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Civic Skinny

July 12, 2012
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Register circulation droops. Boswell crashes ceremony.


A bulletin sent to subscribers of The Des Moines Register on July 4:

“DMNEWS. Gov. Branstad hospitalized after choking incident; spokesman says he’s OK.

“For a diet tip, reply EATWELL”

Numbers, numbers, numbers:

Year-to-year circulation of the daily Register dropped sharply in the 12 months ending March 25. And that was before the paper raised its prices and irritated so many of its older readers by forcing them to pay for the Web version that they don’t want. Average Monday-to-Friday circulation in the latest period was 101,915, according to the figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. That’s down nearly 6 percent from the 108,247 of a year earlier. The newspaper considers its home market to be Polk, Dallas, Warren and Story counties, plus a couple of outlying townships, and home-delivery and single-copy sales in that territory fell to 60,847 in the latest period from 63,928 a year before. That’s a drop of 3,081 copies, or nearly 5 percent.

Seven years ago, the daily circulation averaged 150,907. In the metro area, home-delivery and single-copy sales were 84,997. Put another way, daily circulation has fallen 48,922 copies, or nearly a third, in seven years. Metro circulation has dropped 28.4 percent.

In that same period, the price of the daily Register in the metro area has gone from $124.80 a year to $137.80. And the number of households in the area has gone from 221,484 to 249,030. Advertisers concentrate on market penetration — the number of households that get the paper — and that penetration for the daily Register has fallen to just less than 25 percent from just more than 38 percent. Put another way, about one in four households in the metro area now subscribe to the daily Register or buy it on the newsstand, down from about four out of 10 seven years ago.

Sunday circulation dropped just a bit in the latest year, falling to 200,660 from 202,223 a year earlier. In the metro market, Sunday circulation fell to 108,075 from 110,032. Seven years ago, statewide Sunday circulation was 239,368; metro circulation was 118,573. While the drop in Sunday circulation over those seven years has been 16 percent, nearly all of that has been outside the metro area.

The newspaper changed its pricing model on June 1, raising its price to $23 a month, an increase of 20 percent to 40 percent, depending on what kind of a deal you had. Under the new plan, everyone has access to the Web version of the paper, which is what dismays and distresses some older readers who don’t have computers and don’t want them. ...

Branstad job watch: When he was running for office two years ago, the Governor promised to add 200,000 jobs in five years. When he took office, nonfarm employment in the state was 1,488,100, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA). The latest number, for the month of May, is 1,510,800, the agency reported last week. In 17 months, employment has grown by 22,700 jobs, or about 1,335 a month. To reach his goal, he’ll have to triple the pace, to 4,123 a month.

The state ended its fiscal year last Friday in very good shape, the LSA figures indicate. Its total net receipts were $6,122,900,000, up $289 million, or 5 percent, from the $5,833,400,000 of fiscal 2011. And that’s after taking $106 million in cigarette tax revenue out of the general fund and putting it in the Health Care Trust this year, something that didn’t happen a year earlier. The actual fiscal 2012 figures also beat the estimate of the Revenue Estimating Commission by 2.6 percent, or about $150 million.

The gains were across the board. Personal income tax revenue was up 5 percent in the year, sales-tax collections were up 5.2 percent, the corporate income tax take was up 32 percent. ...

Still more numbers. The outlook gets tougher and tougher for Leonard Boswell and Christie Vilsack, if voter-registration numbers are any indication of voter sentiment. Republicans last month widened the registration gap both in the Third Congressional District, where eight-term incumbent Boswell faces nine-term incumbent Tom Latham in a redesigned district, and in the Fourth Congressional District, where Democrat Vilsack is challenging five-term Republican Steve King.

On Feb. 1 of this year, Republicans held a 6,000 vote edge in the Third District. By June 1, that had widened to 11,206, and on July 1 — Monday of last week — it was 14,741. In the Fourth District, the gap on Feb. 1 was 47,105. By June 1, it had widened to 48,245, and last Monday it was 53,214. Democratic campaign operatives will point out the huge numbers of independent voters in each district — currently 140,679 in the Third District and 167,128 in the Fourth District — but campaign veterans will tell you that at the polls independent voters tend to break roughly along party lines.

Statewide, there now are 655,457 registered independents, 619,452 registered Republicans and 598,074 registered Democrats. ...

Boswell tried his damnedest to insert himself into the July 4 nonpolitical ceremony swearing in 28 new citizens at Principal Park. His aides called government offices several times asking to be included, and each time he was turned down. Then he showed up at the park and marched down and went on the field — without permission and without a field pass — to shake hands with the new citizens, mildly disrupting things. Finally, a Cubs official had to go over and take him by the elbow to shoo him off before Senior Federal Judge Robert Pratt gave a lovely talk and swore in the new Americans. The citizens and the judge got rousing ovations. ...

Your tax dollars at work: The Cedar Rapids Gazette ran a story over the weekend pointing out that Courtney Kay-Decker, the head of the Iowa Department of Revenue, got $8,000 in expenses for moving to Des Moines — but that she didn’t really move here. On April 13, 2011, she and her husband closed on a one-bedroom, 1,270-square-foot, $210,000 condo in the Water Street Brownstones, but, according to the Gazette, she “works in Des Moines an average of only 12 business days a month.” The rest of her time she lives with her family in Davenport in a 4,085-square-foot house that is on 3.6 acres and assessed at $749,780, according to the Scott County Assessor.

The Gazette’s Erin Jordan reported that Kay-Decker took the job on the condition that she could spend half her time in Davenport with her husband and two children. The state’s relocation-expense policy is for costs incurred in the purchase of a new principal residence, the Gazette noted, and it quoted Deputy State Auditor Tami Kusian as saying “principal residence” is where the family lives and where an employee spends the bulk of her time.

The governor’s office doesn’t seem concerned. ...

A quote: “You blew into my life like a force of nature, and my life is no longer as it was.” — Nancy Sebring

Indeed. CV



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