Friday, May 14, 2021

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Civic Skinny

Bubu Palo sues Iowa State. ISU keeps pursuing NORML.



No foes for Polk Supervisors.

Some plans for MacRae Park.


Bubu Palo, the former Iowa State basketball player, has sued the university and the Board of Regents in Story County District Court.

Prep Iowa

Palo had been accused of raping a classmate, sometime lover and longtime friend in the fall of 2012, but the Story County attorney dropped the charge after determining the woman or her mother had tampered with the evidence. The university continued to pursue him under its own code of conduct — kicking him off the team, among other things — but judges consistently sided with Palo as he appealed the university’s ruling. He then was reinstated to the team — but was benched and never played.

The lawsuit accuses the university of, among other things, malicious prosecution, of making public statements denigrating him, and of interfering with his right to play basketball elsewhere — ISU President Steve Leath’s ultimate decision kicking him off the team was delayed until five days after the day when Palo could have transferred. (Palo now plays for the league-leading Sioux Falls Skyforce in the NBA ‘D’ league.) The university’s actions made Palo “a pariah in his community, and he and his family suffered tens of thousands of dollars in debt,” the suit says.

The suit asks for unspecified damages for emotional distress and loss of future income as well as legal fees “and any other proper relief the count deems just.”

As of the weekend, the university had not yet filed its response. …

Meantime, university officials are refusing to accept Federal Judge Jim Gritzner’s ruling that to curry favor with the Governor’s office — well, the ruling actually says “Iowa political figures,” but that was code for Terry Branstad’s office — they illegally discriminated against students wanting to use ISU trademarks on tee-shirts produced by the university’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Gritzner earlier this year said the university decision was discrimination based on viewpoint — government can’t do that, and a state university is government — and he ruled for the students. (The university did not go after trademarked material used by, among others, ISU Cuffs, “an educational group for people who want to learn more about alternative sexuality, such as kink, fetish, BDSM, and other expressions of safe, consensual and non-exploitative human sexuality,” presumably because “Iowa political figures” are okay with kink.)

The university officials appealed and also asked the judge to stay the order, but he refused. He was skeptical about success of the appeal, saying Iowa State “offered no more than speculation and conclusory statements” that the university will be harmed by use of the trademarks, while the students would be irreparably harmed by a stay because — quoting an 8th Circuit case — “loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.”

The university officials then asked the Court of Appeals to stay the ruling, but last week that court summarily dismissed the request.

Briefs in the full appeal are due to be filed this week. Defendants in the case are ISU President Leath and the university’s Warren Madden, Tom Hill and Leesha Zimmerman. The defendants could be held personally liable, though Gritzner says he lacks jurisdiction to determine damages until the appeal is decided. …

The filing deadline has passed, and no one has come forward to challenge Republican County Supervisors Bob Brownell and Steve Van Oort or Democratic County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald. That assures they’ll have no primary opposition, and while the parties could nominate persons to run against them in the general election that opposition would be token, at best. All three are considered unbeatable.

County Sheriff Bill McCarthy, a Democrat, will have no primary opposition, but his longtime foe — and employee — Dan Charleston has filed to run against him again in the general election. Republican Charleston, a department sergeant who twice has sued the sheriff for political discrimination and retaliation, got barely 40 percent of the vote in 2012.

Federal judge Stephanie Rose dismissed the latest case in March 31, saying the lawsuit “failed to state a claim that is plausible on its face.” That suit contained allegations of retaliation and discrimination over several months of 2015. The original suit, containing similar allegations but referring to actions in 2014, continues. A trial in that suit is set for Aug. 21, 2017, before Magistrate Helen Adams.

McCarthy, a former police chief in Des Moines, is seeking his third four-term as sheriff. …

Some of the greatest views of downtown Des Moines are from the south side — driving in on Indianola Road, for instance — but the best view has long been from a brush-filled hilltop in MacRae Park. The panoramic scene stretches from the Capitol to the western edge of downtown, looking directly across the Raccoon River and indirectly across the Des Moines River.

Now, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department has drawn up plans to fix up the whole park — it has gotten pretty seedy as the city keeps squeezing budgets — and it hopes to start by building a lookout at that hilltop and an adjacent shelter with similar great views. The Employers Mutual companies are prepared to give the city $250,000 to finance that piece of the park’s renovation.

The first phase of the park renovation probably would cost upwards of $1 million, and Mike Coppola has pledged $100,000 toward that. The Parks Department is looking everywhere for money — the state, the county, the city — but department head Ben Page says the plan will “rely heavily on our ability to raise private dollars.”

The long-term plan — which could cost as much as $4 million — calls for restoring the woodlands and the landscape, building trails for walkers and bikers and connecting the trails to the Meredith Trail along the Raccoon River, remodeling a shelter built generations ago as part of the Works Progress Administration, adding another shelter, adding a play area, and building a fishing area, among other things.

MacRae Park was established — as South Park — when the city acquired 62.7 acres in 1897. In was renamed in 1919 in honor of Corp. Donald MacRae, a 23-year-old Des Moines soldier who was killed by a shell fragment on March 5, 1918, in World War I. CV

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