# 1000 Friends Of Iowa

Iowa court's use of qualified immunity threatens our rights

Sondra Feldstein is a farmer and business owner in Polk County and a plaintiff in the litigation discussed here. She took the photo above, showing the Geisler farm (the buildings in the distance) in the middle of farmland in eastern Polk County.

When the Iowa legislature debated the so-called “back the blue” law in 2021, a key component was the section adding qualified immunity to state code. At the time, public discussion focused on the impact this would have on law enforcement by providing protection from suits involving monetary damages. News stories, commentators, legislators, and Governor Kim Reynolds (when she signed the bill) all claimed qualified immunity would—depending on your point of view—either protect police officers no matter how egregious their conduct, or make it easier for officers to do their jobs without worrying about getting sued for a split-second decision.

Polk County District Court Judge Jeanie Vaudt recently applied the qualified immunity language to dismiss, with prejudice, a lawsuit plaintiffs (myself included) brought against the Polk County Supervisors over a zoning dispute. When a case is dismissed “with prejudice,” the only recourse is to appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court, rather than allowing the plaintiffs to amend their suit to address any issues of law or procedure the lower court may have found (which frequently happens).

If allowed to stand, this decision could be cited in denying any lawsuit brought against any Iowa governmental body, including the state itself. Goodbye efforts to hold governments accountable for their decisions, or for that matter, any effort to force Iowa governments to follow the law.

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Help find Iowa's best development projects

News coverage of economic development in Iowa tends to focus on large, heavily subsidized new construction, such as the Prestage Farms pork processing plant in Wright County or Orascom’s fertilizer plant in Lee County. Some of those marquee projects convert high-quality farmland into concrete boxes that could be built almost anywhere, like Apple’s planned data center in Waukee, or the similar Facebook facility in Altoona.

Since 2001, the non-profit 1000 Friends of Iowa has been recognizing projects that exemplify sustainable land use. Through November 13, the organization will accept nominations for this year’s Best Development Awards in any of the following categories:

Stormwater Management
Transportation/Complete Streets
Renewable Energy
Mixed Use
Innovative Leadership
Renovated Civic
New Civic
Renovated Commercial
New Residential
New Commercial
Renovated Residential

I’ve been an active supporter of 1000 Friends of Iowa for many years but am not involved in selecting the Best Development Award winners. An external panel of judges reviews all applications.

Every year, I’m inspired to see how a few committed people have transformed old and sometimes historically significant buildings. Reusing an existing space is not only environmentally-friendly, but also has a large multiplier effect for the local economy, especially in a downtown business district.

A wide range of projects may qualify for a Best Development Award. To get a sense of the diversity, scroll down to read about last year’s winners. You can view all the honorees since 2005 here. Please consider nominating a worthy contender from your area.

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Want to help under-funded schools? Invest in your downtown

“Footprint” of Jordan Creek Town Center development in West Des Moines, overlaid on the “East Village” neighborhood of downtown Des Moines, courtesy of Jim Thompson

Four of the oldest buildings in downtown Waterloo “have been renovated with their historic features revived,” John Molseed reported for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on May 13. A block that had been vacant since 2007 will now hold “four commercial spaces and six loft-style apartments.” The city of Waterloo and the state historic tax credit program helped secure private investment for the project.

Renovating older buildings is much better for the environment than razing them. The economic benefits of historic preservation are not always easy to measure, but converting vacant buildings to commercial or residential use generates revenue.

Downtown property is the most valuable per acre, according to data compiled by Jim Thompson, a business specialist for the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Main Street Program. For that reason, Thompson advises anyone who will listen, “If you want to help your school districts, invest in your downtown buildings.”

His message should resonate with local officials after yet another state legislative session produced a disappointing budget for K-12 schools. With Thompson’s permission, I enclose below some materials he has created to show the impact of repurposing downtown buildings.

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Rest in peace, David Hurd

Broken Kettle Grasslands near Sioux City, Iowa–photo by Matt Hauge, used with permission

David Hurd passed away in Des Moines this weekend at the age of 86. Police have ruled out foul play in his deadly fall from his condominium building but have not announced whether he took his own life or fell accidentally. He had been suffering from Lewy body disease, a progressive condition.

Hurd was a legendary figure in local business circles, a past CEO of Principal Financial and member of the Iowa Business Hall of Fame since 1994. He left a bigger mark on the capital city than most people of comparable wealth have done. The Des Moines Register’s Lissandra Villa wrote about some of his philanthropic contributions here.

Many progressive organizations benefited from Hurd’s generosity, but it would be particularly hard to overstate how much he did for Iowa’s environmental community. Morgan Gstalter reported for the Register on Hurd’s gift that allowed the Nature Conservancy to acquire the first portion of the Broken Kettle Grasslands in the Loess Hills area: “Now at 3,217 acres, Broken Kettle is Iowa’s largest remaining native prairie and is home to bison and rattlesnakes.” The photo at the top of this post shows a tiny part of the stunning landscape. That gift alone would have secured Hurd’s legacy in the environmental world, but he was just getting started.

I became acquainted with Hurd during several years when we served together on the Iowa Environmental Council board. He was a co-founder of the organization. A few qualities stick out in my mind. First, he was attentive but generally quiet during meetings–the opposite of some business types who tend to dominate group conversations. Possibly reading my mind, Principal’s current CEO Dan Houston told the Register that Hurd was “one of the smartest guys you’d ever meet” but also “a very humble man, very capable, diverse, global, international and kind. He listened so, so very well.” Yes. Hurd was frequently the smartest guy in the room, but he never made a big deal about being the smartest guy in the room.

Hurd didn’t throw his weight around. He never pulled rank on any other board member, despite having given more money to the council than anyone else. I never heard of him trying to interfere with staff work, which large benefactors of many organizations have been known to do. When new ideas or programs were floated, he wanted to know about real-world impact: how would doing this thing potentially make Iowa’s water cleaner, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Even more unusual for a prominent person in the business community, Hurd did not restrict his giving to environmental organizations I consider “politically correct,” such as the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation or the Nature Conservancy. He supported non-profits that opposed powerful corporate interests in our state. I’m thinking not only of the Iowa Environmental Council, which pushed for water quality rules that Big Ag groups fought all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court. He was a consistent donor to 1000 Friends of Iowa (on whose board I also serve), and our sustainable land use agenda is not popular with developers.

During his retirement, Hurd helped create the local Scrabble club. When people who had played against him would talk about how competitive he was at the game, I was always amused. In other contexts, he came across as laid back and didn’t give off a competitive vibe at all–which also struck me as atypical for a major corporation’s onetime CEO.

At the CNN Democratic candidates’ town hall a few days before the Iowa caucuses, I spotted David and his wife Trudy in the audience and went over to say a quick hello. I wish I had known that was my chance to say goodbye.

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Call to nominate Iowa's best sustainable development projects

Best Development Awards photo 1000FRIENDSBDA-150x150_zpsg4vgs3lg.jpg

The deadline is approaching for Iowans to nominate projects for 1000 Friends of Iowa’s Best Development Awards. Since 2005, the awards have recognized good development and planning practices by cities, companies, non-profit organizations, or local leaders.

I have long been involved with 1000 Friends of Iowa, though I have no role in selecting the award winners. The external panel of judges will look for buildings and projects that “help advance sustainability across our state by considering site placement, design, water efficiency, energy management, materials and resources used, indoor environmental quality, public use, and long-term benefits.” There’s no fee to apply for an award in any of the following categories: New Residential, Renovated Residential, New Commercial/Civic, Renovated Commercial/Civic, Mixed Use, Leadership, or Storm Water Management. Click here to download an application form to submit by December 15.

Every year I am inspired to read about the latest batch of Best Development Awards. After the jump I’ve posted summaries of the winning projects from 2014. You can find full descriptions and photos of them all here, including bullet points on “smart growth principles” that impressed the judges. Complete archives on all the Best Development Awards from the past decade are available at the 1000 Friends of Iowa website.

Bonus trivia for Iowa politics junkies: the Green Pilot Streetscape Project in West Union (Fayette County), which won the 2014 Best Development Award in the Renovated Commercial/Civic category, indirectly spawned the bogus “heated sidewalks” claim that became one of the big lies of the 2010 general election campaign.

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Warning signs on GMO feed and animal health

A new study in a peer-reviewed journal indicates that pigs fed a diet containing genetically-modified corn and soy had more severe stomach inflammation and (in females) heavier uteri than pigs fed an equivalent diet in conventionally raised corn and soy that was not genetically-modified. You can read the full article describing research on an Iowa farm here (pdf). For a summary of key findings, click here or here. The pigs “were reared under identical housing and feeding conditions.”

These results are disturbing, considering that more than 90 percent of the corn and soybeans grown in Iowa are now “Roundup Ready” biotech varieties, sprayed with glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup herbicide. Many anecdotal reports have linked animal health problems to genetically-modified feed. At the 1000 Friends of Iowa annual meeting on June 8, large-animal veterinarian Arthur Dunham described nutritional deficiencies, fertility problems, and unexplained deaths that he has seen increasingly in the cattle and swine herds of his clients. Dunham has been in practice for nearly 40 years and presented data about lower levels of certain vitamins and minerals (including B-12, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, and iron) in feed made from genetically-modified crops.

Monsanto and its allies dismiss such data as anecdotes and cite their own corporate-funded studies, which allegedly show the safety of GM crops. The new scholarly article describes the limitations of earlier research and calls for further studies on the subject. (Very few studies have been conducted over a time period longer than 90 days, for instance.) One Danish hog farmer saw big improvements after switching from genetically-modified feed, but Roundup crops are so dominant in this country that it can be hard for farmers to source animal feed that hasn’t been sprayed with glyphosate.

Time to nominate Iowa's "best development" projects

The non-profit organization 1000 Friends of Iowa is accepting nominations for the 2011 Best Development Awards until early August. These awards recognize projects that incorporate “smart growth” principles and sustainable practices, which are good for local economies, the environment, and quality of life. The awards cover six categories: new residential, renovated residential, new civic or commercial, renovated civic or commercial, mixed-use, and leadership.

Anyone can nominate a project for a best development award. The project should be completed, not still in the planning stage. You can download the nomination form here. After the jump I’ve posted more details on the criteria judges will consider when evaluating projects. I’m active with 1000 Friends of Iowa, but I have never been involved in selecting the Best Development Award winners.

Mixed-use projects incorporate residential and business space, either in the same building or in a walkable neighborhood. The leadership award can apply to a city as well as to a developer. For instance, the city of Dubuque won leadership awards for its Unified Development Code (2010) and for its Historic Millwork District Master Plan (2008). The city of Iowa City won the 2009 leadership award for its newly-adopted Subdivision Code.

