The Culture Buzz Launches “Importing Ideas & Inspiration” Initiative By Naming Award-winning Author, Artist, Educator, and Advocate John Schlimm as its First Visiting Cultural Exchange Ambassador and Cultural Catalyst for Iowa
Upcoming Visit to Des Moines and Dubuque: March 6-15
Des Moines, IA ~ Iowa’s leading cultural advocacy network The Culture Buzz is proud to announce that it has named international award-winning author, artist, educator, and advocate John Schlimm as its first Visiting Cultural Exchange Ambassador and Cultural Catalyst for Iowa. This appointment launches The Culture Buzz’s initiative “Importing Ideas & Inspiration” during John’s first of many upcoming visits to Iowa from March 6 to March 15 to the Des Moines and Dubuque areas.
In this role, John will bring his 25 years of multi-tiered, culture-based experience as the author of 20 books ranging in topics and genres; his work as a Participatory Art creator of such projects as THE SMILE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD (is yours); his achievements as a Harvard-trained educator and university professor; his background in public relations, business, and hospitality, including as a member of one of the country’s oldest and most historic brewing families (Straub Brewery, founded by his great-great-grandfather in the 1870s); and his unbridled passion for advocacy efforts that span the Arts and Humanities, mental health and wellness, education and students/Gen Z, anti-abuse, rescue dogs, volunteerism, and much more.
“A quintessential culture leader and role model, John’s inspiring work in helping all people to embrace their best and happiest lives will be utilized to further establish productive partnerships within our state, and to shine a bright light on the amazing spectrum of cultural work being done by Iowans at every level, from grassroots upward,” Culture Buzz Founder John Busbee said. “From exchanging ideas to harnessing creative synergy, this fun guy from Pennsylvania is about to become Iowa’s new best friend and cheerleader!”
To kick-off his new role as Visiting Cultural Exchange Ambassador and Cultural Catalyst, John will road-trip the 14-hour drive from his small hometown of St. Marys, Pennsylvania, to Iowa in March for a series of events in the Des Moines and Dubuque areas. This visit will highlight the broad scope of what he and The Culture Buzz hope to eventually accomplish statewide through this ambitious initiative to help facilitate and celebrate the ever-expanding range of cultural endeavors happening everywhere in Iowa.
In Des Moines, John’s events will include:
- Friday, March 6, _5:00 – 8:00 p.m.: Installation of John’s Participatory Art piece THE SMILE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD (is yours) at the region’s premier open house First Friday at Mainframe Studios (900 Keo Way, Des Moines);
- Saturday, March 7, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.: Whiskey-tasting fundraiser at The Iowa Taproom (215 E. 3rd Street, Des Moines), benefitting the Puppy Jake Foundation;
- Monday, March 9: Roundtable discussion about mental health and wellness with the team at NAMI Iowa;
- Monday, March 9, 6:30 p.m.: Extraordinary Dogs Q&A and booksigning at Beaverdale Books (2629 Beaver Avenue, Suite 1, Des Moines);
- Tuesday, March 10: Roundtable discussion with students at Drake University to discuss the issues facing Generation Z; and
- Wednesday, March 11: Launch of John’s Participatory Art project titled City of Change with the youth artists at ArtForce Iowa.
In Dubuque, John’s events will include:
- Thursday, March 12, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.: Extraordinary Dogs Discussion and booksigning at Loras College (Loras College Ballroom, 1450 Alta Vista, Dubuque);
- Friday, March 13, 9:30 – 11:00 a.m.: “Healing Through Animals” Presentation at Canticle of Creation Center (3390 Windsor Avenue, Dubuque);
- Friday, March 13: Roundtable discussion with Psychology students at Loras College; and
- Saturday, March 14, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.: “Dog (God) Moments That Heal” Presentation and debut of John’s Participatory Art project Planting PEACE at Canticle of Creation Center (3390 Windsor Avenue, Dubuque).
“I believe in meeting people where they are and helping them to rise from there to achieve their greatest potential,” John Schlimm said. “Iowa is the very heart and soul of the great American Heartland, and in this new role I look forward to being the state’s #1 fan while letting the rest of the country and world come along for the ride! The inspiring and impactful pulse that ripples from every corner of this very special place and the folks who live here remind me so much of my own hometown. The ultimate goal of this endeavor is to bring us all closer, so we can then rise together.”
