In late summer, I would swim and stream-walk a small section of the Raccoon River. While sedimented for decades now, the water was clear in the shallows. For a few years now, the water is pea-green from edge-to-edge. For decades and worse now, this water has strongly contributed to a vast hypoxia zone in the Gulf.

In the 1980s, I wrote about the wisdom of the river, focusing on the Des Moines River as a living, very open metaphor for the essential streaming dynamic of the universe that is within us as well in the streaming of our body metabolism and thought.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Editorial: Pulitzer Winner Took Brave Stand

Editorial: Pulitzer winner took brave stand
The Register's editorial Published 5:16 p.m. CT April 11, 2017 

Art Cullen, 59, editor of the twice-weekly Storm Lake Times, won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for his editorial writing. Kelly McGowan/The Register

Art Cullen may have lost friends over his powerful editorials, but he’s no “enemy of the people.” So it’s inspiring to see the colorful editor of a small-town, family-owned newspaper honored with the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.

The editor and co-owner of the Storm Lake Times won for 10 editorials he wrote last year on Iowa’s water quality, including the Des Moines Water Works’ lawsuit against drainage districts in northwest Iowa. His work no doubt offended local officials, farmers and advertisers.

Cullen, however, was fighting for taxpayers in Buena Vista County. He worked with the Iowa Freedom of Information Council to obtain public records disclosing how his home county and two others financed the defense of the lawsuit.

“Regardless of your opinion about the merits of the water works’ lawsuit, the public deserves to know who is paying law firms in Des Moines and Washington, D.C., and under what terms,” he wrote in one of the editorials.

A few excerpts from those winning editorials:

On challenging those lawyers: "To use a barnyard euphemism, every once in awhile even a blind pig finds a nut. We are not so polished, but our snout smells something that is being hidden. We can’t see very well right now. But we can smell it."

On Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposal to redirect schools' sales tax revenue for water quality: “So, the workers at Tyson who buy school supplies for their children would find their sales tax payments going to agland owners who install bioreactors while living in California and paying no sales tax in Iowa. And Storm Lake (schools) could not build the size of facility it needs to accommodate the children of food processors woven into the supply chain that pollutes the Raccoon directly and indirectly.”

On why regulation is needed: “The truth is that we can’t dump a barrel of ink down the drain without impunity. Why should a farmer be allowed to dump a couple tons of phosphorous-laden soil into the Raccoon?”

Congratulations, Art.

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