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

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.

Pat Blank/IPR

Wright County Supervisors have taken the first step toward a proposed a $240 million pork processing plant by rezoning land near Highway 17. Today’s vote came after both discussion and protest.

Storm clouds loomed on the horizon as about 50 members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement gathered on the lawn of the court house prior to the vote.  That mood continued for some all morning. CCI member and county resident Kathy Schnell says she’s bothered by the speed at which the plan by North Carolina-based Prestage Farms is moving

Pat Blank/IPR

Eagle Lake in Evansdale is home to the nationally-ranked competitive water ski team known as the Water Hawks.  The lake is small, only 15 feet deep. It’s usually buzzing with skiers practicing for their next show, but one day each July it’s transformed into a playground for people with mobility limitations.  

Fourteen-year-old Suzanne Shoemaker has cerebral palsy and earlier this week, was here at the adaptive ski clinic near Waterloo for the second time.

Pat Blank/IPR

Ninety-six-year-old Rose became a fraud victim in 2013 when she received a sweepstakes letter in the mail at her northeast Iowa home, saying she’d won a Publisher’s Clearing House prize.

"I was supposed to get $2 million," she remembers. “It was my last paycheck and I cashed that. I think I even borrowed $8,000. And then he said they would be coming over. I said, 'how many people?’ and he said there’s seven of us. So I sent the money and nobody came."

U.S. Coast Guard

Operation Dry Water is set to begin Friday as state, federal, and local law enforcement continue to focus on the state’s boating while intoxicated laws and draw public attention to the hazards of boating under the influence.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources Boating Law Administrator Susan Stocker says the campaign of focused enforcement will take place June 24-26 and consists of increased patrols, check points, and administration of breath tests. 

Pat Blank/IPR

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa is one of ten nationwide chosen by the Justice Department to form an Elder Justice Task Force.

All levels of government officials are part of the group, including both advocacy agencies and law enforcement officials.

FBI Agent Gabriel Poling says the goal is to identify and prosecute crimes such as financial exploitation as well as physical or emotional abuse.

Iowa Department of Public Safety

Iowa State University’s Institute for Transportation is working with the State Patrol to help identify areas where deer and other wildlife are likely to cross the roadway.

Patrol Sergeant Nate Ludwig says in 2014, more than a quarter of the damage done to their service vehicles came from animals.

U.S. Drought Monitor

The latest weekly crop report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows nearly every day last week was suitable for fieldwork in Iowa.

Farmers were able to make hay and spread fertilizer on their corn and soybeans.

In North Central Iowa’s Winnebago County, producer Wayne Johnson says the sunshine was just what his crops needed.

“We were able to get planting done in pretty timely fashion for the most part,” he says. “Everything went in pretty early except for a couple of soybean field, but the fields are looking great!”

Lessons in Lemonade

Jun 10, 2016
Pat Blank/IPR

Just in time for the hottest weather of the season, a group of young Cedar Falls entrepreneurs is learning how to make a profit selling lemonade.

The two dozen 4th through 6th graders have been paired with downtown business owners as part of a three-day camp at the University of Northern Iowa. 

Katie Bjerke runs Hatchlings and Hens, an interactive craft store. She says she’s happy to pay forward her ideas.

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.

Courtesy photo

In advance of next Tuesday’s primary election, IPR is bringing you interviews and stories about the candidates and the issues. Here is a profile of Democratic candidate Monica Vernon, who’s in the First District Congressional race.

Monica Vernon has been here before. She ran for the Democratic nomination in 2014 in a five-way primary and came in second to former Iowa lawmaker Pat Murphy. She and Murphy are back on the ballot this time around.  Vernon says she’s ready to pick up where she left off, especially on the issue of increasing the minimum wage.

Pat Blank/IPR

Two candidates who were in the 2014 Democratic primary for the nomination in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District are giving it another shot. Pat Murphy and Monica Vernon will face off in the June 7th primary. 

Pat Murphy of Dubuque served 12 terms in the Iowa House and ended his legislative career while he was Speaker of the House to run for Congress. He won the Democratic nomination in the 2014 U.S. Congressional race in a five-way primary. Murphy then lost to Republican Rod Blum in the general election.

Jason Staker/HCC

In less than a year, Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo has enrolled more than 550 students in English Language Learning classes.

Family Literacy Coordinator Laura Hidlebaugh says while that number is impressive, what’s more remarkable is that the students come from 38 countries.

“They’re responsible students and parents and community citizens working on becoming U.S. citizens, but from so many different countries," she said. “But within those countries there’s so much diversity in those first languages.” 

Community Solar Garden Helps Power Cedar Falls

May 7, 2016
Cedar Falls Utilities

Just as the freshly planted crops in Iowa’s farm fields need sunshine, so does a new type of garden in a Northeast Iowa community.  It’s called the Cedar Falls Simple Solar project.

For the past ten years, Americans have been able to receive a tax incentive of up to 30% when they invest in a renewable energy project. Things like wind farms or solar gardens. That credit was set to expire at the end of this year, but it’s now been extended until 2019.

Prestage Farms

City council members in Mason City this week turned down a proposed $240 million  pork processing plant after approving it twice on a 6-0 vote.The proposal by North Carolina-based Prestage Farms ended in a 3-3 tie. It needed four “yes” votes to pass.

One of the company's executives, Ron Prestage, says they will continue to seek an Iowa location. He says all four counties surrounding Cerro Gordo (where Mason City is located) have expressed an interest.

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