Friday, May 14, 2021

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Civic Skinny

Merry Christmas…


Twelve drummers drumming…

…to recognize  the great work done by Anawim Housing…and Margaret Toomey, who has done so much for so many…and the folks at Art Force Iowa, who change the lives of young people…and Anne Starr and the people at Orchard Place, who try to mend the lives of other young people…and Andrew Allen, who now runs Youth & Shelter Services — the organization that saved his life as a young man 20 years ago…and for Toby O’Berry, who runs the Iowa Homeless Youth Center for YSS…and for Tim Shanahan, who helps the moms and kids at Hawthorne Hill…and for everyone at Central Iowa Shelter & Services, which feeds and clothes and shelters so many. …

Eleven pipers piping…

…mournfully, remembering police Sgt. Anthony Beminio of Des Moines and officer Justin Martin of Urbandale, and Des Moines officers Susan Farrell and Carlos Puente-Morales, all who died in the line of duty…and joyfully for some political winners: Nate Boulton and Brad Zaun and Zach Nunn and Rick Olson and Ruth Ann Gaines and Brian Meyer and Bruce Hunter and Ako Abdul-Samad and Marti Anderson…and Peter Cownie and Chris Hagenow and Jake Highfill…and Beth Giudicessi, the Most Valuable Player. …

Ten lords-a-leaping…

Prep Iowa

…and wishing the best for all those Register folks who left or were laid off during the year: arts reporter Michael Morain, now at the Department of Cultural Affairs (and, while we’re at it, greetings, too, to all the other Morains from the Jefferson newspaper family)…and sports-writers Andrew Logue and Andy Hamilton, and Matt Patane and Jeff Kummer and Rachel Mummy…and reporter Tim Meinch, now at Meredith’s Midwest Living…and for editor Amalie Nash, who is moving up and away…and her successor, veteran editor Carol Hunter. …

Nine ladies dancing…

…to welcome Mark Graziano back to town…and to help his lawyer, Guy Cook, celebrate the World Series victory of his Cubs (and Yea for the Cubs!)…to celebrate the new knees of Bill Sailor and Ann Broderick and John Shors…for Sheriff Bill McCarthy (we’re glad you were re-elected) and Police Chief Dana Wingert (we’re glad you got the job)…for clarinet player Bob Nandel and everyone else in the Greater Des Moines Community Band…for Simon Estes, who knows the Centerville fight song…for lawyer Patricia Shoff…and ailing Buck Turnbull. …

Eight maids-a-milking…

…for former dairy farmer David Johnson, the newly Independent senator…for Councilman Skip Moore, who knows about trees — and politics…and retiring lawyer Sharon Malheiro, who plans to keep fighting…for caring nurse Deb Cosgrove and her son, Joseph Glazebrook…and the soft-spoken Jim O’Halloran…for supervisors Steve Van Oort and Bob Brownell, so popular no one ran against them…and Trudy Hurd…and David Young, who could be our Congressman forever. …

Seven swans-a-swimming…

…for Nancy Bunker of Windsor Heights…for Bob Birch, who raised Tommy right…for Robert Warren, who brings such great events to Hoyt Sherman Place…for Eric Branstad, who engineered a political upset…and for his mom and dad, too…for David Boyd and Steve Davis at the Supreme Court, and for the voters who returned Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices Brent Appel and Daryl Hecht for another eight years, which is great…and, while we’re at it, congratulations (hold for release) to Steve Colloton and Ed Mansfield, in case they’re plucked from the short list and named to the United States Supreme Court. …

Six geese-a-laying…

…for those political junkies who blog and blog and blog to keep other junkies up to date, especially Laura Belin of Bleeding Heartland and Pat Rynard of the Starting Line…for Jennifer Konfrst and Claire Celsi and Heather Matson, who gave their all in November…for Becky Wampler at Wellmark…for Colleen  Homan at AFSCME…for Mike Richards, doctor, businessman and, now, Regent…and David Yepsen, who’s back in town…and so are John and Jackie Norris and their boys…and for Dave Roederer, who always knows what’s going on.

Five golden rings…

…for Mike Mahoney and Pat Yacinich at SportsPlex West…and Drake Coach Jennie Baranczyk and player Lizzy Wendell…for all-state baseball players Brendan Dougherty of Dowling and Ben Norman of Roosevelt and Zeb Adreon of Pleasantville…and basketball all-stars Turner Scott of Valley and Ted Brown of Dowling and Will Carius of Pleasant Valley…and all-state softballers Kendyl Lindaman and Olivia Brooks and Allison Doocy of Ankeny, Mandi Roemmich and Mackenzie Ward of Valley, and Brooke Sandstoe and Brooke Wilmes and Hayulee Towers of Johnston and Sarah Schaefer…for young hockey players Patrick Grasso and Nic Seybert (and their police-officer dads)…for everyone named Bernabe…and No. 1 sports fan Tyler Steinke.

