PM News 2.24.20: New Chief Justice, IA Legislative Update, School Boundary Change? and Jazz Festival

Feb 24, 2020

JUSTICE SUSAN CHRISTENSEN
Credit AP/Brent Isenberger

The Iowa Supreme Court has selected Susan Christensen as its new chief justice.

Christensen is from Harlan and was appointed to the court by Republican Governor Kim Reynolds in 2018.

The state’s highest court had to pick a new leader after former chief justice Mark Cady died unexpectedly in November.

Justice David Wiggins has served as acting chief since then, but Wiggins plans to retire in March.

In a statement, Christensen says she will continue her work on child welfare and juvenile justice and, quote, “lead Iowa’s judiciary in a manner which provides all 99 counties with fair and impartial justice.”

Christensen is the second woman to serve as chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court. She was a district court judge and a district associate judge before that and practiced law in Harlan.

She has five children and five grandchildren.

Reynolds has made three appointments to the court. She will appoint a fourth in the coming weeks

to bring the court back to its full slate of seven justices.

A Legislative Forum took place in Sioux City over the weekend.

Iowa Representative Chris Hall of Sioux City says there’s bipartisan agreement on issues surrounding workforce.

“We are putting an emphasis on childcare issues helping parents to hopefully more affordable means to keep their children in childcare.  And, making it available in more rural areas of the state.” 

Hall also adds both Democrats and Republicans are working on workforce programs to help fill open positions in high-demand jobs.

Hall says he was relieved some bills focused on taking some people rights away did not make it through funnel week.

“Pot shots at individual groups of people also singling out people whether they are LGBTQ individuals or individuals who might be differently abled.  Finding different odd legislative ways to penalize them.” 

Chris also says the K-12 education system is one of the biggest issues for people living in his district. 

“There’s a lot of disruption in our classrooms and there’s a lot of concerns about students who may be making the learning experience more difficult for other students.

Hall says symptoms of low state funding are now showing up.  He says lower funding has been a problem for the past decade and Republicans don’t seem to want to resolve the issue.

“Every year we give a tax breaks to the top one or two percent those are dollars that are no longer available to educate our children.”

Hall talked to Siouxland Public Media after the forum held by the League of Women Voters at the Public Museum on Saturday.   Also, attending State Senator Jackie Smith and Representative Tim Kacena. No Republicans took part in the forum.  Another one is planned for next month.

The Sioux City School District is looking at potentially changing boundaries for a few of the district’s elementary schools.  The school board plans to start discussing the boundaries tonight at a regularly scheduled meeting.

The District is looking into the issue after the completion of new elementary schools in order to help balance out school sizes.

A notice was sent out to parents of students attending Bryant, Hunt, Irving and Leeds.

The changes, if passed, would go into effect with the kindergarten class of 2022.  The district stresses current students would not be impacted by the changes.

Tonight’s meeting at the Educational Service Center on Fourth Street in downtown Sioux City starts at 6 p.m.

In one week, voters in Woodbury County will vote on a new $50.3 million jail on the outskirts of Sioux City. The new larger jail would replace a building built in 1987 that is dealing with a number of mechanical problems. Consultants have identified $22 million in upgrades that are needed in the current jail's heating and cooling system.

Listen for a live broadcast on the Jail Wednesday at noon with people both for and against the project.

And, voters in Monona County will also vote on March 3rd for a $6.2 million bone issue for a new Public Safety Center.  Local officials say the current facility that is 46-years old is overcrowded and is a safety concern.

The proposal includes a 32-bed jail that could be doubled in size.  The vote needs a 60-percent majority to pass.

And, the Lewis and Clark Jazz Fest kicked off today on the Campus of Western Iowa Tech Community College.

Jazz bands and choirs from all across the region are competing in five different classes, include middle school.

The festival started in 2006 and includes educational clinics for the students.