Thursday, April 27, 2006


Our two distinguished Senators have voted to give Trent Lott $700 million to tear-up and rebuild a brand-new railroad - as part of "emergency" hurricane relief efforts.

But at least Senator Tom is willing to cut Ramona Cunningham's salary, now that she's already fired. Way to go, Senator; I always like an excuse to post my favorite Tom Harkin photo.

Ramona Cunningham and Senator Harkin at the dedication of the Harkin Learning Center at CIETC headquarters.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Congressman Nussle has a five point plan to pander for farm votes lead us to energy independence. It consists of one absurd regulatory mandate and four ineffectual tax credits.

While this foolish attempt to overcome the law of supply and demand isn't that unusual, it's worse to see it from a prominent Republican, who is supposed to know better.

Perhaps politicians who treat us like adults can never win, but it would be nice to see one try. A grown-up approach to energy problems would say something like this:

  • The increase in worldwide energy demand has outstripped our supples. That means prices go up. Supply and demand - like gravity, it just works.
  • More nuclear plants and more refineries are needed. Government and lawyers will make sure they don't happen.
  • Higher prices are how we encourage people to develop and bring to market new sources of energy. They aren't part of a conspiracy.

No adults are on the horizon.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


sammy.jpgThe CIETC scandal just gets better. It even has caused one of Iowa's U.S. Senators to have a Sam Mack moment.

Sam Mack played basketball at Iowa State University. His ISU career hit a bump when he held up a Burger King in Ames. As he held a gun on the clerk, he was standing next to... an ISU basketball team poster featuring Sam Mack. Legend has it that the clerk asked "Sam, what are you doing?" To which he was reputed to have responded, "I'm not me!"


Maybe Senator Tom Harkin can sympathize. Central Iowa is agog at the story of the pay and benefits Ramona Cunningham and two other dedicated public servants of the Central Iowa Employment Training Consortium, a publicly funded jobs training agency. Ms. Cunningham's pay package featured annual compensation north of $350,000 per year and three months paid vacation; two other executives also had $300,000+ pay packages. The board of directors, featuring several Polk County Democratic stalwarts and union leaders, never reviewed or appoved the packages; in fact, they apparently never discussed the pay of the executives. Now criminal investigations are underway, heads are rolling and everyone is scrambling for cover.

Senator Harkin was asked about the scandal. He just had no memory of meeting Ramona Cunningham. He could have refreshed his memory with a visit to the agency website:

Ramona Cunningham and Senator Harkin at the dedication of the Harkin Learning Center at CIETC headquarters.

I'm not me!

The Des Moines Register explains:

Harkin obtained $1.4 million in federal money to "create a model employment center that provides expanded services to individuals with disabilities," according to a press release from Harkin's office in 2004. The center was named in Harkin's honor.

To be clear, there's no indication that Senator Harkin knew what was going on at CIETC. It's also clear that lots of people are going to want to forget ever meeting Ms. Cunningham.


The Best-paying agency you've never heard of

Monday, April 03, 2006


While I have taken my shots at The Des Moines Register, in the last few days they are showing what a local paper can do at its best. They have exposed an incredible web of mismanagement, at best, at a jobs-training agency that I have never heard of, but whose board is a who's who of the Polk County political establishment.

The first story tells of how the top three executives of the "Central Iowa Employment Training Consortium" get over $300,000 in annual salary. The boss, Ramona Cunningham, also gets three months paid time-off per year. All salaries are set by long-time Des Moines political fixture Archie Brooks. Nice work if you can get it. Today's story tells how the CIETC landed an extra $200,000 on the last day of the fiscal year in a "special one-day offer" from the state.

If it weren't high tax season, I'd have a field day with this, but in the meantime visit their web site with their inadvertently-hilarious board meeting minutes - it's tremendous stuff. Like this:

II.Board Officer Nominations

There was a discussion of the fantastic job Archie Brooks has done as chair, and how well the officers work as a team. It was also noted that, with all the changes in appropriations and administration, this is not a good time to change leadership. Motion by Max Worthington to retain the current slate of officers for another year, seconded by Dan Albritton, motion Carried.

If newspapers are to survive the internet era, this is how they will do it. Local newsgathering is an area that the newspapers can still do better than anyone else, when they set their minds to it.