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WATCH NOW: Waterloo rekindles fireworks debate

WATERLOO — The fuse is lit on another debate over legal fireworks use in the city.

Waterloo City Council members Margaret Klein, Sharon Juon and Jonathan Grieder all voiced support Monday for an ordinance banning the use of consumer fireworks in city limits.

“I for one feel as if it has escalated to the point where we need to ban them,” said Klein, who brought the issue up for debate. “I think it’s as simple as that.”

But several other council members said they were reluctant to tinker with the current three-day fireworks window, noting the city has been unable to enforce any restrictions since the Iowa Legislature lifted the fireworks ban in 2017.

“I don’t believe that banning is going to do anything other than what it did before,” said Councilman Pat Morrissey. “That still did not stop the setting off of fireworks.”

Mayor Quentin Hart said he would attempt to poll council members feelings on the matter and hold another work session before any ordinance change is brought up for a vote.

“I don’t really have a pulse for what council wants,” Hart said.

State law allows fireworks to be sold and used from June 1 through July 8 and again from Dec. 10 through Jan. 3. Most cities have adopted shorter usage windows or banned them altogether, although they are prohibited from banning the sale.

Waterloo initially allowed a five-day fireworks window in 2017 but banned them outright in 2018. Council members voted 4-3, while being lobbied heavily by residents on both sides of the issue, to adopt the current July 3-5 usage period in 2019.

Neighboring Cedar Falls, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Dubuque, West Des Moines and Ames all ban fireworks in the city limits.

Council members discussing the current ordinance this week, regardless of where they stood on a ban, said they were troubled by the inability to enforce the current rules and said they were concerned about what seemed to be larger mortars being fired into the skies from residential areas.

“This year it was almost like they were industrial in nature,” Klein said.

Councilman Pat Morrissey said he could support changes in the ordinance that make it easier to enforce or to puts limits on the size of the fireworks being used. But he opposed an outright ban, noting the city gets the same number of complaints whether fireworks are allowed or not.

Councilman Dave Boesen said the city has only written one citation for illegal fireworks use since the law changed in 2017.

Grieder also suggested a ban is fruitless without other action.

“Just banning them, which I fully support, is not going to solve the issue because they’re still legal to buy,” he said. “There has to be teeth to it, enforceable teeth to make it hurt when people use these.”

Councilman Jerome Amos Jr. said he was opposed to a ban while Councilman Ray Feuss said he would try to gauge the feelings of his Ward 5 constituents before any vote to change the current rules.

Photos: Cedar Valley Jaycees Fireworks Festival

A wasp tries to drive a Monarch butterfly off milkweed blossoms on Monday in Cedar Falls.


Business
AP
Trump advisers tussle

WASHINGTON — Walmart will require customers to wear face coverings at all of its namesake and Sam’s Club stores, making it the largest retailer to introduce such a policy that has otherwise proven difficult to enforce without state and federal requirements.

The company said Wednesday that the policy will go into effect on Monday to allow time to inform customers. Currently, about 65% of its more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is already some form of government mandate on face coverings.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart joins a growing but still small list of retailers to require masks at all of its stores, filling the role of states and the federal government that have failed to issue such mandates on an issue that has been highly politicized by President Donald Trump and many of his ardent supporters.

Hours after Walmart’s announcement, supermarket chain Kroger, based in Cincinnati, and department store Kohl’s, based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, followed suit. Kohl’s policy will go into effect on Monday, while Kroger’s mask protocol will go into effect July 22.

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, said in a statement that it hopes Walmart’s move will be a “tipping point in this public health debate.”

Meanwhile, infighting over the White House’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is spilling further into public view, with trade adviser Peter Navarro panning Dr. Anthony Fauci as President Donald Trump stands watch.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, called the criticism “nonsense” and “a bit bizarre.”

The long-simmering tiff escalated when Navarro wrote an op-ed in USA Today skewering Fauci, writing that the doctor “has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on. … So when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution.”

In an interview with The Atlantic, Fauci returned: “I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself. So I don’t even want to go there.”

And Trump, who has complained about Fauci privately for months — and publicly in recent days — stepped in to referee.

Navarro “made a state statement representing himself. He shouldn’t be doing that,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for Atlanta. The president insisted he had a “very good relationship with Dr. Fauci” and said his staffers were working together.

The back-and-forth is the latest episode of infighting in a White House that has been riven by rivalries since its earliest days. It comes as the White House’s handling of the pandemic has come under even deeper scrutiny at a time when cases are surging and the president is pressing to restart economic activity, in part to bolster his reelection chances.

Trump has been known to encourage disputes between aides, believing differing viewpoints serve him better. Others in the White House have waged an open campaign to discredit Fauci, who has been increasingly vocal in his disagreements with the president’s enthusiasm for reopening high-risk venues like schools and sporting arenas.

“We’re all on the same team,” Trump said. “We want to get rid of this mess that China sent us. So everybody’s working on the same line and we’re doing very well.”

Still, a person familiar with the matter said Trump himself was amused by the spat, believing Navarro highlighted errors by Fauci and helped reduce his public stature, which has grated on some in the West Wing for months.

And two months after House Democrats approved a $3 trillion COVID-19 aid package, Senate Republicans are poised to unveil their $1 trillion counteroffer, straining to keep spending in check as the virus outbreak spreads and societal fallout deepens.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is expected to roll out the GOP bill as soon as next week, said Wednesday that he conferred with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as the White House’s point man on the talks prepares to negotiate with Democrats.

But having hit “pause” in May, as McConnell put it, Republicans now face a potentially more dire situation. They had hoped the pandemic would ease and the economic fallout would reverse. Instead, coronavirus cases are spiking, states are resuming shutdowns and parents are wondering if it’s safe to send children back to school.

