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  in the mid '80s 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.

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

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Today is primary day across Iowa.  A number of key races are on the ballot:

U.S. Senate Democratic Primary: Tim Fiegen, Rob Hogg, Patty Judge, and Bob Krause are running to determine who will win the party's nomination to face Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley in November.

1st Congressional District: Democrats Pat Murphy and Monica Vernon face each other in a primary for the second time in two years. The winner faces Republican Rep. Rod Blum.

Michael Leland/IPR

Visitors to Iowa’s Vietnam War Memorial had a chance to see something new at yesterday’s Memorial Day ceremony:  a granite marker was added near the wall last month to remember Vietnam Veterans who weren’t killed in battle, but who later died as a result of their service. 

Daniel Gannon of Ankeny is a Vietnam veteran who helped win approval for the marker. He says after the 867th name was added to the state’s Vietnam Memorial last year, several women contacted him about having their husbands’ names added to the wall, but they hadn’t been killed in combat.

Michael Leland/IPR

Iowa remembered its war dead across the state today.  On the south side of the state capitol this morning, about 100 people gathered for a ceremony that had the familiar rituals of military observances: a firing salute, the playing of taps, and the laying of wreaths in front of war memorials.  

Daniel Gannon of Ankeny was a Marine Corps platoon leader in Vietnam.  He says it’s important for Americans – especially veterans – to take time to talk about the experience of war.

Iowa City Police

Iowa City police say video evidence and eye witness accounts don’t support a racial hate crime against University of Iowa student Marcus Owens.

Police and Johnson County attorney Janet Lyness presented their conclusions at a press conference this morning.

Iowa City Police Captain Troy Kelsay told reporters and some city council members investigation findings don’t support Owens’ initial statements.

Board of Regents photo

A member of the Iowa Board of Regents is resigning after just one year on the board.  Mary Andringa says she underestimated the time required to fully serve in the role given her other commitments and responsibilities.  Andringa is the Chair of the Board for the Vermeer Corporation in Pella, and a former CEO of that company.  She also serves on a number of other boards.

Andringa has been on the Board of Regents since last May.  Her resignation is effective Saturday. 

King and Bertrand campaign websites

Iowa’s Fourth District Congressman is questioning the motives driving the Republican challenging him in the June primary.

Steve King is seeking an eighth term in Congress, and until this year, has never been challenged by another Republican in seeking re-election.

This year, Sioux City State Senator Rick Bertrand is challenging King, and is receiving financial backing from Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter in June’s Republican primary election.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Public Radio Senior Producer Dean Borg is being honored by Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.  It has named him this year’s recipient of the James W. Schwartz Award, which honors distinguished service to journalism and mass communication.  Borg has been with IPR since 2000, and also hosts and moderates Iowa Public Television's “Iowa Press” program, now in its 45th year.

Utility crews say they're making great progress restoring power to thousands of customers who had lost it during last night and this morning's snowstorm. Parts of northwest Iowa were hit the heaviest, with up to 12" or more falling in Plymouth, Ida, Cherokee, and Woodbury Counties, and as much as 17" reported around Sioux City.

Dakota Access

The Iowa Utilities Board has voted 3-0 to approve an oil pipeline across the state. Dakota Access had sought permission for the pipeline, which will carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois.  The line will run for nearly 350 miles through 18 Iowa counties, entering the state in the northwest corner, and exiting in the southeast.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge is running for the U.S. Senate seat held since 1981 by Republican Chuck Grassley.  She becomes the fourth Democrat to enter the race.

Judge announced her candidacy with a news release this morning and a post on her Facebook page, calling herself, "the Judge Chuck Grassley can't ignore."  Grassley heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has said it would not hold a hearing for anyone President Obama nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy.

IDOT

Whiteout conditions caused by today’s snowfall and high winds has closed Interstate 35 in both directions between Ames and Clear Lake. 

The Iowa Department of Transportation says the gate system at the U.S. 30/I-35N and I-35S/U.S. 18 interchanges have been activated and the gate arms are down. Northbound I-35 travelers must exit at U.S. 30. Traveler services are available at the nearby U.S. 30 exits into Ames.  Southbound I-35 travelers must exit at U.S. 18. Traveler services are available at the nearby U.S. 18 exits into Clear Lake and Mason City.

US Department of Agriculture

An Iowa State University entomologist says he and other experts are keeping an eye on the Zika virus, but he is not too worried that it will be spread in Iowa.  The mosquito-borne virus has been found in about two-dozen Central and South American countries and has been linked to birth defects in Brazil.  

Ryan Smith is an assistant professor at Iowa State University and says Iowa’s cold winters will likely keep the mosquitoes that spread the disease away from this part of the country.

Joyce Russell, Sarah Boden, Amy Mayer/IPR

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses for the Republican presidential nomination, while the Democratic race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was considered neck-and-neck early this morning.

In a speech at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Cruz thanked Iowa Republicans while also referencing scripture, Reagan Democrats, and what he calls “courageous conservatives”.

Pat Blank/IPR

The Iowa Caucuses are a week away, and candidates for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations are out in force, rallying their supporters and trying to make sure they caucus next Monday. Democratic front runners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders held a combined 13 campaign events this weekend, mostly in eastern Iowa. 

Michael Leland/IPR

Governor Branstad has proclaimed this week “Martin Luther King, Jr, Week" in Iowa.  At a ceremony this morning at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, the governor signed a proclamation and repeated calls for criminal justice reform he made last week in his “Condition of the State” address.  He says in some cases, rehabilitation might be a better use of tax dollars than incarceration.

Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton continued to spar last night in Des Moines. With the Iowa caucuses less than three weeks away, Clinton has been attacking Sanders for votes he made that she says shield gun makers and sellers. At the Iowa Brown and Black Forum last night, moderator Jorge Ramos pressed Sanders about it.

Mother Mosque website

The head of a Cedar Rapids mosque is inviting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to meet with members of the Muslim community.  Imam Taha Tawil of the Mother Mosque says his members would like to hear about Trump’s plans if he’s elected, and have a chance to talk to him about Muslims’ role in the U-S over the last 100-plus years. 

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Federal officials have told Iowa the state is not ready to transition management of its Medicaid system to private companies.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has told Iowa in a letter today it may transition to private management on March 1st instead of January 1st, 2016, as long as the state makes sufficient progress toward readiness by that time.  

The agency says, “a transition on January 1st would risk serious disruption in the care for Iowa Medicaid beneficiaries.”

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is suspending his campaign for president.   NPR reports Jindal made the announcement in an interview with Fox TV, saying "this is not my time."

Clay Masters/IPR

The three remaining Democratic presidential candidates rallied thousands of supporters in Des Moines last night, at the state party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner.  During the Saturday’s speeches, Senator Sanders drew contrasts to Clinton by talking about his early opposition to the war in Iraq, the keystone XL pipeline and the Defense of Marriage Act. Janice Payne is a retired lab tech from Des Moines. She attended a rally for Senator Sanders before the dinner. “He’s more for the middle-class and he’s not about being bought by the upper echelon.

John Pemble/IPR file

Former Rhode Island governor and U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee has dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination for president.  Politico and other news organizations report he is making the official announcement in a Washington speech this morning. 

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Virginia Senator Jim Webb is no longer a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.  NPR reports Webb made the announcement today in Washington, DC.  

Webb's campaign has struggled to attract significant support, nationally as well as in Iowa.  In an NBC/Wall St Journal Poll published in early October, Webb was polling at about one-percent in Iowa.

Webb says he still might run for president as an independent.

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