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News Analysis: Thursday June 05, 2008

posted on June 6, 2008 at 1:58 PM

Yeager: We turn to Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa and Ken Larson of the Marshalltown Times Republican for a take on the edge of the news. Kay, I want to start with you. New news out of the CIETC case and this involving the CEO Ramona Cunningham.

Henderson: A judge has ruled that she is competent to stand trial. Her lawyer had argued that she had tried to commit suicide and she was not able to stand trial. A judge has said she is. That trial will likely take place somewhere outside of Polk County, perhaps Davenport as the others did.

Yeager: The other ones were moved to Davenport. It could be the same, it could be a different city but we haven't heard that. That will be the next probably legal step in this one is where to have this case. Let's talk about some flooding issues and it seems to be we've had rain over and over and over again in many parts of the state.

And Kay and Ken, both of you have covered both your respective parts of the state. Kay, let's start with you. This has come down to a state issue where the state has gotten involved. The Governor sent out a note yesterday about what to look out for. Why is he getting involved?

Henderson: Well, the ground is saturated and in some areas overnight there were as many as nine inches of rain dumped down in the town of Creston on the north side. And rivers are beyond their banks in some instances and roads are becoming impassable and during nighttime hours when flood waters surge it is sometimes hard to discern that when you're driving. So, caution is advised to drivers at night in Iowa.

Yeager: And this is something we've seen over and over again, Ken, in Marshalltown we've seen the Iowa River come up, come down, it's back up again. What's it looking like there? Is it at a record height right now?

Larson: It is at a record height. It actually went higher than the floods of 1993 just a few days ago but we're not feeling it, I don't think, quite as much as we did back in 1993.

Yeager: What has changed and why are you not seeing the impact?

Larson: One of the biggest things residents notice when they leave town is that Highway 14 is closed, Highway 330 was closed. Both of those have been improved by the DOT over the years and they are higher up and the water seems to flow under the bridge a lot better than it has and they tend to be closed for maybe a day, day and a half at most right now.

Yeager: And it looks like you're heeding the warning of the forecasters. Is the same in town kind of keeping an eye out, you've got crews ready to go and things like that. Kay, are there other parts of the state that we're seeing filled up more than just the Creston area. We've talked about the Mississippi River several times and everything is going to flow there eventually.

Henderson: Exactly. I was getting my hair cut today in an area of Des Moines where the fire department arrived and told business owners there's a chance it could flood here in a low lying area of Des Moines. So, I think every part of the state is being touched. There hasn't been a part of this state that's been sort of an oasis of dryness, if you will. So, I think that flooding may hamper Iowans' ability to go from point A to point B.

Yeager: And Ken, you kind of mentioned it, we're talking about '93. Why is everything always compared to '93? Are we looking at it -- I don't know if either one of you can answer this -- are we looking at a '93 repeat here?

Henderson: Well, one of the things that I noted is that this business in which I was sitting today is a business where flood mitigation projects sort of surrounded, bunkers were built, the Des Moines Water Works had a huge bunker built around it, an earthen bunker and so I think that one of the reasons people aren't noticing as much flooding as maybe they did in 1993, although flood waters have risen to levels above '93 levels, is because of those flood mitigation efforts.

Yeager: Those are the efforts that everybody has kind of put in place and moved forward to. I want to move forward to one other issue here and talk about immigration. That's going to be the bulk of our program talking with workers. And Ken, it was about a year and a half ago, you had media from across the state invading your town talking about the ICE raids at the Swift plant. What have you watched and noted of what's going on in Postville in relationship to Marshalltown?

Larson: We've seen a lot of similarities. We've seen a few differences. It certainly was, so to speak, unexpected in Postville. I don't think most people realized it was coming. We've seen a much larger scale operation in Postville than we saw in Marshalltown, a lot more workers were detained and taken out of the plant than they were in Marshalltown.

We've also seen a bigger impact on the community. Marshalltown is a very large community with a very, very heavy Hispanic population but yet we seemed to recover from it almost instantaneously. Businesses didn't close, the schools took a minor hit for a few days and we seem to be back to normal after that. Postville, the school enrollment just dropped dramatically and it is the end of the school year, we may not know until next fall if those numbers will come back up again.

Yeager: When you went out and probed people about this issue in Marshalltown after Postville were they talking about it or were they just kind of going, well, it's their turn or what was the response?

Larson: I think it depends on who you talk to. The different aspects of our community, you ask some of them and they're not surprised, ICE is charged by the federal government with going out and conducting these raids and deporting illegal immigration workers, whereas others were just shocked that this is continuing, that after Marshalltown and the efforts made with an immigration summit there to try and get some answers and to try and find a solution and Congress talking over and over again about how we're going to come up with the solution and then not coming up with one a lot of people were surprised that it just continues.

Yeager: Sure, and Kay I want to ask you, there's new information, the family of the folks who own the plant have made some comments. What has he said?

Henderson: Well, heretofore the family has issued written statements through a company. The Jewish News Agency based in New York City was able to interview 80-year-old Aaron Rubashkin, who is the sort of patriarch of the family which owns Agriprocessors, he refuted all arguments about the way that they may have mistreated workers, that they were working in unsafe conditions, that they were not being paid the minimum wage, that they were employing children, he denied all of that.

He, in fact, said that the media was printing and broadcasting lies about what was going on in the plant and he went on to say that they had never mistreated anyone or anything even a cat. So, he was very vehement in his defense of the way his company has run that plant and also quite critical of what he referred to as the lynching media and also critical of the government for failing to, in his words, control the borders and control the illegal immigration situation.

Of course, his company is accused of helping in this identity theft fraud by providing the social security numbers to employees, he denied that.

Yeager: Not out of the woods yet and they're probably not done with the federal government either. So, Kay Henderson and Ken Larson, I thank you both for coming in tonight.

Tags: CIETC Iowa news Republicans