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People gather at iconic Sloane Wallace Stadium for closing ceremony
  • Updated

WATERLOO — Tracy Nanke knew just what to wear for the closing ceremony Tuesday evening at the iconic Sloane Wallace Stadium.

It was a football jersey emblazoned with the number 74 that had been packed away for years.

“This is the jersey I wore,” said the former tackle on the Wahawk football team and a 1976 graduate of West High School.

Nanke came to the event with his sister, Laura Hoy, and their father, Larry.

“We’re feeling nostalgic,” he said after the three posed for a picture in front of the stadium’s scoreboard.

The trio was among several dozen reminiscing about years gone by at the 99-year-old stadium at 1115 W. Fifth St., which is slated to be razed this summer.

Built in 1922, Sloane Wallace was a primary Waterloo Community Schools’ football stadium for seven decades. Originally, it was adjacent to the former West High. But East High School also started playing its home football games at the stadium in 1955.

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Several officials made public comments to the crowd during the event while Dan Huff, the district’s athletics and activities director, shared trivia about the stadium.

Tim Moses, East High School activities director and one of the people who spoke during the ceremony, shared memories from growing up and being an athlete on the field during his student years at the school where he now works.

“I can recall my parents, they always sat at the top of this section,” said Moses, pointing to the home bleachers near the entry gate. There was always some kind of sign Moses gave his dad as he came out of the tunnel to indicate he was ready for the game. “He knew once you stepped out onto this field you had to do battle.”

He also recalled “a lot of great memories” going back to childhood. When the bus carrying East’s Trojans pulled up to the stadium, he would hear the players inside of it pounding on the ceiling and their “chin straps snapping.” He noted, “These guys were my legends.”

Nanke, now a Cedar Falls resident, and his siblings spent “lots of time here” in the stadium as children watching Trojan football games. Larry, an East graduate, was building up some school pride in his offspring.

“I always wanted to be a Trojan,” said Tracy Nanke. “Then we moved and I ended up being a Wahawk.”

Either way, he got to play at Sloane Wallace when he joined the football team. Nanke remembers “the sounds of the band, the smell of the popcorn and Dick Dotson broadcasting” from the press box.

Hoy said two other brothers played Wahawk football in the stadium, as well, graduating in 1977 and 1979.

“I was in the stands a lot through the years,” she said, often screaming encouragement to her brothers and their teammates. “I never had a voice the day after your games.”

Standing in the middle of the field, Nanke said, “It looks kind of bigger, which is kind of weird. Maybe it’s because I can’t run that far anymore.”

Sloane Wallace was replaced in 1994 by Waterloo Memorial Stadium next to Central Middle School and became a secondary athletic facility for the district. Since artificial field turf was installed at Memorial Stadium in 2018, uses at the old stadium have dwindled. The Board of Education approved a $118,879 contract earlier this month to demolish the stadium.

The original West High building has been gone since Irving Elementary School opened in its place in 2003.

“We know that Sloane Wallace is special for a lot of reasons,” said Waterloo Schools Superintendent Jane Lindaman. “This was one of the things we hard so many people say: ‘Are you going to do something to memorialize Sloane Wallace?’”

She noted that a committee will be established this fall to determine how that will be done in the space.

“This actually is going to become an amazing playground for the Irving Elementary students,” said Lindaman. “They have 500-some students. We will likely turn that area where the playground is (along West Fifth Street) into additional parking.”

While stadium will be leveled, the scoreboard will remain and she envisions areas spread throughout the playground space “where we will memorialize the history of Sloane Wallace.”

Photos: Sloane Wallace Stadium in Waterloo

Waterloo teachers talk COVID, other struggles at Ras Smith roundtable
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WATERLOO — Saying education would be a big part of his candidacy for governor, state Rep. Ras Smith held a roundtable discussion with seven educators to discuss everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to state laws that are changing the way they teach.

