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Civic Skinny

22 will take you through? DART usage plummets during COVID. And what happened to the Ankeny Press-Citizen?

4/6/2022

One would correctly assume that the use of Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, better known as DART, dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic. But how much? In DART’s fiscal year 2019, the usage number was 4.5 million. In 2020, that number dropped to 3.75 million. In 2021, it sunk to 1.9 million. The good news for DART, according to Amy McCoy, public affairs manager, is that, in the first half of its fiscal year 2022, usage numbers have risen to 1.3 million, which is about 50 percent higher than at the same point last year.  

McCoy says public transit has “never been more critical for riders who rely on our services to get to the essential places they need to go, and in turn, get essential workers to the places and services we all rely on.” She states nearly half of DART riders don’t have a driver’s license, and more than 40 percent don’t have a working vehicle in their household.

DART’s funding is unique as compared to other public transit agencies, relying on a “transit levy” from residential and commercial taxpayers from its 12 member communities to cover more than 60 percent of its operating expenses. Currently, DART’s levy rate is capped at $0.95 per $1,000 of taxable valuation. It is also funded by the MPO and federal partners, which, in conjunction with the transit levy, allows for viability even when usage drops. …

Following the subject of where tax dollars are spent, the “2021 Report to the Community” from Des Moines Parks and Recreation — which shows data on recreational program participation, facility usage, project information, testimonials and financial data — offered some interesting tidbits on usage. During the past year, 1,443 shelter and other facilities were rented. A total of 1,939 dog park permits were sold. About 3,268 individuals learned to swim, and 72,142 visits were made to one of the five pools or aquatic centers. Approximately 109,545 rounds of golf were played at A.H. Blank, Bright Grandview and Waveland golf courses. And, maybe most amazingly, 21,307 hours of service were donated by 2,873 volunteers, which Des Moines Parks and Rec values at $608,115, which, if you are wondering, is $28.54 per hour. …

A CITYVIEW reader with an incredible memory suggested that Iowa Hawkeye basketball player Caitlyn Clark could benefit from the revival of a 1950s campaign believed to be written by legendary Des Moines Register columnist Harlan Miller, or legendary Des Moines Register columnist Gordon Gammack, who presumably wrote “22 will take you through,” meaning that driving 22 mph would help one avoid red lights while scooping the downtown Des Moines loop. (The reader couldn’t remember, and CITYVIEW could not verify.) Clark, the 6-foot sophomore point guard for the Hawkeyes women’s basketball team, wears No. 22. In Clark’s first season at Iowa, she led the NCAA Division I in scoring, three-pointers and total assists. She was named a second-team All-American, won the Dawn Staley Award and shared national freshman of the year honors. As a sophomore, she was named Big Ten Player of the Year and has so far been chosen as a first-team All-American by two of the three major selectors in women’s basketball. Of course, this marketing campaign may have caught on if the Hawkeyes played up to their No. 2 seed in their region at the NCAA tournament. The Hawkeyes fell to Creighton, 64-62, and finished the 2021-22 season with a 24-9 overall record. Clark registered her 26th career double-double with 15 points and 11 assists in that effort. …

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa

All student-athletes at Iowa State University must have permission to get a job. Seriously.

This and other requirements and limitations are according to a Feb. 25 letter from Harrison Wier, compliance coordinator with Iowa State University Athletics, who says these are part of NCAA rules and regulations. 

NCAA regulations do stipulate that members of athletics teams be treated the same as other students. Any benefits not made available to all students cannot be provided specifically for, or to, student-athletes, their relatives or their friends for any reason. For example, student-athletes (or their relatives or friends) may not receive free or reduced-price merchandise, meals or other services unless those same benefits are advertised and available to all students. That makes sense. 

Also, student-athletes (or their relatives or friends) may not receive free or discounted benefits or services from any establishment or anyone associated with an establishment (i.e. staff member) in exchange for any item of value they might be able to provide. Examples of such items include autographs, tickets to contests, memorabilia, equipment, etc. These types of exchanges are considered extra benefits and can jeopardize the eligibility of student-athletes, according to Wier. Fair enough. 

The NCAA also has certain regulations regarding the employment of student-athletes, including that student-athletes must be hired on the same basis as others with similar experience and competence, must receive the standard rate of pay and benefits commensurate with the position, and may only be paid for work actually performed. OK.  

And finally, all student-athlete employment must be approved in advance by the ISU athletic department. What? ISU has to approve whether or not, or how, or where a student-athlete can work? According to a statement from Wier, yes. …

Although keeping track of when and how and where many of today’s newspapers publish can be a challenge, the future of the Ankeny Press-Citizen is even foggier.  

The free newspaper that covered most everything Ankeny was once delivered to every household and available on racks free of charge. The paper has roots to 1956 and was a successful model for an expansion to multiple Des Moines neighborhoods and suburban communities just a few decades ago, led by then-publisher Henry Phillips, who was previously the vice president of advertising at the Register. That all changed when The Des Moines Register’s parent company, Gannett, purchased the Press-Citizen and Shopper News Network publications from Ogden Newspapers and shut them down or converted all of them except the Ankeny Press-Citizen to the Register’s neighborhood editions. It was a sad day for the Press-Citizen employees and Ankeny residents who appreciated receiving an alternative local news option from the Register. But the Ankeny Press-Citizen survived, at least until now, as the 70,000-plus residents of the community must subscribe to the Register to receive the Ankeny news.  

James Kramer, the “planning editor” at the Register, told CITYVIEW “readers can find the Ankeny Register & Press-Citizen in the Friday edition of The Des Moines Register, which is delivered to our subscribers and available at numerous retail locations throughout the area.” He also offered the following statement from an unnamed Gannett spokesperson: “In order to support the on-going digital transformation among our portfolio of products, we have re-evaluated several complimentary, non-subscriber publications that are underperforming. We remain focused on our paid print and digital subscription products and are committed to the sustainable future of local journalism.”

The March 1 edition of the Ankeny Register & Press-Citizen was six pages and had nine display ads in it. ♦

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