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Updated: Aug 10, 2022


In 1996, 11-year-old Lokus Ngo arrived with his Vietnamese family in Des Moines. After attending Roosevelt and Hoover high schools, he graduated from DMACC, became a tax preparer, and in 2017 organized the nonprofit Watchmen Community. With a crew of five to 10 volunteers, they pick up 50 or more bags of trash on a weekend. In 2021, Lokus and the Watchmen spent more than 600 hours picking up trash in Prospect Park.

This year, Des Moines Parks and Recreation recognized Lokus Ngo as 2021 Volunteer of the Year.

“When I go to Prospect Park,” says Lokus, who is president of the group, “I talk to people. I go there with a purpose. A few of them now help pick up trash after I talk to them for so long! The litter is actually getting better.”

Never heard of the Watchmen Group? Many haven’t.

This organization of 100, rooted in the Vietnamese community, has a goal of watching over humanity, protecting the environment and strengthening the community. “We just go out to make changes,” Lokus said recently, while we talked at his tax preparation office on Euclid Avenue.

Besides adopting Prospect Park, the Watchmen Group has a food pantry. “We help people cook food on Wednesday—about 80 meals a week,” Lokus related. “We have a 5,000-square-foot community garden on Hickman. And we teach self-defense and martial arts through our youth leadership program.

“We call it the Way of the Watchmen.”

Lokus, who still has family in Des Moines, is the type of person who, when he sees a problem, does everything in his power to try to find a solution,” says Rachel Haindfield, Des Moines Parks and Recreation field coordinator. “His optimism, perseverance, and caring personality make him a great partner and community leader.”

276 CUMULATIVE YEARS OF POLICE EXPERIENCE— AND A BUSHEL BASKET OF STORIES In the first six months of 2022, nine Des Moines Police Department senior officers with more than 276 years of experience quietly retired and walked out the door.

One of those was Lt. Larry Davey, who stepped down on June 30 as head of the 15-member Neighborhood Based Service Delivery (NBSD) unit, which includes neighborhood officers, mobile crisis officers, and youth services.

Before joining the force in 1989, Davey played bass for a couple of years with an Ohio-based touring Southern gospel band. He then spent 20 years as an Indianola fire medic.

When he joined the Des Moines force, Davey drove a 1990 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. There were no in-car computers then. Instead, Davey relates, a Remington model 870 12-gauge shotgun was secured vertically in the front passenger seat.

“I started out with a raggedy used vest,” Davey recalls. “We had to buy our own vests and weapons. The Velcro on my used vest was about shot, and it didn’t fit very well.”

After working nights for a year, Davey was assigned to the Strategic Complement Against Thugs (SCAT) unit, an anti-gang squad formed in June 1990, when out-of-state highly organized gangs—Bloods, Vice Lords, Crips, and Black Gangster Disciples—gobbled up a lot of ink in The Des Moines Register. “They intimidated locals and fought turf wars with other rival gangs,” Davey recalls. “Our job was to interrupt gang activities.”

After two years with SCAT, Davey moved on to the Tactical Unit (now known as Metro

STAR), where he served as the medic on entry teams, dive master for underwater search and recovery, and led annual CPR and EMS in-service classes for officers. In 2004, around when drug prevention and meth labs made headlines, Davey was assigned to the Neighborhood Area Resource Coordinators (NARC) office. His career eventually led to the NBSD, where he succeeded Joe Gonzalez, who was injured in an off-duty accident.

All sorts of stories jump out from Davey’s 33 years with the force.

With the Tactical unit, part of Davey’s regular assignments was river patrol. In August 1998, he made headlines by rescuing a man floating in the Des Moines River. “Officer sees ‘swimmer,’ then saves him from drowning” grabbed plenty of eyeballs in the morning paper. A few years later, a driver who suffered a heart attack and crashed into Principal Financial’s corporate headquarters survived because Davey quickly responded and administered CPR.

But the best moment in Davey’s career never saw an inch of ink.

Des Moines Police have a long tradition of hosting a free pre-winter community car check-up. When he informed one woman her front tires had no tread and she needed to replace them before snow falls, she broke down; tires are not inexpensive. After hearing her story, Davey felt compelled to buy her two new tires. Lt. (now a captain) Dave Seybert thought the same thing, and they split the cost, at Scott’s Automotive. The officers were astonished when the bill seemed unusually less than expected.

“I questioned the low cost,” Davey says, “and Scott [proprietor Scott Weyer] told me that they wanted to have a part in this. All in all, we ended up splitting the cost three ways.”

