Category: Opinion

Consumer Counselor – November 14, 2018

Simple ways to keep a realistic budget
Successful financial plans often begin with the creation of a budget.
A budget is an estimate of income and expenses in a given period of time. Budgets help with long-term goals like paying off a mortgage or sending a child to college as well as short-term goals like financing a dream vacation.
Not all budgets are alike, and when people hear the word “budget,” they may get apprehensive. Budgeting may require making some concessions in regard to spending habits, but it doesn’t have to put a complete damper on plans. In fact, with a budget in hand, people may be more free to spend because they will have a stronger grasp of their financial situation.
Making a realistic budget does not have to be a chore. Here is how to get started.
List the necessities. Begin by calculating the costs associated with fixed needs, including rent/mortgage, utilities, food, and any other bills you have to pay each month.
Add existing debt. Debt includes any routine payments being made to credit card companies, student loan lenders, car payments, or unpaid medical bills.
Conduct a spending analysis over several months. Budgets are easier with fixed numbers, but unforeseen variables can affect spending every month. These can include the extras for clothing, entertainment and much more. Average the cost of these expenses throughout your analysis period so you can get some idea of how much to allocate for them.
Use software or apps to help. There are plenty of resources available to help people calculate their budgets and get a picture of their financial habits. Resources such as Mint, YNAB (You Need a Budget) and various accounting programs can produce spreadsheets, pie charts and bar graphs as you work to create a budget.
Start trimming gradually. Quitting a certain lifestyle cold turkey can be jarring. Gradually cut back on your spending if your analysis suggests that’s the way to go.
Automate saving. Immediately removing a set amount from your paychecks by having it directly deposited into a separate account can remove the temptation of spending too much from your financial equation.
Budgets are a key part of a financial plan and can help people reach their goals.

Consumer Counselor – November 7, 2018

Tips for finding a home services provider
Homeowners who are good with their hands can tackle many minor home improvements on their own. However, more complicated projects often require the services of professional contractors to ensure the renovations are done right, completed on time and within budget. Choosing a home services provider requires careful consideration on the part of homeowners. The wrong contractor can cost homeowners time and money, so homeowners must exercise due diligence when vetting contractors before going forward with a home improvement project.
Types of contractors – The Federal Trade Commission notes that the scope of a project may necessitate hiring various types of contractors. The more complex a project is, the more likely it is that homeowners will need to hire contractors who specialize in certain areas. Understanding the differences between contractors can help homeowners make informed decisions.
General contractor: General contractors manage home improvement projects. This includes hiring subcontractors and supervising their work. General contractors also secure building permits and schedule inspections.
Specialty contractors: Specialty contractors focus on specific areas of a project. For example, homeowners who are remodeling their kitchens may need new cabinets installed by a contractor who specializes in cabinets and cabinet installation. That contractor is a specialty contractor.
Designer or design/build contractor: The FTC notes that these contractors both design and build projects.
Architects: Architects design homes as well as any additions or major renovations to homes. Architects are often necessary when projects involve structural changes to existing homes.
Hiring a home services provider: Once homeowners determine which type of contractor they need, they can they begin researching local professionals.
Speak with neighbors, family and friends. Neighbors, family members and friends who have worked with contractors in the past are great resources. Seek recommendations from people you trust, even asking to see completed projects if possible.
Utilize the internet. Websites such as HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List are free of charge and can be great resources when homeowners are looking for contractors. Each site includes reviews of contractors from past customers and contact information for local contractors.
Confirm qualifications. The FTC advises homeowners to confirm contractors’ licensing and qualifications before hiring anyone. Some areas may not require licensing, but many do. Homeowners can contact their local building department or consumer protection agency to determine the licensing requirements for their area.

