In 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau stated that 17.8% of Story County residents were living in poverty. That means that over 15,000 individuals were lacking daily needs like food, shelter and basic health care. The newest national average for those living in poverty is 14.3%, which has surprised many based on the current economic times. But this new national average still leaves Story County, Iowa behind the rest of the country.
It seems only right then that poverty be discussed as a major topic in this year's upcoming election. The Candidate Forum on the Conditions of Poverty in Story County held on September 28, 2010 gave both County Supervisor Candidates and State Legislative Candidates an opportunity to weigh in on the issue of poverty. The event was sponsored by the Volunteer Center of Story County and Mid-Iowa Community Action. County Supervisor Candidates, Lucy Martin, Rick Sanders and Paul Toot were present and answered a number of questions related to poverty. One of the most interesting questions of the night came from an audience member, what they would do if they only had a day in office? Martin stated that she would focus on the County's future and would make sure the proper policies were in place to do this. Toot believed that fiscal responsibility is an idea that needs to be instilled and he would focus on explaining to the department that they are spending taxpayer money and not their own. Sanders explained that fiscal responsibility was also important to him and his goal was to tie revenues to expenditures. Above all else, education came up as the most important for the candidates. They were all in agreement that education is essential to solving the issue of poverty.
The night ended with a lively conversation between the State Legislative Candidates. Present were Senate candidates Robert Bacon, Herman Quirmbach and Tim Gartin, and Representative candidates Selden Spencer, Dave Deyoe, Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, Karin Sevde, Lisa Heddens and Chad Steenhoek. Once again education was highlighted as key factor in combating poverty. Candidates also agreed that social services were very important to individuals experiencing poverty. Republican candidates across the board criticized the Democrats handling of the Iowa budget. Most republican candidates believed that the so-called balanced budget would be difficult to uphold in the upcoming years and that Iowa needs to focus on sustainable funding.
The forum was a great success with over fifty individuals in attendance. Those present had the opportunity to ask questions of the candidates either during or after the formal forum. The Volunteer Center is thankful to all those candidates and individuals who attended and lent their support to improving their community. Poverty is a tough issue and will only be solved if we all work together.