From John and Lois Rose
On a Saturday morning last March, Lois and I were drinking coffee, reading the newspaper, and doing what all retired people do; trying to remember what we did yesterday. Then the phone call came from the Union County Democratic Convention.... “Would you consider running for state representative from the newly created District 21.” After much thought over the weekend, Lois and I decided to give it a try.
Although my run for office was not successful, both Lois and I are thankful for the experience. Without question, the most rewarding component of the campaign was door knocking. We tried very hard to get to every door on our list, but regrettably, time ran out. Overall, however, we came close.
Door knocking taught us that there are many people living in this district who are facing almost insurmountable problems. I strongly reject the stereotype that many have of the poor. And although anecdotal evidence may suggest that some who receive public assistance are “working the system,” it would be a mistake to believe that such assistance is not crucial to the survival of most who receive it. Remember that some at the opposite end of the spectrum also work the system by avoiding taxes. Who costs us more?
If I had been elected, however, economic development would have been my first concern. Because I have never been part of the legislative process, I cannot be more specific than that, but I am convinced that Iowa’s economy cannot grow unless we somehow reverse the demographic trends in this state.
In 1900, Iowa was one of the 10 most populous states in the United States, and it was said in Congress that if you wanted to get anything done, “GO ASK IOWA.” In the 1930s and ‘40s, Iowa had more representatives and more electoral votes than Florida. Since the 1950s, Iowa has slowly gone from eight representatives to four. For those who slept through American government class in high school, that has happened because there can only be a total of 435 representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although Iowa has gained population, other states are growing much more rapidly, and therefore are gaining representation that used to belong to states like Iowa.
Every time that Iowa loses a U.S. Representative, we lose political and economic influence. We cannot grow enough population to avoid becoming marginalized in Washington with agricultural jobs alone. Therefore, we must avoid thinking of economic development as an urban vs. rural issue. The fact is that we cannot have a healthy and diverse rural economy without a healthy and diverse urban economy, because urban areas are where most people are, and where they will be. A healthy urban economy raises the tax base, which benefits rural areas, as well. Look to our neighbor to the north, Minnesota, as an example. Infrastructure is essential. We cannot attract quality jobs unless Iowa is perceived as an attractive place to live. Therefore, we must avoid the mindset of reducing taxes during the current economic recovery by too much. There is such a thing as being penny wise and pound foolish.
Lois and I will always be eternally thankful for the support and votes of those who offered them. It was a good ride, but not one that I would wish to repeat.