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Welcome to my website!

My name is Natalie Dunlap and I am a politics reporter and digital producer at The Daily Iowan. Last semester I covered lower education at the DI on the news team. I am also an intern at Little Village and an Experience Iowa ambassador. In high school I was the online editor-in-chief of the West Side Story.

Iowa City City Council votes not to approve Hickory Trail Estates

The rezoning item failed to pass, with only two Iowa City City Council members voting to approve the Hickory Trail Estates plan and public commenters encouraging a “no” vote.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

Developers will need to return to the drawing board for the Hickory Trail Estates plan following an Iowa City City Council vote that rejected the rezoning plan.

During the Tuesday night meeting, five councilors rejected the plan, with City Councilors Laura Bergus and Susan Mims voting in favor of the plan. 

Adam Tarr, an attorney from Pugh Hagan Prahm, spoke on behalf of the rezoning applicant, Nelson development. 

He argued that the proposal “expands and improves and protects the diversity of the park, while also addressing a vital need for senior housing including memory units. It adds a quality single family housing stock to the side.” 

He said the developer had worked with the city forester, the park staff, city council staff, and the Planning and Zoning Commission on this plan. 

The parks and forestry staff of Iowa City reviewed the landscaping plan and had no objections to it, he said.  

The development would cover 48.75 acres of land and consist of low density single-family housing and memory units for geriatric adults. 

“It’s now the council’s sworn duty to act in good faith tonight, and apply the law you have, not the law you want, to accept the overwhelming recommendation of staff and approve the final reading of this application,” Tarr said in closing. 

When the floor was opened for public comment on the agenda item, more than a dozen people spoke, all voicing opposition to the rezoning. 

Casey Kohrt, the chair of Friends of Hickory Hill Park, said the project was not compliant with the Northeast District Plan and voiced frustration about Iowa City considering the vote. 

He said after the Hickory Heights development was approved, members of Friends of Hickory Hill Park decided they needed to work with the city going forward, and that resulted in the Northeast District Plan. 

“Now, if you’re going to vote against that I ask myself, ‘Why bother?’” Kohrt said. “We were told that this is how we protest, and then you’re going to throw the plan out the window.” 

Continue reading “Iowa City City Council votes not to approve Hickory Trail Estates”

Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis running for U.S. Congress

U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer said she couldn’t be more excited about how Iowa’s ticket could shape up going into 2022.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

Iowa Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, is running to represent Iowa’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

In her announcement video, Mathis said people in her community are concerned about the level of conflict in politics, the direction the country is headed, and if elected officials are putting Iowa first. 

“That’s why I want you to hear that I’ve decided to run for Congress,” she said. “It’s clear, Iowans want leaders who care about fairness and honesty, who want to make sure businesses and workers succeed, who want to see communities thrive so that our kids and grandkids inherit and even better Iowa. And that means putting service ahead of politics.”

Continue reading “Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis running for U.S. Congress”

Police investigating reported shots fired in Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall

The University of Iowa shared a Hawk Alert to stay away from the area early Sunday morning.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

A Hawk Alert shared at 1:14 a.m. on Sunday alerted currently enrolled students at the University of Iowa of reported shots fired on the Pedestrian Mall. 

“After further investigation police determined a fight involving several people occurred in the alley by the Fieldhouse bar,” said a press release shared by the Iowa City Police Department. “One person fired several shots from a handgun into the crowd. A twenty-four-year-old female and a seventeen-year-old male were struck by the gunfire. They are believed to have non-life-threatening injuries. No arrests have been made in connection to this incident, which remains under investigation.”

Police are asking for the community’s assistance in identifying the people in a video from outside of the Fieldhouse bar, the press release said.

This incident is being actively investigated by the Iowa City Police Department because it occurred in their jurisdiction, Assistant Director of Media Relations Haley Bruce told The Daily Iowan in an email. 

A few hours earlier on Saturday, at about 9:17 a.m., Iowa City Police responded to reports of shots fired at  the 2600 Block of Muscatine Avenue. Police determined a fight involving several people in the area occurred and at least two people fired guns.

“An adult male was struck in the leg and suffered what is believed to be non-life-threatening injuries,” the release said. “One arrest has been made in connection to this incident, which remains under investigation. Ka’Leck Bolden, 23, of Iowa City has been charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Felon.”

Police do not believe the two incidents are related.

South Dakota governor is not immediately working towards putting prayer in schools

During a Christian lobbyist event in Des Moines, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said she is putting prayer “back in schools,” but no concrete examples exist.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan and PolitiFact websites.

PolitiFact Iowa is a project of The Daily Iowan’s Ethics & Politics Initiative and PolitiFact to help you find the truth in politics.

Edited by Lyle Muller and Rachel Schilke

If your time is short

  • Gov. Kristi Noem spoke at an event hosted by a Christian lobbyist group in Des Moines, Iowa and told the crowd she was putting prayer in South Dakota schools. 
  • No concrete examples of how Noem plans to do this or how this would work exist. 
  • The governor’s office is telling media outlets to “stay tuned” for the governor’s plans.
Continue reading “South Dakota governor is not immediately working towards putting prayer in schools”

Former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer announces bid for U.S. Senate

Finkenauer said politicians who have been in power for decades, “think they own democracy,” and were silent when it was attacked.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

Former Democratic U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer is running for the U.S. Senate. 

In an announcement video shared on Thursday, Finkenauer said her parents taught her the value of working hard, being humble, and treating people with respect. Finkenauer said she brought those values with her when she was elected to Congress. 

