of the people. This bill does just that."

Senate File 340 would classify sex offenders into three tiers and prohibit sex offenders from working, loitering, or being present within 300 feet of "exclusionary zones," or areas where children frequent such as schools, child-care centers, playgrounds, arcades, pools, and fairs. Under the bill, the 2,000-foot law would apply only to sex offenders who have committed the worst offenses against children. The legislation is intended to bring Iowa into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act.

Senate passage of the bill was ushered in by Culver, who after weeks of silence on the issue lent his support to the bill Thursday. As of Friday morning, the House had yet to vote on the bill.

Earlier in the week, more than a dozen Iowa county sheriffs and deputies testified at a public hearing that Iowa's 2,000-foot rule has forced sex offenders underground. They said changes proposed in Senate File 340 would give law enforcement practical tools to better protect Iowa's children.

"We all agree this is a top priority," said Appanoose County Sheriff Gary Anderson, president of the Iowa Sheriff's & Deputies Association. He said when he takes his children to the park and sees a sex offender, "I feel like I'm victimizing my own children. We leave the park. Shouldn't the sex offender be the one who leaves the park?"