Rob Dillard

Correspondent

Rob Dillard is a Des Moines based correspondent for Iowa Public Radio. He joined IPR in 2001 as host of Morning Edition and moved to reporting in 2007.  He has been on special assignment for IPR since early 2011 reporting the ongoing series “Being in Iowa.” It has taken him around the state shining light on small segments of the population, including Muslims, military veterans, Latinos and the physically disabled. The series has won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and Northwest Broadcast News Association (NBNA).

Rob has extensive experience in radio, newspaper and media relations dating back more than 30 years. He has also taught news writing at Central College in Pella. Rob earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communications at the University of Iowa.

Rob’s favorite public radio program is Morning Edition.

Ways to Connect

Iowa Department of Education

A report issued Tuesday gives an early glimpse at how well the state’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation Program is working. The study indicates improved classroom instruction, which is yet to show up in the form of improved student achievement.

Principal Financial Group

The Des Moines-based financial services company Principal Financial Group is projecting steady growth during 2017. The expectations follow a pattern of revenue increases the company has seen over the past several years.

Iowa Reading Research Center

The Iowa Reading Research Center is out with the results of a study into the effectiveness of summer reading programs. The report comes as every school district in the state approaches a deadline to enact some form of summer reading program.

A long-planned highway extension in Cedar Rapids is nearing completion of its first phase. Development officials say the project will eventually lead to massive growth on the city’s west side.

By mid-December, a four-mile stretch of Highway 100 between Edgewood and Covington roads should be open to traffic. The four-lane divided highway includes a bridge over the Cedar River. The Director of Community Development in Cedar Rapids, Jennifer Pratt, says the bypass will ease traffic congestion in the city and open up a huge swath of land for development.

Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance

Economic development officials in Cedar Rapids are preparing a plot of land on the city’s southwest side for a future industrial park. They say the site has the potential to become the state’s biggest certified location for large-scale industries.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Des Moines Area Community College and Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant are joining to offer a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing completion program. It will be open to students who earn their Registered Nurse associate degrees at DMACC.

It’s being called the RN-to-BSN 3+1 completion program. Graduates of DMACC’s nursing program will be able to complete their BSN degrees in one year by taking on-line courses provided by Iowa Wesleyan. 

For nontraditional students such as Lashaina Woods of Waterloo, the initiative comes with significant cost savings.

Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio

The Linn County Attorney is calling for a grand jury investigation into the shooting of Jerime (Jeremy) Mitchell by Cedar Rapids police officer Lucas Jones.

Jerry Vander Sanden says he has reviewed materials supplied by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and determined it’s in the “public interest” for a grand jury to look into whether criminal charges are warranted.

Mitchell was left paralyzed by the shooting.

Vander Sanden says he is in the process of selecting the seven-person panel.

It takes votes from five jury members to return an indictment. 

Iowa Home Prices Climb

Nov 18, 2016
Dan Moyle / Flicker

Home prices in Iowa are on the rise.

The monthly report from the Iowa Association of Realtors shows the median sale price in October was $145,000, 5.1 percent higher than a year ago.

Association president Cindy Miller says it’s a seller’s market at the moment.

“I think what we have right now is a lower inventory, which will drive supply-and-demand and drive the price up a little bit,” she says.

Miller sees that changing in the coming months.

Mercy Medical Center

Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines is opening the state’s first obstetrics emergency department.  It will be staffed around-the-clock by OB-GYN doctors.

Officials at Hy-Vee are reporting so-called skimmers had been discovered attached to ATMs in three Des Moines-area stores. These devices are used to steal debit and credit card information. 

A spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General’s office says incidents involving skimmers in Iowa are rare, and happen mostly at gas stations, not at ATMs. Communications director Geoff Greenwood points to some things that might indicate a machine has been messed with.

The nonprofit Iowa Policy Project is out with the third part of its 2016 study on the cost of living in the state.This one focuses on the public support systems in place to assist low-income working families.

The report by the research director at the Iowa Policy Project, Peter Fisher, identifies so-called “cliff effects” within low-income assistance programs. These occur when a families higher wages result in the loss of public support. He says, for example, Child Care Assistance disappears at 145 percent of the poverty level.

el7bara/Flickr

The Imam at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids says Muslims in his community are reacting with a mix of fear and sadness to the election of Donald Trump as president.

Hassan Salim says he hopes President-elect Donald Trump will watch his language when talking about Islam.

“There are millions of American Muslims who are truly hurt every time he does not distinguish between what Islam is, what American Muslims are, and radical Islam. These are two separate things and he needs to make it very clear.”

Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio

Members of Iowa’s Latino community are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward newly elected President Donald Trump. They admit to fear and anxiety over comments he’s made about immigration, but they also express hope he’ll eventually see the light.

John Pemble/IPR

Senator Charles Grassley’s re-election to a seventh term was called as soon as the polls closed in Iowa. The 83-year-old Senator says there’s still work to do when he returns to Washington.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Local and regional chapters of the NAACP hosted the Fourth Annual Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities Friday in Ankeny. The gathering comes one year after a governor appointed working group made recommendations on criminal justice policy reform. 

