Des Moines Register Includes Oskaloosa In Their Changing Iowa Series

Approximately 100 people participated in the Des Moines Registers Changing Iowa Forum held Thursday evening at Smokey Row in Oskaloosa.

Approximately 100 people participated in the Des Moines Registers Changing Iowa Forum held Thursday evening at Smokey Row in Oskaloosa.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – On Thursday night, many community members, leaders and more came out to share their thoughts with the Des Moines Register about how Iowa is changing.

Lynn Hicks is an opinion editor for the Des Moines Register and was the emcee for the evening’s discussion.

“Changing Iowa is a series of stories that we’ve done in the Register, looking at some of the sweeping demographic and economic changes facing the state,” said Hicks. “We wanted to do more than just a series of stories in the newspaper. We wanted to go out and explore some of the things we’ve been writing about.”

Oskaloosa is considered a micropolitan and faces unique challenges in a state where population drain continues to decimate many rural communities.

The discussion in Oskaloosa focused on how to create great communities for all generations.

Hicks said Oskaloosa was chosen for this discussion because, “We’ve heard of great things happening here, a college town, a great hospital.”

Mahaska Communications Group or MCG has also made waves statewide and in the Midwest with its gigabit fiber network, and the possibility of helping businesses grow from the infrastructure they help provide. “Envious of the service you have here,” added Hicks.

One of the challenges for communities like Oskaloosa is attracting young people while also serving the aging population.

The large group broke down into smaller discussion groups, where they explored and discussed those challenges they see small-town Iowa, like Oskaloosa, facing.

Those struggles are magnified where urban and rural residents square off on what they believe is best. Manufacturing and business all want to attract young qualified workers to their companies, while the ag community worries that the tax burden will be pressed upon them and their business.

The conversation isn’t so different than has been heard at those Saturday mornings over a cup of coffee at Eggs and Issues, and is the driver between the split in urban and rural.

Kyle Munson is an award-winning journalist for the Register and has emceed other events across Iowa.

Oskaloosa was the sixth and final event for the Des Moines Register in this series, with the goal of doing “collective brainstorming.”

Each of those six events has had a little different theme to it explained Munson. “We’ve heard some common concerns, but we’re trying to have this collective voice from Iowa, particularly from people in rural areas, small towns and midsized cities, about how can we improve life.”

With various economic and demographic changes that are making their way into the state, that can create challenges for Iowa communities.

Munson says the aim is to have a focused, comprehensive list from a broad cross-section of Iowa, bringing attention to what the people are saying, not just journalists and public officials. “That’s really the goal, to move the ball in a meaningful way,” added Munson.

“We’re trying to fill that role of good community journalism,” said Munson of the Registers efforts to shine a light on these issues.

Housing is a common topic among the communities the Register visited, and Oskaloosa is no different.

Oskaloosa struggles with market-rate housing for its professionals and was brought up during the discussion on Thursday night from local citizens.

Revitalizing the downtown and bringing life to the downtown area is another conversation many communities are sharing.

Often, downtown housing options and revitalizing the downtown area go hand in hand.

Communities like Oskaloosa have also been impacted by the loss of property tax, and the state not backfilling the loss as was initially promised.

Those lost local dollars may have been able to be reinvested, and it sparks the conversation about local control versus state or even federal control over communities.

The conversation on Thursday night didn’t help bring any direct resolution to problems in Oskaloosa, but community leaders were able to take notes, ask questions of each other, and maybe explore new ways of helping Oskaloosa and Mahaska County grow into the future.

Posted by on Nov 19 2017. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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