To give you a sense of different types of projects that qualify as “best developments”, I’ve posted information below about the 2010 winning projects in Des Moines, Dubuque, Ladora, Iowa City, and Davenport. The city of Dubuque and the Lakes Community Land Trust in Spirit Lake shared last year’s leadership award.

Click here for photos and information about the 2009 Best Development Award winners: the Marshalltown Public Library (new commercial/civic), Court Avenue Lofts in Des Moines (new residential), Durrant Building in Dubuque (renovated commercial/civic), Westfield Avenue Lofts in Waterloo (renovated residential), Plaza Towers in Iowa City (mixed use), and the Historic Millwork District Master Plan in Dubuque (leadership).

Projects in Davenport, Dubuque, Sioux City, Marion, West Des Moines and Iowa City won Best Development Awards in 2008. The ISU Design West building in Sioux City is one of the best Iowa redevelopment projects I’ve ever seen.

Projects in Dubuque, Elkader, Davenport, Lake Park (near Spirit Lake) and the City of Okoboji won Best Development Awards in 2007. Projects in Conrad, Central City, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and Des Moines won Best Development Awards in 2006.

The 2005 award-winners were Iowa City’s Peninsula neighborhood, the Van Allen building in Clinton, the America’s River Project in Dubuque and the Strand Theater in Grinnell.

On a related note, I was disturbed but not surprised to learn that the House Republican-backed 2012 appropriations bill covering the Environmental Protection Agency would eliminate funding for all of the EPA’s smart growth programs. The House has already voted on some amendments to that legislation and will likely pass the bill this week.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

A busy week at the Iowa legislature kicks off Monday evening with what’s sure to be a packed Iowa House hearing on a constitutional amendment to ban legal recognition for same-sex relationships. Groups supporting conservation of Iowa’s natural resources have several rallies and lobby days planned during the next two weeks. Those and other event details are after the jump. Please post a comment or send me an e-mail if you know of an event that should be included on this calendar.

Yet another winter storm is heading for Iowa this week, but spring rains aren’t too far off. Gardeners and anyone who cares about conserving water and reducing runoff may be interested in a sale of rain barrels (all repurposed to keep waste out of landfills). Proceeds benefit the non-profit 1000 Friends of Iowa, specifically to “support the development of an educational exhibit which focuses on land use and water as it relates to run-off from non-porous surfaces as well as to bring attention to the many uses for collected rain water.” Those uses include watering gardens, washing cars and general housecleaning. Click here for more information about the rain barrels and here to order by February 11.

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One step forward, two steps back on Iowa water quality?

I seem to have jinxed things by praising Democratic state legislators who allowed the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ new clean water rules to go forward this week.

I learned yesterday from Iowa CCI, 1000 Friends of Iowa and the Iowa Environmental Council that a horrible bill, House File 2324, is being fast-tracked through the Iowa House. This bill was introduced to the House Agriculture Committee on Monday afternoon, and on Tuesday it was unanimously approved by a subcommittee and then the full House Agriculture Committee. An action alert from the Iowa Environmental Council explains the substance:

DNR has proposed rules that would require existing facilities need to have at least 100 days of storage, in order to qualify for an emergency exemption for winter application because of full storage structures.  But HF 2324 exempts confinement feeding operations constructed before July 1, 2009 from this rule.  Specifically the bill states:

“A confinement feeding operation constructed before July 1, 2009, and not expanded after that date is not required to construct or expand a manure storage structure to comply with this section.”  

Lack of adequate manure storage during winter months is a major cause of water pollution in Iowa.  Without adequate storage, farmers apply the manure to frozen or snow-covered farm fields, risking run-off into nearby streams at the first thaw or rain.

From a statement issued by Iowa CCI:

Iowa already suffers from some of the worst water quality in the nation. High levels of ammonia pollution all across Iowa were traced back to manure application on frozen and snow-covered ground. This bill would gut the state law that bans the spreading of manure on frozen and snow-covered ground by exempting more than 5,500 factory farms that were built before July 1, 2009 due to a lack of storage for their manure.

“Poor manure management is not an emergency,” [CCI Executive Director Hugh] Espey said.

The Environmental Protection Agency came down strongly in favor of a ban without exceptions last year.  Passage of this new legislation would be a clear violation of the Clean Water Act and would also undermine the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ authority to regulate factory farms.

Shame on the members of the House Agriculture Committee for fast-tracking this bill. Yet again, Iowa environmentalists have to fight efforts to circumvent DNR rules aimed at protecting the public interest. We should be making CAFOs pay for the harm they cause, not exempting them from reasonable manure storage requirements. But no, proponents want to rush through a gift for factory farms.

It’s a disgrace that a legislative committee unanimously recommended this bill, especially in a Democratic-controlled legislature. This kind of thing is one reason why I have stopped donating to the House and Senate Democratic leadership committees.

Last year many legislators tried to circumvent the DNR’s rule-making on the application of manure on frozen ground, prompting several Iowa non-profits to spend staff time and energy mobilizing against the bad bill. By a minor miracle, last-minute amendments greatly improved that bill before it passed in the closing days of the 2009 session.

The Iowa Environmental Council makes it easy for you to send an e-mail urging your state legislators to vote down HF 2324. But some lawmakers don’t read all their e-mail, so I recommend calling your representative as well. The House switchboard is 515-281-3221.  

UPDATE: Adam Mason of Iowa CCI informed me that another bad bill, House File 2365, was introduced in the House Agriculture Committee yesterday. It would change the definition of a “residence” in proximity to a CAFO, excluding homes that are “off the grid.” Iowa law restricts how close factory farms can be to residences, but this bill would make it harder for some homeowners to fight a factory farm permit. So far HF 2365 hasn’t received subcommittee or full committee approval, but it bears watching.

SECOND UPDATE: There is also an Iowa Senate version of the bill that would undermine regulations on winter spreading of manure: it’s Senate File 2229. It was referred to a subcommittee on February 9, but no further action has been taken as of February 14.  

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

Remember, the off-year Iowa caucuses are this Saturday, January 23, at 1 pm. Democrats can click here and enter your zip code to find your caucus location. Polk County Democratic Party executive director Tamyra Harrison explained the benefits of attending an off-year caucus here.

Some non-profit advocacy organizations have drafted resolutions for supporters to offer at their precinct caucuses. If adopted, these resolutions will be forwarded to the county platform committee. For example, 1000 Friends of Iowa is encouraging supporters to offer this resolution on responsible land use.

I noticed some job listings and other helpful information in the Iowa Environmental Council’s electronic newsletter.

Value Chain Partnerships, an “Iowa-based network for food and agriculture working groups,” has a new website: www.valuechains.org.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) is hiring “a Policy Advocate to work in our Des Moines office to promote clean energy, clean water and conservation projects in Iowa. […] For more information, visit http://elpc.org/category/jobs#… or email Andrew Snow at asnow@elpc.org. Application Deadline is Jan. 30, 2010.

Plains Justice is hiring “a Resource Director who will report to the CEO and work co-operatively with the Board, attorneys and other staff and volunteers to raise, manage and evaluate effective use of financial resources. Demonstrated fundraising success required. […] Contact info@plainsjustice.org for detailed job description. No phone calls please.”

There’s a position open for an “Iowa Great Lakes Watershed Coordinator,” who “will work in Spirit Lake, Iowa, to manage and coordinate the implementation of the objectives of a water quality conservation project and activities, conservation planning and application of practices, information and education and other related activities essential to the district and NRCS.” Application Deadline: January 26, 2010. For a complete job description, salary, hiring requirements, and how to apply, go to http://cleanwateralliance.net/…

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is hiring someone to support its Upper Mississippi River project. “Successful candidates will have relevant academic training in the natural, agricultural or social sciences and experience in environmental advocacy. The position is located in Ames, Iowa. A strong commitment to natural resource conservation, environmental protection, and public health is essential. To apply, submit a cover letter and resume to employment@ewg.org.  For more information and a job description visit http://www.ewg.org/jobs.”

Calling high school seniors: Keep Iowa Beautiful is offering up to four $500 scholarships. “Students across Iowa enrolling in an Iowa college or university to major in community enhancement or environmental areas of study are eligible. Students can download the application on-line at http://www.keepiowabeautiful.c… Deadline for application: must be postmarked by February 1, 2010. Please contact the KIB office at 515-323-6507 with any questions.”

Details about events coming up in the next ten days are after the jump.

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Weekend open thread with events coming up this week

The Iowa caucuses take place this Saturday, January 23, beginning at 1 pm. Democrats can click here and enter your zip code to find your caucus location. If you’ve never attended an off-year caucus, I recommend the experience as a way to meet some of the most committed activists in your precinct and have input on the party platform and party machinery. Polk County Democratic Party executive director Tamyra Harrison explained the benefits of attending an off-year caucus in more detail here. The level of energy and excitement won’t match the 2008 caucus, but on the plus side, you won’t be packed like sardines into a stuffy room.

Some non-profit advocacy organizations have drafted resolutions for supporters to offer at their precinct caucuses. If adopted, these resolutions will be forwarded to the county platform committee. For example, 1000 Friends of Iowa is encouraging supporters to offer this resolution on responsible land use.

This thread is for discussing anything on your mind this weekend.

There are Martin Luther King Jr. remembrances going on in many Iowa cities today and tomorrow; check your local news outlet for details. To mark King’s birthday, Democratic Senate candidate Bob Krause pledged to develop “a comprehensive strategy for alleviating the Iowa incarceration disparity,” in light of the fact that “Iowa has a per capita incarceration rate for blacks that is fourteen times the incarceration rate for whites.”

I appreciated this letter to the editor by Frank McCammond of Redfield, which the Des Moines Register published on January 15:

Marian Riggs Gelb’s Jan. 3 guest column (“Protect Iowa’s Liquid Gems”) calls for thank-you notes to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for designating a few streams in northeast Iowa for protection as “outstanding waters.”

It was a nice suggestion. However, where do I write the note about letting the rest of the state’s river systems be turned into open sewers by the farm and livestock interests and by towns that won’t fix their sewage systems?

(Gelb’s guest column is here, and the Iowa Environmental Council has more information on the “outstanding Iowa waters” designation here.)

After the jump I’ve posted more about events coming up this week. Roxanne Conlin began her 99-county tour last week, but I couldn’t find any event details or calendar on her campaign website.

UPDATE: Duh! Forgot Johnson County’s special election on Tuesday. Go vote for Janelle Rettig for county supervisor. John Deeth has been providing great coverage of the race at his blog. Lori Cardella is like school in the summertime–no class.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

Last month was so busy that I didn’t manage to post any event calendars here, but I am back on duty now. The highlight of this month for Democrats is the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Saturday, November 21, featuring Vice President Joe Biden. You can buy tickets online.