Stories like that aren’t Davey’s alone—officers throughout the DMPD and across America do great things for citizens day in and day out, and no one ever knows. To accomplish many of those great things, officers reach into their pockets. “Not for the glory,” Davey notes, “but because that's who we are.”

SAVE THE DATE! On September 14th, we will be hosting our next Ice Cream Social at Waveland Golf Course Clubhouse. Be sure to mark your calendars! We'll be making more announcements, including special flavors for 2022. Stay tuned!


Need an uplift from the daily grind? If so, pedal on down to the Carl Voss Trail and bask in the glory of a 21/2-acre field of sunflowers in full bloom.

The sunflowers greet cyclists, runners, and walkers as they round a curve about a mile from Easter Lake.

Hey, I bet you’ll be smilin’.


In May, I attended the William G. Stowe Citizen Water Academy at Des Moines Water Works, spending four Thursday afternoons immersed in details of water management and the challenges Des Moines and Iowa water users face. The agenda included a visit to the Des Moines and Saylorville water treatment laboratories, water regionalization, and the challenges of nitrate and phosphorus runoff to our drinking water.

Chris Jones is a research engineer with the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research. Jones initially calculated in 2019 that Iowa’s 20 to 24 million hogs produce the equivalent daily waste of 83.7 million humans. He’s updated his original numbers based on newer USDA data. All told, Iowa’s hogs, beef cattle, dairy cattle, laying chickens, and turkeys produce the equivalent waste of 168 million people. Jones calls this the “fecal equivalent population” (FEP).

Sadly, the waste from concentrated animal feedlot operations (CAFOs) is not spread evenly across Iowa’s fields. We are in deep…something.

Learn about when you can attend the next Water Academy.


The City of Des Moines, Polk County Supervisors, and Operation Downtown have hired the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) to develop a template for a safe and inclusive Court Avenue District.

RHI senior consultant Jocelyn Kane spent four days in Des Moines meeting with stakeholders, including Des Moines police, restaurant and bar owners, and downtown residents. Before completing her assessment and report, Jocelyn expects to make four or five additional trips to Des Moines to help redefine Court Avenue into a safe and vibrant hospitality zone while supporting a nighttime economy. A report is expected later this year.

Jocelyn welcomes input. Email her at


Melanie Navarro, 6, sits patiently while Jenny Masic paints her face as part of National Night Out activities at South Union Elementary School on Aug. 2.

Three Ward 4 neighborhood associations —Magnolia Park, South Park, and Fort Des Moines—drew more than 100 residents for the festivities at South Union. The three associations are working toward a merger this fall.

Twenty-seven of the City’s 52 recognized neighborhood associations participated in National Night Out gatherings sprinkled around the City.


Kaiyona Russian, a Roosevelt senior-to-be, was recognized as a “natural leader” recently among nine graduates of the Training and Education for a Career in Healthcare (TECH) program at Broadlawns Medical Center.

Beaming beside Kaiyona is program director Dennis Henderson.

Graduates of the eight-week apprentice program, which started in 2016 and has had 16 graduating classes, complete basic and advanced certified nursing assistant (CNA) programs, and earn six college credits. And the bonus for this entire class: Broadlawns offered immediate part-time jobs to high school students, and full-time jobs to spring graduates. Kaiyona will work 4-hour shifts as a PRN (pro re nata or as needed).

Ivette Muhammad and Tim McCoy
Jarmain Merritt


In December, the City awarded Creative Visions a three-year, $1.4 million contract to establish a violence interruption program in Des Moines. Second- and third-year contracts are planned using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. Supervisor Tim McCoy and site director Ivette Muhammad have branded the local Cure Violence campaign as CV3 VIP for the three Creative Visions services: food pantry, crime-victims assistance, and violence interruption.

The group is not connected to the police department, Tim emphasizes. “The community can’t see us as a threat,” he says. “Our words mean everything. We're about encouraging the community to trust us and encouraging youth to change.”

Staff members, described as violence interrupters, are community members with trusted street credibility. Tim described them as individuals whose “nights matched their days. They can’t be someone who preaches anti-violence by day and be a gun toter at night. You can’t fake the funk.”

So far, the CV3 team has mediated 56 conflicts. In one instance, a team heard about a brewing conflict via an “inroad”—a resident who sensed something up between a 17-year-old and a 23-year-old. Both young men were intoxicated. One felt he had been disrespected in front of female friends. He was ready to pull out a gun when Tim arrived.

