A spectacular azalea bush paints a picture of pink and purple blossoms for passersby.

Magic carpet ride

You may have heard that some insanely rich and politically connected guys want to burrow like a badger beneath an Iowa cornfield so they can lay some pipe that will ultimately carry carbon dioxide (CO2) to the hinterlands.

I wrote about this before with my essay "C is for Carbonalism," but, and this probably comes as no surprise, that first essay didn’t discourage those badgers one darn bit.

So, I brought in a big gun, Professor Emeritus Matt Liebman, recently retired from Iowa State University where he was Henry A. Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture, to beef up my storytelling with some juicy T-bone cred.

Actually, he wrote about all of this; I just sexed it up a little bit.

We are tired of waiting for our leaders to lead

Aaron Salter Jr., 55, was on duty at the security job that supplemented his retirement income. Ruth Whitfield, 86, was buying groceries. Celestine Chaney, 65, stopped in for strawberries for the shortcake she and her sister were eager to enjoy.

But their plans went awry Saturday afternoon. Salter’s work shift ended sooner than he expected. Whitfield didn’t make it through her grocery list. And thoughts of strawberry shortcake evaporated in a flash for Chaney.

The three were slaughtered along with seven other people at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. Just like the 20 students, all 6 and 7 years old, and six employees who were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. Just like the 60 people who were gunned down at a music festival in Las Vegas in 2017.

If only our government officials were as interested in these individuals as were the political leaders who have obsessed over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas and her decision to compete for the Quakers or NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his decision to kneel during the national anthem.

Lee Enterprises digital revenues grow, but overall revenues and earnings drop in second quarter

Despite gains from its digital operations, Lee Enterprises, Inc. – owner of 77 media properties including the Quad City Times and the Argus/Dispatch – saw overall revenues and earnings fall during the second quarter compared with a year ago.

Lee reported Thursday (5/5) it lost $6.7 million ($1.26 per share) during the second quarter ended March 27. That compares with a loss of $608,000 ($.20 cents per share) for the same period a year ago.

Statehouse standoff leaves Iowans in the dark

The 100th day of the 2022 legislative session in Iowa is Tuesday.

I know that’s probably not a day marked on your calendar. Most Iowans don’t pay much attention to whether the Legislature is in session or not. Those who celebrate Easter, Passover or Ramadan may have been spending time with family. Others may be planning their gardens, attending kids’ track meets and working toward the end of the school year. Some may have spent the weekend figuring out their taxes.

Speaking of taxes, yours are paying for everything that happens at the Iowa Statehouse, and guess what? Not much is happening right now. And whatever may be happening is being done in secret, behind closed doors, where you aren’t welcome.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst summed it up: “First and foremost, I want to echo what I’ve heard from so many Iowans who have reached out to me over the last few days and said the phrase: ‘The hell’s going on up there?’”

The Republicans who control the Iowa House, Senate and governor’s office have been unable to reach agreement on some key elements of the governor’s agenda. As a result, work on the state budget is at a standstill.

Cricket Hollow Zoo owners face fines or jail after Iowa Supreme Court rejects contempt appeal

A tangled and contentious five-year legal odyssey involving the owners of eastern Iowa’s shuttered Cricket Hollow Zoo may finally be near an end.

The Iowa Supreme Court this week rejected zoo owners Pamela and Thomas Sellner’s efforts to set aside a judge’s finding that they were in contempt for having refused a court order to surrender the animals at their roadside attraction in Manchester.

The contempt ruling calls for the Sellners to pay $70,000 in fines. If payments are not made toward the fine, the Sellners will have to serve a one-day jail sentence for each animal that was not recovered from their zoo, for a total of 140 days.

Court records indicate no payments have been made on the fine.

All Bettendorf City Council input into sports complex tax rebate deal done behind closed doors

The City of Bettendorf recently negotiated a complicated agreement with sports complex developers over a six-month period, but did so without even a single email or written document shared with city council members.

So how did the city reach a deal with developers Doug Kratz, Kevin Koellner and Ryan Hintze without sharing any written communication with city council members or any public meetings to discuss what should be in the contract?

According to City Attorney Chris Curran, the council was kept abreast of staff negotiations through "informational meetings" held behind closed doors.

Iowa greenhouse gas emissions declined 7.6% in 2020; drop primarily from pandemic impact


Source: 2020 Iowa Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report, Dec. 31, 2021

Iowa's greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 fell 7.6 percent from 2019, primarily because of lower electric power plant production and fewer vehicle miles traveled that resulted from the pandemic.

CLICK HERE to download the full report from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Sports complex development agreement released; public hearing set for Feb. 15 council meeting

Scott County opposed to use of new tax incentives for hotel, retail and commercial service businesses in proposed urban renewal area

The agreement providing millions of dollars in tax rebates for expansion of the sports complex at Forest Grove and Middle Roads was released Friday afternoon (2/11), less than three days before the Bettendorf City Council holds a public hearing and votes on it.

The council has discussed the agreement in so-called "3-on-3 meetings" outside the public view for months, but has yet to talk publicly about the multi-million-dollar Tax Increment Finance (TIF) deal with developers Doug Kratz, Kevin Koellner and Ryan Hintze.

It is possible the city council could approve the deal without any members even expressing their views on the agreement.

The agenda for the council's committee-of-the-whole meeting at 5 p.m. Monday (2/14) includes a presentation by the city's Director of Economic Development Jeff Reiter. No public comments are allowed at those sessions.

The council is then expected to hold a public hearing and approve the development agreement at its 7 p.m. Feb. 15 meeting.

CLICK HERE to download the proposed development agreement.

Lee Enterprises reports 20 percent decline in first quarter earnings as Alden Global pushes takeover

Lee Enterprises, Inc. today (2/3) reported a 20 percent decline in first quarter earnings compared with a year ago, while efforts by hedge fund Alden Global Capital to acquire the Davenport-based print and online media company intensified.

Lee – owner of the Dispatch/Argus and Quad City Times – earned $13.2 million ($2.21 per share) during the quarter ended Dec. 26, 2021, compared with $16.4 million ($2.79 per share) for the same period a year ago. The lower earnings occurred despite the inclusion of a one-time $12.3-million gain from the sale of company assets.

Meanwhile, Alden Global is seeking to replace Lee's Chairman and CEO Mary Junck and long-time board member Herbert Maloney III on the company's board of directors. Alden has submitted an alternative slate of candidates for the director slots coming up for election at the company's annual meeting to be held March 10.

Cricket Hollow Zoo owners avoid jail, say the case against them could ‘cripple’ Iowa agriculture

Iowa Capital Dispatch

Last September, the owners of Manchester’s Cricket Hollow Zoo were ordered by an Iowa judge to pay $70,000 or serve five months in jail for refusing to surrender the animals at their roadside attraction.

Four months later, zoo owners Pamela and Thomas Sellner have yet to pay anything toward that fine or serve any time in jail. The couple is taking their case to the Iowa Supreme Court and arguing that if a contempt-of-court ruling against them is allowed to stand, it could “cripple our agricultural sector.”

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