Civic News & Info
Editorial from Congressman Bruce Braley: We must save our rural post offices PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Alexandra Krasov   
Tuesday, 10 May 2011 14:19

For hundreds of years, Americans have relied on their local post office as their main form of communication. Before Facebook, text messages, emails, and even cables, we had letters and packages, thanks to the postal service that delivered them to our door and our town. Postal workers and letter carriers were, and still are, the driving force to ensure that everyAmerican has access to consistent, reliable mail service. But now thatservice is in jeopardy as Washington politicians put more and more rural post offices on the chopping block.

In my own family, my wife’s grandfather worked as a letter carrier. After serving in World War I, he came home and went to work as a letter carrier for the post office in Dubuque, Iowa. He was so well regarded and respected among his fellow letter carriers that he was presented with a gavel made out of timber from the White House. Now, that gavel – and the pride in one’s work and community that it symbolizes – is a prized possession in our household.

During the Second World War, my father relied on the post office as his only form of communication with his family. Half a world away, he was only 18 when he served at Iwo Jima, but he was still able to send and receive letters from his mother and his loved ones. If it weren’t for the hardworking employees of the United States Postal Service (USPS), these letters would never have made their way to him. And on Mother’s Day in 1945, while he was recuperating on Guam, my father used the mail to send flowers to his mother in Iowa.

Today, many Iowans still rely on their local post office for their main form of communication. Whether you use the post office to write letters to loved ones far away or to send and receive packages, the post office continues to be a reliable and necessary service. And even in the age of electronic communication, small-town post offices serve as the heart of so many communities across Iowa. Going into your local post office is about more than just getting the mail – it’s about catching up on the local gossip, checking in on friends and neighbors, and staying connected to your community. Our local post offices provide good-paying jobs to Iowans and they remain astrong presence in many small-town economies.

Unfortunately, in recent years we’ve witnessed the closing of many post offices across the state. In towns like Volga, St. Olaf and Arlington, post offices have already been closed. And now communities like Evansdale and New Hartford are facing closures of their own. Some of these closings have come so abruptly that communities don’t even have a chance to make their protests heard or rally to save the post office.

But now, bending to political pressure, the USPS is planning to close even more small-town post offices. The USPS has proposed new regulations that would consolidate or close many small town post offices.

That’s not the way we treat our neighbors in Iowa, and I will continue to make sure our rural communities have a voice when it comes to issues that affect them. That’s why, just this week, I sent a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe expressing my grave concern over these new proposed regulations. I urged the Postmaster General to reconsider and not to issue new government regulations that would lead to the closing of even more rural post offices in our state. I strongly believe that these closings would lead to job loss and would cause many headaches for Iowans in rural communities who rely on their local post office. But I also know that if we stand together and make our voice heard, we can prevent these closings.

After the 2008 floods devastated parts of our district, the post office in Greene was in danger of closing. The post office was badly damaged because of the floods, but as the people of Greene rallied to repair and revive after the flooding, I was pleased to work with the community to help prevent this post office from closing. And just like I did then, I intend to keep fighting for all the post offices in my district.

With our growing national deficit, we certainly need to look at all the ways we can save money. But closing post offices that so many small towns and rural communities rely on will not solve the financial troubles of the USPS or the U.S. government – it will serve as a financial and moral blow to Iowans who can least afford it. The United States Postal Service has a long and proud history. Shuttering the post offices that serve as the hearts andsouls of our small towns would be a devastating closing chapter.

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Analysis of House Republican Plan to Reduce Funding for Law Enforcement in Iowa PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Monday, 09 May 2011 13:20
DATE: May 6, 2011

On Friday, April 15th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget for the upcoming year on a party line vote.  The plan sharply reduces the federal government’s investments in education and infrastructure – investments that are necessary to ensure our country remains competitive in the global economy and generates jobs in both the short and long term.  It makes huge reductions in spending that are largely offset by completely extending the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax breaks, which were targeted towards the very wealthy.  

The House Republican plan would also significantly reduce funding for state and local law enforcement assistance provided by the Department of Justice by calling for the same cuts proposed in H.R.1, the budget proposal that was put forth by the House, and rejected by the Senate, earlier this year. These cuts would eliminate $250 million from state and local law enforcement, most significantly impacting the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program and Community Oriented Police Services (COPS).


Last year, over $24 million in Byrne grants came to Iowa, supporting jobs for over 90 Iowans who are directly responsible for making our state safer.

In Iowa, Byrne-funded drug task forces:
  • Were responsible for over 2,400 felony arrests;
  • Dismantled 275 gangs;
  • Seized over 8,200 illegal firearms;
  • Seized nearly 20,000 kilograms of illicit drugs, like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.


