Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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Civic Skinny

Drake, schools plan new stadium on Forest. A judge calls Branstad’s lawyer a liar. The night they raided the old Cargill Hotel.


UPDATE: On Nov. 13, Drake and the Des Moines School District announced plans to build a $19.5 million stadium just east of the Knapp Center. The 4,000-seat stadium would be used for high-school football and soccer games and soccer games by the Drake’s women’s and men’s teams.

Under the agreement, the school district would put in around $15 million and Drake would donate to the school district the land, valued at $4.5 million. Drake also would manage the stadium. The proposed stadium would open in the summer of 2021. …

More than a rumor, less than a done deal: While Kyle Krause is sending his deputies around seeking money and support for a high-level minor-league soccer stadium on MLK Parkway downtown, Drake University and the Des Moines School District are getting close to announcing a plan for their own stadium somewhere on Forest, east of the Knapp Center.

The jointly financed stadium would house Drake’s soccer teams and high school football games.

The deal — which could be announced within weeks, or which could fall apart — would be a death blow to Krause’s plans for a $60 million stadium downtown. The financing for Krause’s plan has been murky, but in one iteration he was counting on $14 million from the school district. 

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Krause has had difficulty getting support. Rather than appearing himself, the owner of Kum & Go and the Des Moines Menace sent an associate to Polk County asking for $30 million, and the snub and the amount were received with less than enthusiasm. “At $30 million, it was dead on arrival,” says a person who is closely following the deal.

Krause, a soccer enthusiast who has owned the Menace for 20 years, hopes to upgrade soccer in Des Moines by getting a USL Championship expansion team. The league is a notch below major-league soccer, and a couple of notches above the league that includes the Menace.

The new stadium on Forest would cost far less than the $60 million price tag on Krause’s stadium, and it’s possible Krause would be invited to join the project. But talks between Krause and Drake have fallen apart in the past, and unlike most local philanthropists the Krauses have little relationship with Drake. …

An Iowa businessman is poking around to see if he can drum up support from some colleagues to make an offer to buy The Des Moines Register.

“Iowans have looked on as the newspaper’s owners and managers have attempted to stop the bleeding [in circulation and news coverage] by amputating limb after limb in the form of business, government, and arts coverage and more,” Mike Whalen wrote in a draft of a letter to Gannett Co. headquarters. “Iowans know that’s not the way to save the patient.”

It’s unclear how many colleagues Whalen has approached, but two provided copies to CITYVIEW of the proposed letter, and a third called to chat. Whalen and his wife stopped by for a cup of coffee.

Whalen, who is based in the Quad Cities, owns several hotels in the Des Moines area and spends much time here. While he believes a strong community needs a strong newspaper, he also wants a newspaper that fits his own politics, a newspaper that has not “moved leftward to a point on the spectrum that is often out of touch with a good deal of the business community and mainstream public opinion,” his draft letter states. “This leftward drift has contributed to the Register’s chronic irrelevance as a community thought leader,” it adds. (In fact, the Register now runs few editorials and seems more adrift than drifting. It appears to have no firm editorial philosophy, having endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and then favoring Mitt Romney over Obama in 2012 — and having twice endorsed Steve King, once while endorsing Tom Harkin in the same election year.)

The likelihood of making a deal seems small. First of all, Whalen would have to find people to join him in the offer, and it’s not exactly a get-rich-quick opportunity. Second, even if the paper could be bought, it’s pretty likely that buyer and seller have a wide difference on the price. Gannett paid about $250 million for the Register when it bought it from the Cowles family in 1985, and today it might not be worth even $5 million. But Gannett executives probably would scoff at that.

The newspaper has few assets. Its two main assets probably are its list of subscribers and its list of advertisers, but those are dwindling lists. The printing plant near the airport is owned by a separate Gannett division, and the newspaper no longer owns any real estate downtown; rather, it rents space in Capital Square, and it has been cutting back on that. It has no circulation infrastructure — subscriptions are handled by central offices outside Iowa — and not much of a management structure. The latest statement of circulation required by the Post Office lists as publisher and as editor a man and a woman who work in Virginia.