Please note that November 10 is the deadline for public comments to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources about protecting our Outstanding Iowa Waters. The Farm Bureau is mobilizing public comments against these regulations. The DNR needs to hear from Iowans committed to preserving our highest-quality waterways. Click here for background and an easy to use comment form.

State Senator Staci Appel will officially announce her re-election campaign on November 12, and I’ve posted details about a fundraiser for her campaign below the fold. Appel’s Republican opponent, State Representative Kent Sorenson, is already gearing up for next year’s election. He spent the weekend in Texas attending the WallBuilders ProFamily Legislators Conference. Here’s some background on David Barton’s vision for America, chock full of Biblical interpretations supporting right-wing public policies. Barton spoke to the Iowa Christian Alliance not long ago (click that link to watch videos). Former presidential candidate Ron Paul is headlining a fundraiser for Sorenson on November 14, by the way.

Many more event details are after the jump. As always, please post a comment about anything I’ve left out, or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com).

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For Blog Action Day: Iowa non-profits against global warming

More than 10,000 blogs around the world are writing something about climate change on October 15 to mark “Blog Action Day.”

If you’re concerned about global warming, you may already have made small changes to reduce your own “carbon footprint.” You can significantly lower your energy consumption (and save money) with simple steps like hanging your laundry to dry and turning the thermostat down a few degrees in cold weather.

I also encourage you to get involved with at least one non-profit organization that works to reduce global warming. Whether you become an active volunteer or send a small donation once a year, your support will make a difference.

Here are 15 Iowa non-profits that deserve broad-based support. Although not all of them mention climate change in their mission statements, they all promote activities, land uses and public policies that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

1000 Friends of Iowa

Center on Sustainable Communities

Environment Iowa

Iowa Bicycle Coalition

Iowa Environmental Council

Iowa Global Warming Campaign

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Iowa Interfaith Power and Light

Iowa Network for Community Agriculture

Iowa Renewable Energy Association

Plains Justice

Practical Farmers of Iowa

Repower Iowa

Sierra Club, Iowa Chapter

Trees Forever

In this comment thread, please recommend other non-profit groups working to reduce climate change.

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Speak up for wiser investments in transportation

I learned from 1000 Friends Of Iowa that the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization are seeking public input on two important issues.

The DOT is finalizing the Statewide Public Transportation Study and will make recommendations to the state legislature in December. Officials want to hear from Iowans about:

   * Baseline level of service for public transportation in Iowa

   * Gap analysis between baseline service and public transportation demands of Iowans.

   * Transportation services needed to close these gaps.

   * The additional cost of these services.

   * Addressing Iowa’s energy conservation goals.

   * The range of possible funding concepts to address service needs.

   * Draft findings of the study to date.

You can comment on any of these issues at public meetings in Centerville, Sioux City, Des Moines, Iowa City, Bettendorf, or Waterloo on September 15-17 (event details are after the jump). Alternatively, you can submit comments through an online survey at www.iRIDE21.com.

Anyone with an opinion on how to improve Iowa’s passenger transportation should let the DOT know. You do not have to be an expert or policy wonk. Remember, public transit is not just for big city residents. An express bus or vanpool that takes people from a smaller town to work in a nearby larger city saves passengers money while reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Last year the weekly Cityview profiled Winterset resident Ann Pashek, who saves thousands of dollars a year through the Des Moines Area Transit Authority’s Rideshare program.

Meanwhile, the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is hosting the last series of public input meetings on the Horizon Year 2035 Metropolitan Transportation Plan. They need to hear from central Iowa residents who are concerned about land use, air quality and global warming.

Although reducing vehicle miles driven is a critical element of any plan to address greenhouse gas emissions, the DMAMPO’s plan for the next 25 years involves 341 projects that, if completed, would increase vehicle miles traveled in our region by 33 percent (by the DMAMPO’s own calculations). 1000 Friends of Iowa adds:

The study also indicated that despite increases in [vehicle miles traveled], cleaner vehicles and fuels will result in continued reductions in vehicle pollutant emissions.  Gasoline was used in their project model.  However, when ethanol was used the increase in CO2 was 66% higher.  DNR Air Quality Division has studies which conclude that emissions with ethanol are substantially higher.   It seems this plan will not reduce VMTs or promote cleaner air.

The DMAMPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) is hosting the final series of public input meetings to receive input and comments on the HY 2035 MTP final draft. You must tell the DMAMPO that Central Iowans want to concentrate more transportation dollars on alternatives which will promote the responsible use of our states resources, land water and air. This is the most important series of meetings, please mark your calendars, plan to attend and make your opinion count!

The DMAMPO meetings are on September 15 and 16 at the North Side Library in Des Moines. Event details are in the 1000 Friends of Iowa action alert, which I’ve posted after the jump. That also includes talking points as well as contact information for those who prefer to submit written comments to the DMAMPO. Anyone can send a comment; you do not have to have attended a public meeting.

On a related note, today is the last day to submit a comment urging the DNR to protect water quality in Iowa’s cleanest lakes and streams. Please take a minute to send an e-mail to the right DNR officials.

So much policy that affects our lives is made below the radar. If I weren’t involved with 1000 Friends of Iowa, I would never have heard of these discussions about transportation priorities. If I weren’t involved with the Iowa Environmental Council and the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter, I would not have heard of the debate over water quality rules either. I encourage you to join some non-profit organizations that are active on matters important to you. You will become much more informed than if you rely solely on the mainstream media.

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ACTION: Help preserve public input on CAFOs

The state Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) is considering new rules that would limit public input during the permit approval process for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Iowa. Up to now, members of the public have been able to speak before the EPC concerning proposed new CAFOs. Under the new rules, only representatives of the entity applying for the permit, the county board of supervisors, and the Department of Natural Resources would be able to speak at EPC hearings on CAFO permits. People and entities that might be affected by downstream or downwind pollution from the proposed CAFO would not be allowed to speak at such hearings.

The public can submit comments on the new rule through this Thursday, August 6.

After the jump I’ve posted action alerts sent out by 1000 Friends of Iowa and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. They contain some talking points for public comments and contact information for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Iowa CCI also mentions two points worth preserving in the new rule, which industrial agriculture interests are apparently trying to have removed.

Comments must be received by Thursday, so if you are using the regular mail, please send your letter as soon as possible. There are also three DNR public hearings this week in Spencer, Des Moines and Ainsworth (details below).

I’ve also posted two pieces containing further background information after the jump. These may help you prepare comments to submit to the DNR. Shearon Elderkin discusses a controversial EPC decision last summer, which prompted the rewriting of the rules on the CAFO permit application process. Elderkin served on the EPC from August 2008 through April 2009. She had to step down when Iowa Senate Republicans blocked her confirmation for the position.

The final document you can find below is by Cedar Rapids attorney David Elderkin, Shearon’s husband. He covers the legal issues at hand in more detail.

Please take a few minutes to submit a public comment on this issue by Thursday, August 6. Please forward to any friends or relatives in Iowa who might be willing to comment as well.

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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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Events coming up this week

It’s been a week since same-sex marriage became legal in Iowa, and I’m happy to report that my hetero marriage has not yet collapsed under the strain of sharing rights with gays and lesbians.

Click “there’s more” to read about events coming up this week. As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of something I’ve left out.

Advance warning: May 11-15 is Bike to Work week.

Registration is FREE. Over 500 Bike to Work Socks have been ordered from the Sock Guy. This year’s socks are green. Socks will be available at events throughout the week on a first come, first serve basis. (One pair per pre-registered rider.) Everyone who registers and takes the pledge is eligible for $1,000 in Bike Bucks for use in any sponsoring bike shop and many other prizes! Registration closes at Noon on Thursday May 14th. Questions? Check out Bike to Work Week events and businesses around Iowa at www.bikeiowa.com.

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Events coming up this week

It’s another busy week, so I’ve put the event details after the jump. Please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of an event I’ve left out.

Also please let me know of any Iowa organizations that post good event calendars on a regular basis. For instance, I hear about lots of things going around the state via the Sierra Club’s Iowa Topics e-mail loop and the websites of the Iowa Environmental Council and 1000 Friends of Iowa. Probably other groups I’m less involved with also post useful notices about upcoming events.

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Action: Public meeting on transportation policy tonight

I didn’t know about this event when I posted my weekly calendar, but I received an action alert from 1000 Friends of Iowa about an important meeting tonight in Des Moines. The full action alert is after the jump, including details on the place and time. Here is an excerpt:

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) & the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) have scheduled a Public Input Meeting to gather comments from citizens regarding the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (DMAMPO) transportation planning process.

Every four years the FHWA & the FTA conduct a certification review of the DMAMPO. The review evaluates the effectiveness of the DMAMPO’s transportation planning process, and ensures federal guidelines are being followed. Each MPO is required to solicit and utilize citizen input in local transportation decisions. If citizen input isn’t resulting in changes that reflect the unique transportation needs of the community, the public participation process must be adjusted to make certain it does. […]

The experience of 1000 Friends of Iowa is that the FHA pays attention to the comments of citizens. In the 2005 Transportation Planning Certification Review Summary Report under “Overview of Findings From the 2005 Certification Review”, the FHWA & FTA noted that “The Year 2030 Long-Range Transportation Plan appears to be a collection of local transportation desires rather than a document offering a regional focus for the Des Moines metropolitan area’s future transportation system. The Plan needs to provide a regional vision, rather than just serve as a compilation of local priorities.”  

(emphasis added) With federal stimulus dollars on the way and the state of Iowa potentially

issuing new bonds to pay for infrastructure, it is critical that we not blindly follow a bunch of local wish lists for new roads. We should fix what we have first.

Speaking of which, a new national survey by Hart Research Associates found that

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe restoring existing roads and bridges and expanding transportation options should take precedence over building new roads […]

To accommodate future U.S. population growth, which is expected to increase by 100 million by 2050, Americans favor improving intercity rail and transit, walking and biking over building new highways. When asked what the federal government’s top priority should be for 2009 transportation funding, half of all respondents recommended maintaining and repairing roads and bridges, while nearly one third said “expanding and improving bus, rail, and other public transportation.” Only 16 percent said “expanding and improving roads, highways, freeways and bridges.”

When asked about approaches to addressing traffic, 47 percent preferred improving public transportation, 25 percent chose building communities that encourage people not to drive, and 20 percent preferred building new roads. fifty-six percent of those surveyed believe the federal government is not devoting enough attention to trains and light rail systems, and three out of four favor improving intercity rail and transit.