“I told them I was here with no fear,” Tim said, adding he told them: “You can pull that gun and shoot us both. But the thing I want you to realize is that there’s a camera on that pole recording everything. Does it make sense to gun down someone trying to help you?” They separated the two and started mediation.

In February, Chicago-based trainers from Cure Violence Global arrived in Des Moines for a two-week violence-interruption and management training. Jarmain Merritt, a Cure Violence trainer for four-plus years, said the Des Moines team rolled out “thinking like a management team. They surpassed all other communities in their pre-and post-tests.”

Jarmain checks in weekly and visits monthly. On July 15, he sat in a real-time intervention that erupted between two youths just beyond a street closure for a neighborhood street party. “The team did good work,” Jarmain remarked.

During a recent discussion over ice cream at Smokey Row, Tim and Ivette recalled the winter training as intense. “We did a lot of training about reflective listening,” Tim said. “Don’t offer opinions; slow down the conversation; be non-judgmental. Then, we played back what we just heard.”

Since that training, Tim and Ivette have recruited three team members to work in the zones with the highest probability of gun violence. The target area is bound by Hickman Road on the north, Second Avenue on the east, I-235 on the south, and 27th Street on the west.

Ivette described one of the challenges they face as rolling hot spots. “We have ‘cliques,’ not really organized gangs,” Ivette said, describing them as self-guided and very mobile. “We have 13-year-old shot-callers,” she added with a shake of her head. “Children are the targets of shooters. It’s easier for these kids to get a gun than it is to find a Wi-Fi hot spot.”

As part of the community outreach, the CV3 team created its own Detection, Respond, Intervene, and Prevent (DRIP) program:

  • Detection: Communication with inroads to identify troubles, gather details about shootings to prevent retaliations, and build trust and rapport.

  • Respond: Respond to a shooting within 72 hours. Did it happen because of a pre-existing beef? Is retaliation likely? Does anyone on the CV3 team have a relationship with the individuals?

  • Intervene: Distribute CV3 materials in all four zones, engage with businesses and agencies, and inform them on how they can get involved. CV3 also spends Thursday afternoons talking to Meyer Hall juveniles.

  • Prevent: Host events to increase community engagement, provide resources, and introduce at-risk individuals to new opportunities.

Going forward, Ivette and Tim would like to add an on-call hospital respondent, someone recognized and trusted by emergency room staff to work with families of shooting victims. Similar hospital violence interrupters have performed well in other Cure Violence communities.


Suman Hoque, owner of HoQ Restaurant in the East Village, did a land-rush business on this year’s RAGBRAI, serving up breakfast wraps to the ravenous riders. In Rockford alone, riders queued up for 850 wraps served in just three hours.

Suman reported a 45 percent uptick in business over previous rides that included 16,200 hand-cracked eggs, and 900 pounds of house-made breakfast sausage.

Suman started preparing for this year’s ride in January, when he began freezing in-house naan bread. Suman assembled a support crew of seven for the ride, including his mother-in-law serving as RV driver and cashier.

In meeting towns, a crew of eight served up Say Cheese gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.

This is the fourth RAGBRAI for Say Cheese, reported co-owner Jake Whipple. The hungry riders consumed 775 pounds of Graziano cheddar cheese from Graziano Brothers and 1,000 loaves of South Union bread.

The crowd favorite: bacon and cheddar cheese.

“It was a fantastic week,” Jake added, “but the logistics of keeping everything refrigerated is huge. We kept the lines moving fast."

RAGBRAI first-timers Palm’s Caribbean Cuisine grilled its signature jerk chicken and jollof rice bowls—a West African dish—for a steady lunch crowd. The first 100 pounds of rice was gobbled up in three days, requiring a trip back to Des Moines for another 150 pounds.

“One guy from California came back every day and brought more of his friends,” Palm’s owner Amara Sama reported. “Another customer told us, ‘I didn’t know Iowans served this kind of food.’

“I told my team, ‘We are rookies and made the all-star team.’ ”

Say Cheese! and Palm’s Caribbean Cuisine operate from the Mickle Center Commercial Shared Use Kitchen in Sherman Hill.


Here are some numbers to share about summer activities in our City parks. * 42,564: Pools and aquatics centers attendance overall season, May–July (down from 59,708 in 2021 when all pools were staffed daily) * 3,494: Swimming lesson participants all season (up from 2,989 in 2021) * 523: pre-registered for Adult Recess, a new program at Captain Roy's (July 29 crowd of 600 estimated)

* 229: Registered youth football participants (up from 186 in 2021)

* 11,225: Number of plants (mums, pansies, chard, millet, dusty miller, red fountain grass) started in the City greenhouse for fall planting.