“The politicians who’ve been there for decades don’t really want people like us there. They think they own democracy, and they were silent when it was attacked,” she said. “It’s politicians like Senator Grassley and Mitch McConnell, who should know better but are so obsessed with power that they oppose anything that moves us forward. Since the Capitol was attacked, they turned their backs on democracy and on us. They made their choice, and I’m making mine. I’m running for the United States Senate.” 

Finkenauer represented Iowa’s first congressional district in the 116th U.S. Congress. She lost her reelection in November 2020 to Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson. 

During a Democratic fundraising event held in Iowa City several weeks ago, Finkenauer said losing her seat in Congress was tough, but that she has been motivated by the actions of the Republican-controlled state Legislature, which she called an assault on Iowa, their values, and decency, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan.  

“I’m here to tell you this, it has lit a fire in me,” she said on July 2. “I am not done, I have work to do. Iowa has work to do and we are going to, in 2022, bring decency and integrity, and the truth back.” 

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has maintained for months that he will make his decision about pursuing reelection in the fall. 

RELATED: Iowa Democrats rally in Iowa City to kick off the 2022 election campaign season

Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, said he will be running for the U.S. Senate seat in February — an announcement that prompted the Grassley Committee to send a fundraising email encouraging donations to Grassley.

Finkenauer is the second Democrat to announce their candidacy for the Senate seat. The first was Dave Muhlbauer, the former Vice Chairman of the Crawford County Board of Supervisors. 

“Our campaign is about you,” said Finkenauer, surrounded by supporters in her campaign video. “It’s about our young people who have left, and the Iowans left behind by those at the top, and about those who have been knocked down and getting back up together. That’s the Iowa, that’s the America I’m fighting for.” 

Former Vice President Pence visits Iowa at Family Leadership Summit, celebrates limiting access to abortion

Lobbyists and legislators celebrated that Iowa has begun the process of amending its constitution to say abortion is not a protected right, among other anti-abortion efforts.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

DES MOINES — The 2021 Iowa legislative session was the best The FAMiLY Leader had ever seen, said the lobbyist group’s Vice President and Chief Counsel, Chuck Hurley, partially because they saw their biggest priority accomplished: beginning the process of making an amendment to the state consistent that declares abortion is not a protected right.

Hurley addressed a crowd of several hundred on Friday at the 10th annual FAMiLY Leadership Summit in Des Moines. The event brought together religious leaders and Republican politicians who promoted inserting Christianity and “Christ-like-leadership” into politics, as well as condemning the cultural changes that go against their socially conservative beliefs.

National names took the stage, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Continue reading “Former Vice President Pence visits Iowa at Family Leadership Summit, celebrates limiting access to abortion”

UI President Barbara Wilson begins tenure at university

Wilson’s initial term begins July 15 and ends June 30, 2026.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

Barbara Wilson’s tenure as University of Iowa President began on Thursday.

In April, the state Board of Regents chose the former executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs for the University of Illinois System from four finalists following a public forum with each candidate. As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, Wilson had the highest approval rating among the candidates in a campus survey.

Continue reading “UI President Barbara Wilson begins tenure at university”

State Supreme Court case regarding P3 is win for accountability in Iowa, Auditor says

Rob Sand spoke with attendants, including local elected officials and state legislators, during a town hall on Thursday.

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

An Iowa Supreme Court ruling that the University of Iowa must disclose investors in the public-private partnership was a win for accountability in the state, Iowa Auditor Rob Sand said during a town hall meeting in Iowa City on Thursday. 

The auditor’s office got involved because the university was recruiting investors to the deal, Sand said. As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, Sand requested information about the investors from the UI and regents, which they denied to share.

The auditor’s office then subpoenaed the UI, which the UI did not honor. The UI lost its argument in a Polk County District Court in February.

The UI filed an appeal, and then lost in the Iowa Supreme Court in a ruling on April 30. Sand said any self-respecting auditor would look into the largest financial transaction in Iowa history.

Continue reading “State Supreme Court case regarding P3 is win for accountability in Iowa, Auditor says”

No, Iowa’s ‘Back the Blue Act’ does not criminalize wearing the image of the U.S. flag on towels or swimsuits

Political and commercial photographer Greg Hauenstein said Iowans need to throw out items that show the American flag, but having those is not a crime under the new “Back the Blue Act.”

This article was originally published on The Daily Iowan’s website.

PolitiFact Iowa is a project of The Daily Iowan’s Ethics & Politics Initiative and PolitiFact to help you find the truth in politics.

Edited by Rachel Schilke, Robert Read, and Lyle Muller

If your time is short

  • The “Back the Blue Act” signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds says a person using the U.S. flag to knowingly and publicly show disrespect with the reasonable expectation to provoke others is committing a simple misdemeanor. 
  • The law defines the flag as “a piece of woven cloth or other material designed to be flown from a pole or mast,” so the image of a flag on a piece of clothing would not qualify as a flag.

After Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill on June 17 that creates harsher penalties for protestors into law, Greg Hauenstein – a political and commercial photographer – took to Twitter to critique a part of the law outlining punishment for showing disrespect to the United States flag. 

“Under the ‘Back the Blue’ Act that @KimReynoldsIA signed today you cannot ‘intentionally cut up or alter’ or ‘intentionally make physically unclean’ an American flag,” Hauenstein tweeted. “So throw out those towels and swimsuits, ladies and germs or you’re a criminal!” 

Were the people sporting the American flag on articles of clothing this Fourth of July weekend committing a simple misdemeanor under Iowa’s law? We decided to look into it. 

Continue reading “No, Iowa’s ‘Back the Blue Act’ does not criminalize wearing the image of the U.S. flag on towels or swimsuits”