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MATTHEW PUTNEY, COURIER PHOTO EDITOR 

Danielle and Taylor Morris raise the United States flag outside their new home Thursday in Cedar Falls.


A first look inside the smart home of C.F. sailor Taylor Morris

CEDAR FALLS — Taylor and Danielle Morris are home — in a place they can call their own.

On Thursday, nearly six years after Taylor was badly injured in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, the Morrises officially moved into their iPad-controlled smart home designed to accommodate Taylor’s disabilities.

“We’re super, super excited about it and super grateful for everyone who supported it along the way. Definitely ready to move in,” Taylor said.

“It’s been a long time coming, but I will say that it’s been an enjoyable process,” Danielle said. “The wait has made everything a little more enjoyable to see on this side of things, as far as moving in. It makes everything more exciting.”

Construction of the home, on a picturesque overlook of the Cedar River near American Martyrs Retreat house, began last summer. Wayne Magee Construction of Cedar Falls was project contractor. It followed a massive fundraising effort involving the foundation of actor Gary Sinise and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, as well as numerous veterans organizations and the local community.

Representatives of those organizations, contractors, friends, representatives of military and veterans organizations and the couple’s extended families gathered outside the home Thursday to celebrate.

The Morrises raised the flag outside their house and media cameras recorded their entrance into the home as they showed off its rooms and features.

They lived at Taylor’s parents house in western Cedar Falls almost four years following Taylor’s rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The couple took their time finding the right location. Taylor and Danielle first looked at the property in 2013. It was overgrown with vegetation, but they had a vision of its potential.

“We probably got it cleared mid-summer 2017,” Taylor said. “That was when we really realized, ‘Wow.’”

“It surpassed what we even thought it was going to look like,” Danielle said.

An open floor plan minimizes hallways, making the house more accessible. It also maximizes scenic views of the river.

They praised the work of Deb Waterman of Magee Construction, the project manager.

“We made sure, anytime we asked the Magee team about an expected finish date, to follow up that with, ‘Take your time. We want everything done right,’ Taylor said. “... They’ve done an amazing job.”

Taylor Morris, a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal expert, lost portions of all four limbs in May 2012 as he was trying to clear an area of explosives for a unit of U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers. He rehabilitated at Walter Reed with Danielle at his side. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

The Morrises, both 29, are 2007 graduates of Cedar Falls High School. The couple wed in October 2015.

In addition to the numerous subcontractors, a crew of Navy explosive ordinance disposal experts provided volunteer labor. Both Taylor’s and Danielle’s extended families did landscaping work.

The community support has not wavered.

“From day one at the hospital back in May 2012, we have felt the community rallied behind us, and it hasn’t lessened,” Danielle said.

“We’re excited to pay that forward,” Taylor said, “locally and wherever there’s good causes, we’re excited to get into that and help where we can.”

The couple plans on resuming their “Glowstick 5K” benefit fundraiser this fall, which they did for several years.

“The Glowstick run is our baby and we want to spend a lot of time with that,” Danielle said. Funds from the event go to various community projects.

They’re also involved with “Honoring the Sacrifice,” a nonprofit organization helping post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients.

The couple’s story gained national attention, but their travels have subsided and they’re enjoying spending time in Cedar Falls. Danielle, with a bachelor’s degree and an MBA, is a real estate agent.

Taylor graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in December with a bachelor’s degree in business management.

“He was on the dean’s list every single semester,” Danielle said with a smile. “I’ll brag on him because I know he won’t.”

He’s involved with the Cedar Valley Makers, a nonprofit entrepreneurial-educational group operating out of a “maker space” on the Cedar Valley TechWorks campus.

They also have a “to do” list after moving in and plan to enjoy their space.

“Everything is done perfectly and we love the entire space. But we are definitely project people.”

Jim Shubert, a board member of the Gary Sinise Foundation and a Vietnam veteran, was on hand for the moving-in ceremony.

“This is just a very joyful moment. ... There’s been a lot of discussion about people that have participated here, and what a great job they have done. ... But sir,” he said to Taylor, “there is no equal to you. I love both of you. You deserve this home.”

Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band, named for his Oscar-winning role as a disabled veteran in the movie “Forrest Gump,” played at a benefit concert for the couple in Cedar Falls in August 2013.

Sinise himself plans a private personal visit in a few months. In a letter to he couple, he said, “Your courage has been deeply inspiring. ... This is your day. Enjoy it. You and your family deserve all good things.”