Union Park is currently available for the Adopt-A-Park Program. Parks and Recreation staff plan to expand its Adopt-a-Park/Adopt-a-Trail program in spring/summer 2023 with the hire of additional staff to support volunteers.


Des Moines Parks and Recreation offered free all-day camps to 200 children at Drake Park, Evelyn K. Davis Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and Weeks Middle School Park. It was the first offering of daily park activities since the 1980s.

Activities varied daily, from arts and crafts to nature-based programs, and from financial literacy to sports. Parks & Rec staff partnered with Central Iowa Shelter & Services (CISS), which provided lunch each day at no cost to campers for the two five-week sessions.

Campers took field trips to Blank Park Zoo, Des Moines Art Center, Principal Park for an Iowa Cubs game, Science Center of Iowa, Jester Park, City spraygrounds, and more. Campers also participated in free swim lessons at Teachout and Nahas aquatic centers. One of many highlights was the collaboration with the After School Arts Program (ASAP), which merged a weeklong arts camp into the City camp at the Evelyn K. Davis and Martin Luther King Jr. parks. Youths in the surrounding neighborhoods were invited to join, and ASAP and Parks served over 1,100 children in two weeks. Arts camp activities camp included dance, drumming, fiber arts, mixed media, painting, and sculpting.

“With first-year expansion unknowns and staffing challenges,” says Parks & Rec assistant director Jenny Richmond, “this was beyond a win.”

Amaree Neguissie

Amaree Neguissie—who, amazingly, resembled Santa at the Evelyn K. Davis Park “Christmas in July” celebration—was the lead recreation supervisor for the summer program.

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Photo credit: Iowa Cubs
Photo credit: Iowa Cubs

Get seated early for Friday evening’s Iowa Cubs game with the Columbus Clippers. You won’t want to miss the 14th annual pre-game ceremonies that transform Principal Park into a temporary courtroom. That’s right: a courtroom.

At 6:30 preceding the I-Cubs game with the Columbus Clippers (7:08 first pitch), U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Locher of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa will stride out onto the infield to conduct a swearing-in ceremony for 30 new citizens from 20 countries. It is a colorful, emotional event for those standing on the third-base line when they swear the Oath of Allegiance. And it’s a Kodak moment for cheering families and a stadium of baseball fans.

Michael Gartner, formerly the Iowa Cubs majority owner, once remarked, “It combines baseball and citizenship and fireworks, everything American but Mom and the apple pie.” Read more about the ceremony.

One of America’s newest citizens‚ Tammoy Bagchi, from India, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Countries represented Friday evening: Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, Congo (Kinshasa), El Salvador, Eritrea, India, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Mexico, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Korea, South Sudan, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

Since the first on-field event in 2009, 421 new citizens have been naturalized at Principal Park.

Here are remarks by U.S. Senior Judge Robert Pratt, who served up a memorable 2- or 3-minute speech in previous years.

Download PDF • 44KB


Des Moines Parks and Recreation staff recently completed installing new public art along five Des Moines trails. Pretty cool stuff! Be sure to check out the art—funded by a BRAVO Greater Des Moines grant—along the John Pat Dorrian, Bill Riley, Carl Voss, Neal Smith, and Walnut Creek trails. Park planner Aaron Graves, above, was in charge of the project, which represents 10 artists and photographers. HOMEOWNERS RENOVATION PROGRAM HITS $4 MILLION MARK Invest DSM reports that in two short years, homeowners have invested more than $4 million through the Homeowner Renovation Program. For every Invest DSM grant dollar ($1.367 million to date), property owners invested $1.93. The four Invest DSM targeted neighborhoods are Franklin Area, Oak Park/Highland Park, Drake Park, and Columbus Park. For 124 completed projects, the average project cost is $32,262. CITY-WIDE BLOCK CHALLENGE GRANTS: WIDELY POPULAR Heather Tamminga, the neighborhood outreach coordinator for Neighborhood Services, reports that 40 neighborhood teams applied for the citywide Block Challenge Grants for exterior projects that opened May 1. Some neighbors were roaring to go at the first opportunity: The first team application was posted at 12:01 am.

Because of the program's popularity, City funding for the program, originally budgeted for $200,000 in match funds, has been increased to $400,000. To date, 16 teams have been approved and exhausted the funding for the 2022 cycle.

The approved projects represent more than $1 million in planned home improvements by 207 homeowners.

