River Cities Reader 1000th Issue Print Edition Cover

Welcome to the 1,000th edition of the River Cities' Reader, and thanks for picking up the printed copy you are reading now. (Depicted here at the web version of this commentary is a photo of the 1000th Reader print edition. Cover illustation by Ed Newmann.) The number of editions we would print was never a metric for achieving any milestones. Still, reaching one thousand printed issues is a gratifying moment that inspires reflection and meta contemplation!

Calls for War on Poverty

On Monday, January 20th Jonathan R. Narcisse, an editor and publisher, former Des Moines School Board Director and former Co-Chair of the Polk County Democratic Party, announced his entry into the 2014 Democratic Party gubernatorial race.

Narcisse, affirming his love of Iowa and faith in Iowans, called for bold action throughout his announcement.

Invoking images of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty Narcisse announced it would be the highest priority of his administration to end poverty in Iowa. "We have the means to end poverty in this state what we have lacked is the will" stated Narcisse.

To accomplish this Narcisse again invoked images from Johnson's historic speech including embracing the principles of "efficient, honest and frugal government." Narcisse stated by eliminating waste, creating greater efficiencies and ending the fraudulent practice of funding students that do not exist, resources would be freed up to invest in education - especially vocational and technical education, early childhood education and post-secondary education.

Narcisse also stressed the importance of restoring integrity to governance in Iowa and justice to working class Iowans.

"Last night at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration in Des Moines Pastor Bobby Young recalled attending court and observing a profound disparity in justice. An affluent youth caught with a half-pound of dope was fined $3,000. An urban youth with a joint was sentenced to a year.

This type of disparity in justice is common place and the price tag is crippling. Narcisse pledged to make the restoration of justice for all Iowans a high priority.

Narcisse also stressed the importance of ending crony capitalism and white collar welfare, shifting instead to the rebuilding of our economy the right way. This includes moving towards full employment, dignity and ending the practice of taxing working Iowans to hand the money over to political allies and cronies.

Narcisse shared the story of a young woman working at Hardees in Des Moines he encountered at 3:47 a.m. in April of 2010. She discussed having to buy a prom dress for her eldest daughter, her infant daughter and having to go to her second job at 8:00 a.m.

"Why should we tax her overtime, or raise her gas taxes when she's barely making it especially when we are going to turn around and give the money to film credit schemes or an Orascom to create jobs that cost a million dollars each? Instead of raising her taxes and giving it the well connected we should be discounting her taxes and the taxes of all Iowans" Narcisse stated.

"Let her keep her money and she will build the economy the right way as will other Iowans," said Narcisse.

Narcisse did share two actions he would take his first day in office. The first would be to empower a process to save public pensions in Iowa. "The ruling by a federal judge in Detroit is very telling. We must act now to fix the public pension system in Iowa especially IPERS. We must make it actuarially sound, sustainable and honor our commitment to the men and women who served us faithfully including those who taught our children, ran into burning buildings and made our streets safe.

The second would be to restore trust in governance by ordering a process be created within thirty days to initiate forensic audits of state and local government. "When I was on the school board we had a contractor billing us for time that didn't exist; we were paying for their bottled water and cell phones. This happens throughout Iowa. Corruption is a problem. The lack of accountability is a problem. My administration day one would make divesting in corruption and restoring accountability a top priority.

Narcisse concluded by stating he doesn't have all the answers. "My job as governor is not to have all the answers but to surround myself with people smarter than me regardless of their political affiliation who will place the interests of taxpayers, our citizens, our families and especially our children above personal and political ambitions and agendas."

For more information contact Jonathan R. Narcisse at 515-770-1218, or visit www.NarcisseForGovernor.com.

Jonathan NarcisseGiven the density of Jonathan Narcisse's ideas and plans, he's smart to dispense the easy-to-grasp metaphor or example.

"Imagine you have a kid who hasn't cleaned his room for six months," Narcisse said in a phone interview last week. "And you can try to go in and you can try to clean the room. Or you can get some heavy-duty garbage bags and just go through that room and basically throw everything away, except the bed, the dresser, and a couple other things."