In Iowa, COPS grants have funded over 770 police offers and sheriff deputies, and last year funded over 25 police officers on Iowa’s streets. If the House budget were to be approved, 15 of these officers would lose their jobs.

During a recovering economy, crime does not stop and we should not abdicate government's responsibility to keep communities safe. Cuts to law enforcement will make streets less safe and the nation less secure. For FY11, Senator Harkin fought hard to keep the dangerous cuts in H.R. 1 from being enacted and he intends to do the same as the Senate considers FY12 budget proposals.

The measure now comes to the U.S. Senate for consideration.  

“This budget proposal is an unprecedented assault on middle class Americans who are already struggling to make ends meet,” said Harkin.  “What is particularly egregious is the devastating impact these cuts would have on the safety of Iowa communities, which rely on federal assistance to keep law enforcement officials on the streets.  Iowans deserve to know that they can have the peace of mind that comes from residing in a safe community.  There is no question that the time has come for tough budget decisions, but the smart way to bring down the deficit is for Congress to pursue a balanced approach of major spending cuts and necessary revenue increases, not by indiscriminately cutting common sense law enforcement funds that keep our families and communities secure.”

Harkin’s full statement on the House budget proposal can be found here.

Rather than a pessimistic budget, which says America can’t afford to maintain and rebuild the middle class, Senator Harkin believes we need a budget that creates a better future – one that creates jobs, keeps our promises to seniors, educates our children, and reduces the deficit with smart spending cuts and by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.

 
Harkin Opposes Proposal that Would Allow USPS to More Easily Close Rural Post Offices PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Tuesday, 03 May 2011 12:59
WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 3, 2011 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today wrote to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in opposition to a proposed regulation that would give the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) the right to convert post offices into stations or branches of larger post offices at their discretion.  Once converted, the USPS would then be able to close rural post offices without any consultation with local citizens or concern about the impact on a rural economy.  As Harkin points out in the letter, it appears that the proposed regulations are designed specifically to circumvent current laws to ensure local voices are heard.  Currently in Iowa, many post offices are facing potential closures that would disrupt service.

“Conveniently located post offices and a reliable postal delivery system are essential to keeping communities connected and businesses strong – particularly in rural areas of the country,” said Harkin.  “Allowing the USPS to close post offices without listening to local concerns could interrupt reliable service to residents and hurt local businesses, all without consulting those it would most directly impact.  While I strongly believe that we must push for a more cost effective and efficient postal system, this proposed regulation is simply misguided and I urge the Postmaster General to change his course on this issue.”

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Additionally, Harkin yesterday joined with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Steve King (R-IA) in writing to the USPS to ask that the Postal Service make public the details of the Area Mail Processing (AMP) Study that is being used by the Postal Service to weigh the move of Sioux City's mail processing operations to Sioux Falls.  A copy of that letter can be found here.

 
Governor Quinn Statement on Federal Court Decision PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Andrew Mason   
Monday, 02 May 2011 11:26

MARION, IL – April 29, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today released a statement in response to the recent federal court decision regarding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ ability to avert crisis in southern Illinois.

“I thank the court for making the right decision in allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take the steps it deems necessary to ensure public safety during this crisis. We must now continue to work together to protect the lives of everyone affected by this severe flooding. My hope is that this decision will be upheld as it proceeds through the judicial process.”

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Grassley supports Branstad’s request for federal disaster assistance PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 02 May 2011 09:33

WASHINGTON – April 28, 2011 - Senator Chuck Grassley has asked the President to grant the request made by Governor Terry Branstad for a declaration of a major disaster in response to the tornadoes, high winds, heavy rain, large hail and thunderstorms that swept through Buena Vista, Cherokee, Ida, Monona, Pocahontas and Sac counties on April 9 and 10.

In a letter of request sent today to President Barack Obama, Grassley said, “The Governor determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments to handle effectively and federal assistance is needed.”

Grassley visited Mapleton and Early two weeks ago to see the tornado damage and talk with local residents about the recovery effort.

Here is the text of Grassley’s letter to the President:

April 28, 2011

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States of America

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I respectfully ask that you grant the request made by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for a declaration of a major disaster for the State of Iowa as a result of a severe weather system that produced tornadoes, high winds, heavy rain, large hail, and thunderstorms on April 9-10, 2011.  The storms moved into Iowa and severely impacted Buena Vista, Cherokee, Ida, Monona, Pocahontas, and Sac Counties.

The Governor determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments to handle effectively and federal assistance is needed.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

 
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