Eight of the teams are in low-moderate income neighborhoods. Gray’s Lake Neighborhood was the most aggressive neighborhood association with four teams. Most teams were in Ward 1 and Ward 3.

Applications are now closed for 2022 but you can learn more about the program and plan for 2023. ZOO’S CONSERVATION PROGRAM GETS WINGS

A Butterfly bush in Melanie Johnson’s front yard on 44th Street

There’s a lot more going on at the Blank Park Zoo than visiting giraffes, rhinoceroses, and Red River Hogs. Conservation efforts, for example.

The zoo’s Plant.Grow.Fly. program is all about making residents aware of pollinator issues and taking action to preserve them. Chris Eckles, the zoo’s chief engagement officer, has been busy encouraging residents to register all types and sizes of garden spaces, from pots on a back porch to entire prairie restorations. No effort is too small, Chris reports: One nectar plant and one host plant qualify as a pollinator garden.

So far, residents have registered 1,641 gardens. Chris has a goal of 2,000. Here’s how to register yours. Here is how to register yours. BROADLAWNS NURSING STUDENTS SIT IN ON PORGY & BESS REHEARSAL

Ten students enrolled in this summer’s Training and Education for a Career in Healthcare (TECH) at Broadlawns Medical Center had a lifetime experience when they sat in on Porgy and Bess dress rehearsals at Simpson College. And seeing Simon Estes rehearse for his final stage performances? Woozier!

Izaah Knox, left, Urban Dreams executive director, and Dennis Henderson, right, TECH program director, arranged the evening with the cast rehearsing for the Des Moines Metro Opera performances. The TECH class includes upcoming seniors and recent graduates from five Des Moines high schools.

There were 100 applicants for this year’s TECH 8-week program; 10 were accepted. TECH details listed here:

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OMG! WHAT’S THAT SMELL? I think we can agree on this: A capital city that bills itself as a world-class community shouldn’t harbor “gag-me” odors on still mornings. Or any mornings. Des Moines has no legal definition of a nuisance odor or what constitutes a nuisance odor, but we’re about to attempt to clear the air. Sometime this fall, the City Council is expected to enact odor regulations and guidelines. The goal is to set a baseline for acceptable odor and ask companies to take steps to meet that goal.

In preparation, on May 16, Suresh Relwani, a principal with RK and Associates of Warrenville, Illinois, begins hands-on training of City neighborhood inspectors on odor science, odor sources, detection, and industrial monitoring. Neighborhood Services staff has identified ten odor-producing sources dotting our city.

In part 2 of the training, City staff are sorted by odor sensitivity to identify the best candidates for conducting field monitoring and responding to odor complaints. Those with a nose for this job learn how to locate an odor source, produce a quantitative number, and determine probable composition.

“We’ll train the staff on the scientific perspective and what is acceptable,” Suresh says. “Every odor can’t be a nuisance.” Part of the training includes learning how to use an olfactometer. (The photo above shows one model.) The New York Times recently profiled one model, the Nasal Ranger. Suresh and staff plan to remain in Des Moines for several days to collect samples, then return in August for another round of sampling before finalizing a report to the City Council.

HUGE UPGRADE FOR DOWNTOWN PARKING The long-awaited replacement of downtown parking meters, with 3,406 space identification markers and 400 pay stations, is underway. As of May 6, 1363 meters have been swapped out, and 223 pay stations activated. (The photo, bottom left, is along Water Street.) City Traffic Engineer John Davis expects an early July completion for the $3.2 million upgrades.

With the new scheme, individuals can pay for parking using a nearby pay station (quarters or credit card accepted) or the ParkDSM mobile app. John Davis reports that about 54% of the 2,700 payments have been via the mobile app, available for Android or iOS.

John Solarz and his team at NowNow LLC created the ParkDSM branding.

(I used the technology—and it works easy-peasy as promised! After you download the app, add your credit card info and provide license plate details on your family’s vehicle; it saves time.)

Why the roll-out delay? Besides the pandemic-induced supply-chain-related holdups, the first shipment of space identification markers was lost in transit—the driver, truck, and cargo just disappeared. Poof! Theft at the terminal of origin is highly suspected.


Firefighter Katherine Hoffman, foreground, was one of 17 new Des Moines firefighters sworn in on April 15 at ceremonies at the Fire Administration, Maintenance, and Training Facility on East Dean Avenue. With recent additions, Fire Chief John TeKippe hopes for his department to be at the authorized strength of 312 personnel, an increase of six by the latest City-approved budget.

Katherine was one of four women in the class—the largest female representation among 97 academy classes.

