Insider: 'Stier killed
Despite sagging readership numbers,
The Des Moines Register has enjoyed
some success with its investigative
reporting (see Clark Kauffman's
Cass County corruption piece),
which in turn has been followed
up by sometimes a nauseating number
of self-congratulatory editorials
where the publication's leaders
get to hop on their high horse
and preach to the populace about
what should be done to right the
wrongs. So when the recent three-day
series by reporters Bert Dalmer
and Tim Higgins on Bill Knapp,
Dennis Elwell, Mark Wandro and
the rest of the seemingly shady
Ankeny Interchange deal that left
the citizenry calling for heads
and some lawmakers pushing for
an investigation by A.G. Tom Miller
didn't warrant any ink by the
Register Editorial Board, employees
there got to talking - and the
rumors as to why are not pretty.
"I think it's logical that
a follow-up editorial would run.
We've done so with regularity
in the past; but while you can't
kill the news, you can kill editorials,"
an angry staffer there told Cityview.
When asked to elaborate, this
individual said, "at the
end of the day, one vote counts
more than all of the others,"
while another individual who contacted
Cityview stated bluntly, "Mary
Stier killed it." Why? Well,
that's what no one we've spoken
to seems to be sure about. Neither
Knapp nor Elwell are major advertisers
with the paper, but speculation
of Stier (who did not return Cityview's
call) wanting to stay tight with
the "upper crust Partnership
types" might have weighed
in on why an editorial was either
killed or simply not written.
"She's not a news person.
She's a business person,"
one source said. "And she'll
deny anything not above board
taking place until she's blue
in the face, but the fact remains
the same that there was no follow-up.
Ken Fuson jokingly mentioned it,
and there was a Duffy cartoon,
but that's about as much as she
wants to rock the boat... I guess
we'll never know who actually
pulled it or stopped it or whatever,
but (Editorial Page Editor) Carol
Hunter couldn't pick Bill Knapp
out of a line-up, so I'm not sure
what the true news people would
have to gain by doing so... This
took months of hard work and digging.
Did it cut too close for our usual
patting ourselves on the back?"
While gubernatorial candidate
Mike Blouin's group is saying
that the Chet Culver committee
shouldn't ice down the champagne
just yet, the latest poll results
showing Culver as being an overwhelming
favorite to take on Republican
Jim Nussle next November has started
somewhat of an exodus, according
to a source close to the Culver
campaign. "We're going in
two very different directions,"
our source said. "This is
our race to lose. The people and
the money are coming in."
And while the long list to represent
the Democrats won't start being
whittled down until the union's
make their play later this month
and the January money numbers
are in, political experts are
saying that Culver - once thought
to be too aloof and inexperienced
to win the state's highest office
- has clearly gotten his act together.
"He has his confidence and
he looks good. He is God, mom
and apple pie." A source
close to Blouin (who has been
noticeably absent at a half-dozen
or so recent gatherings for those
seeking the position) told us,
"Those polls are bullshit.
It's name recognition. We'll buy
ours when the time is right."
But another source told us, "the
campaign has imploded. It all
came to a head Monday," when
Matt Paul, one of Gov. Tom Vilsack's
top aides, who has a history with
Blouin, took over the campaign.
A study paid for by Polk County
taxpayers and pushed for by Global
Spectrum to determine whether
or not a new hotel should be constructed
in close proximity to the Iowa
Events Center made a few assumptions
that a hotelier and an elected
official have told us make the
project far from sturdy. The consultant
concluded that the market could
support a 450-room hotel on either
a site just north of the IEC or
on a site just south of it. There
is, however, just one substantial
problem with the consultant's
findings: It is using a rate of
$126 per room, per night - rates
that are "extremely elevated."
And if the Polk County hotel cannot
be successful at $126 per night
and has to cut costs, guess who
pays? "It's the reason a
legitimate hotel is wary of coming
into the market," the elected
official said. "John Ruan
(Marriott) and Jeff Hunter (Hotel
Fort Des Moines) average around
$70 a night for their rooms -
transient business, convention
business, all of it. And they
can keep those prices or lower
them if need be. The county can't
without taxpayers subsidizing
it." Said another individual
in the loop: "If they are
going to use tax money (bonds
financed by Polk County and no
taxes for 20 years) to compete
with taxpaying businesses, they
should probably let people know
that if this thing doesn't cash
flow, everyone helps make up the
difference." The consultant,
the elected official told us,
finished the same type of study
recently for Overland Park, Kan.,
and claimed it could build a hotel
where rooms could go for $150
per night. The rooms currently,
our source said, are renting for
just over half of that. "It
is supposed to be a convention
hotel, which means cheap rates,"
the hotelier said, "which
is almost the only reason Des
Moines gets convention business.
So you tell me how they are going
to market it at convention rates
that are about $50 per room per
night above the Marriott's?"
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