Transportation for America, a new coalition of more than 225 organizations, has called on President Barack Obama and Congress to “launch a new federal transportation mission.” The federal transportation program comes up for reauthorization in Congress later this year.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

Send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) or post a comment if you know of another event that should be added to this calendar.

Sunday, January 18:

From Blog for Iowa (click the link for more details):

On Sunday, January 18, the Iowa City Environmental Film Festival and Sierra Club will sponsor a screening of Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars.  The film portrays how Texans formed unlikely coalitions to fight the construction of nineteen coal-fired power plants being fast-tracked by the state’s governor, Rick Perry.  The film, narrated by Robert Redford, has received numerous awards.

Representatives from two groups instrumental in challenging the construction of the two plants in Iowa will lead a discussion following the film.  Mike Carberry, Sierra Club, will be joined by Carrie LeSeur, founder and Executive Director of Plains Justice, to talk about what is being done and what Iowans can do to stop construction of the coal-fired power plants.   Plains Justice, a public interest law center, was founded in 2006 in part in response to the Waterloo, Iowa Coal Plant Proposal, which has now been withdrawn.        

[…] Sunday, January 18th at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., Room A at 3:00 PM.

The screening is free and open to the public.

Monday, January 19:

From Polk County Democrats:

From Vern Naffier

Come to the Pre-Inauguration Celebration

Friends:  Join me Monday night at 7 pm at the State Historical Building for an inspiring event celebrating Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Barack Obama’s inauguration, and the beginning of an era of peace, reconciliation, and social justice throughout the world. See announcement below.


Rebirthing King – Rebirthing America

A pre-inauguration celebration

State Historical Building

600 East Locust

Des Moines

January 19, 2009

7-8 pm

Come join the effort to reclaim the dream of America free from racism, militarism, and materialism. Come join the candlelight march for Martin’s memory and Barack’s beginning.

The Iowa Obama Presidential Inauguration Committee invites you to bring items for the DMARC Food Pantry.

Sponsored by the King Birthday Celebration Planning Committee

Tuesday, January 20:

George W. Bush’s presidency will finally end as Barack Obama takes the oath of office. What are you doing to celebrate? There must be many parties going on all over this state.

Urban Dreams Presents

Brown, Black & The Blues People’s Ball

Celebrating the Inauguration of

President Barack Obama

Together through the diversity of our community

Jnauary 20, 2009

8:00 PM until…

Hotel Fort Des Moines

1000 Walnut Street

Des Moines, IA  50309

$25 / person

Dress to Impress

Featuring Musica Latina, Soul and the Blues

A nonpartisan event open to the whole community

for more information please call 515-288-4742

The Brown, Black & The Blues People’s Ball is brought to you by

Project V.O.T.E. (Voting Opportunities Through Education).

PLease call Hotel Fort Des Moines at 515-243-1181 if interested in room reservations.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

There will be a Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Public Input Meeting in the DMAMPO Meeting Room, Merle Hay Center, 6200 Aurora Avenue, Suite 300W, Urbandale, IA. Click here for more details about what’s on the agenda and why you should care.

Friday, January 23:

For bicycling advocates and enthusiasts:

Iowa Bicycle Summit

January 23-24, Des Moines

Iowa Bicycle Summit will be held in Des Moines at the Holiday Inn, Downtown, from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Friday’s session features Steve Durrant from Portland, Oregon, a registered landscape architect and planner with over 30 years experience helping communities become better places to live. A Friday Bike Night fundraiser will feature a presentation by mountain-biking legend Gary Fisher at a dinner and silent auction. Saturday is geared for grassroots bicyclists who want to better their communities. Sessions include Safe Routes to Schools, Bike to Work Week, legislative issues and more. Primary sponsors are the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. Participation is limited. Find out more or register at the Iowa Bicycle Summit webpage, http://www.iowabicyclecoalitio…

From the Iowa Environmental Council newsletter:

Winter Solstice Workshop: No Child Left Inside

January 23-25, Honey Creek State Park

The Iowa Conservation Education Coalition’s annual Environmental Education Workshop, Winter Solstice, will be held on January 23-25, 2009.  The workshop title is No Child Left Inside.  Winter Solstice will be held at the Honey Creek State Park Resort on Lake Rathbun. This new resort features motel rooms, a restaurant, an indoor water park, and most important for ICEC, a wonderful conference center. Our keynote speakers include: Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder; Connie Mutel, author of The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa; and Jim Pease and Susan O’Brien author of Environmental Literacy in Iowa. For questions about the workshop, please contact Gail Barels at gail.barels@linncounty.org or Heather Niec at adminicec@hotmail.com.

Saturday, January 24:

For those who enjoy public art:

Design a Dragonfly on Ice at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory

January 24, West Lake Okoboji

Filmmaker Chad Branham will design this year’s Artslive’s People Project on Saturday, January 24, on the ice in Miller’s Bay, beginning at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. This ephemeral art project will line people up on the ice on West Lake Okoboji, in the shape of a giant 100 foot dragonfly. This design will take over 225 people to complete. Once everyone is in place the dragonfly will be photographed from an airplane by Judy Hemphill. Due to limited parking at Lakeside, participants are asked to gather at Peace Corner, at the corner of Highways 9 and 86, at 12:30 pm, and take a shuttle bus to the project site at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. People are encouraged to dress warmly and, if possible, in bright primary colors.  To sign up to participate, or for more information about participating in this year’s ArtsLive People’s Project, contact Jen Johnson at (712)332-6502 or jen@activeokoboji.org, or visit artslive.com.

Tuesday, January 27:

From Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement:

Jan. 27, 2009  

BIG Rally & Lobby Day

Mark your calendars and plan to be at our Rally & Lobby Day at the State Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 27. We need you there to show our legislators that thousands of Iowans will be holding them accountable this legislative session to issues like local control, clean elections, homeowner protections and the rights of all workers.

Decisions made at the Statehouse impact us every day. This is our chance to put our issues at the top of the legislative agenda. Join with us today – click here for more information and REGISTER TODAY!

Friday, January 30:

From Polk County Democrats:

The Ankeny Area Democrats and The Polk County Democrats Present An Inauguration Celebration Dinner At The Iowa State Historical Building

Friday, January 30, 2009

Catered by Baratta’s Restaurant

Social Hour begins at 6:00 PM

Dinner at 7:00 PM

Live music through the Musician’s Union

Tickets $25 per person

Tickets include chicken / pasta dinner and sides, soft drinks, coffee, iced tea or water

Semi-formal attire encouraged, but not required

Tickets available by calling Tamyra at 515-285-1800 or Mary Oliver at 515-964-1227

Email polkdems@gmail.com or Ankenyareadems@msn.com

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Events coming up this week

As always, post a comment or drop me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if I’ve left anything out.

Monday, December 15:

One Iowa and Lambda Legal are organizing a townhall forum to celebrate and discuss the oral arguments before the Iowa Supreme Court in the landmark Varnum v. Brien case. RSVP not required for townhall forums.

Council Bluffs Townhall Forum

Monday, Dec. 15, 2008 – 6:30-7:30 PM

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 22 Dillman

For more information, contact One Iowa at organize@oneiowa.org or 515-288-4019

From the Iowa Environmental Council’s e-mail bulletin:

Missouri River Group Meeting

December 15-18, Omaha

The new Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee, also known as MRRIC, has scheduled another meeting. The Committee is made up of Federal, State, and Tribal Representatives as well as stakeholders, with an interest in the river, from throughout the basin. The purpose of MRRIC is to offer guidance to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service on future management of the Missouri River. The Committee will offer advice on the recovery process for the three Endangered Species on the river. Those include; the interior least tern, piping plover and the pallid sturgeon. MRRIC will also look at possible social, cultural and economic impacts of the recovery process on people in the basin. The next meeting of MRRIC will be December 15th to the 18th in Omaha. To learn more and to get involved, go to: www.mrric.org

Tuesday, December 16:

Reservations are due for the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa’s Crossroads luncheon on Friday (see below).

From the Center on Sustainable Communities:

Eco-Friendly Home Product Showcase

DATE: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TIME: 11:30am – 1:30pm


Meredith Corporation

1716 Locust St.

Des Moines, IA

Meredith Corporation is inviting all COSC members to a showcase of

the latest and greatest environmentally friendly home products.

Join us at a green trade show on

December 16th from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

at Meredith Corporation, 1716 Locust St.

Be sure to stop by to learn about what’s new in green building.  If you plan to attend,

please RSVP to Jenny McCoy at Jennifer.mccoy@meredith.com.  She can

provide more information about the event location and parking.

Center On Sustainable Communities

219 1/2 Fifth Street, Suite A

Historic Valley Junction

West Des Moines, Iowa 50265

(515) 277-6222

1000 Friends of Iowa is presenting the 2008 Best Development Awards:

   * New Residential: Upper Mississippi Valley Redevelopment Company, 1820 East Thirteenth Street, Village of East Davenport Development in Davenport, Iowa

   * Renovated Residential: The HEART Program’s Washington Street Project in Dubuque, Iowa

   * Renovated Commercial/Civic: M+ Architects, ISU Design West development in Sioux City, Iowa

   * New Commercial/Civic: RDG Planning & Design, Marion Arts and Environmental Center at Lowe Park in Marion, Iowa

   * Mixed Use: LADCO Development, Village of Ponderosa in West Des Moines, Iowa

   * Leadership: City of Iowa City, Iowa City Subdivision Code in Iowa City, Iowa

The awards ceremony will be held on December 16, 2008 at 6:30 p.m., at RDG Planning & Design, 301 Grand Avenue, 2nd floor in downtown Des Moines, IA 50309. Parking is available behind the building.

One Iowa and Lambda Legal have another townhall forum scheduled:

Sioux City Townhall Forum

Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008 – 6:30-7:30 PM

Public Library, Glesson Room, 529 Pierce St.

RSVP not required, but for more information, contact One Iowa at organize@oneiowa.org or 515-288-4019

Wednesday, December 17:

It’s the last day to submit nominations for Talking Points Memo’s “Golden Duke Awards.” For more information, click here:


Friday, December 19:

From the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa:

Migration, Marriage, and Much More!

Making a Difference

Judie Hoffman , TIA Iowa Action Fund Lobbyist

Brad Clark, One Iowa

Brenda Kole, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa

Judie Hoffman and Friends will discuss the 2009 Legislative Agenda of The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund and other progressive ally organizations.  Learn about the issues and how you can join with other progressive voices of faith & goodwill from across the state and make a difference.