Four collie birds…

…for the Kelly family, who gave that great new water playground at Greenwood Park…and for everyone who helped save the Green Bridge across the Raccoon — but especially Mell Meredith and Carl Voss…for Kevin Moran, who left the Parks Department to take over Drake’s buildings-and-grounds operations…and his new boss, Marty Martin, and his old boss, Ben Page…for Rosemary Moody, ageless and tireless at the Election Office, and Lisa Moody Tunks…for Christi Anderson…for the efficient and organized Katie Miller…for young Javi Barron, who at age 3 already roots for the wrong team…and Grand View President Kent Henning…and Carole, too…for everyone named Mauro.

Three French hens…

…for Iowa State spokesman John McCarroll, who has had a busy year…for bow-tied Joseph Jones, who has taken on a new job…and Amy Beller…for accountant Mitch Boeck, who keeps his eye on the details…for Zachary and Mackenzie and Christopher and Maggie, the world’s greatest grandkids…for Pam Deardon Conner…and her dad…for newlywed Celeste Tilton, who somehow shoehorns this column into Cityview…and her boss, Shane Goodman…and for Janet Petersen…and Ronald Autry…for Derek Hickey at the Events Center…for the Food Dude, of course…and Phil Duncan, the best and nicest cook in town.

Two turtle doves…

…for the compassionate Becky Roe…and for some old guys: Jim Cooney and Phil Dorweiler and Neal Smith and Bob Burnett and Chuck Grassley and Chet Guinn…and Drake’s Paul Morrison, still working away at 99…for Austin Strawhacker at the Bulldog Club…for Don Coffin…and Randy Reichardt and Zac Voss, who are going to change Water Works Park…and cyclists Jed Gammell…and TJ Tollakson…and Mike Rehm…for the generous Joe Crookham of Musco, and Jeanie, too…and for Ed Wallace, who has a new job in West Des Moines.

And a partridge in a pear tree…

…in memory of the kindly Chief Justice Ward Reynoldson…and judges Harold Vietor and Jim Carter…and Renaissance Man David Hurd, always willing to lend a hand or a thought or to write a check…East Village pioneer Kirk Blunck…prosecutor (and opera singer) Rich Richards…and Randy Duncan, perhaps the greatest Iowa athlete ever (and certainly the nicest)…and Patti Peterson…and Jane LaMair and her brother-in-law Bill PeverillKris Barron, an advocate for all things good…George Anthan, a dogged reporter and proud Greek, and Cynthia Mitchell, an exacting editor…Kay Compiano (as in Johnny and Kay’s) and car dealers Bill Jensen and Gene Gabus…and Bea Smith, who knew about equal pay for equal work long, long ago…and businessmen Roger Stetson and Crawford Hubbell and Kent Klein and Paul Dunlap and Phil Grask…golfer Jack Webb and basketball star (and lawyer) Tom HylandDick Jacobson, who loved helping kids and giving away money…labor leader Don RowenDan Johnston…the always-upbeat Bob Hudson…the young Luke Anderson and Peri Sagun…and, always, the first Christopher.




Bills for taxpayers in Godfrey case now top $910,000, and there’s more to come. Des Moines City Council stirs.

Chris Godfrey’s lawsuit against the state of Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad and five others will be five years old next month. No trial date has been set in Polk County District Court, and both sides are awaiting a ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court on a request to clarify an issue.

That motion was argued several weeks ago, and although the state hired an outside law firm to defend it and the state officials the motion was argued by Solicitor General Jeff Thompson. The well-coifed George LaMarca, head of the outside firm, was sitting at the lawyers’ table during the hearing, but he said nothing.

But he apparently sent a bill. The Executive Council the other day approved a $3,343.98 invoice for the

taxpayers to pay. That brings the firm’s billing in the case to $910,359.95, by Cityview’s count. The lawsuit alleges retaliation, defamation, extortion and discrimination against Godfrey when he headed the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board. A Democrat with a fixed term, he refused Republican Branstad’s request to quit early; Branstad then ordered Godfrey’s salary to be reduced.

In effect, the state has paid more than $900,000 — and the figure will jump sharply once trial preparation resumes — to defend the Governor’s decision to cut Godfrey’s salary by what would have been about $150,000 over the remaining 46 months of his term. If Godfrey wins, the state also will be on the hook for bills from his lawyer, Roxanne Conlin. All told, bills may ultimately exceed $3 million.

It may or may not be relevant — Godfrey certainly thinks it is — but Godfrey is a Democrat and was the only openly gay member of Branstad’s administration. He since has taken a job in Washington. …

The City Council’s split over school crosswalks is about a lot more than the crosswalks. Five council members flexed their muscle and went against the recommendation of the city manager and city engineers — something that rarely happens — to oppose raised medians at three proposed crosswalks. But the fight is really about who has power in the city — the council or the department heads. And it showed a strong new coalition led by Councilman Chris Coleman, council-watchers say.

There’s more to come, they say.

