Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
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Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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Thumbs Up … to attorneys general from 20 states, including Iowa and Illinois, for urging 3M, major manufacturer of N95 masks, to try to get price gouging under control.

There have been reports that sellers of these masks, which are needed by frontline health care workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic, are charging exorbitant prices.

In their letter, the attorneys general noted that Minnesota-based 3M has committed to maintain its prices on N95 masks, but there are others out there who aren’t being as scrupulous.

As a result, the AGs asked 3M to take steps to help get this problem under control, like track the prices being charged by its distributors, create a database of inventory for health care providers and governments and ensure there’s greater transparency in how inventory is distributed.

To its credit, 3M has filed lawsuits to try to stop price gouging. In one suit, the company, citing Bloomberg News, said a Texas auction house was charging a whopping $180 for a box of 16 masks.

A few weeks ago, we urged authorities to work hard to stop price gouging in this time of crisis. We are happy to see that these law enforcement officers are taking action to try to do so. We are hopeful all involved in the supply chain, as well as those enforcing the law, will bring this problem under control and punish those taking advantage of the American people.

Thumbs Down … to the confusion at City Hall in East Moline earlier this week over the 36-year-old liens against the Rock Island County-owned Hope Creek Care Center. Some on the council want to press for payment of interest on the liens worth about $11,000 dating back to 1984. The interest amounts to more than $200,000.

This all comes as the county has voted to sell the money-losing nursing home to Aperion Care, a controversial decision that garnered opposition in some influential quarters.

We were not big fans of selling to Aperion Care, even though we believe it is time to sell the nursing home. (The county just can’t sustain the financial losses any longer). But the idea that some on the East Moline council would press for interest payments on liens that date back to the Reagan era (and apparently weren’t an issue for three decades) is a bit much.

The council, meeting online this week because of social distancing requirements, voted against charging the interest. But, according to reporter Jim Meenan, one council member later said that her vote was not recorded correctly. The result was confusion.

Our view is there would be less confusion if these council members would just drop this bad idea.

Thumbs Up … to the beginning of absentee voting in Iowa, which began this week for the state's June 2 primary. The date that absentee voting could begin was moved up because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, voters can cast ballots from home 40 days before the primary, which was the case before the Republican-controlled state legislature and then-Gov. Terry Branstad pared back the number of days in 2017.

There still will be in-person voting the day of the primary. But election officials, including Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz, have been encouraging voters to vote from the comfort of their own homes. And absentee ballot requests are being sent to every registered voter in the state.

"Absentee voting from home is safe and secure, and this is the best way to participate in the June primary election,” Secretary of State Paul Pate said this week.

We believe election officials are smart to promote voting by absentee ballot. As we saw in Illinois last month, there was a dip in turnout amid all the worry over the COVID-19 pandemic. In Rock Island County, turnout fell from 35 percent of registered voters in 2016 to 24 percent this year.

Iowans still are being encouraged to stay at home, and Illinois is under a stay-at-home order, which has been extended. We don't know what the situation will be in the first week of June, but we do know there are plans in Scott County for fewer polling sites than normal. So we, like election officials across the state, believe it makes sense to cast an absentee ballot. It is easy, and it is safe.

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It’s been a busy week of emails between East Moline Alderman Larry Toppert and city officials but city administrator Doug Maxeimer is hoping the agreement by the county to pay for the actual cost of two liens dating back to 1984 on the Hope Creek Care Center property that the county has agreed to pay goes by without further disagreement.

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