Aug 21

Eclipse day

As you may be aware, there’s a solar eclipse across the country today. Iowa is only going to get a partial experience of it, though. A little sliver of the very southwest corner is supposed to be in the “path of totality”, but if the map overestimates the shadow by half a mile on either side, that won’t happen. Fremont County has made preparations, although Waubonsie State Park itself isn’t in the path.

Cosmic irony being what it is, most of Iowa will be under overcast if not rainy skies, because that’s what happens in an abnormally dry month that absolutely needed one sunny day. (OK, three sunny days, since my two at the state fair also got dripped on.)

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Aug 18

Interactive maps, data on Iowa school districts

As part of the Gazette’s Iowa Ideas series leading up to a conference, a slew of enrollment and building information has been mapped out on a data page. (Warning: Autoplay video)

Many of the maps have the districts outlined and clickable but the area is a bit cramped. (Phenomenal big-data powers…itty-bitty viewing space.) The top one is a much more advanced version of the color-coded enrollment changes map I created last year and I wish I knew how to do something like it. Also included are pinpoints of every active school building in the state.

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Aug 17

Former education department official now South Tama’s superintendent

Jeff Berger, formerly a deputy director at the Iowa Department of Education, had his name in the news a few times because of some rare situations. He was involved on the state’s behalf in the recent cases of the Farragut school district’s forced dissolution and Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s petition-triggered dissolution vote.

Last September he abruptly ended his work with the state (or at least the lack of details in the Des Moines Register article makes it seem as such).

Now he’s resurfaced on a one-year contract as South Tama’s superintendent, according to the Toledo Chronicle/Tama News-Herald website. The previous superintendent’s contract wasn’t renewed at a May meeting.

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Aug 16

License Plate Letters — GBN

The Global Broadcasting Network sounds like one of those fictional news networks created for a TV show or movie, doesn’t it?

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Aug 15

‘Prioritization’ for four-lane US 30 segments

Last week’s Iowa Transportation Commission meeting included approval of “U.S. 30 Corridor Prioritization,” a designation that doesn’t mean anything concrete yet on a timeline or funding. Stories: KWQC (above, misidentifying “Iowa Highway 30″ at the start), KCRG (using KWQC’s footage).

The Clinton Herald has a lot more information, including the four segments being prioritized: De Witt to Calamus, Stanwood to Lisbon, Ogden to Jefferson, and a Missouri Valley bypass. Notably, the motion passed by one vote.

While I argued recently that maybe what’s left of two-lane 30 in eastern Iowa didn’t need to be four-laned, there is a safety argument to be made. In central Iowa, the big bottleneck is going to be the Grand Junction railroad overpass, for which a new bridge is being built right now that has a special Lincoln Highway-themed design. Either we get one to match or something’s going to look very off. The new lanes would have to be on the south side of the current road there, but then switch to the north to avoid businesses. Then just to the west of that, we pretty much have to have new overpasses because otherwise there’ll be an expressway with an at-grade railroad crossing right by a major intersection. IA 144 can be moved to the west, but the railroad is still there. A Missouri Valley bypass to the south looks easy except it would also involve two railroad crossings. This is going to take a while, and since the state already has plans out to 2022, any progress on any of this won’t come until after then.

(The “transfer of jurisdiction” for US 61/IA 92 at that meeting is for the part of the current two-lane left behind when the four-lane opens, BTW.)

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Aug 14

Cedar Rapids converting Second Avenue to two-way

Starting today, Cedar Rapids will being converting Second Avenue from one-way to two-way in downtown. This is one block east of Business 151. It’s going to take a while because the city is going to add “bump-outs” — things on corners that stop you from driving straight ahead from the parking area — and new railroad crossing signals have to be put in. Here is a city map (PDF) showing what streets are going to be converted the next couple of years, and which ones are staying one-way.

The Second and Third avenue bridges are going to have angle parking installed, with one lane of traffic in each direction. While Second and Third currently have three lanes of through traffic, addition of the bike lanes probably takes that down to one each way. All the stoplights along Second Avenue downtown are going to be taken out and replaced with four-way stops, too.

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Aug 11

The ‘game that still does not compute’

The Omaha World-Herald’s Tom Shatel is marking 40 years of sports reporting. The vast majority of that was with the Big Eight and Big 12. Iowa State pops up a couple of times in his memorable moments, including the 1992 Marv Seiler game. I knew that was Osborne’s only loss to a team that would finish under .500; I didn’t know it was Nebraska’s first loss to a team not named Oklahoma or Colorado since 1978.

The 25th anniversary of that game is this fall. In a sign of how much the college football world has changed, in the anniversary month, Iowa State will be playing conference games at West Virginia and Baylor.

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Aug 10

SHOCK POLL: 4 in 10 Iowans are imposters

August 15, 2016: Boldly going where 1 million people go a year.

I’m as crushed as Kyle Munson is about this revelation about the Iowa State Fair, which starts today:

[A] recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows that 40 percent of Iowans haven’t even bothered to attend the fair in the last decade.

The Register’s other columnist, Dan Finney, is on the record as a huge fair hater. But to find out, when once-a-decade visitors are added, that more than half the state balks at one of the “1000 places to see before you die”… call me odd, because I can’t even. (We already knew you were odd. —Ed.)

I’m one of the 7 percent that’s earned a ribbon at the fair, too, all but two of them 4H-related. I thought I had a shot this year, but laid a goose egg on photography entries. (0-for-4! Super bummed!)

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Aug 09

Rolling Stone article has Iowa-related inaccuracy

A Rolling Stone profile published more than six weeks ago has a factual error related to Iowa. (Fake news in Rolling Stonewhodathunkit?)

In the article “Meet the Megadonor Behind the LGBTQ Rights Movement,” about multimillionaire (and Quark founder) Tim Gill, there is this passage, repeated below in both text and screenshot for posterity:


In 2006, its first election year, Gill Action defeated 50 of the 70 candidates it targeted, including the Republican speaker of Iowa’s House of Representatives.

In 2006, the Republican speaker of Iowa’s House of Representatives was Christopher Rants of Sioux City. Rants won re-election unopposed. (The Democratic candidate dropped out between the primary and the general.) He lost the speaker’s gavel for the 2007-08 session because Democrats took the majority in the Iowa House, and served as minority leader instead. The article, however, makes it appear that Rants was one of 50 candidates defeated with help from Gill’s PAC.

I e-mailed the editors on the contact page two weeks ago and heard nothing, and the passage is still there.

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Aug 08

They held an election and no one showed up

September 29, 2015: Outdoor post office boxes (left) replaced the post office building (right) in McIntire in 2011.

Special elections are notoriously low-turnout things. See, for example, the vote last week on supervisor districts in Linn County, which existed only because the same resident who lobbied for a vote on reducing the board of supervisors from five to three pushed a petition demanding the selection. More people signed the petition than turned out to vote!

But also last week, the northern Iowa town of McIntire was supposed to have a vote on changing mayor and council terms of office — and no one voted. Stories: Mason City Globe Gazette, KWWL/AP. The poll workers couldn’t vote because they were from out of town. There are only 70 registered voters total.

It’s been more than six years since the post office in McIntire was closed (PDF, p.11), one of a batch shut down in 2011 before Iowa got a moratorium on further closures.

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