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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.”

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 Robert StackLloyd BridgesPeter Graves, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Voted No. 10 best movie on American Film Institute’s “100 Years...100 Laughs” list of top comedy films.

American Graffiti — Cruising/rock ’n’ roll film that was George Lucas’ directorial debut. Starring Richard Dreyfus, Harrison Ford and Ron Howard. Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy, 1973. No. 43 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy — Will Ferrell stars in Judd Apatow’s takeoff on Seventies “Action News.”

Dumb and DumberJim Carrey and Jeff Daniels set out on a zany cross-country trip to return a briefcase full of money to its owner.

The 40-Year-Old VirginColleagues help electronic goods store clerk Steve Carell break his maiden. American Film Institute Movie of the Year, 2005.

Groundhog DayCynical TV weatherman Bill Murray is trapped in a time loop forcing him to endlessly repeat February 2, 1993, while dealing with an increasing ardor for his producer (Andie McDowell). No. 34 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

The Hangover — Three friends lose a fourth on a bachelor party trip to Las Vegas. With Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Jeffrey Tambor. Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy, 2009.

Holiday — 1938 film about a man risen from humble beginnings (Cary Grant), torn between his free-thinking lifestyle and the family tradition of his wealthy fiancée (Katharine Hepburn).

It Happened One Night — Frank Capra’s five-Oscar classic starring Claudette Colbert as a pampered socialite trying to get out from under her father's thumb, who falls in love with roguish reporter Clark Gable. Academy Awards for Best Picture, as well as Colbert, Gable, Capra, and screenwriter Robert Riskin. No. 8 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

The Lady EveMismatched couple Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda meet on board an ocean liner. No. 55 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

Monkey Business — The third Marx Brothers movie, in which they stow away on an ocean liner bound for America. No. 73 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

National Lampoon’s Animal HouseJohn Belushi and his misfit Delta fraternity members challenge the authority of the dean of Faber College. Toga! No. 36 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

Ninotchka — Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas have a satirical, light romance in Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union. Four Oscar nominations. No. 52 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

Our Hospitality — 1923 silent where director and star Buster Keaton is caught in the middle of the infamous "Canfield–McKay" feud, an obvious satire of the real-life Hatfield–McCoy kerfuffle.

Sleeper Health food store owner Woody Allen is cryogenically frozen in 1973 and defrosted 200 years later in an ineptly led police state. No. 80 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

Some Like It Hot —Jazz-era Chicago musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon witness a Mob hit in Prohibition-era Chicago and dress in drag to escape the gangsters on their tail. Also starring Marilyn Monroe. 1960 Golden Globes for Best Picture and Monroe. No. 80 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

Sons of the Desert — Lodge brothers Laurel and Hardy scheme to make their wives let them attend a convention in Chicago. No. 96 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

This Is Spinal Tap — Rob Reiner’s mockumentary about the rock industry, starring Christopher GuestMichael McKean, and Harry Shearer. No. 29 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

Wedding Crashers — Divorce mediators Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn crash weddings in an attempt to meet and seduce bridesmaids. MTV Award for Best Movie, 2005.

Young Frankenstein — Mel Brooks’ masterpiece starring Gene Wilder as the descendant of the mad scientist who tries to carry on his ancestor’s work. With Teri Garr, Des Moines’ Cloris LeachmanMarty FeldmanMadeline KahnKenneth MarsRichard Haydn, and Gene Hackman. Oscars for sound and adapted screenplay, Golden Globes for Leachman and Kahn. No. 13 on “100 Years...100 Laughs” list.

Kevin Kretschmer is a librarian at the Franklin Avenue Library. He has a B.A. in journalism from the University of Iowa, an M.A. in Film Studies, also from the University of Iowa, and an M.L.I.S. in Library and Information Studies from Dominican University. A former journalist, his more recent writing pursuits include writing the Media Musings: Mad About Movies, Music, and More blog for the Des Moines Public Library and as a contributor to the Des Moines Film Society’s website (


Since early June, the city manager’s office, legal department, and community development have worked with the newly created Dine Out Des Moines program, allowing restaurants and bars to offer outdoor dining service while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines. Here are some notable successes:

  • In the East Village, HOQ applied for the new program one day and had its patio on East Fifth Street operating the following day.

  • The Library, a cozy neighborhood restaurant at 35th and University in the Drake Neighborhood, is complying with COVID-19 guidelines to make three of its seven booths available. Adding four outdoor picnic tables in the adjoining parking lot made a world of difference for the servers and Full Court Press owners.

  • Django in Western Gateway Park set up tables in an adjoining parking lot that had been used only by office employees in daytime hours.

Business owners were quick to get the city what was needed to authorize relaxed guidelines, Neighborhood Inspection Administrator SuAnn Donovan reported. “I was happy with the roll-out of the program,” she said.

“We definitely have some success stories, in part because of the speed SuAnn responded to requests,” Deputy City Attorney Matt Anderson added.

Shon Bruellman, Big Red Truck, one of the meal vendors.


Distribution of free meals continues next week at 10 Des Moines sites. The Emergency Food Distribution program, funded through a $350,000 COVID-19 federal program, has provided about 100 meals per site since its June roll-out—roughly 15,000 meals. So far, more than a dozen Des Moines-based restaurants, food trucks, and caterers have participated.

Meal distributions—a mix of hot and cold food—are planned through August. View details about upcoming sites.

Central Iowa Shelters and Services partnered with the City of Des Moines to organize the program.


The next time you visit Confluence Brewing, across from Gray’s Lake Park, be sure to check out the two walls near the restrooms that promote each of the 39 employees—from head brewer John Martin to the newest taproom part-time server. Each employee has a photograph and some fun facts (sales manager Eric Selander can’t live without cheese) in an 8x10 frame. Gotta love the way the Confluence team works.


Is there a better August dinner than grilled sweet corn and a BLT sandwich with heirloom tomatoes and flavorful local lettuce? Doubt it!

With the Downtown Farmers’ Market in COVID hiatus, there’s a huge void to fill for produce. But don’t despair! The Beaverdale Farmers’ Market, held this year at Franklin Junior High School (4801 Franklin Avenue in Des Moines), fills some of the voids for fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruit. Stop by—don’t forget your mask!—4 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through September 4.

In response to COVID-19, the Downtown Farmer’s Market has created its Drive-Through Bite-size Market. Details:


Favorite folk duo Moors & McCumber have performed three house concerts at our East Village loft. Love these guys! One of their 2016 recordings—Take Me Down—is getting a lot of attention now. It’s about retiring the Confederate flag.

Until this year, Kort McCumber, who plays about a dozen string instruments, was clueless about NASCAR racing. Today, Bubba Wallace is Kort’s all-time favorite driver. Learn why.


I wish I could tell you more, but I’m pledged to keep this (mostly) on the down-low. Except to say: Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert and Deb VanVelten, the Des Moines Police Department youth services coordinator, will soon announce significant changes and a six-figure investment in the department’s Second Chance program, impacting first-time youth offenders. A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) and its Restorative Justice program are among supporters of the Second Chance program. Details to come.

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