The City’s Human Resources department, Civil Service Commission, and Des Moines Fire Department (DMFD) are reviewing applicants previously certified by other fire departments for an academy class to begin in August. They are expected to join the department in late November. This would be DMFD’s first pre-certified class.

The 98th Fire Academy started training in January and is scheduled to graduate in early 2023.


Two fire department enhancements rolled out as part of the November 2021 opening of Station 11 will be embraced for all DMFD stations.

The $8.3 million Fire Station 11 at Northeast 42nd Avenue uses a direct-capture device that connects to the fire engine to trap vehicle exhaust when preparing to leave on an alarm, and disconnects when leaving the station. It’s pretty slick to watch the device in action.

A second big change: The DMFD now provides a second set of firefighting gear for all personnel, including firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics. This allows personnel to clean cancer-causing agents from their gear after a call without incurring downtime. “We will do this over more than one budget cycle, so it becomes a regular replacement cycle,” Chief TeKippe says. “It takes advantage of gear with years of remaining useful life and avoids a massive replacement cost several years from now.”

Safety enhancements like these are part of the template for upcoming station designs,” Chief John TeKippe says. “We are also working to see what improvements we can retrofit into stations that will not be replaced for some time.” Before opening Station 11, the newest fire station was Station 1 at 1330 Mulberry, which opened in 2013. Station 4, at 917 University, is the next station slated for replacement; site acquisition, design, award, and construction are projected for 2024 or 2025. Station 4 would continue to be fully staffed while a new station is designed and constructed. Fire medic Tyler Mark created this Station 11 virtual tour. You can schedule an in-person tour for yourself or a group at Station 11 or any station. Contact Lieutenant Rick Thomas at 515-979-6438 or the neighborhood station you wish to visit. SOUND THE ALARM! FREE SMOKE DETECTOR REPLACEMENT FOR TWO NEIGHBORHOODS

When Susan and I were rudely awakened at 4 a.m. one recent morning with four—count ‘em!—direct-wired smoke detectors screaming at us, we dialed 911 and waited outside for a DMFD crew to roll out. Turned out, we were clueless that this is how smoke detectors react when they reach the end of their life expectancy. Who knew that you should replace them every seven to 10 years?

Lieutenant Joe Van Haalen, first out of the truck, nicely explained that when one such direct-wired detector fails, they all join in the chorus. Now we know! It’s not just about the batteries!

On Saturday, May 14, the Indianola Hills and McKinley-Columbus Park neighborhoods are scheduled to host the National Sound the Alarm Event, a free smoke detector installation program organized by the Red Cross, DFMD, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The 115-plus volunteers aim to install dual-sensor (carbon monoxide and smoke) alarms at each home on the appointment list: 300 detectors in one day. Make an appointment today by calling 833-422-1751.


Within the next few weeks, expect to see the remaining trailers crushed and scraped from a troublesome mobile home park near Park and Indianola avenues. Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) Executive Director Abbey Gilroy reports that plans are underway for approximately 54 workforce housing units in two buildings.

The NDC, funded in part by the City of Des Moines, recently took over ownership of the two-acre property at 3140 Indianola Road. At the time of purchase, 27 families occupied 30 trailers; city and county staff helped residents relocate.

Because the park originated in the 1950s, before the property was annexed into the City limits, neighborhood inspectors had limited regulations to seek housing compliance.

The City of Des Moines and Polk County Supervisors played vital roles in providing the resources necessary to bring this long-discussed transformation to reality.


The new Metro Recycling Facility (MRF), just north of I-80/35 and the Iowa Highway 141 exit, has proven in five short months to be a game-changer in the recycling world.

This $28 million facility is part of the Metro Waste Authority (MWA) and its 16 member communities, with Adel and Waukee the newest additions.

Billed as one of the USA’s top recycling centers (on par with high-tech facilities in San Francisco and Chicago), the MRF has recycled more than 11,356 tons, primarily from curbside blue recycling bins. That’s the equivalent of 284 semi-trailers maxed to the weight limit.

The MRF processes 17 to 20 tons per hour, thanks to the no-wrap, non-round augers, which separate many materials before they reach the sorting team. The facility is only the second in the world to employ this technology, enabling it to have sold, in five months, about $1.7 million worth of aluminum, milk jugs, aseptic containers such as drink and milk cartons, paper, cardboard, and glass, 115% over budget. Many recycled products from the metro’s previous recycling center were not considered clean enough for purchase.

MRF vendors currently buy fifty-two 1,500-pound bales of aluminum cans each month; each bale represents about 70,000 cans.

