Plus, what it's like to run for office as an Indigenous woman
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Good morning and happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We’re in the midst of another busy, news-filled week. Child care legislation was a primary focus in Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Condition of the State address last week. My fellow Emily B. rounded up comments from Reynolds and leaders who spoke on the issue of child care during the Business Record’s legislative forecast panel last week. We also have a guest opinion piece by Christina Blackcloud on the lessons she learned running for political office as an Indigenous woman.

I also want to invite you again to kick off your day on the final Friday of each month in our Fearless Friday series, focusing on the monthly topic we talk about here in the newsletter and offering a chance to connect with other Fearless readers. Our first event, being held virtually, is from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 29. Iowa’s Sen. Joni Ernst and Rep. Cindy Axne will provide prerecorded addresses to the audience about what it’s like to be a woman in politics and what women considering running should know. You can sign up for the entire series or just the January event. REGISTER NOW.

Have a great week.

Child care is set to be a top priority for the Iowa Legislature. Here’s what you need to know:
Gov. Kim Reynolds at the 2021 Condition of the State address on Jan. 11. Photo by Bryon Houlgrave/The Register.
As the 2021 Iowa legislative session kicked off last week, the first four bills introduced in Iowa’s House of Representatives involved child care reform. That was before midday on Jan. 12, just the second day of the session, and before Gov. Kim Reynolds would also call for a greater focus on the issue in her Condition of the State address later that evening.

There have since been more related bills filed, and with business groups and other activists making child care a top priority, it’s likely the bipartisan issue will be front and center this session after much of the momentum in last year’s session was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

So what kinds of changes might we see? Here’s what’s being forecast.

Reynolds said public-private partnerships are key to addressing the nearly quarter of Iowans who live in a child care desert, which is an area where the demand for child care far exceeds the availability of providers and slots. She mentioned one such solution in Stuart, where the community came together to support the opening of a new child care center even during the pandemic. (This might sound familiar to you, Fearless readers, because Emily Blobaum wrote about and photographed the center a couple of weeks ago.)

"Let’s remove the obstacles to high-quality, affordable child care so that Iowa families can nurture their kids while parents maintain the maximum freedom to enter and remain in the workforce," Reynolds said in her Condition of the State address.

Reynolds said she’s allocating $3 million to jump-start the Child Care Challenge Fund that was created last year to encourage employers, community leaders and others to collaborate in the development of child care facilities. She said she’s also using $25 million of child care development block grants to further promote child care startups.

While the pandemic has only magnified the problem, child care access and affordability have been an issue for years.

"Even when the coronavirus is a distant memory, Iowa will still need an abundance of high-quality child care so that families can prosper and children can grow," Reynolds said.

Why it’s seen as a workforce issue

In the Business Record’s Legislative Forecast last week, child care was front and center among the panelists, who all lead organizations representing business and community development interests. (You can watch the event if you missed it.) Below are a few of their comments:

Andrea Woodard, senior vice president of government relations and public policy at the Greater Des Moines Partnership:

"[We’ll see the governor prioritize] what we've seen come out of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board – child care, broadband, looking at justice reform – those large projects that are going to help us recover from the economic impacts [of the pandemic] that we've seen and we'll continue to see.

Note: Woodard made these remarks ahead of the Condition of the State, but the governor did end up addressing child care.
Dave Stone, advocacy officer for the United Way of Central Iowa:

"One of the things that we have that cuts across all income levels, cuts across all stations of life, is that child care is the most expensive item in the typical family budget here in Iowa – an average of $1,035 a month for full-time child care.

"Some of the things that we've been looking at: First and foremost is our state's child care assistance program. This is for lower-income families that can get supplemental assistance from mainly federal sources of income, as well as some state appropriations, that helps supplement that really large cost for families. Think about what you may pay your hourly workers or your front-line workers or those who are approaching the minimum wage.

"[It’s] a Catch-22 – [someone is] working full time to afford child care, to go to work. It's sort of a chicken and an egg problem. And so there's a lot of folks in the workforce who do the math and realize it's more affordable for one of us to stay home and take care of the kids. That would drop out a worker from the workforce and also just prevents additional growth for the skills of that individual."

Other policy areas Stone said need to be addressed: reimbursement rates for child care providers and investments to improve the quality of available child care, particularly for those serving kids under 5 years old who are in critical development years.