Make plans now to attend the Annual Spring Arts & Crafts Show on March 6-8 at the Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa.
This is Iowa’s largest show, with over 300 talented exhibitors from 7 states presenting and selling the Midwest’s finest handcrafts.
The show is a production of Callahan Promotions, Inc. and offers patrons the chance to enjoy original, affordable arts and crafts. Products being sold include oak furniture, pottery, jewelry, clothing, floral wreaths, stained glass, several different types of food items, lawn and garden art, and much, much more, with over 100,000 square feet of display space.
Admission to the show is only $6, with anyone 10 and under free. All patrons will receive a 3-day re-entry hand stamp good for the entire 3
day run of the show.
Show hours are Friday night from 5 PM to 9 PM, Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM, and Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM. Parking for the show is always free. For the public’s convenience, a free shuttle bus service will be available on both Friday and Saturday and will shuttle the public from the northern parking lots to the front of the Varied Industries Building.
Like us on facebook under Callahan Promotions, Inc. to purchase discounted advance tickets and for a chance to win one of four $50 gift certificates. For more information on the show, please call 563-652-4529.
Door of Faith boots Tirrell; Massachusetts Jails him. Christensen to head Court; Young pays back taxes.
Marty Tirrell, the smooth-talking scammer and loud-talking sports-radio host, has been kicked out of the Door of Faith residential treatment center where he was awaiting his May 7 sentencing in federal court.
And now he’s in jail in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
At the Door of Faith, Tirrell was deemed to be in noncompliance with the pretrial supervision terms because, according to court documents, he failed “to attend ‘his home church,’ open a bank account, and create a budget.” It is a touch ironic that failure to create a budget was the problem, since as a swindler of friends and acquaintances and perfect strangers he seemed to be a master of creative finance — or, put another way, at stealing millions of dollars and getting away with it for years.
In February, after the Door of Faith booted him, the federal defender’s office asked the court to let him move to Deerfield, Massachusetts, to live with his sister until the sentencing date. The prosecutors at first objected but then agreed to the deal, and that’s where he is now.
But not at his sister’s house.
There has been a warrant for his arrest in Massachusetts since 2017 — it’s unclear why — and he has been in and out of the state in the past couple of years apparently without worrying about it. This time, though, authorities there got wind of his travels and arrested him. An officer at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Greenfield told CITYVIEW that Tirrell was arrested and has been unable to make the $5,000 bail. The officer wouldn’t give any other details.
An Iowa acquaintance of Tirrell says a court appearance in Massachusetts is set for March 13.
Tirrell, who had hopped from station to station in Des Moines and then to cable TV over the past 20 years or so — since he moved here from Massachusetts — was charged last year with 10 federal felonies, including wire fraud and bank fraud and credit-card fraud. In December, broke and homeless, he pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in return for the government’s dropping of the other nine counts in federal district court in Des Moines.
Under the agreement, the 60-year-old Tirrell acknowledged he could be sentenced for up to 20 years in a federal penitentiary, fined as much as $250,000, and, after serving his sentence, be placed under supervised release for three years. The length of the sentence will be up to Federal Judge Stephanie Rose, a onetime prosecutor. Some court watchers have guessed he’ll get five to seven years, but that’s just a guess.
Tirrell’s crimes usually involved getting people to lend him money for ticket-buying schemes to major sports events, schemes in which Tirrell ended up keeping the money and the tickets. He was regularly sued, but he rarely showed up in court. The list of default judgments against him is long and runs into the millions of dollars.
Meantime, showing a certain amount of chutzpah, he recently opened a new Facebook page, complete with a picture of him in a radio studio. The page says “lives in Deerfield, Mass.” It doesn’t say where — and it doesn’t say the residency will soon be changing to a federal prison. …
A couple of years ago, CITYVIEW’s Jim Duncan wrote that Polk County Medical Examiner Greg Schmunk was “a bona fide celebrity in his field. He was the forensic consultant for hit TV series ‘CSI,’ ‘CSI Miami,’ ‘Bones, Rizzoli & Isles,’ ‘The Blacklist’ and ‘Rosewood.’ He has also made multiple appearances as himself on ‘Forensic Files.’ Prosecutors in Des Moines have told me that he’s a brilliant expert witness, that he even asks them to never object when he is being cross examined, no need.”
