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Civic Skinny

July 19, 2012
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Knapp looks ahead, U of Iowa looks out of state


Bill Knapp turned 86 years old this week. Most guys his age don’t buy green bananas. They think the short term is this afternoon, the long term is tomorrow. They buy razor blades one at a time, open the paper just to make sure they’re not in the obituaries, put $5 of gasoline in the tank and worry they’re overspending.

But last week, at a meeting of those big hitters who are guaranteeing the multi-million-dollar loan to assemble and hold soft areas downtown and then re-sell them to developers, someone asked how long the folks will be on the hook for their guarantees. One guy said he’d been telling people five years. Another fellow said 10 might be OK. But Knapp — the liveliest guy at the table — carried the day with 15 years.

We can’t be in this for the short term, he said.

God bless ’im. ...

Things aren’t going so great in Minnesota for Des Moines bar owner Tom Baldwin, who over the years has run various bars in Des Moines including Wellman’s Pub and Crush and Drink and Tequila Tom’s and Uncle Buck’s — where Baldwin settled a racial discrimination suit two years ago. Earlier this month, the Minnesota Department of Revenue revoked the sales-tax permit of the Minneapolis version of Drink, in which Baldwin was a shareholder, according to the StarTribune. The state says the bar “failed to pay sales taxes between March 2003 and January 2007.” Baldwin apparently has opened a Wellman’s on the corner where Drink was in Minneapolis. ...

The University of Iowa Foundation is not the only foundation handling big money — and paying nice salaries — at the university. There’s also something called The University of Iowa Research Foundation, which handles the patents and licensing for technologies developed at the university.

Like the University of Iowa Foundation, it appears to be its own boss, reporting neither to the university nor the Board of Regents, although it “acts solely on behalf of” the university. Its board is made up of university people and a few outside business leaders. On the website of the university’s vice president for research, the foundation is called a “unit” of his office.

And it apparently doesn’t know that there are patent and licensing attorneys in Iowa. Last year, according to its tax return, its five highest-paid outsiders all were law firms. It paid those five $1,552,316. One is in Philadelphia, one in Bloomington, Minn., one in San Francisco, one in Minneapolis and one in Washington. The year before, the five highest outside contractors — all law firms — got $2,750,809. Again, all were out of town — Philadelphia, Bloomington, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Austin, Texas.

Two years ago, the foundation had revenue of $31.3 million and a profit — though foundations don’t use that word — of $4.1 million. In the latest year, which ended June 30, 2011, it had revenue of $9.5 million and a loss of $179,845.

The foundation was run until recently by Pam York, who earned $174,370 in the latest year and got another $23,248 in “other compensation.” Zev Sunleaf is the interim executive director. Ken Mason does not appear to be on the payroll.

When the university makes a patent or licensing deal, the first $100,000 of net income goes to the inventors. Of the remaining income, 25 percent goes to the inventors, 15 percent to the inventors’ department, 15 percent to the inventors’ college, 20 percent to a “research enrichment fund” at the foundation and 25 percent to the foundation for operating expenses. ...

When The Des Moines Register moves into Capital Square, Cityview is told, it will set up an internet cafe on the first floor. Skinny, who remembers not only Donald Kaul but also Harlan Miller, suggests it be named “Over the Coffee.”

Register editor Rick Green says he’ll be looking for a sports editor to replace Bryce Miller, who was named sports columnist the other day. That squelches speculation in the newsroom that sports might go without a boss and just report to Randy Brubaker, the former sports editor who now has broader duties in the newsroom. At any rate, one sure bet: The job won’t go to former Register sports part-timer Steve Deace. ...

Look for the State of Iowa to make a deal to move into Ruan 2, the building at 6th and Locust that formerly housed Wellmark. ...

New postings out this week show that Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell has cash on hand of $472,250 for his race against fellow incumbent Republican Tom Latham. Latham has a whopping $2,145,581. In the Fourth District, Republican incumbent Steve King has $1,266,162 under the mattress; Democratic challenger Christie Vilsack has $846,205. Each has raised roughly $2 million so far, but Vilsack has been going through money faster....

Iowa State University also has a research foundation that is supposedly independent of the university and the Regents, with a separate board. Last year, it had revenue of $11.9 million and net income of $2.9 million. Lisa Lorenzen, who runs it, makes $127,000, according to the latest state-salary list. Oddly, its tax return is not on the site that carries tax returns of all nonprofits, even though it’s registered with the state as a nonprofit. ...

So far, Iowans have contributed $255.2 million to the Obama campaign and $266.7 million to Republicans. Of that, Romney has received $120.6 million, Paul $40.5 million, Gingrich $23.6 million, Santorum $22.2 million, Perry $19.7 million, Cain (remember him?) $16.3 million, Bachmann (and whatever happened to her?) $10.3 million, Huntsman $7.8 million, and Pawlenty $5.2 million. ...

Footnote from Olympic Track and Field trials. The National Track and Field Writers Association presented this year’s award for excellence in announcing to Jim Duncan (father of Cityview Food Dude Jim Duncan) and the Drake Relays.

Jim Duncan died in 1989. ...

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

You can say that again.

“You blew into my life like a force of nature, and my life is no longer as it was.” CV



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