Friday, August 12, 2022

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Civic Skinny

Money is raised for the new downtown Y.


No one is issuing any press releases, but the plan to move the downtown YMCA to the old convention center is all but a done deal. The money is pledged.

By the time the convention complex is purchased and remodeled and an indoor, 50-meter pool and other facilities are added on the empty lot next door — the lot that runs up Sixth Avenue, north from Grand — it will be a $25 million project. Here’s how the money breaks down:

At least $8 million, and probably more, will come from local businesses and business leaders. In a whirlwind round of visits in the past few weeks, the tireless Bill Knapp and Y president Vernon Delpesce quickly raised the money. Knapp, Jim Cownie, MidAmerican Energy and Principal Financial Group are in for $1 million each. Meredith is in for $750,000, and EMC and the Graham Group for $500,000 each. A couple of other big ones are all set, but the paperwork isn’t done yet. The Ruans, Kum and Go and Wells Fargo are in at $250,000. Others, mostly individuals, are in for amounts ranging from $100,000 to $25,000.

Around $2.5 million is, in effect, being provided by Wellmark, which is donating that Sixth Avenue land (in a complex deal in which the county is buying the old J.C. Penney building from Wellmark for use by the courts) and which will have naming rights for the new place.

An anticipated $4.5 million will come from selling the riverfront land under the current Y — perhaps the choicest piece of real-estate downtown. Expect a high-rise building that will have offices on the first few floors and condos above. No deal has been struck, but a group of businesses stand ready to buy and hold the land if the Y doesn’t find a buyer right away. The land will be delivered empty. The current Y will be torn down, and Polk County is likely to pony up the $1 million or so for demolition.                

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The final $10 million will come from the Y itself, through its borrowing capacity or by fundraising from members and others. It’s quite likely the Knapp-Delpesce visits will produce more than the $8 million pledged so far, and everything extra would lower the $10 million the Y itself must raise.                

So far, Knapp and Delpesce have made 20 pitches. They were turned down only once. …              

This just in: Chet Culver must be serious about running for governor. Lately, the Christie-like formed governor has been seen working out at an Aspen Athletic Club. He has a long way to go, a fellow exerciser told Skinny last week. It’s not a pretty picture, he said. …             

Judges and justices for Iowa’s two highest courts — the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals — are appointed by the Governor, and he must make his selections from groups of three names presented to him by the state Judicial Nominating Commission.                

Commission members serve six-year terms and are chosen from Iowa’s congressional districts, and because the state lost a congressional seat after the 2010 census, the Legislature had to do some refiguring. Seeing the loss of a seat coming, it passed a bill a few years ago that ended the terms of all members on Dec. 31, 2112. That gave Gov. Branstad the opportunity to name all eight new public members, giving them staggered terms. (The bar picks eight lawyers to serve as well, and the senior Supreme Court justice who isn’t chief — that’s David Wiggins — is chair.)              

The commission must have one man and one woman public member from each congressional district, but there is no requirement for political balance. Thus, the eight-person slate Branstad announced last week is all Republican — and most members are (no surprise here) good donors to GOP causes.                

There’s rarely an opening on the seven-judge Supreme Court, so being on the Judicial Nominating Commission does not involve much time or heavy lifting. But when an opening does occur, the commission can pick nominees that could change the majority philosophy of the court, affecting the lives of all Iowans. The judges stand for a yes/no vote every eight years, and the 2010 ouster of three of the judges in the gay-marriage decision was an aberration not likely to be repeated for a generation or two. No justice is even up for a vote until 2016.                

The new appointees, who must be confirmed by the Iowa senate, are: Jerry Welter of Monticello; Kathy Pearson of Cedar Rapids; Scott Bailey of Otley; Helen Sinclair of Melrose; Liz Doll of Council Bluffs; John Bloom of West Des Moines; Patricia Roberts of Carroll, and Steve Sukup of Clear Lake.                

Sukup, a former legislator, contributed more than $18,000 to GOP candidates and causes in 2012, including $5,000 to the Branstad campaign (though he wasn’t running, of course) and $5,000 to the campaign of House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer. He gave Upmeyer another $5,000 in late 2011.                

The Sinclair family of Melrose also writes big checks. In the most recent cycle Moe Sinclair gave $5,000 to the committee for House Speaker Kraig Paulsen. Mo Sinclair, who owns Panera Bread franchises in the Midwest, is the husband of Helen Sinclair. In 2010, he gave $45,000 to the Branstad committee.                

Bloom, a former Polk County GOP chairman, regularly writes modest checks to the Polk County Republican Central Committee and has also donated to the campaigns of Branstad and some other Republican candidates.                

Doll is part of the family that has the Budweiser distributorships in Council Bluffs and Des Moines, a family that can always be counted on for checks for the GOP cause, though they occasionally toss a check to Democrats Mike Gronstal and Dick Dearden.               

Trish Roberts is the wife of Rod Roberts, a onetime gubernatorial candidate and now the head of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. They contribute modestly, but always to Republicans. The Welters of Montrose also are regular writers of modest checks, and Bailey writes the occasional check. Kathy Pearson regularly writes $50 to $100 checks to GOP candidates and causes.                

Now that you know all this, you need to know one more thing: This probably isn’t very important. No justice on the Supreme Court is even up for a retention election for four years, and none is close to the mandatory retirement age of 72. CV

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