Smith met with educators from Becker and Orange elementaries as well as Bunger, Carver and Hoover middle schools at Faith Temple Baptist Church on Tuesday.

Smith noted he attended Orange Elementary and later the former Malcolm Price Lab School in Cedar Falls, and is the site coordinator for Communities in Schools at George Washington Carver Academy.

“Education is a passion of mine — specifically public education,” he said. “Making sure that students and families are supported is something that really is important to me, and you can’t really do that without supporting educators.”

The educators themselves said their biggest priority in the last year was making sure their students were supported, noting the difficulties of teaching children during a pandemic.

“It was really challenging in the fall,” said Kristen Hinders, a media specialist at Bunger Middle School. “I remember being there and standing in the middle of everything and being like, ‘I don’t know what to do,’ when maybe 50% of your kids are having zero contact” with a teacher.

Educators also had to deal with a Legislature they say didn’t consider those challenges, preferring instead to issue dictates like a ban on mask mandates for a population that is still largely unvaccinated.

“The district as a whole is really good about saying, ‘Do what you need to do to make sure kids are OK,’” said seventh-grade social studies teacher Andy Wolfe. “That’s what our politicians don’t get. We’re very good at what we do — just leave us the heck alone.”

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Educators bemoaned the low wages for paraeducators and the lure of higher-paying jobs out of state taking away University of Northern Iowa teaching graduates as ongoing issues they wanted to see resolved.

“As educators, we want to hide the problems, pretend the problems don’t exist. I said, ‘We’re not going to hide the issues.’ If you don’t hide the issues, you get the resources you need,” said Carver Principal Sheena Canady. “We have really good educators every day lying about their struggles.”

Smith said after the roundtable he hoped the Legislature does a better job of listening.

“We’ve asked them to do so much, and we have to ask them what they need to be successful,” he said. “They’ve seen the gaps, and they’ve seen them just be really exacerbated by COVID. If we don’t ask them difficult questions and create safe spaces to have conversations about what they need, how will we know?”

Smith, a Democrat representing the northern portion of Waterloo as well as Evansdale, Elk Run Heights and Raymond, was first elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 2016 after longtime Democratic state representative Deb Berry stepped down. He was re-elected in 2018 and 2020 and currently is the ranking member on the Education Committee and serves on the agriculture, information technology and natural resources committees. He’s also the founding member and current chair of the Legislative Black Caucus.

He announced he would enter the Democratic primary for governor June 15, the first Democrat to make it official. Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, has not announced whether she’ll run for re-election but is widely expected to.

Photos: State Rep. Ras Smith launches gubernatorial campaign

Wave of foreclosures not anticipated in Iowa as moratorium expires

CEDAR RAPIDS — As the federal moratorium on housing foreclosures comes to an end, lenders and financial counselors do not foresee a tsunami of foreclosures in Iowa.

In fact, some say their worst fears about impact of the coronavirus pandemic on mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures have not been realized.

“We’ve actually been experiencing a decrease in our mortgage delinquency in the last 12 months in comparison to the previous 12 months,” said Christina Christensen, account resolution manager for Veridian Credit Union, which has 30 offices in Iowa and eastern Nebraska. “That’s a bit of a surprise coming off a pandemic.”

Lenders and agencies working to prevent foreclosure attribute that to prompt action by creditors to work with borrowers, including deferring payments and waiving fees, and halting residential foreclosure actions and evictions

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The $55 billion in CARES Act and American Rescue Plan funds to help tenants, landlords and lenders have and will help going forward, they said.

The “Iowa ethic” of responsibility also has helped keep Iowa delinquency numbers lower than national averages, “which probably speaks to our part of the country, the demographic of who’s living here,” a spokeswoman for the Iowa Bankers Mortgage Corp. said.

Nationwide, there were nearly 11,000 properties with foreclosure filings in May, according to ATTOM, a nationwide real estate data analytics firm. That was down 8% from the previous month, but 23% higher than a year earlier.