Dustin Miller, executive director of the Iowa Chamber Alliance:

"It needs to be holistic. … Your approach to it can't just be employee-based. There has to be thoughts towards employers, and honestly … [from] an entrepreneurial aspect, how do you get more people to see this as a viable business? ...

"There is no one silver bullet solution, but we do have to recognize that the government, nonprofit and the business sectors absolutely have to work together to address and solve this problem once and for all. But one sector can’t do it alone."

Lessons learned in running for office as an Indigenous woman
Editor's note: Christina Blackcloud ran for Iowa House District 72 in the November 2020 election. If elected, she would have been the first Indigenous representative in the Iowa Statehouse.

During the campaign, a woman from Toledo wrote a letter to the editor in the Tama-Toledo News stating Blackcloud "will most likely not be able to fairly represent the district other than the settlement." Blackcloud responded in her own letter, saying, "America was built from many cultures with people from many nations. It feels disrespectful to imply because I am Native American, I only care about Native Americans. I respect your culture and ask that you please respect mine."

The incumbent representative, Rep. Dean Fisher, ultimately prevailed in the District 72 race.

We asked Blackcloud to address some of the lessons she learned in running for office and what advice she has for other women of color who are considering running for office.

– Emily Barske, Business Record editor

I was asked by Fearless to write about what I learned running for office as an Indigenous woman and some tips for BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] who may want to run in the future.

I can't help but reflect on my own history and roots in discussions like these as a child who pumped and hauled water, who used an outhouse, who spent all day playing outside and swimming in the Missouri River.

It was there, in these experiences, that my passion for politics formed.

I decided to run for Iowa House District 72 to fight for the environment and for Iowa's precious waters. The degradation of our natural beauty over the past decades from factory farming and deregulation lit a fire under me to be the change I wanted to see.

One of the first lessons I learned running as a woman of color is that systemic racism is alive and well. A prominent member of the community wrote a letter to the editor that claimed I didn't pay taxes, would only represent my tribe, and would help the tribe encroach on "their territory." It was disheartening and sickening to see such blatant racism on display.

Another lesson I learned, though, is there are plenty of people throughout the state of Iowa willing to stand up to systemic racism. Tons of letters, comments and tweets were sent calling out this woman and the publication for publishing such toxic hatred. My own response blew up and went viral.

One final lesson I learned is that you never know who is watching and how what you put out in the world might come back to you. I poured my heart and soul into campaigning for Barack Obama in 2012. I even attended his inauguration. I wasn't expecting anything to come of it; I was just happy he won. During the 2020 election cycle, Barack Obama endorsed me. I do not have the words to explain how much that meant to me, other than to say that you honestly never know how things may come back to you.

I want to leave you with some tips should you decide to run for office.
  • Gather a strong team around you.
  • Hit the pavement.
  • Do not let setbacks set you back.

Any successes I had on my campaign were attributable to the amazing talents of my team, the amount of time I put in hitting the pavement and getting my name out there, and my refusal to let setbacks get me down and stop the campaign from moving forward.

Thank you to Fearless for giving me the space to write this piece. Should anyone reading this want to run for office, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Left: Lisa Montgomery. Center: Marie R. Sylla-Dixon. Right: Karla Jones-Weber.
In the headlines

  • The Business Record has named Karla Jones-Weber, chief financial and administrative officer of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, as the Deloitte CFO of the Year.

  • Researchers found that the mortality rate for Black babies is cut dramatically when Black doctors care for them after birth. The U.S. has a high infant mortality rate, and Black babies are in the gravest danger, with an infant mortality rate in 2018 of 10.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with a rate of 4.6 white babies per 1,000 live births.

Worth consuming
Voices from the front lines of America’s food supply (New York Times). What to say to kids when the news is scary (NPR). She works two jobs and she’s still facing eviction (New York Times Op-Docs). Vice president-elect Kamala Harris on the road ahead (Vogue); the cover portrait of her sparked an uproar (Sway podcast). Many lack access to pads and tampons. What are lawmakers doing about it? (New York Times). Tips for how to enjoy the outdoors this winter (Catch Des Moines). How high-end restaurants have failed Black female chefs (New York Times). Remote work eases coming out for transgender employees (Wall Street Journal). Why I lost it on live TV (CNN). Sen. Tammy Duckworth — a soldier and wheelchair user — on her experience during the Capitol riots (Fortune). About 700,000 parents with young kids left the workforce in 2020. For many, loss of child care was to blame (The 19th).
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