The Crossroads monthly luncheon is Friday, December 19 from 11:45 am – 1 pm at Plymouth Congregational Church, 42nd & Ingersoll Avenue, Des Moines.

Reservations are required to attend Crossroads and must be received by noon on Tuesday, December 16.  Cost is $8 and is payable at the door. If you make a reservation and are unable to attend, payment for the reservation is appreciated.

For more information or to make a reservation, call (515) 279-8715 or email tiaiowa@dwx.com.

Sunday, December 21:

From the Iowa Renewable Energy Association:

Join I-Renew to Celebrate Renewable Energy on Winter Solstice. Festivities include: Live Music! Free Giveaways! Silent Auction with great renewable holiday gifts! Discussion and fun with like-minded folks interested in renewable energy! The event is on Sunday December 21 at 6:00 PM at the Mill Restaurant, 120 E. Burlington St. Iowa City. The funds raised at the event will go toward I-Renew’s work educating Iowans about sustainable energy production and use. If you would like to donate silent auction items, help promote the event, get more information about sponsorship opportunities, or have any questions, please contact the I-Renew office at:(319) 643-3160 or by emailing irenew@irenew.org.

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Congratulations to the 2008 Best Development Award winners

Last week 1000 Friends of Iowa announced the winners of the 2008 Best Development Awards:

   * New Residential: Upper Mississippi Valley Redevelopment Company, 1820 East Thirteenth Street, Village of East Davenport Development in Davenport, Iowa

   * Renovated Residential: The HEART Program’s Washington Street Project in Dubuque, Iowa

   * Renovated Commercial/Civic: M+ Architects, ISU Design West development in Sioux City, Iowa

   * New Commercial/Civic: RDG Planning & Design, Marion Arts and Environmental Center at Lowe Park in Marion, Iowa

   * Mixed Use: LADCO Development, Village of Ponderosa in West Des Moines, Iowa

   * Leadership: City of Iowa City, Iowa City Subdivision Code in Iowa City, Iowa

Click here for more details about the winning projects, including photos. I am active with 1000 Friends of Iowa, but I do not serve on the community that evaluated the Best Development nominees.

1000 Friends of Iowa will officially present the awards on December 16 at 6:30 p.m., at RDG Planning & Design, 301 Grand Avenue, 2nd floor in downtown Des Moines. Please come to that event if you are interested in green building or sustainable design.

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Please speak out against bad road project in Polk County

This Saturday, September 13, is the deadline for submitting public comments regarding the Northwest 26th Street extension through the Des Moines River Greenbelt, which is part of a larger plan to construct a four-lane northeast Polk County beltway.

I discussed why the beltway is a bad idea here and why the road through the greenbelt is a bad idea here.

Please take a few minutes to send your comments against the NW 26th St extension to the following e-mail address: jtunnell@snyder-associates.com

Like the larger beltway project, this road is not needed, would be a poor use of transportation funds, and would disrupt environmentally sensitive areas.

For many more details and talking points, visit this page on the 1000 Friends of Iowa website, or read the message that Jane Clark posted on the Sierra Club Iowa Topics e-mail loop today, which I have posted after the jump.

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Events coming up this week

There is so much happening this week that I hereby forbid you from complaining that there’s nothing to do in Iowa.

If you can make it to the I-RENEW Energy and Sustainability Expo in Cedar Falls this weekend, I encourage you to go. I have attended the I-Renew expo several times in the past and never been disappointed. There are also great books and progressive advocacy materials (shirts, posters, bumper stickers) available in the exhibitor tent.

I won’t be at the Harkin Steak Fry featuring Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, so I hope someone out there will post a diary with a first-person account of the event.

Please post a comment or send me an e-mail if I’ve left out anything important.

Tuesday, September 9:

School board elections are being held across the state. Get out and vote, even if you don’t have kids in school. We don’t want the religious right taking control of these boards.

From the Iowa Citizen Action Network:

Iowa Citizen Action Network (ICAN) is proud to take a lead role in the “Health Care for America Now” campaign and we hope you will join us and all the coalition partners in Iowa to make our voices heard!

Health Care for America Now is all about raising this very important question in the minds of the public and in decision makers: Do we want a health care system where everyone has responsibility to ensure access for all Americans – individuals, employers, our communities, and our government?  Or do we want to continue with a system that says – “You’re all on your own to deal with insurance companies.”

We’ve been doing just that this summer, and we’re excited to bring this campaign to cities all around Iowa.  




Have you been struggling with your health insurance coverage?  Do you find yourself paying more for less coverage every year?  Have you been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions?  Have you been dropped from your coverage and aren’t sure how to fight back?  Do you have a family member or neighbor who is struggling?

Here’s your chance to let your elected representatives know what you’re going through, and what you think they should do about it.

September 9,

6:30-7:30 PM


515 Douglas Avenue

Ames, IA 50010

One Iowa Campaign Training RSVP

Today – Tuesday, September 9 – 6:30 PM-8:30 PM

AFSCME Council 61, 4230 NW 2nd Avenue, Des Moines

We’re weeks away from what may prove to be the most critical election of our time. Success this November depends on individuals like you making a commitment to get involved. Join us to learn more about what’s at stake and how you fit into the big picture!

One Iowa Coffee House

Today – Tuesday, September 9 – 5:00-6:45pm

Ritual Cafe, 1301 Locust Street, Des Moines

Sandy Vopalka will talk about PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) the importance of this organization and the work being done across the state. PFLAG is a national non-profit organization with over 200,000 members and supporters and over 500 affiliates in the United States. Sandy’s presentation will start at 5:30pm.

Wednesday, September 10:

Democracy for America is holding another session of its famous “Night School,” with a focus on recruiting volunteers. The session begins at 7:30 pm, and you can register by clicking here:


The Iowa Citizen Action Network has scheduled an event to give Iowans a chance to talk about what real economic recovery looks like. September 10, 6:30 pm at the Local 6 UFCW, 15 N 12th Street in Fort Dodge. “We are inviting our Congressional representatives and State and Local Officials to hear from US what we need during this week of Economic Recovery talks.”

Iowa’s Office of Energy Independence invites you to attend the public forum on energy issues in Mount Vernon at Cornell College on Wednesday, September 10, at 6:30 p.m., following a Power Fund Board meeting. The forum will take place in the Hedges Conference Room, 600 First Street SW in Mount Vernon.

Thursday, September 11:

The Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa Book Sale opens at 4 pm at the 4-H building of the State Fairgrounds. The sale runs through Monday, September 15. More details here:


The Organization for Competitive Markets will hold an event the Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa to learn how to “Take Back” a fair and open seed marketplace. We’ll gather at the 4H building on the fairgrounds from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to hear speakers talk about the problem of concentration in the seed industry and what we can do about it. Enjoy engaging discussions with farmers and local politicians, as well as a complimentary dinner from Oak Tree Bar-B-Que. The event is co-chaired by State Representatives Marcie Frevert and Mark Kuhn, and speakers include Iowa State University’s Fred Kirschenmann and past president of the National Family Farm Coalition, George Naylor. Tell your friends! For more information, click here:


One Iowa is organizing a PFLAG Des Moines Re-Launch at 7:00 PM, First Unitarian Church, 1800 Bell Avenue in Des Moines. The Des Moines Metro Area PFLAG will meet to discuss relaunching the chapter. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. Coffee and refreshments served before the meeting, beginning at 6:30 PM. All are welcome, but confidentiality is required.

Friday, September 12:

From the Iowa City-based Local Foods Connection (http://www.localfoodsconnection.org):

Fundraising event for ZJ Farm



French Dinner at Simone’s Plain & Simple

ZJ Farms Education Programs Fundraiser

Friday, Sept 12, 6:30 p.m.

Susan Jutz of ZJ Farm helped create the idea of Local Foods Connection along with Simone Delaty and Laura Dowd. Local Foods Connection buys vegetables CSA shares from Susan and bread & egg CSA shares from Simone for our clients.

Come enjoy an authentic French dinner in lovely country setting and support the Education Programs at ZJ Farms.  The ZJ Farms Education Programs offer hands-on experience and events that teach young people of all ages that value of land stewardship, nontraditional leadership and nutrition.  Education explorations include milking and petting the farm animals, hunts for vegetable in gardens, work projects to participate in farming experience, lessons on growing food from planting to harvest, leadership and community building training.

Tickets on sale now!

$45 for Slow Food Members/ $50 for non-Slow Food.

Call 621-2484 to reserve a seat.

Saturday, September 13:

From the Polk County Democrats:



On September 13, 2008 at 12:00 PM TO 3:00 PM , there will a community celebration picnic at MLK Park, E. 17th and Garfield (1 block north of University), Des Moines , Iowa.

This will be a time for diverse groups of Asian/Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Persons with Disabilities, GaysLesbians, Latinos, Native Americans, Armed Forces Veterans and Young Democrats  to come together with the whole community, celebrating the diversity in our neighborhoods.  Over good food, communication and networking will be done.

The picnic is hosted by the Polk County Democratic Affirmative Action / Diversity Committee.

For more information, call 515-285-1800.


17th Annual I-Renew Energy & Sustainability EXPO

September 13 & 14, 2008

9 to 5 Saturday

10:30 to 4:30 Sunday

At the UNI Center for Energy & Environmental Education, Cedar Falls, IA

Admission: $10 per day, I-Renew members pay no admission. Memberships available at the door.

Featuring renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, renewable fuels and sustainable living workshops, exhibits and demonstrations

Cedar Falls, IA – The Iowa Power Fund Board approved a grant to support this year’s I-Renew Energy & Sustainability Expo. The grant will go towards promoting the event statewide as well as to produce DVDs of 12 of the 70 workshops offered at the event. “The Iowa Renewable Energy Association has proven its annual Expo is the place to be to learn about renewable energy and energy efficiency”, said Michelle Kenyon Brown, I-Renew Executive Director. “The support from the Iowa Power Fund and the Office of Energy Independence will enable us to bring in a larger audience, an audience that is growing everyday as energy costs are hitting everyone’s pocketbook.”

The 17th I-Renew Energy & Sustainability EXPO will be held Sept. 13-14, 2008, at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy & Environmental Education (CEEE) in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  The EXPO feature 70 workshops, 80 exhibitors, and demonstrations providing information on renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, renewable fuels, and sustainable living.

“The I-Renew Expo is the largest event of this type in Iowa,” says Kara Beauchamp, I-Renew Board President. “This years’ expo will be the biggest and the best we have ever had. Increasing energy prices have generated more interest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The I-Renew Expo is the perfect place for people to get their questions answered while having a great time.”

The EXPO gives the general public, building contractors, installers and others the opportunity to talk directly with Iowa’s energy experts to learn new ways to build greener and live greener using renewable energy.

