Letter from the Editor

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Hotel/motel tax is overdue

Civic leaders aren't taking any chances with the proposed hotel/motel tax which will come before Storm Lake voters this season.

The city itself can't promote the vote, but a committee has been made up to inform and influence, and we can expect letters of support from leading citizens to begin to flow soon.

It shouldn't take any arm-twisting. A hotel/motel tax is the standard these days, and it isn't going to hurt tourism a bit. What it will do is bring in some fresh funding to promote and develop Storm Lake as a visitor-friendly place, as well as generate considerable income for lifestyle and quality-of-living projects, without putting any burden on the local taxpayer.

Remember, tourists use our campgrounds, pool, beaches, parks, roads and public safety systems, too, and none of the amenities come for free. Nobody likes the "T-word," but this is one tax that makes good sense.

Speaking of sense, it is a little disturbing to see state officials belatedly approaching a proposal to lower the Iowa threshold on drunk driving from .10 to .08 blood alcohol level based on economics.

They have failed to do the right thing for the right reasons again and again, but now finally appear ready to pass the measure, only because they stand to lose a one-time federal grant of $2 million and a percentage of federal highway funding money in future years.

It's all about the money, and that's sad.

Iowa should have lowered the level long ago, because it stands to save lives and hopefully make the roads safer.

To do it this way is better than not to do it at all, but it amounts to, pardon the pun, highway robbery.

Federal officials have no right to blackmail states into changing their laws. It's a blatant violation of the concepts of local rule and state rights that are key to the balance of power in our democracy.

If the legislature can't manage to pass the law this time around (with a deadline of October 1, 2003 looming,) taxpayers are out two million bucks for their stubbornness.

I could live with that, and in fact, I kind of admire the backbone of those who don't want to bend to the blackmail.

But explain that to someone who has lost a loved one to a drunk driver. And research would lead us to believe that .08 is enough to compromise the driving ability of many. Iowans by now should be smart enough to know that if they are going to drink, they need to arrange for alternate transportation, period.

Pass the law, legislators. If you won't do it because the feds are holding you over a barrel, do it for the people who depend on you to keep them as safe as possible.

The great Storm Lake controversy over pregnancy test records has caused Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa CEO Jill June to receive the "Stick Your Neck Out Award."

June claimed she would go to jail before she would turn over records for the sheriff's investigation into a baby's death.

In her acceptance speech to other Planned Parenthood staff and supporters, she puts Knute Rockne to shame:

"Some days you will run under spring skies in the warmth of the sun and with the wind at your back, the crowd cheering you forward. Other days, you shall endure the cutting cold rain, weakened from the fight, out of breath in an empty stadium. But ever certain that victory is essential and that people throughout the world depend on your courage to prevail."

I'm still not certain Planned Parenthood couldn't have done something to help the investigation. I'm still not sure that people didn't forget about the poor baby in the circus over confidentiality. I'm still not sure the courts know what they're doing in this case. I do suspect one truth, however - if the Planned Parenthood thing doesn't work out, Jill June will have a heck of a future as a football coach.

Tom Latham recently put out a press release about obtaining $200,000 in federal funds for restoration efforts on Clear Lake. In Storm Lake, we've been consistently told that there are no federal funds available for clean lake programs.

It seems as though it may be who you know and not what you know when it comes to getting your hands on the EPA and the Corps of Engineers. We hope Latham remembers all those years Storm Lake supported him when future appropriations bills come around. The project could easily be a blueprint for the nation.