Govt-and-politics
Judge: Ron Corbett will not appear on GOP primary ballot

CEDAR RAPIDS — A judge has ruled stricken signatures shall not be counted toward Iowa GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron Corbett’s petition to be on the ballot, ending the former Cedar Rapids mayor’s primary challenge against Gov. Kim Reynolds.

In a news conference after the ruling came out, Corbett said he will not appeal the decision.

“I am a little disappointed in the ruling, but I am not challenging it,” he said, also dismissing rumors he might run as an independent.

He said coming up eight signatures shy is “something that will haunt me for the balance of my life.”

Given an absence of case law on the matter, Judge David May relied on “common usage” of language in the dictionary and concluded when words are stricken through or crossed out, they are “deleted.” Corbett’s attorneys had argued that just because the signatures were crossed out does not mean they were forever exempt from consideration in Corbett’s petition to be on the ballot.

This was an issue because Republican candidates needed 4,005 signatures to be on the ballot. Corbett submitted a petition with more than that amount, but the petition was challenged by Craig Robinson, editor and founder of the Iowa Republican blog, citing numerous duplicate signatures.

A three-member review panel sided with Robinson and counted 3,997 signatures, leaving Corbett eight shy of the statutory requirement to be on the ballot. Corbett sued for a judicial review.

Corbett’s lawyers did not challenge the duplicate signatures but instead argued for the inclusion of 59 signatures, 43 of which the campaign had crossed out.

The panel was correct in refusing to county the signatures, May ruled in dismissing the case.

“Mr. Corbett argues that the will of certain voters will be foiled if Mr. Corbett’s name does not appear on the primary ballot,” May wrote in his ruling. “Yet democracy requires courts to follow statutes that have been lawfully enacted by the people’s elected representatives.”

Following the ruling, Corbett said he plans to return campaign funds to donors on a prorated basis.

Corbett said he holds no ill will and will support Reynolds, who he called the most conservative candidate left in he race. He has not been asked to hold any events for her, he said.

Still he stood by his earlier criticisms noting he remains “disappointed in the establishment and the tactics they used the past several months.”

Corbett said he plans to turn his attention to his think tank Engage Iowa, and if that doesn’t pan out dust up his resume for a job in the private sector. He did not rule out a run for office in the future.

Reynolds quickly released a statement following the judge’s ruling, urging party unison.

“I want to thank Ron Corbett for his commitment and service to the people of Iowa. Now is the time for the Republican Party to unite and I look forward to leading our team to victory up and down the ballot this November. My campaign will focus on building a better Iowa so that every Iowan can live in a state with endless opportunity.”

Secretary of State Paul Pate said ballot preparation would continue for the June 5 primary.

“I want to thank Judge David May for issuing his ruling in a timely manner and upholding the Objection Panel’s decision. My office is instructing county auditors to proceed in preparing all the ballots for the June 5 primary election,” he said. “My advice to all candidates in the future, as we recommend in the Candidate’s Guide, is to collect significantly more petition signatures than is required, make sure all your paperwork is filled out correctly, and submit your petitions early in the filing process.”


Judge backs decision to keep governor candidate off ballot

DES MOINES (AP) — A former speaker of the Iowa House learned Thursday he won’t be allowed to challenge Gov. Kim Reynolds in the Republican primary, as a judge upheld a state elections panel’s conclusion he fell eight signatures short of qualifying for the ballot.

Ron Corbett, who has also served as Cedar Rapids’ mayor, said he was disappointed by the ruling and that it would “haunt” him for the rest of his life that he didn’t collect more signatures.

“It is what it is, and that’s what, you know, I have to accept,” Corbett told reporters by phone.

A panel made up of Iowa’s secretary of state, state auditor and attorney general determined last week Corbett fell eight signatures shy of the 4,005 he would need to get on the primary ballot, rejecting signatures that had been crossed out. Corbett sued in the hopes of getting those crossed-out signatures deemed valid, but the Polk County judge sided with the panel.

Corbett said he’ll support Reynolds, who will be the only Republican on the ballot and whom he described as “the most conservative candidate left in the race.” However, he reiterated his disappointment at the Republican Party establishment and lamented the influence of special interest groups in Iowa politics.

Reynolds released a statement calling for Republicans to unite behind her candidacy. The primary ballot will include the names of six Democrats and two Libertarians.

Jeff Kaufmann, the state GOP’s chairman, said in a release Reynolds has the party’s full support and he hopes Corbett “will remain an active voice for the party.”