The 47-year-old Narcisse, a former member of the Des Moines school board, is running an independent candidacy for Iowa governor, appearing on the ballot under The Iowa Party banner. And he wants to approach Iowa state government with some heavy-duty garbage bags in hand. (Full disclosure: River Cities' Reader Publisher Todd McGreevy is a co-chair of Iowans for a Fair Debate, which is pushing for Narcisse to be included in gubernatorial debates.)

Narcisse's proposals are radical in the sense that they have no respect for the status quo. Narcisse thinks the two major-party candidates - Governor Chet Culver and former Governor Terry Branstad - are like parents who think a light cleaning is good enough. He disagrees: "We just literally wipe out the massive bureaucracy, because at the end of the day, we spend that money wiser."

In total, Narcisse is proposing cutting state and local taxes by $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year, with the caveat that equivalent spending reductions must precede tax cuts. For perspective, the Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference in March put the state's Fiscal Year 2011 general-fund receipts at $6.6 billion.

That type of bold plan has the potential to connect with voters who are dissatisfied with government and politicians.

Iowans For a Fair Debate | DebateIowa.com
Iowans For A Fair Debate Drive Launched
With Narcisse In the Gubernatorial Debates, Iowans Gain An Issues Based Election

DES MOINES, IA - August 27, 2010 | Independent gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Narcisse, running on The Iowa Party ticket, has established a new drive called "Iowans For A Fair Debate." Narcisse is soliciting support from Iowans to ensure he is included in the three scheduled debates between Governors Culver and Branstad. 

The drive, which consists of testimonials from community leaders across the state as well as an online and signed petition form available at www.DebateIowa.com, hopes to create a groundswell of popular support, resulting in inclusion.

Narcisse, a successful Iowa business owner for more than two decades, has published statewide papers serving Iowa's African American and Latino communities, college campuses and educators; hosted or been a weekly guest on TV and radio shows in Waterloo, Ft. Dodge and Des Moines and was a weekly guest on "Deace in the Afternoon" on WHO Radio 1040 AM from the show's inception until February 2010 when he announced he would be a formal gubernatorial candidate.

Not the establishment's proxy

"We have to include Jonathan in the conversation. He is not the proxy for the establishment Branstad/Culver is. He speaks for Iowans lacking access to our current political system because they can't afford lobbyists or make big political contributions. Jonathan will speak truth to power and hold entrenched vested interests accountable," stated longtime Democratic party activist and neighborhood leader Fran Koontz of Des Moines, chairperson for Narcisse For Iowa.

Narcisse generated much attention at the Iowa State Fair where he spent several days meeting and greeting thousands of Iowans personally. He was undefeated in capturing the State Fair Chess Championship, garnered state wide media coverage for his tax and education reform proposals during his "Soap Box" presentation, and surprised pollsters from the Iowa Family Policy Center Action coming in second with 21.3% compared to Culver's 16%.

"During the debates we will hear both Governors pander. In the end, however, both are funded by the same powerful interests such as the Kirke gambling empire. Both have ignored the abuses of bad citizens like Jack DeCoster, a deriliction of duty that could now cost Iowa its standing in the egg industry.

Both advanced the same core policies in areas of governance ranging from how they accounted for state money to their failure to reform areas like education, health and human services and the justice system. Areas of government that command more than 90% of the state's general fund appropriations according to the state's 2009 Fiscal Facts booklet," stated Koontz.

"Jonathan is a man of passion and conviction with the courage to do what's right for Iowa and Iowans. Jack DeCoster would have been held accountable by a Narcisse Administration," exclaims Koontz. "Jonathan is also very data driven and solution oriented. He's not a single issue or headline driven candidate. His inclusion in the debate will mean Iowans will hear meaningful systemic answers to how we create accountable government, restore world class education, rebuild a strong economy and promote a healthy Iowa by example," stated Koontz.

