Michael Leland

News Director

Michael comes to IPR from Wisconsin Public Radio, where he led an award-winning news staff for nine years.  He has also worked as a News Director at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor.  Before getting into management, Michael’s reporting career took him to a variety of places, from Chicago City Hall, to a former coal mine 600 feet under southern Illinois, to an Inuit community in far northern Canada.

Michael is a New Englander who came to the Midwest for graduate school  30 years ago and decided to call this part of the country home.  He has a master’s in Journalism and Mass Communication from Kansas State University.  His undergraduate degree is in Communications and Business Administration from Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts.

Michael’s favorite public radio program is On the Media.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

The two Des Moines-area police officers shot and killed in ambush attacks in November were among 21 killed in such attacks on law enforcement officers last year.  Des Moines Sgt. Anthony Beminio and Urbandale Officer Justin Martin were shot and killed in separate incidents less than two miles apart while in their patrol cars early on November 2.

Michael Leland/IPR file photo

This year is ending as one of the deadliest for Iowa bicyclists in more than a decade.  The Iowa Bicycle Coalition says 11 cyclists died while riding this year.  Iowa hasn’t had that many cycling fatalities since 2005, and it’s the most since 2010, when eight cyclists died while riding.  The Coalition’s executive director, Mark Wyatt, says he fears this year is not an anomaly.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Gov. Terry Branstad to serve as U.S. ambassador to China, pending Senate confirmation.  The word from the Trump transition team comes a day after the two men met at Trump Tower in New York City.

If Branstad becomes ambassador, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would become the first woman to serve as Iowa governor.

Iowa Board of Regents

The Iowa Board of Regents has selected Mark Nook to be the 11th president of the University of Northern Iowa.  Nook is a native of Holstein, and received his undergraduate degree from Iowa State.  Since 2014, he has been the chancellor of Montana State University-Billings, which has a student body about one-third the size of UNI’s 12,000 student population. 

Stuartia.com

Thousands of people across Iowa are starting their holiday shopping today, and many communities are hoping you’ll give locally-owned small businesses some attention tomorrow.  The annual “Small Business Saturday” campaign urges people to spend some of their shopping dollars in independent stores.  Jennifer Pruden of the Czech Village-New Bohemia Main Street District in Cedar Rapids says local businesses there are hoping a good holiday season will help them recover from September’s flood.

Michael Leland/IPR

Opponents of the 1,200 mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline held protests in Iowa and throughout the country today, in hopes that President Obama will shut down the project. 

At a midday rally outside the federal building in downtown Des Moines, Heather Pearson, a landowner in western Iowa, urged dozens of protesters to stay involved in the campaign against the project.

Pat Blank/IPR

Iowa’s congressional incumbents all won reelection Tuesday, as the delegation remains at three Republicans and one Democrat. 

Republican 1st District Rep. Rod Blum of Dubuque defeated former Cedar Rapids council member Monica Vernon, capturing 54 percent of the vote across 20 counties in northeast Iowa.

Once the race was called in his favor, Blum told a raucous crowd in Dubuque that’s he is going back to Capitol Hill finish what he started when he voted against then-House Speaker John Boehner.

Michael Leland/IPR

The polls are open from 7 a.m. through 9 p.m..

What’s being decided? 

Des Moines and Urbandale Police Departments

Police in Des Moines and Urbandale says two officers killed in ambush-style attacks this morning were likely shot before they saw their assailant.

Urbandale Officer Justin Martin, who has been with the department for about 15 months, and Des Moines Police Sgt. Anthony Beminio were killed in separate attacks, about two miles and 20-minutes apart, while sitting in their patrol cars early this morning.

Des Moines and Urbandale Police Departments

Updated information at 12:05 pm

Des Moines Police spokesman. Sgt. Paul Parizek, says Sgt. Bemino and Officer Martin were ambushed while sitting in their respective police vehicles roughly two miles apart, and there appears to have been nothing either man could gave done to prevent the attacks.

Pat Blank/IPR

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told a large crowd of supporters in a Cedar Rapids amphitheater last night that he was happy to hear that the FBI is reviewing newly-discovered emails related to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s private server. 

“The biggest political scandal since Watergate, and it’s everybody’s hope that justice, at last, can be delivered,”   Trump told a crowd packed into a downtown riverfront amphitheater.

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton face off in the final presidential debate Wednesday night at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. NPR's politics team, with help from reporters and editors who cover national security, immigration, business, foreign policy and more, is annotating the debate live.

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton face off in the second presidential debate Sunday night at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. NPR's politics team, with help from reporters and editors who cover national security, immigration, business, foreign policy and more, is live annotating the debate.

Dean Borg/IPR file photo

The mayor of Cedar Rapids says cleanup continues from the second-biggest flood in the city’s history earlier this month.  Ron Corbett says unlike the devastation from the record flood of 2008, most property damage this time was limited to basement flooding.  And, he says, businesses in the flooded area were mostly hurt by lost customers.

“Most of the business damage wasn’t from property damage, it was the damage from lost revenue when they had to close down for a week or so,” he said.