While not dismissing seeking office in the future, Corbett said he has no immediate plans to do so. He said he hopes to return to his Engage Iowa think tank or seek employment in the private sector.

Corbett said he’ll return unspent campaign funds to donors. He also firmly rejected seeking the governor’s office as an independent.

“Although I’m not a happy Republican today, I’m still Republican,” he said.

In his lawsuit, Corbett’s attorneys argued otherwise valid signatures that had been crossed out should have been considered by the elections panel, which they said could have used a more permissive standard than the secretary of state’s office uses.

Judge David May said those signatures were ineligible and rejected the suggestion to allow voters to make the decision, writing “democracy requires courts to follow statutes that have been lawfully enacted by the people’s elected representatives.”

Secretary of State Paul Pate encouraged future candidates to collect “significantly more petition signatures than is required.” He said in a news release that he’s telling county auditors to start preparing the June 5 primary ballots.


National
AP
Going off script, Trump bashes immigration at tax cut event

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Tossing his “boring” prepared remarks into the air, President Donald Trump on Thursday unleashed a fierce denunciation of the nation’s immigration policies, calling for tougher border security while repeating his unsubstantiated claim that “millions” of people voted illegally in California.

Trump was in West Virginia to showcase the benefits of Republican tax cuts, but he took a big and meandering detour to talk about his tough immigration and trade plans. He linked immigration with the rise of violent gangs like MS-13 and suggested anew that there had been widespread fraud in the 2016 election.

“In many places, like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that,” Trump said. “They always like to say, ‘Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people. And it’s very hard because the state guards their records. They don’t want us” to see them.

While there have been isolated cases of voter fraud in the U.S., past studies have found it to be exceptionally rare.

Trump initially claimed last year that widespread voting fraud had occurred in what appeared to be a means of explaining away his popular-vote defeat. Earlier this year the White House disbanded a controversial voter fraud commission amid infighting and lawsuits as state officials refused to cooperate.

In recent weeks, Trump has been pushing back more against the restraints of the office to offer more unvarnished opinions and take policy moves some aides were trying to forestall. His remarks in West Virginia, like so many of his previous planned policy speeches, quickly came instead to resemble one of his free-wheeling rallies.

“This was going to be my remarks. They would have taken about two minutes,” Trump said as he tossed his script into the air. “This is boring. We have to tell it like it is.”

As he has done before, Trump conjured images of violence and suffering when he described the perils of illegal immigration, though statistics show immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than citizens. He dubbed MS-13 gang members “thugs” and said his administration’s crackdown on the group was “like a war.”

“MS-13 is emblematic of evil, and we’re getting them out by the hundreds,” said Trump, who sat on stage at a long table in a gym draped in American flags and decorated with signs that read “USA open for business.” ‘’This is the kind of stuff and crap we are allowing in our country, and we can’t do it anymore.”

Invoking the lines of his June 2015 campaign kickoff speech, in which he suggested some Mexican immigrants were rapists, the president mused about the threat of violence among immigrants and appeared to make reference to a caravan of migrants that had been working its way north through Mexico toward the United States.

“Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened? Everybody said, ‘Oh, he was so tough,’ and I used the word rape,” he said. “And yesterday it came out where this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don’t want to mention that.”

It was not clear what Trump was referring to. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Trump wasn’t talking about the caravan but rather about extreme victimization of those making the journey north with smugglers in general. And press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said she was “not sure why the media is acting like this isn’t a well-established fact — women and young girls are brutally victimized on the journey north.”

Trump also defended his proposed tariff plan, which many of his fellow Republicans fear will start a trade war with China. He criticized West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who has expressed openness to working with the White House, for opposing the GOP tax plan. He praised attendees Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, both running in the Republican primary for Senate next month, suggesting an applause test between the two. And, of course, he reminisced about his 2016 electoral victory in the Mountain State.

All of that overshadowed any time spent promoting the tax plan.

It underscored the frustration of many congressional Republicans with the president’s frequent indiscipline. Many members of his own party have blamed the president’s lack of focus for helping to stymie their agenda, and they are eager for him to focus on the tax cut, the most significant legislation achievement on which to run in the upcoming midterm elections.

While Trump went off script, the attendees — an assemblage of state politicians, local business owners, workers and families — stayed dutifully on task, talking about how the tax cuts have helped them.

One woman, Jessica Hodge, tearfully told Trump: “I just want to say thank you for the tax cuts. This is a big deal for our family.” Jenkins said that “West Virginians understand your policies are working” and that Trump was “welcome to come back any time.”