McGreevy named inclusion drive chair

The Narcisse For Iowa campaign has named key leadership for the statewide debate inclusion drive.

Todd McGreevy, who publishes the River Cities' Reader newspaper and website, is based in Davenport and is a Central Committee Member of Scott County's Iowans for Accountability agreed to chair the debate inclusion drive for varied reasons but in part because, as a property owner in Downtown Davenport he feels Narcisse is providing real leadership on the issue of income tax and property tax reform.

"If elevating the community dialog or even increasing viewership is still a goal for the mainstream media outlets who are hosting the three gubernatorial debates this fall, it behooves the organizers to sincerely and publicly respond to why Jonathan Narcisse should NOT be in the debates."

The criteria for inclusion in the debates has not been published by the debate sponsors. Recent polling since the ballot deadline of August 13th has not included Narcisse as an option and no poll that his campaign is aware of has bothered to include even a "None of the Above" option. The televised debates are being held in Sioux City (Sept 14), Cedar Rapids (Oct 7) and Johnston (Oct 21).

"Beyond being on the ballot as an independent under the Iowa Party, Narcisse is eminently qualified to challenge the two incumbent governors in a debate forum. He's served on the state's largest school board with much noteriety and press coverage for his reformist investigations," says McGreevy. "His Iowa governance survey published in 2009 is entitled An Iowa Worth Fighting For. Rarely does a candidate document such detailed analysis and innovative ideas as a pathway to solve Iowa's problems.

"Without Narcisse in the debates, Iowans will hear nothing beyond tired partisan finger pointing. Iowans will hear no articulate, specific ideas for new transformative governance in Iowa. Without Narcisse, the incumbent governors will get a pass on addressing the issues of tax reform, zero based budgeting, and education -- for the rest of the campaign. The debates will be boring and predictable and Iowans will walk away with not one new idea.

"With Narcisse in the debates, there is sure to be a massive amount of interest, throughout the state, in a race that otherwise inspires no one," stated McGreevy.

Reed named inclusion drive co-chair

Walter Reed, who served as head of the Waterloo Human Rights Commission for a decade will co-chair the debate inclusion drive. Reed was appointed to the Iowa Corrections Board in 2000 by former Gov. Tom Vilsack and served in that capacity until 2005 when Vilsack elevated him to head the Iowa Department of Human Rights. He continued in that capacity under Gov. Culver until 2009 when he was appointed to fill the vacancy of Curtis Jenkins on the Iowa Parole Board by Gov. Culver.

"As the Director of the Waterloo Human Rights Commission I became familiar with Jonathan's efforts across 99 counties documenting the state of African Americans in Iowa but also exposing the state's growing urban challenges."

In his 3,500 page report Narcisse identified solutions utilized by both state and local government officials. Even the White House developed a collaboration with Narcisee, following his statewide health and education hearings. "The initiatives enjoyed true bi-partisan support," says Reed.

"Now Iowa has become more urban than rural. The senseless violence that took place at this year's Iowa State Fair has garnered widespread media attention yet those of us that live in the heart of Waterloo, Des Moines, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Burlington, Iowa City, know this type of mass chaos is taking place nearly every weekend in our urban centers. At times these mass incidents lead to serious gunplay," said Reed. "Yet the media and political leaders have ignored this ongoing urban crisis."

"Iowa's urban areas have real challenges beyond escalating youth and gang violence in areas like housing, unemployment, and education - every school district within Iowa's Urban Eight is officially failing, according to the Culver administration. And it is clear neither Governor Culver or Governor Branstad has solutions for these challenges if they even understand them.

"There is perhaps no Iowan that has a better grasp of the myriad challenges facing Iowa's urban centers than Jonathan Narcisse," stated Reed who cited the work done prior to the school board around the state which gained national attention for its reformist results.  "As a member of the Des Moines School Board, publisher in Des Moines and host of various urban based shows on KBBG FM in Waterloo he has proven to be an effective advocate for all Iowa's urban centers. His contributions are much needed in these debates," concluded Reed.