Simply Put – November 7, 2018

In a world where common names for newspapers usually include Times or Tribune, La Porte City’s newspaper name stands alone. It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the city’s founder, Dr. Jesse Wasson, played an important role in how The Progress Review came to be. Did you know that this unusual name was created by combining the names of two rival publications that merged in the late 1800s?
Whether deliberate or by accident, the choice to combine “progress” with “review,” two words that initially seem like opposites, actually serves to describe two important functions that newspapers perform. The “progress” portion, or current news, looks forward and seeks to inform area residents of the important events of the day. The “review” aspect, equally important, performs the role of community archive. Years from now, local citizens will be able, if we’ve done our job well, to learn about what the important issues and events were in La Porte City in 2018, just by perusing the pages of The Progress Review.
The earliest editions of The Progress Review date back to the 1870s and copies of those newspapers can still be read today at Hawkins Memorial Library. Thanks to the State Historical Society, whose diligent efforts archive dozens of Iowa periodicals to microfilm, the local library has a collection of The Progress Review that is considered to be a more permanent than even digital records. When stored properly, microfilm can last indefinitely and is not subject to hard drive failures that can wreak havoc with digital data. Unfortunately, state budget cuts some 15 years ago eliminated the service that had provided microfilm archives of The Progress Review to the local library, leaving a gap in its historical record of La Porte City.
Even if the library’s historical collection of The Progress Review was complete, microfilm, while permanent, is not multi-user friendly, nor is it easily searchable. A digital record, if available, could allow many people to search and access The Progress Review’s archives simultaneously, much like www.theprogressreview.co allows visitors to search and view news from the past five years. If only a website with the complete archives of the local newspaper could be constructed…
That day will soon be here, thanks to Advantage Preservation, a company that specializes in such work, along with the contributions from a variety of sources, including a recent grant from the Max and Helen Guernsey Foundation, grants from Aureon (with support from LPC Connect), a donation made in memory of George and Faye Abel, along with donations from the La Porte City Women’s Club and other individuals. Working with Hawkins Memorial Library Director Jolene Kronschnabel, The Progress Review has jump-started the local history website project with the donation of archives dating back to 2009. At an estimated cost of $10,000 to digitize and microfilm a complete, searchable record of The Progress Review, a website has been created where you can explore La Porte City’s history free of charge. While still in the early stages of development, you can begin your search by logging onto http://laportecity.advantage-preservation.com/. Links to the site can also be found on The Progress Review and Hawkins Memorial Library websites.
As you browse, you will notice there are still a number of gaps in the local historical record. To help fill in those gaps with a donation, we encourage you to contact Hawkins Memorial Library (342-3025) to see which years of LPC history are still available to sponsor. It’s an easy and surprisingly affordable way to share a portion of your community’s history with the entire World Wide Web.

Simply Put – October 31, 2018

“The views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the host and callers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this station.” While it’s a standard disclaimer often heard on the radio at the beginning of a news talk program, a similar statement could be made about a feature that debuts on page eight in this week’s edition of The Progress Review, a student publication entitled Uniquely Union News.
Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of hosting Alison Leytem, Union High School English instructor and nine of her Journalism students for a tour of The Progress Review’s office. The visit gave them a behind-the-scenes look at how their local newspaper is produced, and included a discussion about the benefits and responsibilities that accompany the work of a journalist.
Thanks to a partnership with The Progress Review, the introductory journalism class at the high school will offer students the opportunity to compile and report local news stories for a real-life audience. What does this mean? As these students learn and hone their craft, their homework, so to speak, will be on display for your reading pleasure. It has been nearly ten years since a student publication has graced the pages of The Progress Review and we are excited to see what stories and issues these bright, articulate teens are interested in exploring.
Make no mistake. The stories submitted for publication on the Uniquely Union News feature page are unfiltered by The Progress Review. Our sponsorship of the Uniquely Union News comes with a pledge to each student journalist: All of the credit for a well-written composition belongs rightfully to the author, not the editor. Of course, the flip-side of that promise means that any obvious (or not so obvious) errors are also the responsibility of the author. To their credit, this capable group of student reporters have eagerly accepted this challenge and are hard at work preparing stories that will be published in the coming weeks.
It’s important to note that the issues students choose to report and the opinions they express will also be of their own making. If we truly believe in a free press, as we at The Progress Review most definitely do, student journalists must be allowed free expression if they are to learn what responsible journalism looks and sounds like. While the safety net of an early deadline will allow school staff, students and their publisher to address any concerns that may arise prior to publication, such a scenario is highly unlikely, given the shared commitment that exists to produce a high quality student publication, one our community can be proud of.
Bryant H. McGill once said, “Where wise actions are the fruit of life, wise discourse is the pollination.” As student journalists at Union High School make like busy bees in an effort to produce an outstanding student publication, we hope you enjoy and appreciate their efforts to inform you of all that is uniquely Union.
 

Letter to the Editor – Anna Bower

When looking at the long lifespans that humans are living out, we can give our thanks to vaccines. Vaccines have saved millions of lives, yet are increasingly the target of social criticism. As a global community, the anti-vaccine movement is one of the most pressing issues we are experiencing culturally. The risks that come from not vaccinating are staggering, and illnesses that once plagued children, such as polio, measles, and whooping cough, are having the chance to rise again in frequency. To see these illnesses occur again with decreasing use of vaccines would put our entire society at risk.
The scientific community never backs anti-vaccine movements. There is no evidence to support such a mindset. However, with the prevalence of websites like Facebook, many sources of misinformed opinions are being shared as fact.
Consequently, more and more parents are choosing to not vaccinate their kids and citing it as a preference. When an unvaccinated person interacts with other members of society they could be unknowingly spreading infection or contracting it. For those who are ill and are unable to be vaccinated, this can mean life or death.
As a society we need to put our trust in scientists and doctors before a stranger ranting on Facebook. Vaccines protect us all, but they especially protect the most vulnerable members of our society from disease. Vaccines should be mandated to all healthy children, not allowing for personal choice. The culture has changed; the scientific consensus however, has not.
Anna Bower
LaCrosse, Wisconsin

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