Sandhya Dirks

John Lewis is the only person to have spoken at the 1963 March on Washington who is still alive. He was just 23 years old when he addressed the crowd of more than 200,000 at the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago.

Lewis is a pillar of the civil rights movement. The son of sharecroppers in rural Alabama, he went on to become the president of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and then, eventually, a U.S. congressman from Georgia.

On Friday, the embattled mayor of San Diego officially steps down. Allegations of sexual harassment against Bob Filner have rocked the eighth-largest American city, which now has to pick up the pieces and elect a new mayor.

The announcement last week that Filner would leave office was greeted with cheers, boos and a flurry of activity from the press — but it all went quiet when the soon-to-be ex-mayor emerged from a swell of bodyguards to speak at the podium.

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Just about everyone – from the National Rifle Association to the American Civil Liberties Union — agrees that the mental health system in this country is broken. In Iowa, many local sheriffs say that means their county jails have become way stations for people with mental illness. Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports on what can happen when county jails are tasked with caring for the mentally ill.

Last year the Obama administration passed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – known as the Dream Act. It gave immigrants who came to the United States as children a path to citizenship. Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports that as immigration reform looms on the horizon, many activists see the dream act as a test run.

With immigration a hot-button issue in Washington, some version of immigration reform is likely this year. Even so, immigrant activist Sandra Sanchez concedes that the country might not be ready for an overhaul of its immigration laws.

Sanchez, director of the American Friends Service Committee Iowa's Immigrants Voice Program, doesn't mean that in political terms, but in practical ones. "We need to be prepared for the wave of millions of potential applicants that will be needing ... legal services," she says. "And we will not have enough resources to serve them."

 

Two new candidates went to the Capitol for job interviews yesterday--  as new appointees to the Board of Regents, which governs Iowa's public Universities. Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports one of those candidates—Robert Cramer—provoked a lot of controversy for his conservative views. 

Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio.

It got pretty shaky there for a bit, as river levels fell dangerously low, slowing down barge traffic essential to exporting Iowa’s grain crops. Mike Peterson with the Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis says they were able to keep boats moving until mother nature stepped in to make the Mississippi navigable again. 

"I think it’s a source of relief for a lot of folks in the Corps, the Coast Guard and the river industry." 

Sandhya Dirks

We've been hearing about some of the challenges with diversity in the Iowa City School District. There are other districts in Iowa with diversity policies, some of them much smaller. Two and a half hours from Iowa City is the town of Postville.  

Postville made national news five years ago when the federal government raided the town's Hasidic owned meat packing plant and hundreds of undocumented workers were arrested.

Sandhya Dirks

Yesterday we heard how the public outcry over the Iowa City School District Diversity policy continues to fuel a bitter debate in Iowa City. Like much of Iowa, Iowa City is facing a changing population and with that has comes a widening achievement gap. In the second part of a series about diversity in Iowa schools, reporter Sandhya Dirks takes a closer look at balancing school integration with divided neighborhoods and a new influx of residents. 

Sandhya Dirks

Demographics in Iowa are changing and perhaps no where is this fact more visible than in the classroom. In the first of a three part series about diversity in Iowa schools, Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks takes a look at the public outcry over a diversity policy in the Iowa City School District. It’s a policy that is exposing deep racial and cultural divides in a part of the state that prides itself on acceptance. 

Some high-profile Republicans are saying it’s time to “let go” of one battle in the culture wars — the fight against same-sex marriage.

David Kochel was an advisor to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Kochel says he wants to begin a conversation about changing the Republican Party’s idea of family values.

“I like to think of it as my Republican values, and my conservative values—being pro-marriage, pro-family, and believing in intact families as the best place to give children a hope for the future,” he says.

The Iowa Department of Transportation says it will not issue driver's licenses or state identification cards to undocumented immigrants who have been granted deferred action by the Obama administration because they came to the United States as kids.

In Iowa almost 5,000 young immigrants—mostly of Mexican descent—have been granted temporary deferred action by the Obama administration. This means they can stay in the country, but after this ruling from the DOT, they can’t drive or receive a state ID in Iowa.

