Runoff local election results thread

Many Iowa communities held runoff local elections today. The highest-profile races are for two Des Moines City Council seats. Skip Moore and Leisha Barcus face off for the at-large seat vacated earlier this year by Michael Kiernan. On November 3 Barcus edged Moore by 32 percent to 30 percent, but this is anybody’s race. In recent days Mayor Frank Cownie endorsed Moore, who was already backed by many area labor unions. That should help him in a low-turnout environment. On the other hand, Barcus had the Des Moines Register’s endorsement and may have an advantage with west-side residents who voted for David Adelman on November 3.

Neither Barcus nor Moore lives in Des Moines’ first ward, where turnout is likely to be higher than in the city as a whole. In Ward 1, 20-year incumbent Tom Vlassis faces Drake University Law School student Halley Griess. I don’t envy the voters who faced this choice. Vlassis was knee-deep in the CIETC scandal and should have stepped down rather than run for a fifth term. Technically, city council elections are non-partisan, but it would have been nice to have a different Democrat on the ballot against Griess. I voted for two Republicans in Windsor Heights this year, but Griess seems like a real right-winger.

Turnout was relatively high (over 20 percent) for the Windsor Heights runoff, where four candidates compete for two at-large City Council seats. Only about 30 votes separated Betty Glover, Flo Hunter, Carole Tillotson and David Jenison on November 3. When Mr. desmoinesdem voted a little after 5 pm, he cast ballot number 271 in our precinct, which has about 1,200 registered voters. I expect this race to be decided by a handful of votes, so I’ve been making reminder calls the last few days to people who might not know about the candidates or remember the runoff date.

I’ll update this post later as results come in from the Des Moines area. Please post a comment about local election results in your corner of the state.

UPDATE: Preliminary results from the Polk County Auditor’s office: Moore defeated Barcus, 52 percent to 47 percent. Griess defeated Vlassis, 51 percent to 48.5 percent. If Griess becomes a rising Republican star, just remember that it could have been avoided if some people had talked Vlassis into retiring.

In West Des Moines Ward 1, Kevin Trevillyan defeated incumbent Robert Parks, 53 percent to 47 percent.

In Windsor Heights, incumbents Hunter and Tillotson were narrowly reelected. CORRECTION: Challengers Glover and Jenison won this election. I did not realize there was a precinct still to be counted in Windsor Heights when I wrote this last night. Glover and Jenison slightly increased their raw vote totals from November 3 to yesterday, which is remarkable. Typically turnout is significantly lower for a runoff.

SECOND UPDATE: The Cedar Rapids Gazette has results from two runoffs for City Council. Don Karr defeated Aaron Saylor, and Pat Shey defeated Jerry McGrane.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Des Moines Register explains how Moore won:

Moore won every precinct in northeast side Ward 2, where he lives, and handily won Ward 4 on the southeast side. Barcus ran strongest in southwest Des Moines’ Ward 3, and she held off Moore in Ward 1, where she captured roughly 57.5 percent of the vote.

However, there was a significant drop-off in voters in Ward 3, which hurt Barcus.

In a low-turnout election, it’s critical to turn out your base supporters.

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

This weekend is packed with good events for Iowa progressives. If you love books, make your way to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale in the 4-H building at the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. Admission is free; the sale is open from 9-9 Friday and Saturday and from 9-6 Sunday and Monday. The sale offers great deals on books, DVDs, prints, comics, and music, especially on Sunday, when everything is half-price, and on Monday, when everything left is 25 cents.

Proceeds support Planned Parenthood’s education programs, which you can learn more about here.

Incidentally, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa recently merged with Planned Parenthood of Nebraska/Council Bluffs to form a new affiliate called Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

The Iowa Renewable Energy Association‘s annual Energy and Sustainability Expo takes place in Norway Saturday and Sunday. There’s so much to learn at the I-RENEW expos.

On Sunday, Senator Al Franken (cartographer extraordinaire) will headline Senator Tom Harkin’s 32nd Annual Steak Fry. The event will be at the Warren County Fairgrounds from 1 pm to 4 pm. Click here for more info and to buy tickets.

Follow me after the jump for details on many other events coming up soon.

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Events coming up during the rest of July (updated)

The RAGBRAI riders are enjoying some relatively cool weather this week, although last night’s rain may have been unpleasant for campers. If you’re riding and have any anecdotes to share, post them here.

Details on other events going on around the state are after the jump. As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of something I’ve left out.

Occasionally I put a river clean-up on these event calendars, so I wanted to let the Bleeding Heartland community know about this opportunity:

The Iowa Whitewater Coalition today announced the Clean Rivers Team Stewardship Program (CRTSP) — a mini-grant program to help fund local river clean-up activities across Iowa.

Any community group or organization in Iowa is welcome to apply for a grant from the CRTSP for the purpose of paying expenses related to river clean-up activities. Grants are limited to a maximum of $500.

Details are available at www.iowawhitewater.org and a Letter of Application may be submitted at any time to Iowa Whitewater Coalition, PO Box 65453, West Des Moines, IA 50265. Questions can be addressed by Peter Komendowski at 319-269-8493.

UPDATE: Added details on the Iowa Politics forum for Republican gubernatorial candidates (July 22) after the jump.

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is holding its annual convention this Saturday, July 18, at the Hotel Fort Des Moines:

Iowa CCI’s statewide annual convention will feature workshops and plenary sessions on factory farming, campaign finance reform, immigration reform, and predatory lending. The convention will conclude with an exciting direct action targeting an undisclosed payday lender in a low-income community in  Des Moines.