MRF doesn’t just handle curbside recycling. For example, it collects pallets it sells by the trailer load. “We have customers lined up to buy as many pallets as possible,” Metro Waste Authority Executive Director Mike McCoy says. “Trucking companies are especially interested.”

One recent tour by a local breakfast group led to the opening of three new MRF accounts. Bob Tursi quickly signed up Exile Brewing to send broken bottles and cardboard directly to the MRF.

Expanding commercial accounts should help contain residential recycling fees, Mike adds. To schedule your tour, email Sarah Borzo, education and outreach coordinator, at:

Mike also reports that many residents are getting better at tossing approved products into recycling bins. The metro-wide contamination rate is 13–17%. However, Des Moines residents lag behind our suburban neighbors: blue-bin contamination in the capital city remains 17–19%. Most frequent banned products: plastic bags, diapers, and clothing.

If you place only qualified objects to be recycled in your bin, you can earn Gold Level distinction. Request an audit today; if you pass muster, you can have your bin’s blue recycling bin lid replaced with a gold one—and be a recycling example for your neighborhood.

Another MWA improvement: You no longer have to wait for the biweekly pickup to dispose of your recyclables. The MWA has opened 16 drop-off facilities around the metro for residents and businesses. Find them here. RIDESHARE VAN KEY TO AFGHAN JOBS AT MRF

Thanks to a DART RideShare van, Abdul-Nawid Mohabati and other Afghan refugees who work at the MRF should soon find it easier to get to their jobs.

Earlier this year, Abdul-Nawid and several refugee friends landed $16-an-hour sorter jobs at the MRF. But transportation was a hurdle.

MWA Executive Director Mike McCoy’s wife, Lisa, drove the group for the first few weeks. Then, Abdul-Nawid earned his driver's license. (A MRF employee loaned his car for Abdul-Nawid’s practice laps around the parking lot during lunch breaks.) Next, Metro Waste employees teamed up with DART to get him in line for a RideShare van.

Abdul-Nawid’s first RideShare trip is slated for May 27. His backup driver is an Afghan friend who served as an interpreter in their home country. In addition to being paid to pick up and ferry the other newly arrived Iowans for their MRF shifts, Abdul-Nawid receives 200 free personal miles per month with the RideShare van.

Abdul-Nawid’s journey provides a snapshot of how collaboration accomplishes great results in Des Moines.


In mid-April, four Des Moines high school athletes were part of a presentation seeking Prairie Meadows supporting dollars for the community stadium under construction for Drake University and Des Moines School District athletics. Teagen O’Brien, a North High sophomore soccer player, spoke first. “North isn’t known for much,” Teagan began. “We’re the high school that everyone looks forward to playing because they think we’re the easy team to beat.

“No, we’re the high school with a chip on all of our shoulders. The high school that works harder and pushes more than any other high school.

“Behind the scenes at practice, we’re going at it 110 percent all the time, every time. We don’t worry about what people say about us. We show up, do the right things, and be great people every day.

“This isn’t just a stadium for middle and high schoolers. No, it’s much more than that. It’s the start of a partnership between DMPS and Drake. It’s the start of something that can offer student-athletes like myself more opportunities to become D1, D2, or D3 athletes.

“If you build this stadium, we will be something.”

Good luck, Teagen. When the stadium is finished, you’ll be a senior and one of the first soccer teams on the pitch.

And good luck to all the Des Moines football, soccer, and band programs eagerly awaiting this community stadium, scheduled to open in Fall 2023.


Five people have been hired to the new Crisis Advocacy Response Effort (CARE) team, a Broadlawns Medical Center group expected to roll out this summer, responding to emergency calls where mental health is a factor.

Working out of the Des Moines police station, team members, including registered nurses, master’s-level psychotherapists, and social workers, participate in crisis-response training. “We will respond to all child, and adult mobile crisis requests through DMPD and other area law enforcement,” Broadlawns Administrator Steve Johnson says.

The City of Des Moines is funding two pediatric CARE clinician positions. (City funding was promised as part of the successful LOSST effort supported by AMOS and others.) “Both nurses have a great background in child mental health,” Steve says, adding that meetings are planned with Des Moines Public Schools staff to see how the program can assist with their child mental-health needs.

Three other CARE team members hold bachelor’s degrees with mental health experience. Referred to as CARE Crisis Advocates, they rotate between working in the DMPD dispatch room to determine the appropriate level of response to a call, and in the field with a CARE Pediatric Clinician. Dispatchers from the three Polk County communication centers—about 100 in all—have received 16 hours of mental health training to aid in the dispatch of the CARE members.