Duncan also wrote: “Others say that kind of arrogance scares them.”
Now, Schmunk has been fired, and people at the county say it was that arrogance that got him fired — that some disparaging comments he made about some staffers led to his ouster. Schmunk, 64, told KCCI that there had been “infighting between some of my staff.” He said he believed he was “the victim of a political turf war involving the public-employees union (AFSCME) and the Polk County Board of Supervisors.”
The medical examiner came to Des Moines 17 years ago after high-profile careers in Sacramento and San Francisco and was the highest-paid public official in Polk County. His salary, when he was fired, was $268,047 a year, $50,000 more than the county manager makes. He was given notice on Feb. 10, and KCCI reported it on Feb. 13. The Des Moines Register still hasn’t noted it. …
The rest of the story: “Register Tops State Journalism Awards,” said the headline in The Register, and, in fact that’s what the story said. “The Des Moines Register journalism staff was cited 30 times in the 2020 Iowa Better Newspaper Contest on Friday night, taking top awards for general excellence, community leadership and excellence in editorial writing, among other categories.”
What it didn’t say: The (University of Iowa) Daily Iowan was named the association’s “Newspaper of the Year.” …
If it hasn’t been announced by the time you read this, justices of the Iowa Supreme Court are picking Susan Christensen to be the new chief. Christensen, from Harlan, was appointed to the court last year. To outsiders, who were expecting Tom Waterman to be elected by his peers, it seems a surprise choice; but insiders say, elliptically, “there’s a reason.” …
Here are some tax incentives the city granted last year:
— In January, it approved an economic-development deal with Nelson Development on a hotel on University Avenue, near Drake University. The incentives — in the form of tax breaks — total $2,837,825 over 10 years, though the project adds to the overall tax base.
— In March, the Waldinger Corp. negotiated a tax break for a $32 million building it planned on Southwest 63rd Street. The break equals $2.3 million.
— Also in March, the city negotiated a financial-assistance package with the struggling Merle Hay Mall, agreeing to give it up to $4.8 million over 12 years — $400,000 a year from a tax-increment-finance district fund — for renovations.
— In May, the city agreed to a deal with the owner of the Argonne Apartments at 1723 Grand Ave. downtown for a $7.7 million renovation. The incentive is estimated at $1,617,227 over 20 years.
— In August, the city agreed to a deal with Lincoln and Lisa McIlravy for a new, 112-room, $21.5 million Element Hotel by Marriott on East Third Street. The assistance, in tax relief, is estimated at $2 million over 10 years.
— In November, the city council agreed to a deal with Frank Levy’s Connolly Loft Associates for a 57-unit, four-story, $11.8 million housing project on Southeast Sixth Street. The incentive is estimated at $532,038 over 10 years.
— In December, the city agreed to a deal with Jake Christensen’s development company on an 87-room hotel and small commercial building at 25th and Grand Avenue. The project is valued at $18.2 million, and the incentive is estimated at $1,964,133 over 10 years.
— In December, too, the city agreed on incentives valued at $3,192,962 over 10 years for a transloading facility planned at 200 Southeast 15th Street. The developers are Paul Cownie and Gabe Claypool.
If each of these deals works out, economic-development people always say, the long-term tax benefit to the city will exceed the incentives since the sites now pay little or no taxes.
And here are some claims paid by the city in 2019 to settle lawsuits or other disputes:
— In January, the city paid $26,622.50 to Lennie Terrell to settle a worker’s compensation dispute.
— In February, the city paid $27,988 to Jennifer Barsetti as a “compromise settlement” under a worker’s compensation claim.
— In May, the city paid Robert and Linda Foss $185,000 to settle a lawsuit arising after Robert Foss was injured when his bicycle struck a curb that the city had put across what most people believed was a city bike path at 16th Street and Martin Luther King. [In 2018, the city settled a similar lawsuit, filed by Mark Evans, for $1.5 million. A third suit, by bicyclist Larry Conklin, is pending in Polk County District Court.]
— In May, the city paid Douglas Triplett $50,000 after he sued the city for denying a worker’s compensation claim.
— In September, the city paid Des Moines Transload $25,000 to settle a lawsuit against the city alleging breach of contract in a real-estate deal.
