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Political Mercury

Tippecanoe and Randy Feenstra, too


As it turns out, in all this nonsense about a rural-urban Iowa civil war, “them” is actually “us.”

Carroll’s Kuemper Catholic High School Alumni Director Sharon Olerich reports that there are 992 graduates of the western Iowa school living in Des Moines and its immediate suburbs. Kuemper holds an annual Des Moines event and is active in fundraising from its alumni in Des Moines. Several Kuemper alums own businesses in Des Moines. You likely eat at some of their wonderful restaurants.

Add in the families of the Carroll County-raised Des Moines Kuemper grads, and we’re talking several thousand people — on whom State Sen. Randy Feenstra wants us to wage a war of economic sanctions.

Feenstra, a Hull Republican, authored a hot-blooded blog post last week casting a Des Moines Water Works lawsuit as the reaction of a “snob” city to a rural Iowa Feenstra says Des Moines doesn’t understand.

“I firmly believe that the power of our agricultural community needs to stand up against Des Moines,” Feenstra wrote on his blog Monday. “I would advocate that rural Iowa boycotts Des Moines. This could be done by shopping in other communities, vacationing in other areas of the state, and holding our many organizational meetings in Ames or Cedar Rapids. Iowa has plenty of great locations; we don’t need Des Moines and this arrogant mentality against rural Iowa.”


According to reporting from the Carroll Daily Times Herald’s Jared Strong, the Des Moines Water Works trustees voted to proceed with a lawsuit to force 10 so-called “drainage districts” in Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista counties to obtain permits and limit pollution that escapes the districts, which are composed primarily of farmland.

Water Works monitored the water that flowed from the fields for many months last year and found its nitrogen compounds regularly exceeded the federal limit for safe drinking water. Water Works provides drinking water to about 500,000 customers in the Des Moines metro area. It draws water from the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers and is forced to remove the nitrates when their concentration exceeds a federally mandated threshold, Strong reports.

Thad Schaben, the co-owner of Carroll-based Hot Spring Spas, tells Political Mercury that his family’s business operates a location in the Des Moines area — in Clive — and that the success of many other businesses in Iowa depend on both rural and urban customers and employees.

“Our Des Moines store relies a lot on rural business,” said Schaben, a 1987 Carroll High School alum. He estimates as much as 40 percent of his customers are from rural areas, including many people from the Carroll-area who have connections to his family. Like me. We’re good friends.

Schaben said state officials should navigate through the Water Works issue with the “protocol” that’s in place without state senators calling for punitive measures against small businesses like his.

That makes more sense than listening to the bull-thrower Feenstra, whose grandstanding recalls, well, another political leader, the great Shawnee Indian Tecumseh’s brother, Tenskwatawa, known as The Prophet.

In the early 19th century, Tecumseh knew that Native Americans’ real power lied in numbers, a coalition of tribes working together against the march of European settlers. The Indian war chief traveled the Midwest and South building this confederacy of tribes at the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers in what is now Indiana.

While Tecumseh was in the South visiting family and recruiting, his brother — The Prophet — who, as something of a self-appointed deity, convinced Native Americans they were immune from bullets and all sorts of other nonsense. In late 1811, Tenskwatawa called for a war the Native Americans could not win. The Prophet launched an attack on William Henry Harrison’s men. The Indiana governor held strong in what is now remembered as the Battle of Tippecanoe. Thanks to his demagogue brother, Tecumseh’s coalition suffered a major blow. I’ve been to the battlefield. It celebrates the white men, not the Indians. History is most kind to winners.

Going tribal in Iowa — living off what should be long-dead, high school-sports-inspired town rivalries that keep struggling cities 5 miles apart in rural Iowa from working together — or holding grudges against neighboring counties — or suggesting that people from Des Moines are somehow less Iowan — is a recipe for the historic fate of Tenskwatawa.

An Iowa divided against itself, as another American war-time leader may have put it, cannot stand. CV


Sen. Randy Feenstra’s blog post

‘I would advocate that rural Iowa boycotts Des Moines’ (Monday, March 16)

This week the Des Moines Water Works will file their lawsuit against the NW Iowa counties of Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac. The lawsuit will contend that the counties and farming operations have not done enough to reduce nitrate levels in the Raccoon River.

The subjective lawsuit will argue that these entities are negligent in protecting the water quality in the Raccoon River. It is believed that tile lines coming from fields in NW Iowa are causing the nitrate issues in the river. Over the last 10-years the farming community in NW Iowa has taken giant steps in reducing run-off and restricting nitrates from going into the local streams and rivers. It has embraced Iowa’s nutrient loss reduction strategy. However, the Des Moines Water Works is indifferent about this proactive mitigation

The federal lawsuit will cost Iowa tax payers an enormous amount of money through this litigation process. The only winner will be the trial attorneys. This is truly sad week for Iowa! The Des Moines Water Works has never reached out to these counties; or, ask for a collaborative plan or agreement. Rather, they went right to the courts with their concern.

Being a rural Iowa legislator, I see this snob urban verse rural mentality on a regular basis. Urban cities no longer have any regard for the State’s agricultural community. (does Bruce Brailey’s comments come to mind) Yet, our economy heavily relies on the farming community.

I firmly believe that the power of our agricultural community needs to stand up against Des Moines. I would advocate that rural Iowa boycotts Des Moines. This could be done by shopping in other communities, vacationing in other areas of the State, and holding our many organizational meetings in Ames or Cedar Rapids. Iowa has plenty of great locations; we don’t need Des Moines and this arrogant mentality against rural Iowa.

It’s time rural Iowa sends Des Moines a clear message!!! CV


Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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