Demonstrations of solar power, wind power, a hydrogen fuel cell, electric cars, cars that run on alternative fuels, and much more will be at the site in and around the CEEE building. The EXPO runs 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13; and 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14. Admission is $10 per day; however, I-Renew members pay no admission. Memberships are available at the door.

For more information or to register, visit www.irenew.org and click on I-Renew EXPO.

The I-Renew Energy & Sustainability Expo is provided with support from our partners: Iowa Office of Energy Independence, Iowa Energy Center, Alliant Energy’s Second Nature Program, Cedar Falls Utilities, Waverly Light & Power, Frontier Natural Products Coop, Center for Energy & Environmental Education and many more.

Contact: Michelle Kenyon Brown, Director Iowa Renewable Energy Association

(319) 325-2701          michellekbrown@irenew.org

Citizens are organizing a rally against a huge proposed hog lot in Poweshiek County:

Does Poweshiek County want more Factory Hog Farms ? NO!!

Prestage Farms of North Carolina, the nations 5th largest factory hog corporation, has plans to put nearly 5,000 hogs in two buildings near Deep River.

If built, this facility will negatively impact our community by creating odor and air quality problems, harming our areas already poor water quality, creating health risks for neighbors, and reducing property values in our county.

Prestage Farms will take the profits out of our state and leave us with the manure.

Please take the time to join with other concerned citizens from our area at a rally on Saturday, September 13th at 9:45 AM on Highway 21, 5 miles South of Interstate 80, between 470th and 480th Streets.

We want as many people to come out as possible to let the owners of the property know that they need to put the health and well-being of their neighbors before greed, and that residents of this county are against selling our future to out-of-state corporations.

Please call 641-990-2470 for more information.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

Dear Friends,

In case you didn’t get a chance to attend the public input meetings on the proposed Northwest 26th Street project/MLK extension and Northeast Polk County Beltway studies, you still have a chance to make your voices heard.

If you did attend the meetings, but didn’t submit written comments, your views still need to be documented for public record. The public meetings and collection of written comments are building the case for approval or disapproval of this project. All are part of the Environmental Impact Statement, a federally required evaluation for projects that have extensive environmental impacts.

The deadline for comments on the proposed alternatives for both projects is on Saturday, September 13. After that date, comments will be compiled and sent to Polk County, the Federal Highway Administration, and other decision-makers. Your comments are like a vote which needs to be counted on the stack of documented opinions that is carried forward in the near future.

To be effective in opposition to projects like these, citizens need to be there each major step of the way. This is one of those steps, and your presence is critical to keeping this current of opposition strong.

Gas prices are soaring along with the costs of road building. Public funds for roads are limited, meaning that not every road project gets funded. If constructed, these two costly projects would take money from much-needed transportation improvements.

You can find more information on these projects, maps, and how to send comments at



Stephanie Weisenbach

1000 Friends of Iowa

From Whiterock Conservancy:

Central Iowa Trail Association invites public to celebrate decade of trail stewardship

Sept. 13 ‘Ales and Trails’ event honors dirt trails at Whiterock Conservancy

Des Moines — Central Iowa Trail Association is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a non-profit trail stewardship and advocacy organization by hosting ‘Ales and Trails’ — a public event at the Whiterock Conservancy near Coon Rapids, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 13.

‘Ales and Trails’ begins at 9 a.m. at Whiterock’s River House with activities including guided trail rides, a hike with Whiterock’s ecologist Elizabeth Hill, canoeing on the Middle Raccoon River and much more. The evening features a party in the storied Heeter Barn with music by Brother Trucker and a beer contest judged by event participants.

“This had been a very rough year for trail-loving Iowans,” said CITA president Ryan Hanser. “CITA has worked hard to repair damage to trails from this summer’s rains. It’s a perfect time to recognize and celebrate our decade of volunteer work that has brought so much enjoyment for cyclists, hikers, birdwatchers and others who appreciate natural trail experiences.”

Registration is required. There is a $20 fee to cover cost of meals and entertainment. Lodging is not included, but options ranging from B&B pampering to primitive campsites can be reserved through the Whiterock Resort. Visit http://www.centraliowatrails.org for details including a schedule of events and online registration.

As an affiliate of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Central Iowa Trail Association (CITA) works with public and private land owners to design, build and maintain sustainable dirt trail for shared recreational use. The all-volunteer organization was incorporated as an Iowa non-profit organization in 1998 and does more than 500 hours of trailwork on public land in central Iowa each year.

“CITA was proud to bring the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s trailbuilding school to Whiterock in 2006,” said Hanser, who is also Iowa’s state representative for the International Mountain Bicycling Association. “Returning to celebrate their progress as an organization is important, too. Whiterock’s commitment to sustainable, natural recreation makes it a perfect venue to celebrate our shared values.”

Whiterock Conservancy is a new land trust created to manage a 5,000 acre conservation land donation from the Garst Family of Coon Rapids. Its nonprofit mission is to research and promote sustainable land management practices; provide low impact public recreation and environmental education; and protect and restore the area’s natural resources, including a 30-mile network of dirt trails. In October 2005, the Coon Rapids-Whiterock area was designated by Governor Vilsack as one of the first three “Iowa Great Places.” The Iowa Legislature recently appropriated $1 million to the Department of Cultural Affairs for supporting Coon Rapids Great Place projects.

Directions to Whiterock: Coon Rapids is located 75 miles NW of Des Moines and 100 miles east of Omaha on Highway 141. The Conservancy land is east of Coon Rapids and south of Highway 141. Visit http://www.whiterockconservanc…  for more information about Whiterock Conservancy.


Ryan Hanser, President

Central Iowa Trail Association


Jeana Feazel, Resort Manager

Whiterock Conservancy

712-684-2697 x112

Sunday, September 14:

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer will headline the 31st Annual Harkin Steak Fry, to be held at the Indianola balloon field. For more details, click here:


Monday, September 15:

Conference Coordinator – Contract Job: Deadline for Application September 15

Iowa Network for Community Agriculture (INCA) is seeking a coordinator for its annual Local Foods Conference to be held in Mason City on February 6 – 7, 2009.  If you are interested, or know of someone who is, then please review the request for proposal on INCA’s website (http://www.growinca.org) and respond by early next week.

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Don't put a new road through the Des Moines River Greenbelt

John Wenck, an outreach coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources, had a good guest opinion column in Monday’s Des Moines Register about why building a new road through the Des Moines River Greenbelt is a bad idea.

This road project used to be called the “MLK extension,” because it would extend Martin Luther King Drive north through the river greenbelt. A group of environmental advocates and interested citizens helped defeat that proposal years ago.

Now it has been revived as the “Northwest 26th Street extension,” which is the Ankeny street that would be extended south through the greenbelt to connect with MLK on the Des Moines side.

A new name does nothing to lessen the impact of this road. A Sierra Club “sprawl report” from the fall of 2000 had this to say:

Tearing down urban highways has brought new life to neighborhoods long hemmed-in by the roads. Unfortunately, Des Moines seems to be heading in the opposite direction with the proposed extension of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. This project will put a highway in what is now an urban green space and flood-control zone.

The Des Moines River Valley is a unique urban green space that provides a variety of habitats for wildlife, plants and people. It is an important wintering ground for the bald eagle and ideal habitat for many species of migratory birds. This area also serves as a buffer between existing neighborhoods and the current interstate. Two bicycle trails run along the river and improve the transportation choices for Des Moines residents.

Building a highway through this area will clearly harm its value to wildlife, reduce the value of the land as a floodplain and make areas downstream more prone to flooding. The proposed extension will also encourage sprawl outside the city and add to the traffic and air pollution problems of the region. Middle- and low-income neighborhoods near the proposed route will suffer from more noise and air pollution.

Given that new highways draw more drivers onto the road, the parkway extension would do little to ease traffic. Rather than building a major new highway and destroying this open space, a smarter plan would enhance this urban green space and use public transportation to ease the area’s traffic congestion.

The last paragraph is crucial: this road project would do little to ease traffic. I am old enough to remember the debate over extending 100th St. in Clive over the Clive Greenbelt during the 1980s. That was supposed to solve a lot of traffic problems in the western suburbs, but it didn’t do the job. Instead, there has been more sprawling development and more traffic in the area.

The Des Moines River Greenbelt contains outstanding habitat for birds that are very sensitive to noise that would accompany a major road. We don’t have an abundance of riparian forests in central Iowa anymore and should preserve the ones that remain.

If you care about wildlife habitat and/or sound transportation policy, I encourage you to get involved with one or more of the organizations that are fighting the NW 26th St extension. They include the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club, 1000 Friends of Iowa, and Iowa Rivers Revival.

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Public transit is not just for the east coast

In June, I wrote about a bill passed by the House of Representatives providing $1.7 billion in funding for public transportation.

Noneed4thneed alerted me to this post by Matthew Yglesias, who reports that Hillary Clinton has introduced a companion bill in the Senate. However, only the New York and New Jersey delegations have signed on so far. Some members of Congress are trying to secure earmarks to fund public transit projects in their home states. Yglesias correctly points out that

Organizing needed funding through earmarks, however, is not an especially sound way to proceed. Far better to pass a proper, widely applicable bill that uses the federal government’s ability to engage in deficit spending to help provide some transit stimulus. At a time when booming energy prices are the main factor driving an economic downturn, cutting back on alternative transportation services is extremely foolish and will only prolong economic problems.

With cheap oil a thing of the past, there should be a strong bipartisan consensus in favor of better public transit in every state. I hope Iowa’s senators will support Clinton’s bill on this subject.

On a related note, this past Saturday 1000 Friends of Iowa organized a “tour de sprawl” in northern Polk County as part of its annual meeting. The bus tour took us through several areas in the corridor being considered for a four-lane beltway in northeast Polk County.

It is incredible to realize that Congressman Leonard Boswell will be seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for this road project. A very small number of people would benefit (primarily developers who are buying up farmland near the beltway’s path).

Meanwhile, valuable farmland could be lost and irreplaceable natural areas such as the Moeckley Prairie could be threatened.

The opportunity cost of spending hundreds of millions on a new road heading north from Altoona and then east to I-35 would be enormous. Traffic flows do not justify this project through sparsely-populated rural areas, especially when gasoline is expensive and many Americans are seeking alternatives to driving.

Imagine how many people in the Des Moines metro area would benefit from a significant federal investment in public transit and making roads safer and more accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists.

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Events coming up this week

As always, post a comment if you know of any important event I have left out.

Democratic candidates, send me your public schedules (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) so I can include your events on my calendar.

