Pat Blank

All Things Considered Host

Pat Blank has been with Iowa Public Radio for 27 years. She was hired as a reporter and eventually was chosen to host Morning Edition at the Cedar Falls studios in 1986.  She has been host of All Things Considered since 1995. She is a nationally award-winning reporter who has also worked in commercial radio and television. Pat has served as a part-time instructor at Wartburg College and at the University of Northern Iowa, where she teaches journalism classes.  She is on the Board of Control for UNI’s student run radio station, KULT. She is currently serving a second term on the  Iowa Archives of Broadcasting National Advisory Board. Most recently, Pat was honored by receiving the Jack Shelley Award for Broadcast Excellence, in 2014.

Pat has a bachelor’s degree in radio-television broadcasting from the University of Northern Iowa.

Pat's favorite public radio program is This American Life.

Ways to Connect

IPR/Pat Blank

The nonprofit organization Joppa continues to receive tiny houses for its proposed community village for the homeless in Des Moines. Earlier this month, three of the shelters built by Drake University alumni, students and volunteers were donated. Three more are on their way to the capital city from the University of Northern Iowa.

UNI Senior Baily Abbott says he jumped at the chance to get hands-on experience helping build the houses.

Alliant Energy photo

Several hundred utility workers from Iowa have been among the army of workers trying to restore power to millions of people cut off after Hurricane Irma swept through Florida and Georgia this month.  Mid-American Energy sent 250 employees and contractors, including 150 tree trimmers.

Twenty-six vehicles from Iowa’s Association of Electric Cooperatives are there along with 46 linemen. And Alliant Energy dispatched 200 workers and equipment from Iowa and Wisconsin.

IPR/Pat Blank

An Iowa Army National Guard medical helicopter unit based in Waterloo will leave Saturday for a mission that will eventually take its members to the Middle East and nearby regions.

National Guard spokesperson Greg Hapgood says this assignment will be familiar for many of the 35 soldiers who are part of the group known as the Detachment 1, Company C, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion.

Iowa DNR

Next week as classes begin, Northwood Kensett secondary principal Keith Fritz will include something in his fall assembly speech that’s not heard often in Iowa schools.

“I mention, in addition to ‘we have the right to search your lockers, guys, we’re going to have a great year this year,” he says. "Those of you who hunt, federal firearms regulations prohibit you from having those on campus.’ And that’s all it takes, they just comply.” 

University of Northern Iowa photo

In the first of three meetings to be held this month by Iowa’s Regents institutions, University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook Monday unveiled UNI’s five year tuition plan. Nook told a group of about 50 people on the UNI campus that in order to attract and retain students, any increases must be reasonable and predictable.

Pat Blank/IPR

Forty-three year old Diana Staver worked on the assembly line at a John Deere factory in Waterloo. When she got her pink slip in 2015, she wasted no time in figuring out what her next move would be.

“I got the layoff notice and when I got the layoff notice, I just dreaded going out and finding another job so I came to Hawkeye [Community College] that same afternoon I was here by 8:15 in the morning I wanna say and they weren’t quite open”, Staver explained.

Pat Blank/IPR

The longest serving mayor in the history of Cedar Falls, Jon Crews, has died. He passed away Thursday after a bout with liver cancer over the past several months.

Crews held public office most of his adult life. He was mayor for a total of 30 years, serving three separate terms.  In an interview with IPR shortly before his retirement in 2015, he reflected on his years of public service.

Brice Gibson/K-State Research and Extension

Iowa cattle producers are gathering donations of cash, feed and supplies to help farmers and ranchers in four states who’ve fallen victim to wildfires in the past two weeks.

Iowa Cattlemen’s Association president Matt Deppe says the fires killed seven people. They also wiped out thousands of cattle and burned an estimated two million acres of pastureland in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Dean Borg

Iowa’s Fourth District Republican Congressman Steve King says he’s not overly concerned about a Mexican senator’s bill that could halt U.S. corn exports.

King says it’s one of the first signs of concrete action from Mexico in response to president Trump’s threats to impose high tariffs on Mexican goods..

City of Dubuque

A suspicious package caused the Dubuque Regional Airport to evacuate some passengers from the terminal this morning.

Transportation Security Administration spokesperson David Dailey says the item was found at a checkpoint during passenger and baggage screening.

“Sometimes routine things that people bring through can often look funny on the x-ray and so out of an abundance of caution we needed to clear the area before we continued with the resolution process of this item,” he says.

Michael Leland/IPR

The below-normal temperatures across Iowa the last week or so have done a good job freezing many of the state’s smaller lakes and ponds.

Iowa DNR Fisheries Chief Joe Larscheid says that means the ice should be thick enough for activities like skating or fishing, especially in the northern part of the state.

“We’ve got a good solid five to ten inches across Iowa, the more north you go, the better the ice. Up north I don’t see any problems,” he says.  “If ice just recently formed in southern Iowa, that would be the places to be careful of."

Jerry Slykhuis Facebook page

A longtime Cedar Falls High School basketball coach and his wife have been killed in a car accident in Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol confirms that 73-year old Jerry Slykhuis and his wife Jane were killed Tuesday when a truck ran a stop sign and hit their SUV on U.S. 54 near the town of Liberal.

Former player and now Tigers head coach Ryan Schultz says Slykhuis will be remembered for his accomplishments both on and off the court.

Pat Blank/IPR

It was a banner year for Iowa’s 100 or so Christmas tree farms, but some producers worry the future may not be as bright.

It’s been a busy month for the Wickiup Hill Tree Farm near Toddville in Eastern Iowa.  Operations manager Tim Andrews says they sold out of trees almost two weeks ago, but the work continues year round.

