Saturday, August 20, 2022

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Civic Skinny

AFSCME will sue Branstad for closing Clarinda facility.


The state’s largest public-employee union certainly will sue Gov. Terry Branstad for vetoing the legislature’s attempt to keep open the mental-health facility in Clarinda — if, indeed, the suit hasn’t already been filed by the time you read this.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) sued the Governor after he closed the Juvenile Home in Toledo, but the Iowa Supreme Court sidestepped the issue by ruling it moot. That was because there was no funding. But this is different: Iowa law didn’t say there had to be a Juvenile Home, but it does say there have to be mental-health facilities. (“The state hospitals for persons with mental illness shall be designated as follows: Mount Pleasant … Independence … Clarinda … Cherokee.”) That will be the basis of the lawsuit.

Danny Homan, president of the Iowa AFSCME, said the line-item vetoes the Governor announced a week ago reflected “wickedness and meanness.” That won’t be the last you’ll hear from him. …

Dubuque’s Pat Murphy, who lost to Republican Rod Blum in the 2014 election for Congress from the First District, is making the rounds and telling influential Democrats he is going to run again in 2016. Though Ravi Patel has dropped out, Murphy will have to beat Monica Vernon of Cedar Rapids and Gary Kroeger of Cedar Falls to get the nomination. One problem: Vernon has already sewed up a lot of endorsements that Murphy would want, including that of the Teamsters Union. …

Brad Banks was a University of Iowa football star who was the Associated Press Player of the Year and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2002. Adrian Clayborn was a University of Iowa Football player who was a consensus All-American in 2010 and was a first-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was paid $8.2 million on his guaranteed contract, according to court papers.

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Court papers?

Court papers because last week Banks sued the Institute for Athletes, a Minneapolis company that represents Clayborn. Banks says he had a contract with the Institute for Athletes that guaranteed him a fee if he assisted “in the process of obtaining players for IFA to represent.” He says he referred Clayborn to IFA.

According to the suit filed in Polk County District Court, IFA received $246,000 in the Banks deal — three percent of the $8.2 million. Banks says he was entitled to a fifth of that, or $49,200. But he was paid just $8,000, the suit says. Now, he wants the rest.

The legal papers say both sides agreed that if there was a dispute it would go to arbitration, but Banks says IFA has refused to do that. He is alleging breach of contract and has asked for a jury trial.

Banks’ LinkedIn profile says he is a fund-raiser for a group dealing with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a financial planner, runs a football camp and develops business for the Institute for Athletes. He played professional football in Canada from 2004 to 2009 and was with the Iowa Barnstormers in 2011.

Clayborn played for the Buccaneers from 2011 through 2014 and now is with the Atlanta Falcons. He was the most valuable player in the 2010 Orange Bowl, when Iowa beat Georgia Tech, 24-10. …

Iowa’s nonfarm employment totaled 1,588,400 in May, the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency reported last week. That’s up 89,700 since Branstad’s second round at Terrace Hill began in 2011. At the time, he promised to create 200,000 jobs in five years. At the moment, he is 110,300 short. He has six months to go. If someone offers you the over-under on whether he’ll make it, take “under.” …

An article in a newspaper a few months ago said attendance at the University of Iowa Museum of Art set a record in the 2013-2014 academic year of 538,250 people. That seemed odd for a couple of reasons: The university hasn’t had an art museum since the flood of 2008. And when it had a museum, attendance was small — a total of 181,575 people visited the museum from 2003 to 2008, an average of about 36,000 a year.

It turns out that what the museum used to call attendance it now calls “audience and participant total.” So the 538,260 people includes 304,394 persons who visited the Getty Museum in Los Angeles while Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” was on display there — the painting is owned by the university — as well as thousands other museums containing university-owned art. The total also includes 96,968 visitors to the university museum’s web sites.

It’s sort of like calculating “audience and participant total” at university football games by including in the totals attendance from all Atlanta Falcon games that Adrian Clayborn played in.

The Pollock painting, which university officials say is so vital to the education of students at the university, continues its rounds. It left Iowa City after the flood, spent some time in storage, and since has traveled to Davenport and Des Moines and Los Angeles and Sioux City. It now is in Venice, where it will stay till mid-November before heading to Berlin, Malaga, London, New Haven and Houston. It is scheduled to return to Iowa City in 2018.

Meantime, the university remains without a museum. After the flood, insurers told the university they would not insure paintings put in a rebuilt museum on the riverside site, but federal officials said the museum was not damaged enough to qualify for federal funds to build elsewhere.

“Private developers, H&H and Mortensons, are working on plans for a site in Iowa City that will include a mixed-use development with a museum facility,” a university spokesman told Cityview. “Plans are scheduled to be presented later this summer.” CV


Comment: The Nelsons

Des Moines has a lot of couples who are smart. A lot of couples who are generous. A lot of couples who are nice.

But it’s a pretty safe bet that there’s no couple as smart, as generous, and as nice as R.W. and Mary Nelson.

That occurred to me the other day at the groundbreaking for the headquarters Kemin Industries plans as part of the $125 million campus it is putting up on Scott Avenue.

Kemin is a huge, world-wide company that touches the lives of lots of people here — people who have never heard of it. They’ve never heard of it because it is privately owned, its offices are in an out-of-the-way and not-very-glamorous part of town, and while it has scores of patented products, it doesn’t make things that have well-known brand names.

And, too, because its owners never call attention to themselves.

Kemin — the name is a corruption of Chemical Industries, its original name — was started 54 years ago by the Nelsons, then a young couple with little money but big ideas. Today, it makes ingredients used in food and feed and in pharmaceuticals and nutritionals and beauty products. Its scientists keep developing new products — it now makes more than 500 ingredients — and the company says those products and services touch 1.4 billion people in the world each day.

The company now is run by the Nelsons’ son, Chris — a daughter, Libby, is general counsel — but R.W. and Mary Nelson are still hard at work at the company most days. They were on hand for the groundbreaking, of course, though they were heading off to Europe the next day for more company meetings.

Now well into their 80s, they are a quiet and handsome couple — when he travels overseas he is sometimes mistaken for President Jimmy Carter — and they are quietly and handsomely generous.  Mary Nelson, in particular, has been a force for better housing for poor people in Des Moines and for stronger schools; the Nelsons have been particularly helpful to the area’s Catholic schools — it wasn’t just happenstance that the Roman Catholic bishop and the former head of Dowling High School were at the groundbreaking.

The company has also been out front in the hiring of women.

So that’s it. There’s no particular reason for writing this, except that it struck me the other day what extraordinary citizens the Nelsons are. CV

— Michael Gartner


  1. Dear Mr Gartner,
    The best reason to acknowledge the generosity of the Nelsons of Kemin Industries is because too many citizens have no idea how so many of our civic ‘gaps’ are filled by those like the Nelsons. We need to know the Nelsons are some of those people, without which the quality of life in this city would be diminished. Des Moines and the area has many of these benefactors…and we need to thank them and honor their contribution. That is the best ‘particular’ reason to write that last part of your column, Mr. Gartner. Thank you.

  2. David Skidmore says:

    As Director of the R.W. and Mary Nelson Institute for Diplomacy and International Affairs at Drake University, I would like to second Michael Gartner’s applause for the role that the Nelson family has played in business and community affairs. But they have also played a major role in promoting global citizenship at Drake University through their support of the Nelson Institute and their early funding of what is now the Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship. The Nelsons have also supported Drake’s Harkin Institute. Through these programs, some of our brightest young people are learning about civic leadership, public affairs and making a difference, locally and globally. The Nelsons not only provide the means to make this possible, but set a wonderful example for these young people to follow.

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