I have included notices about public meetings convened by the Rebuild Iowa Office, but note that  you can give your feedback in person any day at the Iowa State Fair:

The Rebuild Iowa Office will have representatives at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines to answer questions and hear Iowans’ concerns and ideas as the state moves forward with flood recovery. RIO representatives will greet Iowans alongside members of the Governor’s Office staff at the Governor’s Office booth, located in the center of the Varied Industries Building on the main concourse.

Iowans can also go online and submit their ideas at the Rebuild Iowa Office Web site (www.rio.iowa.gov) or call the RIO office at (515) 242-5004. […]

The RIO and Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission were established by Executive Order after the Flood of 2008. RIAC is a 15-person, bipartisan commission whose members chair nine task forces focused on specific issues that will develop further recommendations to support the state’s strategic recovery and rebuilding process. The Commission reports to the Lt. Governor. Major General Ron Dardis, adjutant general of the  Iowa National Guard serves as the Commission’s chairman. The RIO coordinates all state recovery activities.

Iowans can fill out “Speak up Iowa!” surveys at the RIO/Governor’s Office booth. “Speak Up Iowa!” input sessions are taking place across the state and were created to initiate dialogue on the major issues facing the State of Iowa and provide an opportunity for official public and community involvement, with specific focus on gaining input for the RIAC 45-day Report due Sept. 2, 2008. “Speak Up Iowa!” allows residents the opportunity to voice their ideas and desires regarding the long-term recovery of their communities.

Now, on to the rest of the calendar.

Sunday, August 10:

There’s a fundraiser for Rob Hubler in Carroll, which former Governor Tom Vilsack will attend. Reception starts at 6pm; dinner at 7pm. Crossroads Bistro, 12012 Hwy 71 in Carroll. To RSVP for this event, please call the Hubler campaign headquarters: 712-352-2077.

Monday, August 11:

The Rebuild Iowa Office is holding its third “Speak Up Iowa!” public input session at the Red Coach Inn, Banquet Rooms 2 and 4, 1200 Senate Avenue in Red Oak, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, August 12:

The Rebuild Iowa Office is holding its fourth “Speak Up Iowa!” public input session at the Iowa Central Community College Career Education Building (Rooms 108 and 110), 330 Ave. M in Fort Dodge from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

It’s the last day to reserve a spot at the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa’s Crossroad lunch event, which will take place on Friday, August 15. (see below for more details). For more information or to make a reservation, call (515) 279-8715 or email tiaiowa@dwx.com.

Tom Harkin is attending a fundraising reception and private classic car display in Ankeny hosted by Dennis Albaugh at 5:30 pm. The evening promises to be a fun one with over 120 classic Chevrolets for you to view.  For full details of this great event please click here.

One Iowa is holding its “Coffee House/Happy Hour” at Ritual Cafe, a time to meet like-minded friends and relax in a welcoming atmosphere, from 5:00 pm to 6:45 pm. At One  Iowa , we believe all families should have equal protections and responsibilities; the way to achieve this is through marriage.  As we continue our work toward Marriage Equality, this month Phyllis Stevens will talk about the Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights events going on in September. Ritual Cafe, located on 13th Street between Grand and Locust in downtown Des Moines, is an LGBT-operated coffee shop and cafe offering “really great coffee and food” in an open and affirming place. For questions, please contact One Iowa at (515)288-4019, or you can visit our web site at www.oneiowa.org.

State Representative Bruce Hunter (House district 62) is holding his Re-Election Kickoff and fourth annual Hunter house party, with special guest Michael Mauro, Iowa Secretary of State. The party will take place on Tuesday from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. at the home of Bruce Hunter & Betty Brim-Hunter, 452 Wilmers Avenue, Des Moines. Suggested donation $25. Please Make Checks Payable To The Committee To Elect Bruce Hunter.

The Des Moines Business Record is honoring this year’s “women of influence” at a reception on August 12 from 4:30 to 7:30 pm (honors presentation at 5:00) at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown. You can register for the event, which costs $25 to attend, at http://www.businessrecord.com. The honorees are:

Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu

Former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell

Des Moines attorney Lori Chesser

Community volunteer Sheila Drevyanko

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage employee Cara Heiden

Iowa Environmental Protection Commissioner and philanthropist Charlotte Hubbell

Community activist Willie Glanton

Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge

West Des Moines City Council member Loretta Sieman

The woman business owner of the year is Sarah Grant of Sticks.

Wednesday, August 13:

From the Iowa Power Fund:

(DES MOINES)- The Iowa Power Fund board of directors will hold three of its monthly meetings in locations around the state with the second meeting being held on Wednesday, August 13 in Algona.  This meeting, as well as the last summer meeting of the Power Fund directors, will be followed by an evening public forum on energy issues.

The August 13 meeting of the Power Fund directors will be held at 10:00 a.m. at the Water’s Edge  Nature Center, 1010 250th, Algona.  The meeting will include presentations by seven applicants for funding.  They will include: Soy Energy, LLC – Biodiesel Plant at Marcus using PEF Pellet Boiler; Carbon-Free Energy, LLC – Vertical Wind Turbine Manufacturer; The cornerstone BRAD, LLC managed by Bison Renewable Energy, LLC; Indigo Dawn, LLC – Green & Main, Integrating Efficiencies into a Historic Mix; I-Renew – Energy and sustainability EXPO; TPI Iowa LLC – TPI Wind Blade Advanced Manufacturing Initiative; Prairie Land Enterprises L.C – Switchgrass.

The evening public forum is the second in a series of six annual forums hosted by the Office of Energy Independence. The energy forum in Algona will also be held at the Water’s Edge Nature Center and will begin at 6:30 p.m.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

NW 26th Street Public Input Meeting

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Central Senior Center

2008 Forest Ave.

Des Moines, IA 50311

Commonly known as the MLK Parkway Extension, Polk County and other leaders are now calling this project the “NW 26th Street” project. This proposal consists of

   * Reconstruction of NW 26th Street to a 4-lane facility between IA 415 and I 35/80

   * Construction of a new interchange at I-35/80 and NW 26th Street, and

   * Construction of a new four-lane roadway on new alignment from near Euclid Ave/U.S. 6 and MLK Jr Parkway and the proposed NW 26th St interchange

This will be an open house with some audio/visual presentations, and held by Snyder and Associates, the engineering firm doing the study for Polk County. This will be a meeting to provide an update on the study and collect input on proposed alternative locations for the project, including possible expansion of existing streets in Des Moines like Beaver Avenue and 6th Avenue. Another alternative presented for public comments is for expansion of transit services in the metro area to prevent congestion in the future.

This meeting is a part of the Environmental Impact Statement, a federally required evaluation for a project that has extensive environmental impacts.

Thursday, August 14:

Congressman Leonard Boswell, who represents Iowa’s third district, will be speaking at the Des Moines Register’s Soap Box (outside the Register’s Service Center on the Grand Concourse) at 1:30 pm. As part of this new Iowa State Fair tradition, the Congressman will be speaking on the challenges facing our country in these uncertain times and about his work to put us back on the road to peace and prosperity.

Friday, August 15:

The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa is holding a Crossroads lunch featuring Michele Soria of New Realities Diversity & Innovation Training & Consulting:


Do I really value diversity?

Challenging perceptions & creating new behavior

Does equity exist for all people? Is it possible? What is my responsibility to create multi-cultural inclusiveness in society?

An intensely interactive experience which will challenge your beliefs and create new behaviors.

The Crossroads luncheon is Friday, August 15 from  11:45 am – 1  pm at Plymouth Congregational Church, 42nd &  Ingersoll Avenue , Des  Moines .

Reservations are required for Crossroads and must be received by Tuesday, August 12.

Cost is $8 and is payable at the door.

For more information or to make a reservation, call (515) 279-8715 or email tiaiowa@dwx.com.

Dr. Steven and Jill Kraus will be hosting a reception at their home for Tom Harkin in Carroll on Friday, August 15th at 5:30 PM.  Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be provided and valet parking is available.  For the full details on this event, please click here.

Saturday, August 16:

Senator Harkin and Mayor Jerry Sullivan, candidate for Statehouse (HD-59), will attend a fundraiser for Sullivan’s campaign from 3:00 to 4:30 pm at the Great Midwestern Café, 1250 NW 128th St in Clive. Catering provided by Great Midwestern Café. Suggested donation $50 (host levels higher). Checks can be made payable to Sullivan for State Representative, 7018 Franklin Ave, Windsor Heights, IA  50322. RSVP to Mike at mmccall@iowademocrats.org or call (614) 561-9117.

1000 Friends of Iowa is holding its 10th anniversary celebration and annual meeting at the Griffieon family farm near Ankeny. The event starts at 9:00 am and runs all day. Click here to register for the meeting or find more details about the event, including a schedule and directions to the farm. Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey will be the keynote speaker. Registration costs $30, and that includes an “Iowa grown lunch.” Other events of the day include:

Presentation – Connie Mutel author of The Emerald Horizon: The History of  Nature in Iowa  Mutel will describe her new book, which offers an opportunity to understand,  reconnect with, and nurture Iowa’s precious natural world. She’ll also discuss  the functions (such as flood-resistance) provided by healthy native communities,  and offer a challenge to restore these functions through reintegrating nature into  Iowa’s working landscape.      1:30     Presentation – Erv Klaas  Dr. Klaas will discuss how reserving valuable cropland for growing corn and  soybeans creates difficult challenges to livestock owners who use riparian zones  for pasture. He will use the Griffieon pasture to illustrate problems livestock  owners face, the technique LaVon is using to remedy the problem and how  improvements to water quality and to our streams depends on a total watershed  approach.       2:00     Tour de Sprawl – Guides: LaVon Griffieon & Stephanie Weisenbach  In the past decade development has encroached upon the farmland next to the  Griffieon’s farm.  We will tour the neighborhood by bus to see the changes made  upon some of the world’s most prime soils.

I am involved with 1000 Friends of Iowa and will attend this meeting, but not in my capacity as desmoinesdem, so don’t expect any talk about partisan politics!

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Obama in Cedar Rapids today and other events coming up

Use this as an open thread to talk about Barack Obama’s town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids today:

Economic Security Town Hall with Barack Obama

Coe College

Moray L. Eby Fieldhouse

1220 1st Avenue NE

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402


Doors Open: 9:30 AM

Program Begins: 11:30 AM

The event is free and open to the public.  However, tickets are required.

Also, here are some other events coming up.

