By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
A legislative forum held Thursday night served as a means for citizens to learn their candidates’ stance on children’s issues and also gave the candidates an opportunity to learn about the issues facing children in the areas they will serve if elected.
Candidates for Iowa House District 98, Democrat Mary Wolfe and no-party candidate Carolyn Grimes; Iowa House District 97, Democrat Ted Whisler and Republican Steven Olson; and candidate for Iowa Senate District 49, Democrat Rita Hart attended the forum at First United Methodist Church.
All candidates were given statistics on the state of children’s issues in the area. The forum started with each candidate providing an opening statement before answering a series of questions regarding children’s issues such as child abuse, children’s mental health, poverty, food insecurity and obesity and childcare/preschool.
Dennis Glew served as the moderator for the forum, which lasted slightly more than two hours.
House District 98
No-party candidate Carolyn Grimes, is vying to take the seat from incumbent Democrat Mary Wolfe, also of Clinton for the seat in this house district, which serves the city of Clinton as well as the eastern part of Clinton County.
The two differed greatly on the question of preschool.
“Preschool should be voluntary,” Grimes said.
Wolfe, on the other hand stated, “I do
think we should mandate preschool, at least 4-year old preschool. It doesn’t have to be through a state school...I do think 4-year-old preschool should be free at public schools.”
The two shared similar sentiments when asked if the scope of people who are deemed mandatory reporters should be broadened.
“I don’t think it would work because there’s no enforcement ability,” Wolfe said, adding the focus should be on educating those deemed mandatory reporters.
Grimes agreed stating, “Mandatory reporters have been named mandatory reporters for a reason. I think it would be wrong to filter through more people.”
House District 97
The race for House District 97, which covers the western part of Clinton County and the northern part of Scott County, has incumbent Republican Steve Olson, of DeWitt pitted against Democratic challenger Ted Whisler, of LeClaire.
Both touted the property tax reform as a means of job creation.
On the matter of preschool, Whisler focused on providing preschool to underprivileged children, while Olson stressed utilizing successful programs that are already in place.
“I don’t think we can mandate preschool, but I certainly think we can fund it, mainly for the underprivileged. I think the middle class can afford their own daycare and they’re going to want to choose their own daycare,” Whisler said. “But, at least we should have the minimum for underprivileged children so they have the opportunity at age four to get the social skills and knowledge they need to prepare them for kindergarten.”
Olson referenced the state empowerment program that served families in Clinton, Jackson and Scott County that saw funds diminish once the preschool program was implemented by the state.
“I think that if we could just go back and empower those people a little more rather than trying to start another preschool program. As I said earlier, if we would just implement what we already have in place already rather than coming up with every new gadget every time we turn around, we’d be better off,” Olson said.
Senate District 49
Republican Andrew Naeve, of Andover and Democrat Rita Hart, of Wheatland are both seeking to be the first elected in this newly created seat. District 49 encompasses all of Clinton County and the northeastern part of Scott County.
Hart said she believes the focus should be on meeting the needs on all of the children in a kindergarten classroom
“I think back on the Head start program and I think that was one thing that indicates what we should not do. We should not take a program that is working and producing results and cut their funding,” Hart said.
She also stated other items surrounding the preschool program such as transportation, need to be addressed.
“It’s not only about funding the preschool program. For the people who are in poverty, it’s also about how are they going to get those kids there.”
Naeve was unable to attend the forum.