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence made his seventh campaign stop in Iowa since his party’s national convention Thursday. He appeared before an estimated 325 people in a machine shed on a Warren County farm. 

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.

Michael Leland, Iowa Public Radio

A sociologist at Iowa State University has uncovered something that goes against common belief. He says income levels in rural areas of the state are higher than in the urban centers.

Extension rural sociologist David Peters has studied census data on income and poverty levels nationwide, and he has broken it down state-by-state. He finds the median household income in rural areas of Iowa is a bit more than $60,000, 11 percent higher than in cities. He says one reason may be three-quarters of Iowa farms are so-called “hobby farms.”

Heartland Financial USA

A Dubuque-based banking operation is merging with a similar group of banks in California. The deal is designed to expand the Iowa company’s position on the West Coast.

Heartland Financial USA is acquiring Founders Bancorp of San Luis Obispo, Calif., for around 29-million dollars in cash and stock. The deal is expected to close during the first quarter of 2017. Heartland Chairman and CEO Lynn Fuller says the market on the Pacific Ocean halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco is economically strong.

University of Dubuque

The University of Dubuque is becoming one of the rare four-year colleges to add helicopter flight training to its catalog of courses. The school is responding to a growing demand for pilots.

The University already offers a Bachelor of Science degree in flight operations, and provides flight training in fixed-wing aircraft. Beginning with the spring term in January, it will teach students how to fly choppers. The Director of the Aviation Program at Dubuque, Steven Accinelli, says potential students were asking for helicopter training because of the strong job outlook for pilots.

Christopher Gannon, Iowa State University

Analysts at Iowa State University say the Iowa Department of Transportation could save millions of dollars each year by simply replacing its snowplows more often. The researchers combed through 10 years of maintenance records to reach this conclusion.

American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa

The man who as a 30-year-old lawyer in 1969 won the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker vs. Des Moines Schools has died.

Dan Johnston was just a year out of law school when he took on the free speech case of two public school students who were suspended for wearing black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War.

The Supreme Court agreed with his argument school officials had violated the rights of John and Mary Beth Tinker in a 7-2 decision.

Iowa Afterschool Alliance

A West Des Moines-based organization that advocates for out-of-school learning opportunities for children is out with a report that points to the unmet need in Iowa. The group plans to deliver the report to legislators to make sure they’re aware.

The 40-page report from the Iowa Afterschool Alliance indicates 86 percent of schoolchildren in the state have no access to before-school, after-school or summer-learning programs. This translates to 136,000 students.

American Institute of Architects

A key indicator of future construction activity nationwide is down for a second straight month. The situation in Iowa and the Midwest is a bit more stable. Architects and builders say they are delaying plans until after the election.

Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio

A group consisting of mayors and prominent business leaders is calling for an increase in the state sales tax. The extra money would go into a fund to support water quality and recreation projects. 

The Iowa Water and Land Legacy Coalition is asking the Legislature to up the state sales tax by three-eighths of a cent.

The extra cash would go into the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

Iowa voters overwhelmingly approved creation of the fund in 2010.

But the mayor of Storm Lake Jon Kruse says no state money has ever gone into it.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The race for Congress in Iowa’s 2nd District pits the lone Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation against a Republican challenger, who until recently aligned with the Libertarian Party. It’s a contest in which both candidates are viewed as moderates.

Center for Violence Prevention/UNI

A series of events across the state this week will highlight efforts to prevent bullying and sexual violence. The Director of the Center for Violence Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa, Alan Heisterkamp, says the primary purpose for the various programs offered this week is to simply get people talking. “Generating conversations with parents, with students, with community partners and agencies, around bullying prevention, around violence prevention, promoting healthy relationships, promoting positive choices," he says. Heisterkamp says his center plans to hold a student leadershi

Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio

The sixth annual Iowa Climate Statement is aimed directly at farmers.

It follows the lead of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack by calling for climate-smart agriculture.

The statement is signed by 187 scientists representing 39 colleges and universities in the state.

It urges farmers to take up efforts aimed at replacing carbon in the soil.

The director of the environmental science and policy program at Drake University, David Courard-Hauri, says climate-smart agriculture does more than reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The Polk County Board of Supervisors gave approval to a second reading of a proposed hike in the minimum wage.

It is drawing resistance because of certain provisions.

The Board is attempting to raise the minimum wage in Polk County to $8.75 an hour by April of next year, which would climb to $10.75 at the start of 2019.

Teenage workers younger than 18, however, would receive 85 percent of the minimum wage.

Sixteen-year old Alexa Rodriguez says the lower wage for young people is not fair because she does the same work her older colleagues do.

Dean Borg, Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa chapter of the American Red Cross closed the last of its emergency shelters in Cedar Rapids Monday.

A spokeswoman for the relief agency says that doesn’t mean its work is done in helping flood victims. Regional communications officer Kara Kelly says the tasks ahead mostly involve cleanup.

She says the Red Cross also helps people fill out the forms they need to draw state and federal assistance.

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