Saturday, December 4, 2021

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Civic Skinny

Who, what, when, where, why and how



…is teaching your children at the state universities? Not necessarily the faculty. At the University of Iowa, only 45 percent of total undergraduate student credit hours were taught by tenured and tenure-track faculty in the fall of 2012, the latest period for which there are figures. Non-tenure-track faculty — that includes adjunct professors — taught 40 percent of the hours and graduate assistants taught 15 percent.

At Iowa State University, the comparable numbers are 54.3 percent, 33.5 percent and 12.2 percent. And at the University of Northern Iowa, the numbers are 76.7 percent, 23.2 percent and 0.1 percent. At Iowa and Iowa State, the trend is for tenured and tenure-track professors to teach fewer and fewer of the total student credit hours; at UNI, the trend is the opposite.



…does it mean that Chuck Grassley is going to run in 2016 for a seventh term in the Senate? It means a couple of generations of Iowa Republican hopefuls — long blocked from state government by the 34-year gubernatorial duo of Bob Ray and Terry Branstad — will be blocked again from seeking higher office. It’s bad news for Steve King and Tom Latham and Kim Reynolds and House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and all those others who have backed away from running for Tom Harkin’s seat in 2014 while keeping an eye on 2016.

…is Chuck Grassley tweeting these days? “I’m going to miss Gretchen as one of three Fox&Friends as she moves to new assignment Good Luck”…“Thx to Olympic Comm for retaining Wrestling in future contests Whether was bc of my Senate Resolution or whatever ‘thanks’” And: “Don’t let 30 sec [on IPTV’s Iowa Press last weekend] abt my run in 2016 detract u fr bigIssue”.



…will restaurants and other places that have “no firearms” signs start printing them in braille, wonders a guy who is astonished at the fact that Iowa allows the blind to buy guns. He wasn’t kidding.



…are most of the prisoners in Iowa held? As of this weekend, 1,351 men were imprisoned in Fort Dodge, a facility that has a theoretical capacity of 1,162. The second most were held at Anamosa, which has a capacity of 911 and a population of 970. All told, at week’s end the nine Iowa prisons held 8,163 inmates, which was 1,504 — or 14.83 percent — more than the capacity of 7,109. Those numbers include 566 women at Iowa’s only prison for women, in Mitchellville; and that number is 111 more than the so-called capacity of 455. At week’s end, too, there were 21,599 Iowans on probation and 3,575 on parole.



…do you always seem to get the middle seat in flights out of Des Moines? Because for the past few years the average airplane taking off from the Des Moines airport has been around 80 percent full — the average last year was 82.59 percent. Ten years ago, the planes usually were just two-thirds full.

…and why does it seem that your plane is often late in arriving? Because it is. According to federal statistics, 2,427 flights were delayed by at least 15 minutes in arriving in Des Moines in the first half of this year, more than double the 1,206 of a year earlier. Put another way, 27.6 percent of arriving flights were late this year, compared with 18.64 percent a year earlier. And 1,838 departing flights were delayed — that’s 20.6 percent — compared with 890, or 13.75 percent, a year before. What’s more, 262 flights were canceled this year, compared with 109 a year earlier.



…much will you get back when the city finally gets around to sending you a refund for the gas and electric franchise fees you paid between 2005 and 2009 — some of which were ruled illegal by the Iowa Supreme Court? It’s hard to say, but here’s one scenario: If there were an average of 150,000 customers a year, if the award remains at about $40 million, if there are no additional costs to the city — interest costs, costs of issuing bonds, for instance — if you were a resident during the entire period in dispute, if voters next spring decide to fund the refund out of a temporary (and now legal) increase in the franchise fee, if the lawyers get the cut they are asking for, if and if and if…

…then you’d get around $166, which you’d pay for by in effect taking money out of one pocket (the increased fee) and putting it in another (the refund). Of course, $40 million divided by 150,000 customers is $266, not $166, so you’d be paying $100 more than you’d be getting. That’s because the lawyers have asked for 37% of the total — about $15 million, or about $1,400 an hour (or $23 a minute) — and that would come off the top.

But if voters turn down the proposal to finance the refund by raising the fee — which wouldn’t be a wise vote — then the refund would come from property taxes. And since as much as 40% of the land in Des Moines is tax-exempt — the schools and the airport and the parks and the government buildings — then the taxpayers would have to finance those refunds as well. So, assuming everyone uses the same amount of power, you’d have to pick up the costs of $16 million, or another $106. So your rebate would still be about $166, but your cost to get that would be $372.                 

Oh. What does Roxanne Conlin think of that $14,773,967 legal bill that the three Des Moines lawyers have submitted in the case? Guess. She’s foursquare with the lawyers, of course. Conlin, a former U.S. Attorney, was retained as an expert in the case, and she says that paying Brad Schroeder, Bruce Stoltze and Steve Brick 37 percent of the total award — plus around $600,000 in expenses — is “more than reasonable in light of community norms as well as the quality and quantity of work performed.” Her view is in an affidavit submitted to the court in which she notes that lawyers got $75 million in the Microsoft case (in which she was co-lead counsel).

The affidavit doesn’t note that she’s currently suing Des Moines in somewhat of a lesser case: She and her husband, developer James Conlin, are suing because they want to put vinyl window frames in a seven-unit rental property they own in Sherman Hills, and the city’s Historic Preservation Commission is insisting on wooden frames. The difference in price for all 10 windows is around $6,000. It’s unlikely the Conlins are paying their lawyer, Doug Gross, $1,400 an hour.

Final note: Brad Peyton, who died the other day of cancer at age 56, was a good guy and a good citizen. CV

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