A former rival encourages inclusion

Des Moines School Board Director Dick Murhpy, president of the board while Narcisse served, shared the following statement regarding the importance of including Narcisse in the debates:

"While I will not endorse Jon Narcisse's candidacy for governor, I will support including him in the gubernatorial debates. In fact, I think it would be good for the campaigns of the other candidates and for Iowa voters to listen to what Mr. Narcisse has to say. The two major candidates have political machines that will be busy undermining their opposition. Mr. Narcisse has no political machine. He has to rely, merely, on defining and expanding issues about the future of Iowa.

"The two major candidates have not laid out a vision for the future of our education, our taxation, nor our health. Mr. Narcisse has. While his vision is of concern for me, at least he is focusing on important issues. Including him in the debates will force the other candidates to focus on the issues and not on each other. Include him and we will all have an issues based campaign," Murphy concluded.

Kirk supports ability to bring people together

The Rev. Rogers Kirk, Pastor of the Third Missionary Baptist Church in Davenport and President of the state's African American Baptist Churches endorsed Narcisse's candidacy in March of 2010. At the announcement he stated: "Narcisse has the ability to bring people together, and he has the right ideas to fix education and the economy in Iowa. This guy has what it takes. I know his faith. He's not one who quits."

Kirk said he's known Narcisse for about 15 years, when he became concerned about how minorities were faring in the state's education system.  Kirk has been active in Democratic politics. He was a member of President Obama's national ministry team and Scott County co-chairman of U.S. Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004.

Narcisse, during the Branstad Administration, served as the youngest chair of a state commission in the history of Iowa, the Iowa Commission on the Status of African Americans.  Last year he received a Pinnacle Award from the Culver Administration for his statewide contributions to Iowa.

He was also inducted, in December, as the youngest member ever in the history of the Iowa African American Hall of Fame. Over the years he's received more than 400 honors and awards including being recognized by the Bush, Clinton and Bush Administrations and by the Branstad, Vilsack and Culver Administrations.

Not a difficult decision

Considering the scope and depth of Narcisse's body of work, his familiarity with both the Branstad and Culver administrations and his broad appeal to both core democratic groups and social and fiscal conservatives, it is inexplicable to exclude The Iowa Party candidate from the debates.

"How can the sponsoring media, having reported on Jonathan in well over four hundred media reports this past decade, ignore his candidacy when it comes to the debates? Excluding Jonathan from these televised conversations would be a travesty and a disservice to all Iowans looking for an alternative to a sixth term of the Branstad/Culver administration," stated Koontz.

Narcisse, 47 years old, has two second place finishes in U.S. Chess Championships and went undefeated as a semi-pro boxer in the D.C. area with a 17-0 record. He is the father of three children Johnce, Integrity and Perseverance and has three grandchildren. Since August of 2009 Narcisse has completed one 99 county circuit in Iowa and is seven counties short of a second complete 99 county circuit.

# # #
Contact Information
Jonathan Narcisse / info@NarcisseForIowa.com / 515-770-1218
Co-Chair, Walter Reed / 515-771-7785
Co-Chair Todd McGreevy / todd.mcgreevy@gmail.com / 563-650-0120


"None of the Above" Campaign

Continues at the State Fair

DES MOINES, IA - Friday, August 13, 2010 - Jonathan Narcisse, an independent candidate for Governor running on the "Iowa Party" ticket submitted nominating petitions containing signatures from nearly 1,900 Iowans from 47 counties and was ballot certified by the Secretary of State's office at close of business August 12, 2010.

The Narcisse For Iowa campaign started collecting signatures in late June following the announcement of Rick Marlar (Washington, IA) as his running mate but discovered last week, on the eve of turning in the signatures, that the Secretary of State's office changed the petition form for the gubernatorial race on their website July 20, 2010. Rather than risk a challenge by using the previously collected signatures, the Narcisse For Iowa campaign started anew. The new signatures, to put an independent on the ballot, were gathered in just over a week.

