The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 4, 2013

Department of Labor frustrates Grassley

Senator advocates for full enrollment at Job Corps

OTTUMWA — Ignoring a problem will rarely make it go away. Worse is trying to convince everyone else to go away and ignore a problem; that approach seems to draw more attention.

“I’m very, very irritated with the Department of Labor,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley.

The Republican was in Ottumwa Wednesday to visit the Ottumwa Job Corps Center on his annual tour of Iowa’s 99 counties. Grassley is one of the elected officials credited with helping Wapello County get the multi-million dollar center and the accompanying 100-plus jobs.

A congressional liaison from DOL had called his office with what he called “new” rules. Late Tuesday, his office received instructions from the U.S. Department of Labor: Grassley could have his town hall meeting at the Ottumwa Job Corps Center. But if he wanted to talk to the press, he’d have to leave the property.

In fact, for the first time since construction started at the site, members of the media were denied permission to come on the property with a camera. Reporters either didn’t attend the town hall meeting, or did so with the order that they could not ask questions of the senator, Job Corps staff or bring any recording device with them.

“Don’t blame the people locally,” said Grassley, explaining those orders came from the Department of Labor.

And he’s not pleased that the public is being shut out of any conversations about current DOL restrictions on enrollment at Job Corps centers nationally, including Ottumwa.

Grassley said clamming up to avoid discussing financial decisions they’ve made is a bad idea for a taxpayer-funded entity.

Grassley said if mistakes have been made, let’s fix them. Ignoring them isn’t going to resolve any shortcomings. Some sort of action needs to be taken, including assistance from those within the Labor Department.

“If this is because they’re embarrassed over mistakes,” Grassley said, “they can’t ...  pull their head in like a turtle,”  Grassley said.

Except on national security issues, Grassley said, he prefers to do business in the open, where the public and the press can see what is going on. Even when talking to the young people at Job Corps, he told them it was their chance to ask anything, even if it’s “to put me on the spot.” When a young trainee asked if he preferred to be called Chuck or Charles, he said he went by Chuck.

“Because when my wife calls me Charles, she’s mad,” Grassley told the student.

Afterwards, he drove over to a nearby state government building to borrow their parking lot for a press conference.

“I don’t appreciate [being forced] to meet with the press in a parking lot on a 30-degree Iowa day,”  he said Wednesday morning.

A state official allowed Grassley to use the foyer of the building to speak with reporters.

The DOL’s reason for their new restriction, that his presence constituted a political event, was nonsense, he said. Nobody is campaigning now.

“It’s four years until the next election,” he said. “I was invited by the Job Corps Center; I’m here on official business.”

He toured the facility, talked to staff and took questions from students. He said all were aware of a letter he’d sent to the Department of Labor with some tough questions. A young lady training at Job Corps told him that because of the enrollment freeze, she can take the basic Certified Nursing Assistant course but can’t continue on into the nursing program.

“The Department of Labor has shut down enrollment during a time of high unemployment,” Grassley said. “That’s not the right decision to make.”

So why did the federal department make such a decision, and how did they spend the money set aside for the Job Corps program? Was there mismanagement of taxpayer money? Grassley said he asked the same questions. He has not received an answer from the department.

In fact, other congressional leaders have sent written inquiries to the DOL, ranging from requests for information to angrily worded demands for action.

“The [enrollment freeze] wasn't justified,” said Grassley, before promising, “We’re going to get answers.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • A change at Evans OTTUMWA — You can get kids to memorize facts. But teaching them to think can take more time. Educational leaders told the Ottumwa school board that the school year that begins 2014 will shift Evans Middle School students from 45-minute periods to 60-

    April 17, 2014

  • 0418 OTT Tree City U.S.A. logo Ottumwa awarded as Tree City U.S.A. again OTTUMWA — Having big, beautiful trees throughout a community can help spruce up a city and make it more attractive to visitors. Ottumwa has shown a dedication to making the community more green and inviting, and the efforts have been recognized by th

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418 OTT Agriculture Day color photo 2 -T -L -M Cardinal students celebrate Ag Day ELDON — Sometimes the best way to learn is to get out of the classroom and come face-to-face with things that you might not see every day. Students at Cardinal Elementary School got that chance Thursday during Ag Day. Every year, the Cardinal FFA and

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418 OTT Five Things logo -T -L -M Five things to do in southeast Iowa this weekend OTTUMWA — It's a weekend of Easter celebrations, historic events and educational opportunities in southeast Iowa. Many people are gathered together this weekend, and the surrounding communities have scheduled events perfect for the whole family. 1. S

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418 OTT Joe Tafta bw photo -L -T -M Pursuing opportunities OTTUMWA — Joe Tafta follows the rules. The Simpson College junior hopes to be a U.S. marshal one day, so he’s careful about what he says and does. But not always. On the afternoon of April 1, Tafta says, he nearly got booted out of Dunn Library for m

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418 OTT OEDC director -T Guiding our growth OTTUMWA — An organization designed to help Ottumwa grow has found a new employee in Indiana. The Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) board has chosen Sharon Stroh as the group's new executive director. “We are confident she will hit the g

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0417 OTT Earth day color photo 1 -T -M Cargill celebrates Earth Day by educating ALBIA — In honor of Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22, employees from Cargill Eddyville and Cargill Pork are visiting with students at Grant Elementary and Lincoln Center in Albia all this week. On Wednesday the Courier caught up with them as they went

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • 0417 OTT Saving Center color photo -T -L -M Hedrick building has friends HEDRICK — The community wants a civic center, and they've been willing to work for it. "I'd say we have 15 to 25 volunteers each time," Tommy Smith of Hedrick said. "These are all good people." Smith was volunteering his services at the Easter Brunch

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Southern Iowa farmers preparing for planting OTTUMWA — Even though the winter seemed to linger like Iowa was going through an ice age and cold and wet weather has highlighted the early spring, farmers are starting to get out to their fields to put down fertilizer and get fields ready for planti

    April 16, 2014

  • 0417 OTT Camp Wapello fence photo -T -M -L Good fence irritates good neighbor DRAKESVILLE — For 82 years, Camp Wapello’s iconic entryway has welcomed people to peacefully coexist with nature. Now there’s a 400-foot barbed wire fence down the middle of the road. In February, Davis County Supervisors approved vacating of portion

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook
E-edition