Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Civic Skinny

Runge, Neu and Madden leaving IPR board.

9/18/2013

Kay Runge is resigning as chairwoman of the board of Iowa Public Radio and is leaving the organization, and the other two remaining original board members — Art Neu and Warren Madden — also are leaving at the end of the month. Two former Republican legislators will join the seven-person board.

Runge’s resignation was tendered during a telephonic board meeting on Friday — though she was not on the call — and Steve Firman of Cedar Falls was elected chair. Neu, the Carroll lawyer and one-time lieutenant governor, was not reappointed by the Board of Regents, and his three-year term ends Sept. 30. Madden, the top finance official at Iowa State University, is turning over Iowa State’s permanent seat on the board to John McCarroll, the university’s long-time public-relations head.

Runge, Neu and Madden were three of the original five board members when the Board of Regents consolidated their station operations and incorporated IPR in 2006. The other original members — Steve Parrott of the University of Iowa and Steve Carignan of the University of Northern Iowa — were replaced after a few years.

Neu and Runge were the original “public” members — members not associated with a university — and the board was expanded to add two others in 2011. Those two are Firman and Doug West of Ankeny, who remain on the board. They now will be joined by former legislators Mary Kramer of West Des Moines and JoAnn Johnson of Panora, whose appointments were approved by the Board of Regents last week. Holdover members are Mark Braun of the University of Iowa and Gloria Gibson of UNI. Kramer is also on the board of Iowa Public Television — she’s the first person to be on both boards — which could come in handy to those who think the two organizations should merge.

IPR has been without a boss since the board fired Mary Grace Herrington earlier this year. A search has been under way, and the board now is down to two or three candidates, Cityview has learned. …

DM Art Center

Ninety-two absentee ballots arrived at the Polk County Election Office in the two days following last week’s school board election. Seventeen were counted, 75 were not. Those 75 did not have a stamped and dated postmark to show they were mailed before election day, as required by law.

But there’s a catch: The ballots were not postmarked because the United States Post Office generally no longer puts a stamped and dated postmark on postage-paid “business reply mail,” which is the kind of envelope the absentee ballots are in. “I regret to inform you the guarantee of a postmark on every ballot processed as Business Reply Mail is not possible,” a postmaster in the state of Washington wrote an election official when the issue arose there last year. “I am sorry, but this is simply not an option. Business Reply Mail was never intended to be postmarked since it is manually verified and processed.”

In last week’s election, Rob Barron defeated incumbent Joe Jongewaard for one of the at-large seats on the Des Moines school board by 28 votes, 2,699 votes to 2,671, so it’s possible — though highly unlikely — that Jongewaard might have won had all the ballots been counted. For one thing, no one knows if the 75 ballots were from Des Moines or one of the other districts in Polk County. For another, Barron had been more aggressive in seeking absentee votes. But the ballots were not opened, so no one will ever know how they were marked.

A stamp on the back of the business-reply envelope notes that “postmarks are not guaranteed!” but that doesn’t exactly jump out at the voter. County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald now will contact the 75 voters and tell them that their votes didn’t count. That’s probably not a pleasant task.

Sooner or later, the courts or the Legislature will have to deal with the problem, presumably before there’s a one-or-two-vote winner in an election with a hundred or so uncounted votes. …

The Regents last week were scheduled to allocate a quarter of a million dollars to change the landscaping at The Knoll, the on-campus home of Iowa State president Steve Leath, but the project got derailed somewhere. A guy who sees Regents documents before they are posted on the Web says the Property and Facilities Committee had scheduled a discussion of the plan, which included flower and vegetable gardens, changes in a courtyard and other improvements that would have cost $240,000, the equivalent of a year’s tuition for 15 students.

But by the time the agenda was posted, the item had disappeared. …

A political operative told former Gov. Chet Culver recently that he was going to help Tyler Olson in his bid to get the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and run against Branstad. Culver, says a guy who knows about the conversation, asked the politico not to, saying he himself might seek the nomination if Branstad decides not to run. The politico still signed on with Olson. …

Sally Mason, president of the University of Iowa, in a comment to the Register’s Bryce Miller on Sept. 6 after drunken student Samantha Goudie was arrested at Kinnick Stadium the previous weekend and tests showed her alcohol content at .341 — more than four times the reading for a person to be legally drunk:

“The vast majority of our students have expressed concerns to me about the reputational damage that one student can do to all of them.”

Cityview to The University of Iowa on Sept. 7: Could you please provide the actual number of emails or phone calls from students directly to President Mason about Samantha Goudie, @vodka_samm, the student Mason described by saying “There’s no doubt there’s a problem there.”

Mark Braun, assistant to Mason, to Cityview on Sept. 11: “President Mason has dozens of encounters every day with students. This subject came up several times in conversations with students last week, and many students who spoke to the president about it expressed their concerns.

“The President’s Office has received a total of 4 e-mails and phone calls about the issue as well.”

That’s a tad short of a vast majority. Enrollment at the nation’s No. 1 party school is 31,065. CV

Comment
A 93-year-old man was sitting all alone far from the speakers’ platform at the Harkin Steak Fry in Warren County Sunday.
 
Occasionally, a passerby in the milling crowd of Iowa Democrats would nod hello. Once or twice, someone would stop by for a word or two. But for the most part, the old man was by himself, unrecognized by those younger by a generation or two or three, unacknowledged from the big names on the platform, unfazed by being alone at the edge of the crowd.
 
“I introduced myself,” said a Democratic legislator who was sitting nearby. “I didn’t even realize who it was.”
 
Who it was was Neal Smith, small-town boy, World War II hero, lawyer and for 36 years the influential and powerful Congressman from central Iowa. He, more than anyone but God, is responsible for the loveliness of this part of the state — for its lakes and trails and nature preserves along with much, much more.
 
Neal Smith did everything but run a bulldozer to ensure that Saylorville Lake was built, and he was instrumental in getting funds to build Red Rock and Big Creek as well. He secured millions from the Corps of Engineers — he oversaw its budget requests — to turn the Des Moines River into a greenbelt, turning what was in effect a junkyard into a ribbon of beauty from Fort Dodge through Des Moines and on south. He secured the money to buy the 8,654 acres for what is now, appropriately, the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Jasper County near Prairie City.
 
He got the money for the skywalks of downtown Des Moines, for buildings at Iowa State and Drake, for highways and bike trails. And he made sure Iowa farmers had a strong voice in the Capitol.
 
He was as unpretentious a Congressman as he was a powerful one. He lived quietly with his wife, Bea, who is ailing now, and they spent as many days in Iowa as they possibly could. When he was upset by Greg Ganske in the Republican sweep of 1994, he and Bea simply returned home. No high-paying lobbying posts, no agency sinecures, no big corporate boards for him.
 
With his full head of gray hair, his brisk gait and his curiosity about the world, he looks and acts much younger than his age. He wears hearing aids, but his eyesight is strong, his handshake is firm, his mind is agile. And he is as rumpled as always. He lives downtown and stops by his office at the Davis law firm about once a week, he says, and he closely follows the doings on his farm in Warren County and the other near Prairie City. He drove alone to Indianola, asking for no special parking spots or other perquisites due a man who has done so much.
 
When the Steak Fry was over Sunday, he strode off to the parking lot as the late-afternoon chill set in. I walked with him for a bit, then turned and watched him stride on. The man who served in the House of Representatives longer than any other Iowan, who rose to become the seventh-ranking member of Congress by the time he was defeated, who all but rebuilt central Iowa, disappeared into the jumble of cars.
 
No one seemed to notice. CV
— Michael Gartner

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