— In September, the city settled for $39,892 a worker’s compensation claim filed by Kevin Holzhauser.
— In September, the city agreed to pay $90,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the estate of Jason Hunt, who was killed in 2016 when the car he was driving was struck by a vehicle that was fleeing a Des Moines police car in a high-speed chase on Lower Beaver Road. In 2017, his estate sued the city, the police department and a police officer, alleging, among other things, gross negligence.
— In October, the city agreed to pay Theodore Crum $71,298 to settle a disputed worker’s compensation claim.
All of these incentives and settlements have been partially offset by $178.50 — the price the city charged CITYVIEW for providing the documents. …
The rest of the story: Developer Jeff Young — or his bank — has paid the back taxes on his two downtown properties, the Bank of America building at 317 Sixth Ave. and the adjacent parking ramp at 500 Locust. The properties had been listed on the tax-sale register, meaning Young had fallen behind in taxes and someone else had stepped in to pay them, forcing Young ultimately to lose the properties or else to redeem the properties by paying the third party the taxes plus 2 percent interest per month.
But Community State Bank, which regularly finances Young’s transactions, has stepped up and paid $218,657 on the bank building and $67,155 on the garage.
Young is scheduled to go on trial April 13 on five felony counts of “fraudulent practices.” According to court documents, he paid a lot of money for five expensive cars but lied about those values when he registered them with Polk County, short-changing the state of the revenue due it. He has been offered a plea deal but hasn’t yet rejected or accepted it. …
Local boy makes good: Adam Meyer, who grew up here, has just been named provost — chief academic officer — of the Juilliard School in New York. Juilliard is the nation’s premier school for performing-arts education, for musicians and dancers and actors. Meyer, who is 40 and the son of Gene and Kathy Meyer of Winterset, is a violist who is renowned as a musician as well as an academic. The appointment is a big deal in the world of performing arts (and in the Meyer household).
Here’s something to remember this election season when reading a newspaper story — or listening to a television report — about polls:
Margins of errors work both ways.
A story might say that Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading a nationwide poll among likely Democratic voters with 22 percent and that Mayor Pete Buttigieg has 19 percent. Then it will say the margin of error is 4 percentage points, and then it might add that thus “the two are in a statistical tie.”
Maybe that’s true, maybe not.
It’s just as likely that it’s a blowout. Saying that something is a statistical tie assumes that the margin of error works only in favor of making the race look closer. But it doesn’t. Reporters — or campaign aides with the candidate with the lower number — say that if, well, you add that 4 points to Buttigieg or you add two to him and take two from Sanders, well, then, Buttigieg wins.
In fact, it can work the other way just as often. You could add four to Sanders and subtract four from Buttigieg, in theory. The bias is in making the race look closer than the actual poll numbers — in the best estimate of the race — say it is.
It could be that Sanders had 26 percent (22 plus 4) and Buttigieg had 15 percent (19 minus 4). Or maybe Sanders had 18% percent (22 minus 4) and Buttigieg had 23 percent (19 plus 4). Or maybe it’s anywhere along those spectrums. But the thing to remember is this: The best estimate is reflected in the numbers in the poll; all other numbers are inferior estimates. There are two estimates of any race — the best, and then all others, which are inferior.
In truth, it’s quite complicated. The margin of error reported by a pollster is typically the maximum margin of error for the sample size, but each finding in every poll has its own margin of error. The margin is highest when the findings are closer to 50-50 but lower in the case of a blowout — say 80-20. Also, remember that margins of error are given in percentage points, not percentages.
But the main thing you need to remember is this:
Margins of errors work both ways. The journalist — or campaign aide — who conveys a race as a “statistical tie” wants you to see it that way.
You will be tested on this next month.
Members of the Iowa Legislature are in the midst of tying themselves into knots over the issue of equality, and that’s unfortunate.
The knot-tying involves what these lawmakers call “religious freedom.”
That has a patriotic ring to it. Who would disagree? Our constitutional right to freedom of religion sets the United States apart from many nations.
But when you analyze what this legislative initiative really involves, it is too reminiscent of America’s past — a past when some people regularly were subjected to discrimination when they tried to find lodging for the night, or sit at a lunch counter for a meal, or to be hired for a job.
