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Civic Skinny

Simonson’s contributions total $285,332. Baltimore bridge collapse impacts Iowa ag. Stowe would be smiling.

5/1/2024

Connie Boesen began her term as mayor of Des Moines on Jan. 2, taking over for the city’s longest serving mayor, Frank Cownie. As a result, Boesen’s at-large seat on the city council needed to be filled. 

Five candidates — Dr. Claudia Addy, Benjamin Clarke, Justyn Lewis, Mike Simonson and Rose Marie Smith — wanted the seat. Simonson, a 64 year-old architect, ended up winning the race with 56% of the vote and will serve out the remainder of Boesen’s term, which goes through January of 2024. Lewis came in second with 33%, with the remaining 11% for the other candidates.  

Simonson received a total of 263 contributions, totaling $285,332.59, or a little more than $1,000 per donation. The largest donation was $20,000 and came from Jim Conlin, owner of Conlin Properties. The next two largest donations were $10,000 each from Des Moines businessman and philanthropist Nixon Lauridsen and former cable TV mogul and real estate developer Jim Cownie. Simonson received 20 other $5,000 donations as well, many from prominent local individuals in development and real estate.

According to the database, the second-place Lewis had not received a donation since June of 2023. …

The Key Bridge in Baltimore is several thousand miles away from Iowa farms, but its collapse could still have an affect on our local agricultural industry. According to FarmProgress.com, “The Port of Baltimore is the closest in proximity to the Midwest and is the largest U.S. port by volume for handling farm and construction machinery. According to state data, the port handled a record 1.3 million tons of roll-on and roll-off farm and construction machinery in 2023.”

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The Iowa Farm Bureau did not respond to CITYVIEW’s inquiry on how the bridge collapse could affect Iowa’s farm economy, but according to OEC.world, a website used to visualize trade data, the three largest imports to Iowa in January of 2024 were tractors ($51.9M), nitrogen heterocyclic compounds ($47.2M) and excavation machinery ($44.1M). …

Iowa is one of the nation’s leaders in solar and wind power, according to a new analysis from climatecentral.org. While Iowa does not crack the top three states in solar power, it does rank second among all states in terms of wind power. When combining the two, Iowa sits behind only California and Texas. 

The Climate Central report says that, in 2023, about 10% of electricity in the U.S. came from wind power, a large increase from a decade earlier, when the number was 4%. Much of that electricity is coming from Iowa. Wind power was responsible for 60% or 41,869 GWh of the electricity in Iowa last year. That is a 7,241 MW increase from 2014.

The reason for Iowa’s abundance of clean energy can be traced back to 1983 when Iowa became the first state in the nation to adopt a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). 

“State regulators required Iowa’s two investor-owned electric utilities to own or to contract for a combined 105 megawatts of total renewable generating capacity. Capacity from eligible renewable resources has far exceeded the RPS goals. At the beginning of 2023, Iowa had about 12,800 megawatts of in-state generating capacity fueled by renewable energy sources at utility-scale power facilities,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). 

Since 2008, Iowa has generated more electricity each year than the state consumed. Iowa also ranks among the 10 states with the lowest average electricity price.

A report shared by Iowa Economic Development from Clean Power Iowa states that clean energy in Iowa can power up to 4.1 million homes. In 2022, wind, solar and energy storage plants in Iowa avoided using 10 billion gallons of water. The benefit to farmers’ pockets has also been substantial. In 2022, land lease payments for clean power projects totaled $73.4 million. …

On April 4, the Enhance Iowa Board announced nearly $3.4 million in community attraction and tourism (CAT) and sports tourism grants to 11 communities. Of that $3.4 million, $400,000 is going toward modernizing and expanding the Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre. The project will include a building expansion, storage and workshop space, meeting room, costume shop and a configurable seating system to replace the current fixed theater seating. The total project cost is $2,736,481. …

A record 43 Iowa schools won the Carrie Chapman Catt Award. This award is given to schools that are able to get 90% or more of eligible students registered to vote. Roughly 3,500 Iowa high school students registered in conjunction with the Catt Award initiative. Schools in the Des Moines metro receiving the Catt Award for the first time include Ankeny Christian Academy, Dowling Catholic High School, Holy Trinity Catholic High School and Johnston High School. Norwalk High School was the only other metro school on the list and has received the award every year since its inception.

According to CIRCLE, a non-partisan, independent research organization focused on youth civic engagement in the United States, Iowa’s youth voter turnout rate in the 2022 presidential election was 26%. …

Central Iowa Water Works (CIWW), the new cooperative that will be responsible for water system planning, drinking water treatment and wholesale delivery of drinking water to central Iowa (approximately 600,000 people), became an official entity with the State of Iowa after filling its fully executed 28E-28F agreement with the Iowa Secretary of State. This agreement, which has been in development for more than a decade, will allow CIWW to “provide a stronger water production system for the area.” The 12 founding members are Ankeny, Clive, Des Moines Water Works, Grimes, Johnston, Norwalk, Polk City, Urbandale Water Utility, Warren Water District, West Des Moines Water Works and Xenia Water District. Des Moines Water Works will be representing its seven customers, which also includes Pleasant Hill and Windsor Heights. The late Bill Stowe, who served as the longtime water utility CEO and general manager, would certainly be pleased. …

Speaking of Stowe, a foundation in his name is bringing a Water Curia, a 20-foot-tall circular pavilion, to Water Works Park in Des Moines as a tribute to him and his efforts to improve water quality. …

And finally, slow down when traveling on Ingersoll Avenue in Des Moines, as the speed limit west of 42nd Street has been reduced to 25 mph. A driver in the area tells Skinny, “The change is hard to notice… until one gets a ticket.” ♦

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