And, of course, it’s too early to determine if the whole Carson King debacle and the defection of the RAGBRAI management will have a lasting impact on the newspaper, which seems to be operating in crisis mode at the moment. Further, the resignation of political columnist and editorial-page editor Kathie Obradovich is a real loss — a loss of talent and of institutional memory.

On top of all that, the paper is in the process of being sold as part of New Media Investment Group’s acquisition of Gannett, which owns about 100 newspapers across the country. If the new owners did want to sell it — and they seem like folks without a passion for newspapers, though they own about 150 of them through the GateHouse division — they probably would want a hefty price. The GateHouse-Gannett deal could close later this year.

But Whalen is a risk-taker, and he is serious in making the rounds. He thinks local ownership can save a newspaper — and, indeed, it has in Minneapolis and Washington and, in a way, in Philadelphia — and he thinks the Register is worth saving. He writes of setting up, perhaps, a “community-based ownership model,” sort of like the one in Wisconsin that owns the Green Bay Packers. “That may be the only viable path forward,” he writes in the draft.

In fact, it may be too late to find any “viable path” forward. CITYVIEW reported a couple of months ago that daily and Sunday circulation of the Register has fallen 30 percent to 40 percent in the last three years, that the daily Register now reaches just 15.6 percent of the households in Polk County and the Sunday Register just 22.2 percent. The digital editions aren’t filling the gap.

Meanwhile, the print editions of newspapers across the country are disappearing. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette now prints just three days a week. Many other papers have quit printing Saturday editions. In Cleveland, the Plain-Dealer no longer has home delivery on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The New Orleans Times-Picayune in effect disappeared as the family-owned Baton Rouge Advocate moved into town. …

UPDATE: Polk County District Judge Brad McCall on Nov. 12 ruled against a motion by attorneys for the state of Iowa and former Gov. Terry Branstad to overrule a jury’s $1.5 million judgment in favor of Chris Godfrey, the former head of the Iowa Workers Compensation Board who had sued the state, the former Governor and others for discrimination and retaliation.

In a 56-page opinion, the judge, among other things, in effect called Branstad Attorney Frank Harty a liar. One of many issues raised by the state was whether the trial was improperly moved to Jasper County from Polk County after Godfrey’s lawyer, Roxanne Conlin, was hospitalized as a result of the bad air quality in the courthouse, which is being remodeled.

“Defendants’ contention Courtroom 208 was ‘safe and appropriate’ is disingenuous, at best,” McCall wrote. “Their contention that ‘Defense counsel experienced no health problems or concerns from the air quality’ is a blatantly false statement. McCall then attached as an exhibit to his ruling a letter from Harty to the judge that said:

“I write to follow up on our conversation about trial logistics this afternoon. My team unanimously supports any location for our trial other than  the old Polk County Courthouse. After just a couple of hours we are experiencing respiratory issues. And with a nose the size of mine — that is no small problem.”

McCall’s ruling also questioned the credibility of Branstad as a witness. …

There was a day, in ancient times, when most of the hotels in the Des Moines area, like most of the stores and most of the corporations, were downtown. The suburbs of today were mainly self-contained small towns that revolved around farming, though small motels were starting to replace the cabins that catered to motorists driving through on Highway 6 or Highways 65 and 69.

In those days, the elegant Fort Des Moines and the Savery were the main hotels for tourists, though the Kirkwood also prospered. The Victoria — a beautiful structure at Sixth and Keo with lots of full-time guests — and the handsome, 12-story Brown Hotel also attracted visitors downtown. There was, too, the Commodore, an apartment-hotel out at 35th and Grand, where many well-off widows made their home, and the Chamberlain at Seventh and Locust.

And then there was the Cargill.

The Cargill was a squat and ordinary-looking, four-story brick building at Seventh and Grand. It opened in 1910, and for years it was a reputable if colorless hotel. At the end of World War II, though, it was purchased by a local gambler, and before long it had a reputation as a place you could go to gamble, drink (Iowa was “dry” in those days) or find ladies who were quite willing to share their bed for an hour or two in a business transaction.

