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Civic Skinny

Dec 8, 2011
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A $100,000 bonus for a 7-5 record. Furloughs at the Register.


What’s mediocrity worth these days? If you’re Kirk Ferentz and you just finished a mediocre 7-5 football season, it’s worth an extra $100,000 — on top of the $3,825,000 you were guaranteed even if you never won a game. And if you’re one of his nine on-field assistants or the strength coach or the assistant strength coach or the director of football operations, it means a pay increase next year of 8 percent — while the professor who lives next door will be lucky to get 2 percent and the janitor (who probably doesn’t live next door) will get around 3 percent, though Gov. Terry Branstad thinks that that’s too much. Oh, and those 12 staffers along with the department’s “quality control administrator” also will get a bonus of one-and-a-half month’s salary because Iowa is going to the Insight Bowl.

It’s all laid out in Ferentz’ contract — a one-way document that binds the university to him until the year 2020 but doesn’t bind him to the university — which says in effect that the coach has to have a losing season in order not to get a bonus of at least $100,000. It also guarantees him raises of $50,000 a year through 2015. In a great year, he can get bonuses of $1 million or more.

Ferentz is by far the highest paid state employee in Iowa, pulling in six or seven times what the president of the University of Iowa makes and 30 times what Gov. Terry Branstad makes. Most of the coach’s assistants make around twice what the governor earns.

And that’s a lot of money. Ken O’Keefe, the offensive coordinator, will make $313,200 this year. An 8 percent raise will add $25,000 to his base next year, and the month-and-a-half bonus will be more than $40,000. Several assistants — Erik Campbell, Norm Parker, Phil Parker, Lester Erb, Reese Morgan and Darrell Wilson — currently make around $250,000. That’s before the bonus and 8 percent raise.

At the other end of the scale. ...

Workers at The Des Moines Register were told last week that they have to take a week off without pay in the first quarter next year — something that is becoming an unwelcome annual Christmas tradition at the Register and other Gannett papers. It’s in effect a 2 percent pay cut. “Furloughs are difficult and Gannett’s management team does not take this action lightly,” the company-wide memo said. What it didn’t say: Gannett earned $99.8 million in the third quarter of this year and had “operating cash flow” of $255 million.

And there is talk of more cuts to come.

Meantime, circulation at The Sunday Register seems to be leveling off after a years-long slide. Home-delivery, mail and single-copy sales of the Sunday Register averaged 199,868 in the six months ended Sept. 25, down just a smidgen from the 200,544 of a year earlier. The drop continues for the daily newspaper, however. In the latest period, the figure for home-delivery, mail and single-copy sales Monday through Friday averaged 97,999 copies, down about 4.5 percent from the 102,684 of a year earlier.

However, Sunday circulation continues to fall in what the industry calls the “newspaper-designated market,” the area that the Register views as its home territory. That’s Polk, Dallas, Story and Warren counties, plus a couple of townships in Boone and Clarke counties. There, Sunday circulation fell to 110,887 in the latest period, down about 1 percent from 111,974 a year earlier. In the home market, circulation of the daily Register dropped to 62,496 in the latest six-month period from 65,018 a year earlier, a decline of nearly 4 percent.

Over the past five years, Sunday circulation has declined 10 percent and circulation of the daily newspaper has dropped 26 percent. During that same period, the price of subscribing to the daily and Sunday papers in the Des Moines area has gone from $195 a year to $223.60, an increase of nearly 13 percent. The number of occupied households in the designated area has risen to 253,933 from 226,766 five years earlier, meaning that five years ago the daily newspaper went into one of every 2.6 households in the area; today, it’s one of every 4.1 households. That’s the number that advertisers look at, and it’s not a good number. ...

Marty Tirrell seems to be off the air. Has anyone noticed? ...

And West Glen’s owners — whoever they are these days — apparently are negotiating to sell the place to an Omaha outfit. ...

Jobs scorecard: At the end of October, Iowa’s nonfarm employment was 1,504,800, according to the Legislative Services Agency. That’s up from 1,488,100 when Terry Branstad took office at the beginning of the year, promising to add 200,000 jobs in five years. He now has 187,300 to go. ...

And this from a guy who’s not a Branstad fan: “New study by 24/ has Iowa listed as the fifth best-run-state. Ordinarily that is the sort of information that a Governor will send out in a press release as evidence of his leadership. So why no press release from Governor Branstad touting his first (or seventeenth) year in office? The fifth place ranking actually represents a drop two places from last year’s ranking of third-best-run state. Apparently Governor Branstad hasn’t yet figured out a way to blame Culver.”


Skinny joins those in mourning the death last week of broadcaster Mike Newell. He was one of the good guys. CV

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