Cedar Rapids City Manager Twitter feed

What Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz called an “amazing and harrowing experience” this morning is now largely behind the city, though much flood cleanup work lies ahead.

The Cedar River level was 15.5 feet at 10 this morning – below major flood stage for the first time since last week, and down almost seven feet from Tuesday’s crest. 

Dean Borg/IPR

Cedar Rapids is taking another step toward flood recovery, with city leaders announcing the flood evacuation area would open at noon tomorrow for what City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said are, “flood-related recovery activities.”  They’re asking people who don’t have homes or businesses in the area to stay away to allow work to be done as easily as possible.

Dean Borg/IPR

Cedar Rapids officials are allowing some people to return to their homes and businesses, while reminding others that the flooding danger has not completely passed.

As of this morning, the Cedar River level stood at 20.7 feet.  That’s down about a foot from yesterday’s crest, but still nearly nine feet above flood stage.

Dean Borg/IPR

The Cedar River crested in downtown Cedar Rapids this morning, a foot lower than predicted but still 10 feet above flood stage. 

The river level was at 22 feet late this morning, and will begin slowly falling by late today. 

“It’s not over,” said City Manager Jeff Pomeranz at a news conference this morning.

City officials are monitoring nearly 10 miles of temporary, sand-filled Hesco barriers and earthen levees, looking for weak spots and for possible breaches. 

“We’re very confident this temporary system will work,” said Pomeranz.

Dean Borg/IPR

Cedar Rapids city leaders say they’ve done everything they possibly can to prepare for this week’s flooding, and that the next couple of days will be the most critical and dangerous period.

The Cedar River was at 20.8 feet late this afternoon, and is expected to crest at about 23 feet by tomorrow afternoon.  That would make this the second-highest to 2008’s historic flood of 31 feet.

Cedar Rapids

The Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids is expected to crest Monday at 24 feet. That’s seven feet lower than in 2008 when floodwaters ravaged the city’s downtown. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett says that forecast could change.

“We’re at the mercy of the river, we’ll be able do an adequate job of keeping most of the water in the banks of the river at 22 feet, so 24 is really go to be challenging for us and we just hope it doesn’t get any worse,” he says.

Michael Leland/IPR

People opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline have turned more than 33,000 petition signatures over to the U-S Department of Justice office in Des Moines. 

They want the department to review all permits that allow pipeline construction.

“We call upon President Obama to ensure the Army Corps of Engineers rejects the remaining permits in North Dakota and Iowa,” said Ross Grooters, member of the group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.  “Furthermore, the construction should be halted not just the 20 miles either side of Lake Oahe, but along the pipeline’s entire path.”

Dean Borg/IPR

Fall enrollment at Iowa State University’s is up 1.9 percent over last fall’s record.  With 36,660 students this year, ISU is again the largest of the state’s three public universities. 

The University of Iowa is reporting enrollment of 33,334 this fall, also up from last year’s figure. 

At the University of Northern Iowa, total enrollment for the fall semester at 11,905 -- 95 short of its goal of 12,000 students.  This includes 2,000 freshmen, the largest UNI freshman class since 2008.

Michael Leland/IPR

U.S. Senate candidates took over the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair Sunday, with the Democratic candidate accusing Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley of ducking the fair’s forum, and an independent candidate criticizing the country’s “aristocracy of money.”

Former Iowa Agriculture Secretary and Lt Governor Patty Judge told a crowd gathered for the soapbox speech if she’s elected, she’ll try to get a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee and help write the next Farm Bill.

John Pemple/IPR file photo

One of Iowa’s most influential faith leaders will be among a group of religious and social conservatives meeting tomorrow with Donald Trump in New York.  Bob Vander Plaats, who heads the group The Family Leader, says they want to know more about what kind of leader Trump would be, and who he’d choose for his administration.

Michael Leland/IPR

Several dozen people gathered Sunday evening on the west grounds of the Iowa Capitol, in honor of those killed in the Orlando mass shooting early Sunday morning.  The deaths of at least 49 people and the wounding of 53 others at a gay nightclub came as Des Moines and other cities around the country were celebrating National LGBT Pride Month in the U.S. with parades and other events this weekend.

Elsewhere in Iowa, members of the group Iowa City Pride plan to discuss ways they can help the shooting victims. 

Rob Dillard/IPR

Former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge is the Democrats’ choice to take on U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley in the general election in November. It was one of several primaries that will help decide who will represent Iowa in Washington next year.

At her campaign headquarters in Des Moines last night, Judge made it clear to supporters what her campaign strategy would be. Iowans can expect to see plenty of campaign signs between now and November that are a play on Patty Judge’s last name.

Rob Dillard/IPR

10:46 update

Former Pentagon worker Jim Mowrer will face first-term incumbent David Young on the 3rd Congressional District ballot this November.  He defeated Desmund Adams and Mike Sherzan in the 3rd District Democratic primary.  With nearly all precincts reporting, Mowrer had about 50-percent of the vote, Sherzan 36%, and Adams 14%.

10:42pm update

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