"The Secretary of State's office was very gracious and provided our campaign a letter approving use of the old petition forms. I knew, however, our campaign had the organizational strength and human resource power to collect the required signatures and secure support from the number of counties required. The window left open before the filing deadline was never daunting to us. It invigorated our team, especially in light of the skepticism that we could even qualify for the ballot, to begin with. We did it in just over a week. Plus, as a former boxer, I appreciate the value of a tune up and this exercise served as an excellent warm up for our official 99 county campaign," stated Narcisse.

Narcisse, who is seven counties short of completing his second 99 county circuit, has seen a rising tide of grassroots support emerge for his "None of the Above" campaign.

"Entering the contest we had strong support from various constituencies - teachers, labor, pro-family Catholics, and the African American community - on the Democratic side - all groups significantly betrayed by the Culver Administration. We have also enjoyed support from significant numbers of constitutionalist and fiscal and social accountability advocates that have heard my views during weekly radio appearances on KWMT in Fort Dodge, KBBG in Waterloo and WHO Radio, with its statewide audience," stated Narcisse.

"One pleasant surprise has been the number of Vander Plaat supporters breaking our way. They understand, despite the rhetoric of candidate Branstad, that his sixteen years in office make it clear he just doesn't care about their priorities. So I'm seeing a lot of that support pour my way especially from rural communities," stated Narcisse.

"Iowans are not enthusiatic about a sixth Branstad/Culver administration. Despite the two waging the most negative campaign in Iowa's history an honest examination of their records, practices, policies and especially their contributors, confirms the differences between these two men are primarily stylistic not substantive. Neither has offered a concrete plan to address the critical challenges facing our state. If they have I'd love to read it," stated Narcisse.

"As a member of the Des Moines School Board I fought for our children, parents, teachers and taxpayers and spoke truth to power without compromise. Iowans are hungry for that type of open, honest and accessible leadership that will place their needs and the needs of their children and this state above partisan and special interest politics. I bring that to the table," stated Narcisse.

"Our campaign also brings to the table real solutions. As I travel around the state, whether I meet with citizens, civic and political leaders or media I white board solutions. I show how we address the challenges of this state and how to pay for those solutions. In these times Iowans want to hear pragmatic ideas and common sense solutions."

The four pillars of the Narcisse for Iowa governance agenda are consistent with the values and priorities of Iowans:

* Creating accountable, efficient, and transparent government;
* Restoring a "World Class Plus" educational system;
* Rebuilding a low tax, free-market, prosperous state economy;
* Create a healthy Iowa by leading by example to fight lifestyle and obesity induced disease

Jonathan Narcisse is a former Des Moines School Board member, publisher and editor of multiple publications, radio show host and community advocate. During the early part of the decade he authored a 3,500 page report analyzing the condition of African-Americans in Iowa's 99 counties, and headed statewide health and education initiatives.

In 2009 Narcisse published "An Iowa Worth Fighting For: A Ten Step Vision Plan for 21st Century Governance." Narcisse evaluates the history of state expenditures versus population, reducing state government, corruption and accountability, tax reform, education reform through parental control and academic entrepreneurship, local control and property rights, public safety and drug interdiction and immigration reform.  The full text of this can be found at www.AnIowaWorthFightingFor.com

He has received more than 400 national, state and local honors and awards including recognition from the Bush (Sr.), Clinton and Bush administrations and the Branstad, Vilsack and Culver administrations. He has finished second twice in national chess competitions and is a multiple state champion. He also had a 17-0 record as a semi-pro boxer while living in the Washington, D.C. area.

He has a son, Johnce, and two daughters, 14 year old daughter, Integrity, an 11 year old daughter, Perseverance and three grandchildren.

Narcisse, who lives in Des Moines, will spend the next ten days at the Iowa State Fair. Following that he will host "Iowa Issue Forums" throughout the state. Details on Jonathan's grassroots campaign can be found at www.NarcisseForIowa.com.  Media can contact Jonathan directly at 515-770-1218, or at jonathan@narcisseforiowa.com.