Let's Catch Up: August


I haven’t heard a peep about back-to-school sales this year. But what does dominate conversations is: What the heck will this year’s school year look like for our kids?

Susan and I will have three grandkids attending Des Moines public schools, plus a niece teaching at the Walnut Street School. You bet that we’re keenly interested.

When it comes to Iowa school districts, one size does not fit all. I’m confident we can agree that there’s a vast difference between the needs of the Diagonal School District (127 students total) and the Des Moines district (which serves 32,000-plus students).

A unilateral decree for all 365-plus Iowa school districts is unacceptable and ill-timed. Science and facts should dominate the decisions. Front and center should be the health and safety of our kids, teachers, and the school support staff.

I support Des Moines Public Schools administration and the school board to make wise decisions on how to best map out the upcoming school year.


COVID-19 has its grip on our entire society—without any signs of letting up. Just this week, City Manager Scott Sanders delayed the reopening of city buildings at least until October 1.

Some business, like LaMie in the Roosevelt Shopping Center, have a strict mask guideline, as the photo to the right suggests.

I believe mandating masks is the correct public choice to help bring this pandemic under control. But given the current posture from our State Capitol and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, a city mask mandate doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. For now.

On July 31, Mayor Cownie amended his emergency proclamation regarding outdoor gatherings. Mayor Cownie “strongly and urgently encouraged all persons in the City of Des Moines to wear a face covering such as a cloth mask, surgical mask, plastic shield or similar covering that covers their nose and mouth when in a public place.”

The entire proclamation:

In 2001, Lorinda Peters and I served together on the Capital Striders board of directors and created Tour de Lights, the walk, run, and bike evening through the Jolly Holiday Lights at Water Works Park. Lorinda, who now lives in Texas, posted some danged good reasons to wear a mask. I’ve tweaked her Facebook posting, which provides sound reasons why I also choose to wear a mask in public:

  • I have read enough to know that I could be asymptomatic and still pass the virus on to you.

  • I don’t live in fear of the virus; I just want to be part of the solution, not the problem.

  • I don’t feel that the government is controlling me; I feel that I’m an adult contributing to society, and I want to help others the same.

  • The world doesn’t revolve around me. It’s not all about me and my comfort.

  • If we all could live with other people’s considerations in mind, this whole world would be a much better place.

  • Wearing a mask doesn’t make me weak, scared, stupid, or even controlled. It makes me considerate.

  • Are you worried about how you look, how uncomfortable your mask is, or what others think of you? If so, imagine your child, your father, your mother, or a grandparent, aunt, or uncle choking on a respirator, alone without you or any family member allowed at the bedside.

  • Ask yourself if you could have sucked it up a little for a while.


My friend Ira Lacher draws an excellent line between the popularity of the Broadway production of Hamilton (now on Disney Plus) to another topic that squirts out in conversation, emails, and social media. Aren’t we Iowans fuming about the same issue—home rule—that drove a wedge between Great Britain and the 13 colonies?

Iowa communities seemingly can’t make a single move without state approval. Besides masks and back-to-school mandates, the legislature recently hobbled Des Moines’ efforts to regulate short-term commercial rentals (popularity known as Airbnbs).

Apparently, the mantra from Republicans in the State House is: “We’re all for local control…except when we’re not.”

The Iowa constitution doesn’t prevent municipalities and counties from instituting their own rules. The only restriction is that the rules can’t involve imposing a tax. “The home rule amendments of the Iowa Constitution give cities and counties authority to determine their own local affairs and government in a manner which is not inconsistent with state statute, except that home rule power and authority does not extend to the authority to levy a tax without the express authorization of the General Assembly.” (11Iowa Const. Art. III, §§ 38A, 39A.) Here’s a link.


Calls for an investigation into Des Moines protests and demonstrations continue to dominate local conversations.

According to Des Moines Police Department policy and procedures, they always investigate each incident of use of police force. (In 2019, 425 use of force investigations/202,000 calls for service; 0.2 percent resulting in use of force). The Iowa Code provides guidelines of how investigations could proceed between employers (in our case, City of Des Moines) and peace officers (Des Moines Police Department officers). Of particular interest: investigations that include discipline, demotion, or suspension.

Some residents have emailed me, demanding that the Des Moines Civil & Human Rights Commission investigate the Des Moines Police Department. The emails don’t explicitly reference discipline, but the assumption is an easy leap.

Chapters 80F and 400 of the Iowa Code create a comprehensive process and govern the relations between employers and peace officers.

In 2007, the Iowa Legislature created mandatory process requirements in Section 80F in conjunction with Chapter 400 for all peace officer investigations leading to discipline, demotion, or suspension. State statute and case law limit Iowa city councils regarding police investigation and discipline. The state legislature would have to authorize designating a different citizen review board with a disciplinary authority other than the Civil Service Commission, with a different process. Council creation of a different board for discipline would be counter to that state law and most likely unenforceable.


Need something to laugh about? (Who doesn’t!) Here are 20 movies, recent and vintage, guaranteed to fill your living room with laughter, courtesy of Kevin Kretschmer, a librarian at the Franklin Avenue Library and a contributor to the Des Moines Film Society’s website. His pursuits include writing the blog Media Musings: Mad About Movies, Music, and More for the Des Moines Public Library.

Kevin’s two caveats: no director or star/team listed more than once.

Airplane! — Laugh-a minute farce of 80s disaster flicks that started Leslie Nielsen’s rebirth in comedy. Featuring