In 2019, foreclosure filings fell to a record low of 493,000 — 0.36% of all housing units in the United States, ATTOM said. That was down 21% from 2018 and a decline of 83% from a peak of nearly 2.9 million in 2010 to the lowest level since tracking began in 2005.

However, for a variety of pandemic-related reasons, there are Iowans facing the possibility of foreclosure when the moratorium expires July 31. Horizons A Family Service Alliance in Cedar Rapids is seeking to hire an additional financial counselor to deal with dozens of new clients, said Kelzye Bedwell, director of financial stability.

The family services agency is a U.S. Housing and Urban Development-certified housing counselor and partners with the Iowa Finance Authority to help homeowners.

“People are feeling that uneasiness about the future of their financial situation with those moratoriums and different protections coming to an end,” Bedwell said.

For some, that includes the end of the grace period for student loan repayment.

For those working on foreclosure prevention, “it’s kind of like everyone in the industry has been kind of holding our breath waiting for this influx of applications, and it hasn’t come so far,” added Ashley Jared of the Iowa Finance Authority that administers as Homeowner Foreclosure Prevention Program.

That could change “as we move forward, and really start to see the impact of the pandemic,” Veridian’s Christensen said. “We definitely could start to see that spike in delinquency and foreclosures increase. We just haven’t at this point.”

According to HUD Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy data, cited by Jared, before the pandemic 56% of homeowner households with incomes below 50% median family income were paying more than 30% of income on housing and 31% were paying more than half their income on housing.

The Iowa mortgage bankers association, past due loans in Iowa increased from 3.3% in 2018 to 5.3% in 2020, and seriously delinquent past due 90 days or more increased from 1.6% to 3.4%.

Most of those Horizons is working with have lost their jobs or are working fewer hours because of the pandemic, Bedwell said.

In some cases, jobs disappeared. In other instances, people who lost one job started another but have not regained firm financial footing.

“We see people who were unable to return to work for one reason or another,” Bedwell said. It could be long-term COVID-19 effects for them or a family member.

“We’ve also seen some mothers who, due to a burden of child care and costs and things like that, are unable to return to work.”

While there’s no typical case, most involve middle- to lower-income homeowners, many who have been in their homes five to 10 years, Christensen and Bedwell said.

Iowa has received $50 million in federal coronavirus pandemic relief funds to help tenants, landlords and lenders. So far, the state has provided more than $2 million in assistance to homeowners.

Qualifying applicants could receive four months of mortgage assistance up to $3,600.

That’s less people seeking help than the Iowa Finance Authority anticipated, most likely due to the mortgage moratorium, and Jared expects the number to rise when it expires.

At Horizons, “for a large majority of the clients, we are able to create or at least suggest a plan that could keep them in the home. That’s always the goal,” Bedwell said. If that’s no longer an affordable or available option, Horizons works to “create some sort of an exit plan to avoid foreclosure.”

In addition to deferred payments, some lenders are not reporting suspended payments as past-due to consumer reporting agencies or not charging late fees.

Other options include a continuation of the payment suspension, moving the missed payments to end of the loan or a modification to address longer-term financial changes that may impact their ability to keep up with their monthly payments, spokesman Alfredo Padilla said in a statement from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

In other than very specific cases, it has stopped all foreclosure-related activity through the end of the year on occupied properties for mortgage and home equity customers.

Veridian has offered more than 1,000 loan extensions, Christensen said. From early on, she added, Veridian changed how it communicated “to be more proactive, reaching members after a payment is missed so we could really partner with them as soon as possible to find a solution.”

“When we realized that this wasn’t going to be so much of a temporary situation, that it could be a more of a long-term situation, that’s when we really became more intentional about our communication approach,” Christensen said.

As the moratorium expires, borrowers who anticipate difficulty staying current on their payments should be touch with lenders so they understand their individual circumstances and can identify the best way to help them going forward, lenders said.

