A pair of Democrat candidates for Iowa Senate and House of Representatives fielded questions and gave their views on relieving poverty in Tama County and Iowa during a forum sponsored by Mid-Iowa Community Action at the Reining-Toledo Civic Center on Thursday night, Sept. 15. A dozen people were on hand for the question and answer session moderated by Arlene McAtee, MICA executive director.
State Senator Steve Sodders and Nathan Wrage, candidate for House District 72 both called for raising the minimum wage as part of their solutions.
They noted the minimum wage in the Iowa has not been raised above it's current $7.35 hour since 2007.
State Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center) and Nathan Wrage (D-Gladbrook, candidate for Iowa House District 72, take part in a forum in Toledo on Thursday night, Sept. 15. Arlene McAtee, executive director of Mid-Iowa Community Action,at right, served as moderator for the event.
Central Iowa Press/John Speer
State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Garwin) and Jeff Edler, candidate for the Senate 36 seat, both cited previous commitments and did not attend according to a MICA spokesperson.
Sodders said he viewed "tackling mental health" as the No. 1 priority facing the state and was critical of Gov. Terry Branstad's decision to close two of the four mental health institutes in the state. In addition to the closings, Sodders said the governor has eliminated 10 beds at the Independence Mental Health Institute as well as closing the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.
He said "early intervention" is a key. Based upon his personal experience as a Marshall County deputy sheriff, Sodders "for proper care jail is not the place."
He said efforts underway in re-training employees in Iowa have been successful and called for continuation of these programs at community colleges and through other avenues.
"Education is critical, it's the number one thing," Wrage said. He said schools need funding and create a "welcoming environment for students."
Wrage said he supports a raise of the minimum wage in Iowa to $10.10 to $10.80 in stages over two to three years.
He said a gradual increase would allow "businesses a chance to adjust.
Sodders aid the Democrat-controlled Iowa senate had passed a $10.10 minimum wage bill but it was rejected in the Iowa house as was a move for a $9 wage.
Both candidates also called for action on the "cliff effect" - the circumstance when a working parent, for example, makes less with low wages than the family can receive by accepting public assistance.
Sodders said the circumstance "makes zero sense."
Wrage called for making the "cliff effect into a gently rolling hill" eliminating the crazy thing (that) you can't afford to work."
Wrage pointed to water quality in Iowa as the issue he feels is at the forefront.
MICA is described on the organizations Facebook page as "a private, nonprofit organization serving low-income children and families in central Iowa. MICA strives to build communities where fewer people find themselves in poverty, and those who do have a path out."
Among services MICA operates the Head Start program based in Tama and the Tama Healthy Families Programs.