Thursday, July 31:

It’s the last day to contribute to Barack Obama’s campaign for a chance to win a trip to the Democratic National Convention in Denver:


The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is also giving away a trip to Denver. Donate before midnight on July 31 for a chance to win:


One Iowa and Green Drinks are co-hosting a Happy Hour from 5 to 7 pm at the Hillside Condo Penthouse, 1902 Woodland Ave in Des Moines, suite 300 (the building next to the Gateway Market). Suggested donation $20, but no one is turned away. Please RSVP at oneiowa.org.

From Polk County Democrats:

You are cordially invited to attend a wine and cheese reception for John Scarpino, Democratic Candidate for Polk County Supervisor, at the home of Ray and Karen Blase, 913 NE 34th Street, Ankeny, July 31 from 5:30 to 7:30 P.M.

From the Rebuild Iowa Commission:

First ‘Speak Up Iowa!’ Public Listening Session Will Also Be Held at

Kirkwood Community College Thursday 4-7 p.m.

Press Release from Rebuild Iowa Office



First ‘Speak Up Iowa!’ Public Listening Session Will Also Be Held at

Kirkwood Community College

On Thursday, the Rebuild Iowa Office will hold its second Rebuild Iowa

Advisory Commission (RIAC) meeting at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar

Rapids to discuss the state’s recovery and rebuilding efforts following this

year’s severe storms and flooding. In addition, the public will have the

opportunity to give their input on the recovery process at the first “Speak

Up Iowa!” public listening session, which will also be held Thursday.

The “Speak Up Iowa!” listening sessions initiate dialogue on the major

issues facing the State and provide an opportunity for official public and

community involvement, with specific focus on gaining input for the RIO

45-day Report due September 2, 2008. The session will include nine booths,

each representing one of the nine task force areas. At these booths,

residents will have the opportunity to voice their ideas and desires

regarding the long-term recovery of their communities.


WHAT: Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission to hold its second meeting to discuss

the state’s disaster and rebuilding efforts.

WHERE: Emergency Operations Center

              (located in the Community Training and Response Center)

              Kirkwood Community College Campus

              6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW

              Cedar Rapids, Iowa

              (A map of the campus is available at


WHEN:   2 to 5 p.m.


WHAT: Rebuild Iowa Office holds first “Speak Up Iowa!” public listening


WHERE: Iowa Hall, Rooms A through D

              Kirkwood Community College Campus

              6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW

              Cedar Rapids, Iowa

(A map of the campus is available at www.kirkwood.edu/maincampus.)

WHEN:   4 to 7 p.m.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

Johnson County Conservation Board Holding Public Meetings on Land Conservation

A series of informational meetings will be held to receive input from the public on the Johnson County Conservation Board’s proposed $20 million Conservation Bond Issue Ballot Measure for land protection. The measure will be put before the voters of Johnson County on the November 4, 2008, General Election Ballot. Conservation Board members and staff will be on hand to give an overview of the proposal and Mark Ackelson, President of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, will facilitate the meetings.

According to the Johnson County Conservation Board’s newsletter, The Conservation Connection:

   * “Local organizations and individuals struggle to preserve some natural lands. The Johnson County Conservation Board, which has the mandated responsibility, has responded by making a serious commitment to find ways to protect more remaining vestiges of unique natural areas before they are destroyed by the relentless march of development.”

Two of these public meetings have already occurred, and there are two left.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

7:00 – 9:00 pm

North Liberty Recreation Center

Classroom C

520 West Cherry Street

North Liberty

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

7:00 – 9:00 pm

Solon Public Library

Meeting Room

320 West Main Street


To learn more about the proposal before the meetings, check out the JCCB’s newsletter article at


Questions about the meetings should be directed to Harry Graves, Director, Johnson County Conservation Board at 319-645-2315 or email hgraves@co.johnson.ia.us.

It’s a rare opportunity to vote on a topic such as this Conservation Bond Issue. Only through the involvement of committed citizens will governments be able to implement strategies that protect natural areas from development. Your ears, eyes, and voices are critical!

Friday, August 1:

From the Polk County Democrats:

The Festa Italiana is going on this weekend.  We will be manning a booth on Friday and Saturday this year.  The hours we need volunteers are:

Friday, August 1 5p – 7p or 7p – 9p

Saturday, August 2  2p – 4p, 4p – 6p, and 6p – 9p

Please let me know if you are available to help out.


Tamyra Harrison

Executive Director

Polk County Democrats


Saturday, August 2:

From Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa:

Volunteer Opportunity

Des Moines Farmer’s Market

Court Avenue Area

Des Moines

Saturday, August 2nd


Click Here to Volunteer!

Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa and the Healthy Families project will be at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market this Saturday, August 2nd.

We need your help!

Volunteers will represent the Planned Parenthood mission, and help educate people about the need to reduce unintended pregnancies in Iowa.  Of course we’ll be handing out lots of goodies as well!

Past Farmer’s market volunteers have had a lot of fun, and say it’s one of the best volunteer opportunities available.

“This was the first time I’ve ever volunteered for Planned Parenthood and it was so much fun!  I felt like I really made a difference!” – Judy, volunteer at past Des Moines Farmer’s Markets.

Help educate the public and have fun too. Any time you can give is much appreciated: work for a couple of hours, or the whole time. Shifts are available from 8am – 12pm.

Thanks for all that you do for Planned Parenthood!

E-mail Chelsea Hammond to volunteer (chammond AT ppgi.org) or call (515) 235-0415

From the Sierra Club e-mail loop:

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – A Priceless Gift

A Presentation and Storytelling

about a very Special Place

When:      Saturday August 2nd, 2008, at 10:00 am

Where:     Urbandale Public Library, Meeting Room A/B

               3520 86th Street Urbandale, Iowa  50322

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of America’s premier wilderness

areas.  The coastal plain of the Refuge has been threatened by oil drilling

many times in its 50 year history. Today, threats from Big Oil are greater

than they have been for over two decades.  Come learn about the history,

it’s values, and how you can help protect this national treasure.

This is a story, as well, of indigenous concerns, and about raising the

voices of those urging our government to recognize the rights of indigenous


For more information contact: Lois Norrgard 952-881-7282 lois@alaskawild.org

Presented by:

Sarah James, a Neetsaii Gwich’in Athabascan Indian from Arctic Village,

Alaska, raised in the traditional nomadic way. Sarah was one of the first

recipients of the Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award and

a co-recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her work

with the Gwich’in Steering Committee to protect the calving and nursery

grounds of the Porcupine River Caribou Herd. The Porcupine Caribou Herd has

sustained the Gwich’in for over twenty thousand years.

Lois Norrgard, the Upper Midwest Field staff for the Alaska Wilderness

League. She has worked for the League and Alaska Coalition for the past

three years, continuing to raise awareness about the values and threats

facing our beautiful wild lands in Alaska.

Some places are just too special to destroy for a short term gain – the

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of these places

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Main Street redevelopment benefits whole communities

This article from Wednesday’s Des Moines Register is worth your time: Grinnell theater renovation sparks projects downtown

Bill Menner, a Grinnell area economic development leader, points to the $2 million renovation and expansion of the city’s longtime theater as a turning point.

The 2004 redevelopment of the Strand Theater attracted Washington, D.C., developer Dick Knapp. The 1976 Grinnell College graduate is buying his third building in downtown Grinnell.

The theater project attracted a $7 million investment from the city for new sewers, water mains and streetscape in downtown. It attracted small businesses such as Grinnell FiberWorks, a quilting shop that receives busloads of shoppers.

Redeveloping the theater “got people excited and brought people downtown,” said Jim Ramsey, president of Grinnell Private Investment Corp., the group that organized efforts to reopen the theater. “It’s hard to find a place to park, even during the middle of the week.”


The theater, owned by 20 investors including former owner Fridley Theatres, “is holding its own” financially. It was expanded from one screen to three with a donated building next door.

Ramsey said it also brings business into downtown restaurants, shops and coffeehouses and has generated excitement about downtown.

Businesses like Fareway rebuilt its grocery store near the city’s core. Also, some businesses that located on Iowa Highway 146 are looking to relocate downtown, said Ramsey, president of Ramsey-Weeks, a real estate, insurance and investment company.

Investing in downtown helps revitalize local economies, and renovating existing buildings is more environmentally friendly than new construction at the fringe of town.

The Strand renovation was one of 1000 Friends of Iowa’s Best Development Award winners in 2005:

Originally built in 1916, the single-screen theater closed in 2002 and the operators suggested it might be economically desirable to build a multiplex on the edge of town, allowing for more parking than the downtown had to offer. A group of local investors (Strand LLC) were gifted the theatre by its owners, as well as an adjacent building shell (no roof following a 1998 snowtorm).  They committed to creating a three-plex on the site of the theatre plus the adjacent lot.  A local fundraising campaign generated $100,000 to restore the old 1916 façade. The total project exceeded $1.5 million.

The building is a beautiful testament to Grinnell’s commitment to maintaining its historic downtown and making efficient use of its existing infrastructure. The renovation is a delightful integration of historic elements with modern technology.

1000 Friends of Iowa is accepting nominations for the 2008 Best Development Awards through this Friday, July 25. Click here for more details about the categories and how to nominate a project.

Click here for information about the Main Street program at the Iowa Department of Economic Development. That page has links explaining some of the benefits of renovating the streets and neighborhoods where our historic buildings are located.

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There is still time to nominate "Best Development" projects

Last month I wrote about 1000 Friends of Iowa taking nominations for their annual Best Development Awards.

The original deadline for nominations was June 25, but because flooding caused disruption in many communities that may have worthy projects, 1000 Friends of Iowa has extended the deadline for submitting a nomination to July 25.

Read my earlier post, or go here on the 1000 Friends of Iowa site, to find more information about the Best Development Awards, how to nominate a project, and the criteria used to judge nominees.

1000 Friends of Iowa taking nominations for Best Development Awards

The non-profit organization 1000 Friends of Iowa gives out Best Development Awards every year to recognize “quality development and redevelopment projects in Iowa and leadership that upholds our mission.”

Here is the organization’s mission statement:

1000 Friends of Iowa promotes responsible development that

   *  Conserves and protects our agricultural and natural resources

   *  Revitalizes our neighborhoods, towns, and cities; and

   *  Improves the quality of life for future generations

The awards are given in six categories:

   * New Residential

   * Renovated Residential

   * Renovated Commercial/Civic

   * New Commercial/Civic

   * Mixed Use

   * Leadership

After the jump you can find more information about how to nominate a project, as well as the criteria used to judge nominees. That information can also be found here.

To see photos and read about the 2007 award-winners, click here.

The 2006 winners of the Best Development Awards can be seen on this page.

Click here to see which projects won in 2005.

The deadline for nominations is coming right up on June 25, so spread the word and act quickly if you know of a worthy project.

More details about the Best Development Awards are after the jump.

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