“We want to make sure that what we do today is going to set you on the path, the right path moving forward, so you’re going to be able to stay in your home and be able to afford it,” Christensen said.

At Horizon, the goal is to help people from going backward financially, Bedwell said. When a person loses their home or faces foreclosure, “you just see this large, widespread domino effect that not only affects the person losing the home, but it affects their children … the community around them and those who know and care about them.”

Opioid lawsuits on verge of settlements
  • Updated

The yearslong effort by state and local governments in the U.S. to force the pharmaceutical industry to help pay to fix a nationwide opioid addiction and overdose crisis took a major step forward Tuesday when lawyers for local governments announced they were on the verge of a $26 billion settlement with the nation’s three biggest drug distribution companies and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.

Under the deal, Johnson & Johnson would not produce any opioids for at least a decade. And AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson share prescribing information under a new system intended to stop the avalanches of pills that arrived in some regions about a decade ago.

Lawyers for local governments said full details could be shared within days. That would not be the end of the deal though; each state would have 30 days to decide whether to join. And local governments will have five months after that to decide. If governments don’t opt in, the settlement total would go down.

“This is a nationwide crisis and it could have been and should have been addressed perhaps by other branches of government,” Paul Geller, one of the lead lawyers representing local governments across the U.S., said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “But this really is an example of the use of litigation for fixing a national problem.”

If approved, the settlement will likely be the biggest of many settlements to opioid litigation. While it means billions for lawyers who worked the cases, it is expected to bring more than $23 billion to abatement and mitigation efforts to help get treatment for people who are addicted along with other programs to address the crisis. The money would come in 18 annual payments, with the biggest amounts in the next several years.

The deal echoes one the companies have been pushing, sometimes in public, for two years.

Johnson & Johnson reiterated in a statement that it’s prepared to contribute up to $5 billion to the national settlement.

“There continues to be progress toward finalizing this agreement and we remain committed to providing certainty for involved parties and critical assistance for families and communities in need,” the company said. “The settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing, and the Company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve.”

But Cardinal Health declined to comment early Tuesday, and the other distribution companies did not respond to requests for comment.

An Associated Press tally finds there have been at least $40 billion in completed or proposed settlements, penalties and fines between governments and the toll of opioids since 2007, not including one between the federal government and OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma in which most of the $8.3 billion would be waived. Purdue is trying to reach a deal through bankruptcy court that could be worth $10 billion over time; a hearing on that plan is scheduled for August.

Other deals are possible. While a growing number of companies in the industry have struck deals, some manufacturers have not — and no pharmacy companies have struck nationwide settlements.

But the total amount in the settlements is far below estimates of the financial costs of the epidemic. The Society of Actuaries found that the cost of the crisis in the U.S. was $630 billion from 2015 through 2018, with most of the costs borne by the private sector. And the White House Council of Economic Advisers, when considering the economic impact of people who fatally overdosed, put the one-year cost at about $500 billion nationally.

Unlike with the tobacco settlements reached in the 1990s, governments have agreed to spend money they bring in from opioid-related settlements to deal with the opioid crisis.

In a joint statement, the attorneys general for Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee said the settlement talks with the four companies are “potentially nearing their completion,” and that, “we look forward to bringing much-needed dollars home to our states to help people recover from opioid addiction and to fundamentally change the opioid manufacturing and distributing industries so this never happens again.”

But they still have choices ahead on exactly how they do it.

“Is it a nice chunk of change?” asked Ryan Hampton, who is in recovery from an opioid addiction and is a Las Vegas-based advocate for policy to address the overdose crisis. “Sure it is. Will it go to where it needs to go? The jury’s still out on that.”

Even before the settlement plan was unveiled Tuesday, a group of public health advocates and experts began calling for any settlement money to be spent to address the opioid crisis.

“It’s money that can do a lot of good if it’s used well,” said Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who is spearheading the effort. “It’s really important to use it well to save lives because it’s coming at the peak of the overdose epidemic.”