“Regretfully, this is not over,” McConnell said during a visit to a hospital in Kentucky.

In other developments:

  • Arizona, Texas and Florida together reported about 25,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday as restrictions aimed at combating the spread of the pandemic took hold in the United States and around the world in an unsettling sign reminiscent of the dark days of April.
  • Hospital data related to the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. will now be collected by a private technology firm, rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a move the Trump administration says will speed up reporting but one that concerns some public health leaders. The CDC director said Wednesday that he’s fine with the change — even though some experts fear it will further sideline the agency.

News
breaking top story
Mother of missing Davenport girl speaks out

DAVENPORT — Aishia Lankford betrayed no emotion during Tuesday’s press briefing inside the Davenport Police Department’s conference room.

The mother of missing Davenport 10-year-old Breasia Terrell didn’t get a chance to make a comment. Lankford stood behind Police Chief Paul Sikorski and stared, wide-eyed, at the dark, blank lenses of the local media’s cameras pointed at the podium. She stood up straight, hands clasped behind her back. Breasia has not been seen for five days.

Maybe Lankford wanted the cameras to notice the shirt she wore, which featured the smiling face of her daughter emblazoned under the stark letters that spelled “Missing.” Maybe she was determined to not betray her frustration and exhaustion.

Hours before the press briefing Lankford called herself “empty.”

She made that statement after spending the better part of two hours standing in a hot parking lot at Scott County Courthouse speaking with a television reporter. Then she agreed to an interview with The Quad-City Times.

“I’m kind of trapped,” Lankford said. “I want to be out there, looking for my daughter. But I feel like I have to do this stuff with the TV people to make sure people see Breasia and know where to call.

“So I’m stuck. And a few people have asked me why I haven’t been at some of the searches, and I try to tell them about how much time it takes to do these things with media people.”

Lankford said social media — primarily Facebook — proved to be too difficult to handle.

“I shut my profile down,” she said. “So there were posts about my daughter and the search, and soon people were posting about me.

“All of the sudden the search for a little girl is stuff about whether I’m a good mom. And I admit, I fell in it at first. I shot back and defended myself. Then I realized none of this is about me. Even if people think I’m worthless, they should still care about what happens to Breasia.”

Lankford described other distractions and harassment. Psychics contacted her. Someone sent a note claiming to have Breasia and demanded money. There are constant rumors. She spent Monday night at a search scene while a number of people took to social media and proclaimed Breasia’s body had been found.

“How can you feel anything when a person tells you that your daughter is alive and an hour later you hear she’s dead?” Lankford said. “I can’t even tell you how it feels. And the whole time, you can’t think about how you feel anyways because your daughter’s still out there.”

Lankford returned to the idea of being “empty.” Through the first five days of Breasia’s disappearance, Lankford estimated she slept “about five hours.”

“I don’t sleep. I can’t really eat. I haven’t been hungry,” she said. “I feel empty. Like, just empty. People want to know why I’m not crying all the time. I have nothing. My daughter is gone and no one seems to know anything, and I have no idea how to feel. I have to have hope.”

Lankford believes Breasia is alive.

“When I close my eyes, I can see her face. I can hear her voice,” Lankford said. “I hear her calling out to me to come and find her.

“That’s why I believe she’s alive. I don’t know where she is. But I have to find her.”

Lankford visited Henry Earl Dinkins, who has been named a person of interest, while he sat in a Scott County jail cell Tuesday.

Davenport Police investigators believe Breasia’s last known whereabouts were in the 2700 block of East 53rd Street late last Thursday or early last Friday in the company of Dinkins. It is believed he was staying at an address on that block. Dinkins, 47, was charged Friday with a felony sex offender registration violation.

Lankford confirmed Dinkins asked for the meeting earlier this week. Dinkins is the father of her youngest son. She had a relationship with him “about eight years ago,” she said.

“I was with (Dinkins) and then I found out about him. He was weird. And then he went to prison,” Lankford said Tuesday. “There have been a lot of rumors and a lot of things said on social media.

“Breasia was with her brother. And he was visiting his father. I never imagined I would be here talking about this.”

Lankford said she turned down Dinkins’ first request to speak. Then she reconsidered.

“I figured it might help the police. I believe he knows something about what is happening with my daughter,” Lankford said. “I think my daughter is alive. And I think it’s just a matter of time before Dinkins is ready to crack and tell what he knows.

“That’s what I honestly believe.”

Lankford said Dinkins claimed his innocence and asked her, “Why did you drag me into this?”

“There is not much more I want to say about what I saw and heard while I was there,” Lankford said. “I just hope he will speak with the police and somehow we can find my daughter.”

It is not clear if Dinkins is receiving legal advice at this time.

Russell Dircks, the court-appointed attorney representing Henry Earl Dinkins, was the first person to say Dinkins was a person of interest in the case. In a court motion he asked to be removed from the case, noting his wife is a teacher and worked with Breasia and her family. A judge has not ruled on the motion.

According to the Davenport police, officers executed a search warrant Friday at an apartment at 2744 East 53rd Street in connection with a missing person investigation.

The missing person was not named. The sex offender registry listed Dinkins’ address as 743 Schmidt Road in Davenport, but detectives found his ID, clothing and other personal property in the 53rd Street apartment, according to a court affidavit.

Dinkins was convicted of third-degree sexual abuse in 1990 and police said he failed to register the location of his residence with the Scott County Sheriff’s Office within five days as required.

Anyone with information should contact Davenport Police Department (563) 326-7979.