The activities were no secret to the citizenry or the police chief or sheriff. Authorities had attempted a few raids over the years, but word always leaked out. The gamblers, the drinkers, the hookers never were there. But there were no leaks on the night of Oct. 13, 1951. Under the direction of County Attorney Clyde Herring, 78 state and city and county officers gathered at Roosevelt High School to plan the attack, and shortly after midnight they struck. There had been no leaks, and the raiders confiscated six guns, 18 cases of whiskey and $39,000 in cash.

Initially, police arrested eight men, including two hotel employees, and two women, including the woman who, with her husband, owned the hotel. But authorities were perplexed: they knew there were more than two women who had been consorting with the six customers. For six hours, they kept checking every room, patrolling every hall (they were slowed down initially when the elevator operator told the raiders that his elevator was stuck), but could find no sign of them.

“The officers pounded walls, floors and ceilings for concealed hiding places; measured rooms to determine if all space had been covered. They couldn’t find the women,” the (late, lamented) Des Moines Tribune reported on the Monday after the raid.

Meanwhile, down at the police station, County Attorney Herring and Assistant County Attorney Jim Sarcone were questioning the engineer about the cases of whiskey found in his room. They then wondered out loud where the rest of the women were. The engineer suggested they look in room 322 at the hotel. Herring called over to his men at the hotel.

Sure enough, at 6 a.m. they found the women behind a closet in room 322 “in an unventilated, partitioned-off section on the third floor that measured only 2 feet wide and 8 feet long, with a 6-foot ceiling,” the Tribune reported. The seven women all were naked.

“It was steaming hot in there, and I don’t know how they lasted for six hours, Sheriff Thomas Reilly told the Tribune.

Everyone pleaded guilty. The two employees were fined $100 each. The six customers were fined $25 each for “frequenting a disorderly house.” Owner Lavonne Gillespie was charged with keeping a house of ill fame, and the eight other women were charged with resorting to a house of ill fame. Eventually, all pleaded guilty, and each of the nine was fined $1,000, which they quickly paid. First, though, they were ordered to report to Broadlawns hospital on the Monday after the raid.

Looking like smartly dressed businesswomen of the day, the nine showed up promptly at 8 a.m. They arrived in a Cadillac. …

Footnote: The hotel quickly was shut down, and after serving for a bit as an office building, it was ultimately torn down to make way for the Grand Avenue Parking Ramp.

Second footnote: Asked at a Harkin Institute function the other night if he remembered the raid, 99-year-old former Congressman Neal Smith said he certainly did. He was an assistant county attorney at the time. 

“Oh, yes,” he said, “I was in on that.” 

Neal Smith has been in on nearly everything in Des Moines for the last 75 years. …

This started out to be a short item on the number of hotels springing up everywhere in the metro area. Here’s that item:

In 1983, there were 39 hotels in the metro area, with 5,348 rooms. Ten years later, there were 52, with 6,721 rooms. By 2004, there were 96, with 9,818 rooms, and now there are 131 hotels with 13,120 rooms. At least seven others are in the works, which will add another 1,004 rooms. …

The Executive Council has approved another $488,545.40 in billings from the Nyemaster Law Firm for representing Gov. Terry Branstad and the state in the Godfrey case. What’s more, the firm has submitted requests for another $363,529.08. The LaMarca firm, long out of the case but still cleaning up its books, has another $108 still due. When all those are approved, total billing from the Governor’s lawyers in the case will stand at $2,771,344.78 — that’s taxpayer dollars — by CITYVIEW’s reckoning. The seven-year-old case ended with a $1.5 million jury verdict for Chris Godfrey, who had accused the former governor and his staff of discrimination and retaliation in its attempts to force him out of his job as Iowa Workers Compensation director. If the verdict holds, taxpayers will also be responsible for the fees of his lawyer, Roxanne Conlin, who is asking for more than $4 million. If the verdict is appealed, bills from both sets of lawyers will jump. …

There’s yet another new crime show on television this year. It’s called “Bluff City Law.”

