A maple leaf framed by concrete.

A hillside of trees ready to drop their colorful leaves.

Iowa D’s shouldn’t lose sight of what's important

Judging from the furrowed brows and dire predictions in Iowa, you might have thought a national Democratic Party committee had voted to eliminate motherhood and apple pie last week.

Actually, what the committee eliminated were Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Democratic precinct caucuses — a quirky, though coveted, kick-off role for Iowa Democrats in the party’s presidential nomination process every four years since 1972.

After the fiasco in the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses, when tabulating and reporting glitches left the outcome in doubt for several weeks, the decision on Friday was as much of a surprise as Gov. Kim Reynolds’ landslide re-election victory.

'Wishin' Accomplished' in Iowa DNR removing impairment designation of Cedar River

The Clean Water Act defines an impaired water body as one that is not meeting a designated use because of degraded water quality.

In this circumstance, the state (in our case, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, DNR) is required to complete a restoration plan that includes a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The TMDL determines the load (amount) of pollutant entering the waterway and where it is coming from, and how much that load needs to be reduced for the water body to meet the water quality standard associated with the designated use.

Because Iowa DNR has refused to support rule-making to establish nutrient standards, Iowa does not have many streams that are impaired for two of the worst pollutants, nitrogen and phosphorus, although almost all streams have been degraded by these contaminants.

Until recently, the Cedar River was an exception – it was impaired because of its role as a drinking water source.

Iowa’s new absentee voting restrictions worked perfectly — for Republicans

Iowa Capital Dispatch
November 14, 2022

My mom was in the hospital most of the week before Election Day. It wasn’t planned, so she had not voted early or requested an absentee ballot before she was admitted.

I knew she wanted to vote, so last weekend I called her county auditor’s office to ask about voting from the hospital. Iowa’s law allows voters who are hospitalized or in health care centers to request a visit from a bipartisan team from the auditor’s office to bring them an absentee ballot and allow them to vote.

I was told there would be a team from the auditor’s office at the hospital that Monday, the day before Election Day, and they would visit my mom if she let the hospital know she wanted to vote. So Mom told several different nurses, but didn’t hear anything back and nobody showed up to take her vote.

Iowa to dramatically cut back on restaurant inspections; plan is for once every five years

Iowa Capital Dispatch
October 12, 2022

The state of Iowa is planning to dramatically scale back the routine inspection of restaurants and other food-service establishments by making only one onsite inspection every five years.

Currently, most Iowa restaurants are subjected to at least one routine inspection every three years. They are also inspected in response to complaints or changes in ownership.

Complaint-driven and ownership-related inspections will continue. But in the absence of those issues, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals intends to visit each Iowa restaurant no more than once every five years under a set of new rules that are expected to take effect next month.

Iowa regulatory agency ignores law requiring the routine inspection of Iowa hotels

Iowa Capital Dispatch
October 10, 2022

For the past eight years, a state regulatory agency has violated a law requiring the routine inspection of Iowa’s hotels and motels.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals is required to inspect all hotels within its jurisdiction at least once every two years. Inspections are the sole process by which Iowa enforces regulations intended to protect hotel guests’ health, safety and rights as consumers.

In May, the Iowa Capital Dispatch asked the department why few hotel inspection reports were being posted to the agency’s website given the legal requirement for routine, biennial inspections at all hotels.

Emails reveal Y officials asked if Bettendorf had fitness center appraised; city says it didn't seek an independent appraisal to avoid the expense

One of the first questions YMCA of the Mississippi Valley officials asked about a possible deal to buy the Bettendorf Life Fitness Center was if the city had done a real estate appraisal to determine the market value of the 72,000-square-foot facility and its 3-acre site along Middle Road.

"No, there has not," was the email response from Bettendorf City Administrator Decker Ploehn.

That exchange occurred in mid-December 2021, according to emails obtained by Bettendorf.com under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the city. Over the ensuing nine months, the city has not sought an appraisal to determine the current market value of the facility.

Under state law, an appraisal is not required if the city conducts a public hearing on the sale of public property. That public hearing on the sale of the life fitness center for $1.4 million – the county's assessed value which has changed little over the past four years – is scheduled for the city council's Oct. 4 meeting.

City officials in response to questions about the emails obtained by bettendorf.com said using the county's assessed value saved the city from spending money on an appraisal. But by not having a real estate appraiser estimate the actual market value of property, the city could be giving away far more taxpayer dollars than the cost of an appraisal.

Waterpark/ice rink estimate doesn't include engineering/design costs nor possible bond and interest expenses

The $18.7-million estimate for the proposed Bettendorf waterpark/ice rink project doesn't include $1.3 million in engineering and design costs nor bonding fees or interest expenses should the city need to issue bonds to finance construction of the facility.

The disclosure of additional costs came during questioning of City Administrator Decker Ploehn at the council's Monday night committee-of-the-whole meeting.

The project has been touted as being funded equally with $6 million from the city, and like amounts from the Scott County Family Y and private donors.

Fitness center to be sold for $1.4 million; no appraisal planned of city recreational facility

Bettendorf city officials plan to sell the Life Fitness Center for $1.4 million without obtaining a property appraisal to determine its current market value.

Instead, the price tag for the 62,000-square-foot building along one of the city's busiest streets, Middle Road, was taken from the most recent assessed value of the property by the Scott County Assessor's Office.

The $1.4 million assessed value has changed little over the past four years.

Bettendorf city officials look to offload fitness center to "save taxpayers" $250,000, but $1.7 million annual tax subsidy of Family Museum not on table

Bettendorf city officials say they want to offload the Life Fitness Center to the Scott County Y to "save taxpayers" $250,000 a year.

But just a few blocks north and west of the fitness center sits the city's Family Museum that required six times that amount – nearly $1.7 million – in tax dollars last year to meet payroll.

Lee Enterprises digital revenue reaches 51 percent, but company loses $269,000 in third quarter

For the first time, online revenue during the third quarter exceeded print income at Lee Enterprises, Inc. – owner of the Quad City Times and Daily Dispatch/Argus newspapers and online news sites.

Despite the continued growth of online revenue, the company lost 5 cents per share ($269,000) for the three-month period ended June 26. A year earlier, Lee reported third quarter earnings of 56 cents per share, or $3.23 million.

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