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Civic Skinny

Art Cullen has kind words for Sally Mason


There’s still a multi-million-dollar shortfall in the financing scheme for a new convention hotel near Hy-Vee Hall, but the gap will close and a 450-room hotel definitely will be built, public officials and private business leaders say. They say the two finalists are proposals from developers and contractors Weitz of Des Moines and Mortenson of Minneapolis. …

A note from Art Cullen, editor and co-owner and everything else at the Times in Storm Lake, a town where about 75 percent of the schoolchildren are sons and daughters of immigrants:

“I have not known what to think about Sally Mason since she was hired. Then she came to Storm Lake in late September and stopped by for an interview. I pointed out to her that almost no immigrant youths attend a Regents university; almost all go to Iowa Central and maybe up to a dozen are enrolled at Buena Vista.

“She told me that Iowa obviously was missing an opportunity. She said she would personally see to it that at least 10 disadvantaged, first-generation students from Storm Lake are enrolled at Iowa next fall. And by God if she didn’t follow through on that. We learned this week that Mason ordered up at least 18 scholarships for immigrant graduates of Storm Lake High School. She also has set up a special team to guide these students through the process. She told me that she was a first-generation college student and wants to do anything to get these students into college.

“I have to say that I am impressed that she kept her word. I am further impressed that she is in some sort of Cold War with Bruce Rastetter….


“I just thought you would like to hear the story.” …

“News of the lawsuit was first reported in Cityview.”

“News of the lawsuit was first reported in Cityview.”

Those two lines must have been dropped inadvertently from two Des Moines Register stories on Friday reporting on lawsuits filed by the man who was badly beaten at Johnny’s Hall of Fame and by the family of the motorcyclist killed in a collision with a school bus. Both suits were featured in Cityview last week. Just another in a series of coincidences, surely. Or else the Register thinks of Cityview as a tip sheet. …

So here’s a line — “News of the lawsuit was first reported in Cityview” — the Register folks can drop in next week when they report on a lawsuit a Dallas County woman filed last week against Glen Oaks. Marlene Williams says she and her family were at the Principal Charity Golf Classic at Glen Oaks on June 2, 2012, when she fell while walking on the golf-cart path near the 15th hole.

Her lawsuit, in Polk County District Court, alleges she fell because “a piece of the golf cart path broke off under (her) foot.” The piece broke off, she alleges, because the country club was negligent in failing to keep the course safe for people attending the tournament.

She is suing for medical expenses, pain and mental anguish, loss of function of body and lost earnings. Her husband, Terry Williams, also is suing, alleging, among other things, “loss of companionship, society and the conjugal fellowship of husband and wife and his right to the company, cooperation, affection, and aid of his wife in every conjugal relationship.”

The defendants are G.O.C.C. Investments L.L.C., doing business as Glen Oaks Country Club. A filing with the Secretary of State’s office lists Bob Pulver as the registered agent of G.O.C.C. Investments. The Pulvers, the Mark Omans and Ron Pearson bought Glen Oaks three years ago. The Williamses have asked for a jury trial. …

Today’s quiz: Why is the Iowa Department of Transportation based in Ames? Answer: Because when it was founded it was part of Iowa State University. But in those days, the agency was called the Iowa State Highway Commission, known to some as the Good Roads Department of the school, and the university was Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. The commission became an independent state agency in 1913, and it became the Iowa Department of Transportation in 1974. In case you were wondering.

Today’s second quiz: Cityview and The Des Moines Register — which is the daily and which is the weekly? CV



Oh, if David Belin were alive this week!

There he’d be — brilliant and earnest and sort of awkward — on the Today Show and Face the Nation and CNN and maybe, even, the Daily Show. Still sharp and bow-tied at 85, with his off-kilter little smile and distinctive voice and odd tic in his eye, he’d in his lawyer-like way cite fact after fact to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone on that awful day 50 years ago when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

David Belin was sure about a lot of things — that children were to be nourished, that friends were forever, that education was everything, that music soothed the soul, that women had equal rights — but he was most sure of this: That there was no conspiracy to kill the President. Period. Absolutely. For certain.

And if anyone knew the facts, it was David.

David Belin — my lawyer, my business partner, my friend — was in 1964 appointed assistant counsel for the Warren Commission, which President Lyndon Johnson established to investigate the shooting of Kennedy. David’s assignment was specific: Determine if the president was killed by a single gunman; determine whether there was a conspiracy to assassinate. He interviewed everyone, went over every detail, looked into every background and concluded Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone. And that was the finding of the commission. That job finished, in 1975 he was appointed executive director of The Rockefeller Commission, which investigated CIA doings in the United States — including any CIA knowledge of the assassination.

So David Belin knew more about the death of John F. Kennedy than any other person except Lee Harvey Oswald. And Oswald was dead.

He certainly knew more than Oliver Stone. David was infuriated by Stone’s “JFK,” the 1991 movie that implied the killing was part of a conspiracy. The mention of Stone would make his blood boil and send him into a monologue about truth. He said there were at least 100 mistakes in the movies, errors of omission and lies of commission, and he chronicled them all. In testimony in 1996 to the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board, he called the movie “the greatest electronic coverup fraud ever perpetrated on America’s movie screens.” He called it “a hoax, a smear and pure fiction that rivals…Nazi propaganda films.”

You knew where he stood.

David wrote two books about the assassination — “November 22, 1963: You Are the Jury” and “Final Disclosure: The Full Truth About the Assassination” — and he asked me to read the manuscripts. The detail was mind-numbing, but always backed up by records and documents and witnesses. Anyone who plowed through the books would be convinced — but it took a lot of plowing to get through them.

When he wasn’t dealing with the conspiracy-theory crowd, David was involved in everything in town. It was hard to find a place to sit in his large office at the law firm, where he padded around in his stocking feet. The couch, the chairs, the floor, his desk all were piled high with book chapters, legal briefs, files on the wealthy families he represented, correspondence, clippings on this and that, notes on ideas and politics and all the many things he wanted to talk about, often all at once. But ask him for something, and he could go to the right pile, dig down a couple of feet, and produce the paper. His office was a mess, but his mind was tidy.

But he would drop everything to lecture or argue or debate about the assassination. (After one of his books came out, he was on the Today show and was interviewed by Bryant Gumbel. Gumbel welcomed him, and David responded. “May I call you Byron?” he said. “I guess so,” the usually unflappable Gumbel responded after a flummoxed pause. Laughing, Gumbel later told me, “What was I going to do? Take up half the time by explaining to him that my name is Bryant and then having him apologize?”)

David Belin died on Jan 17, 1999, at age 70. He had been at the Mayo Clinic for his annual physical, and in the middle of the night he fell in his hotel room and hit his head. He was in a coma for 12 days.

I immediately drove to Rochester with Gary Gerlach, the third partner in our company that owned the Ames Tribune and some other publications. David lay in his bed, hooked up to monitors and tubes, deep in that coma. Some were optimistic that he would awake, would recover, would live to argue another day.

“May I see him alone?” I asked a nurse.

She let me.

I walked in. I took his hand and held it firmly in both of mine. I leaned over to whisper in his ear. “David,” I said, “I think there was a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy.”

He didn’t rise up and smite me. He didn’t squeeze my hand. He didn’t blink.

I walked out knowing that he would not wake up. CV

— Michael Gartner

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