CARE adds to the existing Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT), which provides short-term on-site assessment and intervention in emergency situations. Des Moines Police Sergeant Lorna Garcia, who has worked with MCRT for more than five years, reports that a DMPD-added checkbox into the computer-aided call system prompts a dispatcher to transfer the call to a CARE Crisis Advocate if a call is determined to have a mental-health component.

Added tracking data should guide the CARE team on how the program should evolve. An ultimate goal of this new program is to handle such calls independently over the phone, saving time, money, and possible tragedy.

All CARE team members will drive unmarked vehicles and wear a Broadlawns lanyard and attire for identification.

NEW TRAIL MAPS ARE AVAILABLE The 2022 Greater Des Moines Regional Trails map is available at local bike shops and through Des Moines Parks and Recreation. This year’s edition, its 13th, has moved to a larger format and includes 50 updates and expanded trail detail. The Street Collective updates the map each year; more than 400,000 maps have been printed since its inception. This year’s version features Scott Bents with twin 4-year-old daughters biking on the Waveland Trail. Scott bikes the twins around Des Moines on an Urban Arrow Family electric cargo bike—yes, e-cargo bikes are now a thing in the cycling community. Dan Koenig at Ichi Bikes reports an uptick in e-cargo bike sales that matches national trends. The New York Times reports that e-cargo bikes are popular ways for parents to ferry kids.


“Hey, you can’t get any more local than me,” local artist Jimmy Navarro exclaims. When he sets up his Des Moines Arts Festival booth, scheduled for June 24–26 in Western Gateway Park, Jimmy, who paints at Crane Artist Lofts at 15th and Walnut streets, expects just a short walk. And this local artist might be walking on air about being juried into the prestigious show for the first time. He intends to have artwork from 5 x 7 inches to 60 x 60-inch canvases—something original to fit many pocketbooks.

“Last year was a really good year for me,” Jimmy says while detailing another canvas in his first-floor studio. “I’m 50 years old now, and I feel like things are finally coming to fruition. Everything I wanted at 25, I’m getting now.”

Liz Lidgett, who represents Jimmy at her East Village gallery, couldn’t be prouder.

“Jimmy has passion and energy that he channels into his beautifully vivid Plein-air paintings,” Liz says. “I’ll always be jealous of his ability to see something and perfectly represent it on canvas. We’ve done so many commissions and murals with Jimmy because he has this connection with his paintbrush to create whatever he decides.”

One of Liz’s favorite things about Jimmy’s work is his bold use of colors such as orange, hot pink, and purple skies and sunsets. “You feel like Jimmy captured a perfect moment in time when Mother Nature was really showing off,” she says.

Also, Jimmy’s 2021 larger-than-life murals wrapping around a cinderblock building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds caught the attention of many visitors. Here’s a time-lapse video of Jimmy’s work.

Jimmy often connects with the Iowa landscape and city views while running or biking. In 2020, he was part of Taylor Ross’ support crew when Taylor set an elapsed-time record for running across Iowa from Muscatine to Council Bluffs along Highway 92. “I filled up my smartphone with scenes I’m still painting,” Jimmy says of the nearly five days accompanying Taylor.

Before committing oil to canvas, Jimmy revisits some locations multiple times during the day to capture the changing light. One downtown Des Moines scene he is working on encapsulated 22 trips.

After the Des Moines festival, Jimmy will participate in the Door County Plein Air Festival,

followed by a three-week residency at White Rock Conservancy—all the makings of another good year for Jimmy.

Eric Burmeister, Polk County Housing Trust Fund; Angela Connolly, Polk County supervisor; and Michael Kiernan, a general partner, walk through the 6th Avenue Flats.


Located just north of University Avenue in the River Bend Neighborhood, the 6th Avenue Flats plans to begin leasing on June 30, after a November fire pushed the project back several months. City Council, county, and nonprofit leaders toured the site earlier after the fire damage was abated and construction crews were rolling again.

The project shows a preference for young adults aged out of foster care who have the ability and interest to enroll in the DMACC Urban Campus, blocks away. Youth and Shelter Services (YSS) will occupy first-floor offices in the five-story building. The remaining apartments will be leased to adults who earn 60% of the area median income, which is $54,780 for a family of four.

Many of the 38 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments have incredible views of the city. Five first-floor live-work lofts could appeal to retailers or entrepreneurs.

The Iowa Finance Authority, City of Des Moines, and Polk County Housing Trust Fund provided public financing.

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