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Civic Skinny

This week: A partial snub and a tip for The Register

Sometimes, no good deed goes unpunished. Among the creditors listed in the bankruptcy petition filed by former Ford dealer Franklin Greene and his wife, Gov. Chet Culver press secretary Courtney Maxwell Greene, is a $510,355 claim from the Small Business Administration for a loan made to Top Value Foods a few years ago. Top Value Foods was a noble attempt by Franklin Greene and a few others to put a quality grocery store in an inner-city neighborhood. The store failed; Greene and the others had personally guaranteed some of the borrowing, and now the government is listed as one of many creditors claiming money from what is essentially an empty till. The Greenes list assets of $28,015.79 in their petition and liabilities of $9,918,528.44. Most of the liabilities are liens filed by governments for unpaid taxes by Quality Ford — sales and use taxes, withholding taxes, employer share of unemployment taxes, and the like. But it turns out Greene was also borrowing money from a handful of other auto dealers around the nation, often in $50,000 increments; among the listed creditors is Wes Jordan, who ran Jordan Motors until it was sold to Lithia and who is out $25,000, according to the petition. Among other local entities listed as claimants are The Des Moines Register, which says it is owed $66,555.17; KCCI for $17,778.25, KJMC for $16,320, KDSM for $4,400 and Valpak, which sends out those coupons in the mail, $9,000. The Greenes’ $1.2 million house was foreclosed on, and they list as their current income just the state salary of Courtney Greene, who, according to the petition, earns $3,269.79 a month. …

It wasn’t on his schedule, but Courtney Greene’s boss showed up the other day at the dedication of the Iowa Workers Monument. Skinny wasn’t sure what that means — so she turned to the Senior Analyst for Civic Skinny, who had a ready explanation. “This was organized labor’s effort to recognize Iowa’s workers that started way back in 2004. With the collective bargaining veto, it would have added insult to injury to have skipped the event, but he didn’t put it on his public schedule or send out a press release to promote the dedication of the monument — which is located on state property,” the Senior Analyst analyzed. Then, morphing into a Senior Cynic, he added: “Maybe this was the advice he got from the same pollsters that advised him to veto the collective bargaining bill.” “Way back in 2004” is code for “during the Vilsack administration,” and several Vilsack people — including the former governor himself — are on the Monument committee, which might be another reason Culver didn’t play up the dedication. The committee raised over $500,000, and by far the biggest giver was the Iowa Association of Community Colleges. Its $50,000 gift was twice the size of the next biggest. We first went to our Junior Analyst for an explanation, and he said, merely, “Yeah, your tax dollars at work.” But the Senior Analyst explained the community colleges work closely with labor on job training and get a very nice rake-off on those deals. He termed the job-training program a “cash cow.” The monument to Iowa’s workers, incidentally, is by an artist who was born and raised in Tennessee, spent some time in New Orleans and now lives in California. … The governor did make an announced visit to the opening of the Hindu temple in Madrid. ...

It seems like just last week that Skinny reported that United Airlines was dropping its Des Moines-to-Los Angeles service and that the Pappajohn Building is being sold. It seems like just a day or two later that both stories were in The Register. Skinny is always happy to provide tips to the folks on Locust Street. Here’s another: They might want to ask around to see how other area colleges feel about the University of Iowa buying the Pappajohn building and, in effect, setting up a little Des Moines campus with outposts from the university’s business, social work, education and public-health schools. Put those together with the medical school’s plan to build a teaching facility on the Iowa Methodist campus, and you seem to have the makings of a fourth university, says another guy Skinny relies on. Skinny can hardly wait for Christopher Rants to weigh in on this. …

House Speaker Pat Murphy seems to have made a rare political miscall. In a late call, he backed the losing candidate in the Dubuque primary for the seat being vacated by Pam Joachim — who backed the winner. Joachim is running for the state senate. It was close, but Murphy usually is on the winning side of close deals — especially in his hometown. As for those elections, Skinny called the Boswell one pretty accurately, but is amazed that George Eichorn, the most credible of the three Republicans volunteering for the suicide mission of taking on Tom Harkin, appears to have been upset in a very close vote. If that turns out to be the case, Harkin will have an even easier jog back to the Senate this fall. …

And a social note: Former Register publisher and current dean of the Drake business and journalism schools, Charles Edwards, was married last weekend in California to Karin Holms of Des Moines. Basil Talbot was deputized to perform the ceremony. CV

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