The Iowa Capitol dome in Des Moines.

DES MOINES -- Some people say it with flowers, others with water towers. Gov. Kim Reynolds used the backdrop of the Iowa State Fair this week to announce a contest challenging Iowa communities to show off their hometown pride in a short video for a chance to win a one-of-a-kind water tower, designed by a local artist.

The announcement also was designed to draw attention to the fact that the state has assisted nearly 650 Iowa communities in advancing their water quality efforts by making about 2,000 revolving fund water-quality loans statewide.

To enter the contest, communities need to create a video — no longer than two minutes — that showcases their hometown pride and features a water element in their community. Video submissions will be accepted on the Iowa Finance Authority and Iowa Department of Natural Resources Facebook pages from Monday through Sept. 30. A public vote to be held Oct. 1-11 will determine the winner of a custom water tower design.

“This contest is a perfect chance for communities to share their special ‘it factor’ that sets their hometown apart. I can’t wait to see the videos,” Reynolds said.

Videos may be created by an individual or group representing the community, but videos must be submitted by the city with authority over the water tower.

Safe driving enforcement effort

Officials with the state Department of Public Safety say extra law enforcement officers will be patrolling Iowa highways from Friday through Sept. 2 to cut down on incidents of drunken, impaired and distracted driving leading up to Labor Day. Last year there were five fatalities over the three-day Labor Day weekend in Iowa, according to DPS and Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau officials who are stressing celebration, not incarceration, as summer winds down and Iowans look to observe Labor Day.

In 2017, which is the most recent year with available data, state public safety leaders say a person died every 48 minutes in a drunken driving crash in the United States — accounting for about one-third of all 10,874 traffic deaths for that year. Drivers are reminded that Friday marks the launch of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign in Iowa.

SNAP to improve

Gov. Kim Reynolds says she is committed to improving Iowa’s oversight of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program after state officials were cited for having a payment error rate out of compliance with U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.

Federal officials recently notified the Iowa Department of Human Services that its error rate on fiscal 2018 payments was 10% — well above the national average of 6.8%. According to the USDA, causes for the DHS errors were failure to verify required information and the incorrect and inconsistent application of policies. Errors on the client side resulted from information not being reported. Federal officials determined Iowa’s error rate exceeded the national performance measures and assessed a liability amount of $1.8 million.

Reynolds said her administration is working with USDA officials to see whether some of the proposed fine could be reinvested instead into technology that could improve accountability within the Iowa system. “We’re not where we need to be, and we need to do things differently,” said Reynolds, who is in the process of searching for a new DHS director to replace Jerry Foxhoven, who left the agency in June. “I have said from the word go that we’re not where we need to be. That I expect that we can do more, and I’m looking for somebody who can take this agency to the next level,” the governor told reporters. “We need to take a look at technology and innovation. We’re not using that in the manner that we should. We have a system that’s not where it should be, and they are working on that at the Department of Human Services and so I’m really excited about helping us being more efficient and effective in providing the services for Iowans.”

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