Here’s a snippet of transcript where a civil-rights case is being discussed:

“So, Professor, how’s your son? He should be out of college by now.”

“You think I’m here to socialize.”

“Varnum v. Brien. Loving v. Virginia. It’s possible this case may one day join those in the pantheon of civil-rights history.”

It’s unlikely, though, that “Bluff City Law” will join the pantheon of lawyer shows. Its ratings are low, and no new episodes are in production. ♦

Who Makes What

The foundations at the three state universities are semi-independent organizations that file their own tax statements with the Internal Revenue Service and have their own boards of directors. They are not under the supervision of the Board of Regents, but they work closely with university leaders and are the main fund-raising organizations for the universities, raising money for scholarships, endowed chairs and other support. They are subject to the Iowa Open Records Law.

The University of Iowa
At the end of 2017, the University of Iowa Foundation merged with the UI Alumni Association to form the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. Many in the Alumni Association opposed the deal, but it went through, and Foundation President Lynette Marshall ended up heading the combined operation. At the time, the foundation had more than 225 employees, the Alumni Association about a dozen. According to its federal tax filing, the combined operation had assets on June 30, 2018, of $1,431,935,383. It reported receiving contributions and grants of $132.7 million with another $23 million or so coming from program revenue and investment income. It paid salaries of about $23.4 million.
Lynette Marshall, president and CEO…………………………$537,601
Tiffani Shaw, EVP…………………………………………………$368,883
Jim Bethea, VP chief investment officer……………………..$261,799
Kent Clark, VP……………………………………………………..$226,516
Sherri Furman, VP and CFO…………………………………….$220,663
Tom DePrenger, VP ……………………………………………..$220,336
Sheila Baldwin, VP………………………………………………..$217,333
Erin Thomas-Lewis, VP………………………………………….$213,168
David Dierks, VP …………………………………………………$186,132
Linda Hartford, VP……………………………………………….$184,884

Iowa State University
At the end of fiscal 2018, the Iowa State University Foundation had assets of $1,263,259,331. During the year, it raised $167,710,694 in contributions and grants, according to its tax filing, and at year-end had $133,457,379 in gross pledges receivable, according to its financial reports. It has been notified that it will receive about $654 million in estate gifts as the donors die. Last year, it paid out $12.8 million in salaries and benefits.
Larissa Holtmyer Jones, president and CEO……………$384,225
Lisa Eslinger, chief financial officer………………………$244,012
Stephen Biever, VP of development……………………..$220,020
Jeremy Galvin, VP of development……………………….$220,020
Rosa Unal, Associate VP and CIO…………………………$158,916
Kelly Hanfelt, Assistant VP of Development…………….$145,260
Michael Wahlin, Assistant VP of Investments…………..$140,004
Robert Kinsey, Assistant VP of Development…………..$132,870
Ryan Harms, Executive Director of Development……..$127,150
Raymond Klein, Executive Director of Development….$125,350

University of Northern Iowa
The University of Northern Iowa Foundation took in $16,694,617 in contributions and grants in the year ended June 30, 2018, and earned another $3.8 million in investment income. At the end of the fiscal year, it had assets of $156,324,889. As with the other universities, many of the foundation assets are in specialized funds, such as endowments. During the year, the UNI foundation paid $5.6 million in salaries and had professional fund-raising fees of $371,768.
Lisa Baronio, former VP for Univ. Advancement………$242,640
*James J. Jermier, VP for University Advancement….$230,000
Lisa Hooper, Director CET and professor……………….$148,045
Noreen Hermansen, VP for Principal Gifts……………..$141,853
Steve Gearhart, Associate VP for Advancement………$125,648
Stacy Robinson, Assistant VP for Advancement………$110,000
Nathan Clapham, Assistant VP for Outreach………….$107,920
Deborah Tidwell, Interim Director Jacobsen Center…$107,164
Leslie Prideaux, Director…………………………………..$103,224
Jean Carlisle, administrative assistant………………….$100,932
*Jermier was hired on June 30 of this year. The salary listed is his expected pay for the current fiscal year. ♦

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