More details on that and other events coming up soon are after the jump.

As always, please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of another event I’ve left out.

To Bleeding Heartland readers who plan to do RAGBRAI next week: consider posting a diary about your experience or any candidates you encounter during the ride. I saw this at Bob Krause’s campaign site:

Eric Rysdam of  Fairfield, Iowa has agreed to ride across the state in  RAGBRAI, The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa with a big Krause banner and shirt. Eric will be the core of an amorphous group participating and getting the word out about for us! Please wish Eric well with his training in anticipation of the July 19-25 event! Eric’s number is 319-293-6306 if you want to wish him well, or if you want to be on the ride with him.

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Local landmark will lose the Archie Brooks name

After “an emotional public hearing,” the Des Moines City Council voted 6-0 today to restore the original name of the Archie Brooks Community Center on the south side:

Brooks, a long-time councilman who was first elected in 1975, pleaded guilty of conspiracy and misappropriation of public money stemming from his role in a payroll scandal at the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium, where he once served as board chairman. He was sentenced in January to a year and a day in prison and was ordered to repay $400,000 of the nearly $2 million lost in the scandal.

Some argue Brooks’ actions not only disgraced himself, but shamed the city, while others say decades of public service outweigh any of his admitted misdeeds.

The nice facility will once again be known as the Pioneer-Columbus Community Center.

City Council member Tom Vlassis abstained from today’s vote. He was a CIETC board member when crimes occurred at the agency and has admitted that he was a “rubber stamp” for what CIETC executives wanted.

Most Des Moines residents who contacted City Council members about the matter supported taking Brooks’ name off the community center. However, listening to those who stand by Brooks even now provides a good reminder of how well patronage can work for local political bosses.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. Bonus points if you can explain why the CIETC scandal, involving about $2 million, has generated more intense public outrage than the billions of taxpayer dollars squandered in wasteful, no-bid federal contracts every year.

I suspect this is mainly related to “agenda-setting” by local media that put CIETC on the front page for months. Perhaps some armchair psychologist in the Bleeding Heartland community knows of other reasons why certain crimes involving public money make people angrier than others.

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Coleman should have disclosed business dealing with Boesen

I haven’t posted about the recent suicide of Des Moines businessman Ed Boesen. I feel sorry for his family, who are dealing with a sudden bereavement as well as the fallout from his business dealings. His estate is being sued by several lenders.

Last year I didn’t write about the controversy over developing Rice field in Des Moines either. The green space where Rice Elementary used to stand is used as a playing field by local residents, many of whom wanted to keep it that way. I understand their position, but I also know that the Beaverdale neighborhood already has quite a few city parks. Since I support compact economic development and “infill” (new building in established neighborhoods), I thought a proposal for a mixed-use residential and commercial development on Rice field was reasonable.

That said, I was troubled by the way the Des Moines School Board agreed to sell the land to Boesen’s group, which didn’t submit the highest bid. School Board member Connie Boesen is Ed Boesen’s sister-in-law.

Why am I rehashing this now? It turns out that Des Moines City Councilman Chris Coleman did not disclose a prior business relationship with Boesen at the time the council approved a tax-increment financing district for parts of Beaverdale.

According to the Des Moines Register,

Coleman said he had no financial stake in Rice Development Partners, Boesen’s company that planned an $11.6 million project in Beaverdale and stood to benefit from a council decision to approve the area as part of an urban renewal district, making it eligible for tax breaks.

Coleman, who is head of the Better Business Bureau, also said he didn’t know until Thursday that his name was consistently misspelled on documents filed with the Iowa secretary of state.

A handwritten document signed by Boesen in February 2000 lists two officers: himself and “Chris Cobeman, 3600 48th Place, DM, IA 50310.” Other typed documents also spell Coleman’s name as “Cobeman.” Over the years, Cobo Investments filed new records with the state updating addresses, but the misspelling of Coleman’s name was never changed.

[…]

Coleman said Thursday that he was involved in no other deals with Boesen.

Coleman goes on to say he never tried to hide the fact that he had owned property with Boesen at one time. However, all but one of his fellow City Council members told the Register they had no idea of that relationship.

The intentional misspelling of Coleman’s name on several official documents is a huge red flag to me. It suggests that whoever filed the papers was trying to make it more difficult to identify the participation of Coleman, who was elected to the City Council in 1998, in this partnership.

The Register reports:

Public officials are not required by law to make such a disclosure unless there’s a direct financial gain, said Alan Kemp, executive director of the Iowa League of Cities. But most elected officials try to identify anything that resembles a conflict of interests, he said.

Bergman, the city attorney, said he did not recall Coleman mentioning his business relationship with Boesen when the Rice Field issues were before the council, but Bergman said he previously knew of the duplex ownership.

“I would have told him if he asked me at the time that I would not have considered it a conflict of interests to vote on at the time,” Bergman said Thursday. “There’s no law, rule, regulation of any kind that I can think of that would require that to be disclosed.”

Even if the law did not require disclosure in this case, Coleman showed poor judgment in my opinion by not revealing a prior business partnership with a finalist for the Beaverdale development project.

Elected officials should go out of their way to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. That Coleman is the head of the Better Business Bureau makes it worse.

I agree with Drake University Professor Rachel Caulfield, who told the Register that the misspelling of Coleman’s name on documents is “certainly worthy of a deeper investigation.”

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