“This year the weather was warm, so it was enjoyable," he says.  "Some years it’s downright cold, the opposite of it is during the summertime when we’re shearing the trees, the heat index can be 110 or 115, so it’s not for the weak or faint of heart.” 

Michael Leland/IPR

The man in charge of administering Iowa’s low income heating assistance program, known as LIHEAP, says the cost of staying warm this winter may become a public health emergency. Jerry McKim says he is especially worried about some of the state’s older citizens.

“In an effort to better afford their utility bills, a lot of those elderly households will cut back on their prescribed medicine or they set their thermostats too low risking their already insecure health,” he says.

Pat Blank/IPR

Corn and soybeans weren’t the only bumper crops in Iowa this year.

State Agriculture Department officials say pumpkin production was the best it’s been for many seasons.

Specialty crops expert Maury Wills says the number of local growers who allow customers to pick their own produce has tripled.

“When you can go out and actually pick the pumpkin off the ground, put it in a wagon and haul it up to the apple barn and pay for it there," he says, “It gives the family really good experience up close on the farm."

The latest report by Iowa’s largest utility companies shows more than 40 million dollars in past due bills.  Iowa Human Rights Department spokesperson Jerry McKim says he’s troubled by other information contained in that document.

“Just for September and October, there were 8,896 disconnected, so going into November even though the weather was mild, (it doesn’t look like it coming out) we have nearly 9,000 households at least without power,” McKim says.

Brandon Pollock/Waterloo Courier

Sometimes the transition from being a solider to being a civilian is more difficult than any battlefield assignment.  Readjustment sometimes means trouble finding a job and in some cases no permanent place to live.

There will soon be more options in northeast Iowa for veterans who have completed their service and need a safe place to live while they contemplate what’s next.

From the time he was discharged from the US Army back in 1990, life has been struggle for 46 year old Jeff Skinner.

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.

Pat Blank/IPR

Donald Trump Jr. is in Iowa today, hoping to convince millennials to vote for his father.

He spoke this morning to around 100 people at Iowa State University. Later, at a bar across from the University of Northern Iowa campus in Cedar Falls, he told the 50 people there, why he thinks his father’s campaign has been so successful.

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.

Blum and Vernon campaign photos

Iowa’s 1st Congressional District covers 20 counties in the northeast part of the state and includes the cities of Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, and Waterloo.

One of the things that sets it apart from the other three districts is that roughly 37 percent of the voters have identified as no-party.

Chris Larimer is a political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa. He says there are other factors that make the First District different.

Pat Blank/IPR

It’s hard to ignore a blaring train whistle, flashing lights and bells.

But people do it all the time, both in cars and on foot.  Last year, two people in Iowa died in train accidents and another ten were injured.  Last weekend in Linn County, Iowa's second fatal accident this year between a train and a vehicle occurred near Alburnett.  That incident has sharpened the focus of a statewide rail safety campaign.

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.

Photo courtesy Brandon Pollock, Waterloo Courier

Updated at 10:15pm Thursday.

Sandbagging continues in communities along the Shell Rock and Cedar Rivers in northeast Iowa  after portions of Butler and Floyd county were hit with as much as a foot of rain last night. To the southeast, people in Cedar Rapids have begun building sandbag levees to protect an area devastated in 2008.

In Butler County, Sheriff Jason Johnson says volunteers who want to assist with cleanup are welcome, but sightseers are not.

Brian Wilkins/Flickr

The University of Northern Iowa’s Business and Community Services is partnering with six Northeast Iowa counties to launch a new initiative in support of small business growth and entrepreneurship.  The project is one of five in the state. 

Program Manager James Hoelscher says he believes the importance of small business is often underestimated.

Constructing A New Career

Aug 26, 2016
Pat Blank/IPR

It’s hard to miss the brightly painted red and blue semi-trailer parked along University Avenue in Waterloo. It looks like it should be hauling a car to a NASCAR Race, but its mission is much more simple. Get drivers along the busy highway to take notice and pull in for a pit stop. It caught the attention Eric Wallsteadt and his two kids.

“Every time we see it," he says, “I keep bringing it up and basically you can walk right up and try it out.”

Pat Blank/IPR

The consistently high rate of suicide in the military has Republican U.S. Senator Joni Ernst on a mission to better address mental health care through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Ernst, Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Dave Loebsack have asked for an Inspector General’s investigation into the death last month of U.S. Marine Corps veteran Brandon Ketchum of Davenport.  Ernst says Ketchum had reportedly been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, but was turned away when he asked to be admitted to a psychiatric ward.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa’s corn and soybean crops are moving into final maturity with most of the acreage listed in good-to-excellent condition. Today’s report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has both crops listed as 83 percent good to excellent.

In North Iowa’s Winnebago County, farmer Riley Lewis is anticipating a big harvest.

Liv Martin/IPR

Four years ago, two very different entities in North Iowa began a transition on separate paths. Now, they’ve combined to provide both fresh produce and new opportunities for people with many types of disabilities.

69-year-old Dan Lauters stands on the edge of his sprawling one acre Hancock County garden and attempts to list all the vegetables it holds.

“A row of kale there, and then you see a row of carrots, and then the romaine lettuce, and then this is the kohlrabi, and here is your rainbow chard…” says Lauters.

Flickr

Floating down the river on an inner tube is a common way to escape the summer heat. However, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has some advice to make your trip a smooth ride.

The DNR’s Todd Robertson says even though you’re surrounded by water, you still need to consume plenty of fluids.

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