Equally surprising: On the losing end of the 5-to-2 vote were Mayor Frank Cownie and long-timer Council member Christine Hensley. They are not one another’s best friend. …

Horse Whisperer Maggi Moss may have deserted Prairie Meadows, but she showed recently there is still a lot of Iowa in her blood. She acquired a racehorse sired by Kettle Korn and named him Funnel Cake. …

Life’s little coincidences: From Wikipedia: “The Flying Dutchman…is a legendary ghost ship that can never make port and is doomed to sail the oceans forever.” From a Des Moines Register review of the Des Moines Symphony performance of the Overture to The Flying Dutchman: “The orchestra relished the ill-foreboding character of the legendary ghost ship that never makes port and is doomed to eternally sail the oceans….”

Life’s little oddities: The Des Moines Register is one of the many organizations owed money by sportscaster Marty Tirrell, who is one of the more visible folks around town. Trying to collect, the Register asked the Dallas County Sheriff to serve papers on him. After a “diligent search,” the sheriff’s office told the court, it was unable to find him.

Meantime, during the World Series Tirrell was interviewed by a Chicago TV reporter. Terrell — who in the past has been successfully sued by ticket brokers claiming he stiffed them — showed a fistful of tickets. He said he had 72 tickets and had paid $147,000 for them.

The trial in his disputed bankruptcy proceeding is scheduled for Dec. 9.



The elections


The Iowa Republican Party has never been stronger. It now controls both houses of the Legislature, the Governor’s office, both Senate seats and three of the four Congressional seats.

It can quickly pass whatever legislation it wants, and what it wants probably includes a huge swipe at labor, defunding Planned Parenthood, ever-looser restrictions on guns, ever-stronger roadblocks to voting, and privatization of more and more governmental functions. And, always, tax cuts.

Now that Senate Democrat Mike Gronstal has been defeated, the Republicans can coast blithely through the next two years.

But what then?

The Iowa House, half the Senate and the Governor’s office will be up for grabs in two years, and presumably the Democrats will be going all out to win after they get over licking their wounds.

But Gov. Terry Branstad could foil them again. As an unwavering supporter of Donald Trump — Branstad’s son Eric ran the successful Trump campaign in Iowa — the Governor could easily get a pretty good job in Washington that doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting. That way, he could bump his protégé — Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds — into the governorship, giving her a leg-up against whatever Democrat eventually gets the nomination.

And why not?

The Governor has already reached his goal of being in office longer than any governor in the history of this nation. Two years ago, he helped Joni Ernst become the first woman sent to Congress from Iowa, and he has noted that it would be nice to have a woman as Governor — something that has never happened in Iowa. A Republican woman, of course.

If Reynolds were the incumbent, she’d probably have a clear path to the nomination in 2018. But if she weren’t the incumbent, she’d surely face a primary fight — from former legislator Ron Corbett, almost certainly, and probably from one or two others.

It’s true the Governor seems to love Iowa and has never shown any interest in Washington, but it’s equally true that he enjoys his role as king-maker — and queen-maker — and he wouldn’t be against adding another “first” to his list of accomplishments.


After being obliterated in the election, here’s all Iowa Democrats need: A strategy, leadership, candidates, money.They need a two-year strategy — a plan to win back the governorship in 2018 and to win back the Iowa Senate. They need a four-year strategy — a plan to take back the Iowa House in 2020 and unseat first-term Senator Joni Ernst. They need a six-year strategy — a plan to win the presumably open seat now held by Chuck Grassley, who will be 89 when his next term is up. (And who, by then, will be the fifth-longest-serving Senator in the history of the nation, behind Robert Byrd, Daniel Inouye, Strom Thurmond, Ted Kennedy and Patrick Leahy.)

The Iowa Democratic Party needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. There are two Democrats who can make this happen: Tom Harkin and Tom Vilsack.

Those two — successful, savvy, energetic men who love Iowa — need to convene Democrats to come up with a plan. They need to reunite what was once the party’s solid base: the laborer, the farmer, the teacher, the student, the minority — and the sprinkling of really rich people who can write checks to help persuade strong young candidates to join the fray.

The first assignment: Find someone to run for governor. Vilsack, of course, would be the perfect candidate, but that seems unlikely. (Harkin would be great, too, but that’s not even remotely possible.) Andy McGuire, who has been eyeing the job for years, now is damaged goods, having presided over the November disaster as state chair. Mike Gronstal might be strong, if he has the stomach for it after the Republicans spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get him out of the Iowa Senate.

At the same time, the Democrats need to find a party chair, preferably someone from outside Des Moines who knows the state, knows the people, and can work 18 hours a day to find able candidates for every single elected office in the state. It will take the persuasive powers of both Harkin and Vilsack to get someone good to take this job, for it’s a back-breaker. On the other hand, it could make someone’s career.

It’s been decades since the Iowa Democrats were in such awful shape — in the county seats, in Des Moines, in Washington.

But Harkin and Vilsack have the brains and the energy and the influence to start putting the party together again.

The good thing: There’s no way to go but up. ♦





  1. …just to add to your “Merry Christmas” list, thanks to all the remarkable nonprofit organizations and volunteer groups who hold up the most vulnerable women, men, and children in our community – their work never takes a holiday!

  2. (…and thanks to every person, company, and group who generously support them!)

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