Civic Skinny

March 3rd, 2011 |

Live bugs, closed doors, lost jobs and dead elk


Bed bugs are still biting in Des Moines, according to a Department of Administrative Services memo from its director, Mike Carroll, that was sent to Skinny. Try as they "mite" (sorry, couldn't resist) to keep this under wraps, the memo was passed along with a note saying that, despite previously known problems, State of Iowa buildings still have bed bugs.

The "Health Notice" said "bed bugs in a very limited area of Level A have been recently detected," also noting that "the bugs have been identified as adults, which points to them being carried in from outside the premises versus an infestation." The bugs were to be treated, and monitoring strips and traps were to be placed. Vacuuming was also to begin every day, and additional cleaning of the carpets was planned, too, according to the memo.

Further implying that the bugs came from someone bringing them in, Carroll attached a brochure to the e-mail to "help all of us to better understand the challenges of detecting and eliminating bed bugs from work and home. These bugs are persistent and exceptionally adept at migrating by attaching themselves onto backpacks, other parcels and even articles of clothing." The finger-pointing memo bugged one staffer enough to tell Skinny that Carroll should "clean the damn place up and stop blaming it on us." …

Speaking of cleaning up, just last week, what was once a vibrant network of community newspapers is now nearly swept away. The Press Citizen newspapers once included zones in nearly every community throughout the Des Moines metro and its suburbs, providing many communities that didn't have a voice with a hometown newspaper. The newspapers were not Pulitzer Prize winners by any means, but they served a purpose and filled a niche. One serious flaw they had was out-of-state ownership, as Ogden Newspapers Inc. of West Virginia controlled the reins. So when an opportunity to sell the papers to The Des Moines Register came about, the easterners jumped at it. Register management immediately shut down all but one of the zones, opting for their one-size-fits-all, multi-community papers instead. The Register appropriately kept the most successful zone, The Ankeny Press Citizen, as a separate entity with its own staff and office, until now. "I guess the office is closed but the paper will still be the same," a former Press Citizen employee tells Skinny. "Two (advertising) sales reps will work out of the Register office. This will hurt the paper as it will no longer feel like Ankeny's paper without the hometown office."

In other Register news, Rick Thomas, who was hired in August as the sales manager in charge of the custom publishing division, was let go. Thomas previously worked for Jim Slife's Pioneer Communications, managing his magazines. Also let go at the Register was James Fidler, who was the photographer for the same division. Oddly — or maybe not so oddly — Fidler is the son of Robbie Peterson, who used to run all the magazine stuff. A couple other folks were also let go, or demoted, Skinny hears. A person in the know tells Skinny, "I think the writing is on the wall for these magazine things they do — this seems to be an awful lot of layoffs in one particular area anyway — and I hear they are wayyyyy short on ad revenue. Assume the bean counters will figure that out at some point and pull the plug on all of them." And maybe focus more on the daily newspaper? Skinny could only hope.

In yet another awkward attempt to rob Peter to pay Paul, The Des Moines Register, along with other Gannett operations, has partnered with Yahoo and is encouraging local advertisers to move their dollars from print models to online. A cookie-cutter promotional video apparently used by all Gannett cookie-cutter operations was sent to Skinny by a local businessperson who is concerned with privacy. The video brags of the newspaper's ability to track every Internet move of those who visit Register and Yahoo sites. In other words, they are gathering enormous amounts of personal data on office employees messing around on the Internet during work hours. "Enough is enough," the guy tells Skinny. "I don't need the Register knowing what stuff I buy, or what jobs I am looking for, or what movies I rent." Not to mention the porn sites he visits. …

Skinny received a note from a guy who was close to the slaughtering of the free-roaming elk herd in southern Allamakee County, efforts the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said were necessary to safeguard the health of whitetail deer. In the note, the concerned farmer tells Skinny he could see "elk carcasses covered by tarps" and one government man "covered up to his elbow in blood." The farmer said he saw multiple agents entering the area in DNR trucks and surmised that DNR officials had spotted the elk late at night with large light beams and shot them. In the illegal world of poaching, this practice of blinding animals with bright spotlights to freeze their movements while scopes are targeted in is known as "shining." The DNR denies the allegations.

Too bad the DNR isn't on a mission to kill bed bugs. CV