Weekly News Roundup: Prominent Conservatives Criticize Ames Library Drag Workshop

Also: Regents OK multimillion-dollar ISU sports facilities expansion plan, Iowa Dems oust Public Employment Relations Board head, Rod Blum requested congressional approval for Trump Syria strikes, Madrid mayor resigns over police misconduct lawsuits

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Ames Public Library/Facebook

The Informer’s weekly news roundup, presented in partnership with KHOI community radio.

The Ames Public Library recently announced plans for a four-day youth workshop in July and August called Camp Drag! A Drag Workshop for Youth — and critics of the theme who noticed the Facebook event page, many of them from out of state and including at least a couple of prominent conservatives, were quick to react. “When the public library becomes another front in the culture war,” tweeted Erick Erickson, a radio host and former CNN commentator who also used to run RedState, an influential conservative political blog.

In a sarcastic tweet, Rod Dreher, a senior editor for The American Conservative magazine, wrote, “This’ll all end well.”

Greg Halvorson, an online radio host, called for a protest on the workshop’s Facebook page, where several others praised the library for supporting inclusive programming. “What a disgrace — UNCONSCIONABLE,” Halvorson wrote. “Ames parents and citizens should pack the library, block the entrance, and refuse to allow this degenerate filth.”

The workshop will be divided into four sessions, one per week, for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and focus on topics including drag costuming, performance, history, and culture. The library has previously hosted drag shows and has another scheduled for April 21, co-hosted by the Renegade Arts Collective burlesque group and Ames Pride, a local LGBT rights organization founded last year. The drag shows have drawn some criticism but also strong support from the community.

Regents OK Multimillion-Dollar Plan for Iowa State University Sports Facilities Expansion

Amid heavy cuts to higher education, the Iowa Board of Regents on Thursday approved an Iowa State University plan to expand its sports facilities at an estimated cost of between $65 million and $80 million. The project includes a new student athlete academic center, expansion of the Bergstrom Football Complex, and improvements to Jack Trice Stadium’s north end-zone entrance. (The Bergstrom complex, a football practice facility, was previously renovated in 2012 for $20.6 million. A $60 million renovation of Jack Trice Stadium was completed in 2015.) The Board of Regents has yet to approve a financing plan for the new project, which ISU says will be covered by the athletic department’s operational budget and university donors.

In Rebuke of GOP Anti-Labor Law, Iowa Dems Oust Head of Public Employment Relations Board

On Thursday, Democrats in the Iowa Senate blocked the re-appointment of Michael Cormack as chairman of the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board in an expression of their discontent over a law passed by Statehouse Republican last year that gutted collective bargaining rights for public sector unions. A former GOP state representative from Fort Dodge, Cormack was appointed for a second term on the board by Gov. Kim Reynolds. Although his previous appointment in 2014 by then-Gov. Terry Branstad was approved unanimously by the state Senate, all 20 Democratic senators last week voted against his re-appointment, which required a two-thirds majority vote from the 50-member upper chamber. The Public Employment Relations Board’s responsibilities include overseeing the state’s collective bargaining law.

Rod Blum Encouraged Trump to Receive Congressional Authorization Before Syria Strikes

Congressman Rod Blum, a Republican who represents Iowa’s 1st District, was one of 88 members of the US House who signed an April 13 letter (PDF) urging President Trump to “consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering additional use of US military force in Syria.” The Trump administration had been planning missile strikes in the civil war-torn Middle Eastern nation following a suspected chemical weapon attack by Bashar al-Assad’s government on a rebel-held outpost in Douma on April 7. Trump ignored the letter, launching air strikes Friday in coordination with France and Britain on a scientific research center and two suspected chemical weapons storage facilities. Blum was the only member of Iowa’s congressional delegation to sign the letter demanding congressional approval for the strikes, which were generally well received in Washington. Congressman David Young, a Republican who represents Iowa’s 3rd District, commended Trump for “issu[ing] a much needed strong, swift, and targeted response.” Sen. Joni Ernst, a fellow Iowa Republican, likewise praised the “strong and unified response to the Assad regime’s recent attacks, making clear that their horrific crimes and use of chemical weapons against their own people will not be tolerated.”

Madrid Mayor Resigns Over Lawsuits Alleging Police Misconduct

Dirk Ringgenberg, an Iowa State University teaching assistant and the mayor of Madrid in Boone County, resigned last week after proposing to dissolve the local police department and allow the county sheriff’s office to take over law enforcement duties. The idea was proposed in response to multiple federal lawsuits accusing the city of hiring police officers with a history of misconduct and the police department of failing to keep their behavior in check. Ringgenberg himself was named in one of the lawsuits in his capacity as Madrid’s mayor.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.