Iowa’s Secretary of State Matt Schultz was in Washington today to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports the committee was tackling the contentious issue of voters rights.

Since 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has picked five cities each year for its Greening America's Capitals project. On this year’s list? Des Moines.

The project will focus on revitalizing the 6th Avenue Corridor in downtown Des Moines.  The idea is to make the corridor friendlier to pedestrians, with wider sidewalks, improved lightning and larger bus stop shelters.

Sandhya Dirks / IPR

Debate surrounding what we eat and how it’s made is nothing new, but in this year of outcry over pink slime, criticism regarding gestation crates and questions about the value of organic food, the various sides are reaching out in new ways and new places. Even when the opposing camps actually speak with each other, though, middle ground is still proving hard to find.

Clay Masters / IPR

With two elder statesmen going head to head in Iowa’s third Congressional district, it was a given that Iowa would lose an incumbent. Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports that democratic Congressmen Leonard Boswell’s concession to Republican opponent Tom Latham was also a retirement speech.

It may have been a night of disappointment at Republican headquarters in Des Moines… but there was a bright spot. Tom Latham will be returning to Congress for a tenth term…

Clay Masters / IPR

After a long and contentious presidential election season, the candidates made their closing arguments Monday. Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan made his last visit to Iowa on behalf of Mitt Romney. And President Barack Obama held the final campaign event  of his political career in Des Moines.

While both men were still trying to drum up every last vote in a close election, they were also here to thank the voters who by now, have grown used to their constant visits.

Sandhya Dirks

During the contentious political race between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney—both candidates have targeted many groups—undecided voters, minority voters, young voters, older voters—but perhaps no voter bloc has been more sought after than women.  Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks takes at a look women in this election. 

Both campaigns want to claim momentum heading into the final days of the campaign. This is especially true in battleground states like Iowa, where enthusiasm and voter turnout can make all the difference.

It's a common political metaphor — momentum — but is it a good one?

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Iowa Public Radio's Sandhya Dirks joins Sarah McCammon to discuss the real meaning of "momentum" ... and whether either campaign can claim to have it.  Iowa State University physicist John Hauptman weighs in.

Sandhya Dirks

It’s Congressman versus Congressman in Iowa’s new third district. As Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports, redistricting has put Congressmen Tom Latham and Leonard Boswell in a fight for their political lives.  


Sandhya Dirks

It’s the last lap of the presidential campaign, and President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney are fighting for every vote, and every electoral vote. That means they are spending a lot of time in Iowa. Wednesday began with a visit from the President in the morning and ended with a night time rally for Romney. Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks went to both events. 

In a number of swing states, early voting means many people are already casting their ballots. Typically, that entails voting by mail or visiting a county elections office.

But in Iowa, satellite voting — where "pop-up" polling stations allow people to vote at convenient times and nontraditional locations — is growing in popularity.

Sandhya Dirks

In a number of swing states, early voting means people are already casting their ballots. Usually this entails voting by mail, or visiting your county elections office. But in Iowa satellite voting is increasingly popular and means something completely different, as Iowa public Radios’s Sandhya Dirks reports

It’s a bright autumn afternoon in a strip mall on the west side of Des Moines and families are stopping by La Tapatia Tienda Mexicana to get their weekly groceries.  Mary Campos is sitting in her walker at the entrance,"Buenos dios..."

Sandhya Dirks

Both Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama took the stage for their final debate in Florida last night. In Iowa, the campaigns staged watch parties. Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports that both camps believe their candidate went home with the win.  

It's the final weeks of election season. And,  as Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports democrats are calling on a familiar face to rally the base-- former President Bill Clinton.

Basically, they brought out the big gun. Clinton was stumping for Congressional candidate Christie Vilsack, She's in a close race with Republican incumbent Steve King. At a rally in Sioux City, the crowd showed the former President a lot of love.

Iowa Public Television

Redistricting has pitted long term congressmen Republican Tom Latham and Democrat Leonard Boswell against each other in a tight race for Iowa’s 3rd district. As Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports, the Congressmen are trying to convince Iowan’s to send them back to Washington.   

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