I hope we are not wanting to turn back the clock.
The current push in the Legislature involves Senate File 508. The bill says government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless there is a compelling government interest and the restrictions the government contemplates are the least restrictive.
Whether acknowledged or not, this effort grows out of the Iowa Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in 2009, when the justices, without a single dissent, ruled that Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriages violated the equal-protection clause of the state’s constitution.
The unanimous decision invalidating the Iowa law that prohibited same-sex marriages landed like a grenade among a many of the state’s residents. They saw this as little more than a ban on their ability to worship as they choose — even though the court’s decision did not affect any church’s freedom to decide who does, and who does not, qualify to be married in that church.
A couple from Grimes, Betty and Richard Odgaard, came to symbolize the anxiety of this segment of Iowa’s population. At the time, they owned a business, called Gortz Haus Gallery, that was in a beautiful stone building that once housed a Lutheran church.
The Odgaards had an art gallery and gift shop there. They also sold flowers and did custom framing. You could stop in for lunch. And you could rent space for your wedding or wedding reception.
In August 2013, two Des Moines men tried to rent Gortz Haus for their wedding. The Odgaards refused, based on their strong Mennonite beliefs, after they learned the men were planning to marry each other.
That led to a discrimination complaint and investigation by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Some people accused the Odgaards of bigotry. Others accused the men of insisting their homosexuality takes precedence over the Odgaards’ faith.
In the end, the Odgaards agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty and not discriminate against same-sex couples in the future. The Odgaards ultimately decided to stop hosting any weddings, and they closed their business in 2015.
Iowa’s civil rights laws make it abundantly clear that any business in this state cannot exclude customers on the basis of their gender, their sexual orientation, religion, race, physical or mental disability, or their national origin. There is no asterisk with a footnote saying “yeah, but.”
That means the Gortz Haus, regardless of the owners’ religious views, was no different from a café or convenience store, a hotel or a hardware store. Betty and Richard Odgaard and other business owners can practice their faith as long as that does not involve discriminatory treatment of their customers.
Iowa’s civil rights laws do not allow a café to decide it will not serve the Amish. A hotel cannot decide it will not rent rooms to Muslims. A gas station cannot refuse to sell fuel to blacks.
Connie Ryan is the executive director of the Iowa Interfaith Alliance, an organization that works to promote and protect Iowa’s history of civil rights leadership, while also protecting the wide range of religious views observed in the state.
“Creating broad religious exemptions that allow people to pick and choose which laws they are going to follow and which laws they do not follow weakens all of our laws,” she told the Des Moines Register recently. “The civil rights of people who are LGBTQ, religious minorities, women, people of color, people with disabilities — all would be impacted.”
In the first half of the 20th Century and continuing into the 1960s, whites in the South used their religious beliefs to justify their discriminatory treatment of blacks who wanted to buy a lunch, rent a motel room, lease an apartment, or even drink at water fountains with signs reading, “Whites Only.”
Do we really want to go back to a time when business owners or landlords use their religious views and are allowed to treat some people differently from other people because those other people are black, or Jewish, or Catholic, or Irish, or crippled?
Where are we going to end up if the Legislature writes a new law forcing government or one of those “other people” to go into court when a business owner or landlord says it would violate the owner’s religious rights if someone they don’t want to serve demands to rent space they make available to the public, or eat in their restaurant, or purchase a wedding cake from their bakery?
This isn’t a direction that will make Iowa a better state. Without question, there is a compelling government interest in ensuring that all of God’s children, regardless of their skin color, their sexual orientation, their gender, or their ancestry, are treated the same as everyone else.
Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com.
Forgive me, but I think some government officials forget they work for the people of Iowa, or maybe they just don’t want the public asking too many questions, especially if those questions could be embarrassing.
Regrettably, I come to this conclusion because every week or two I hear about another Iowa government board or council, or another government agency, that twists itself into knots to avoid sharing information with the public — information the citizens deserve to know, about an important matter that affects the school district, the city or our state government.
That was the inescapable conclusion last month when the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City school districts refused to tell the Cedar Rapids Gazette, along with parents and taxpayers in the two districts, why elementary students there have been placed in so-called “seclusion rooms” this academic year.
These rooms are small, padded enclosures — about 6 feet by 6 feet in size, with a door that locks from the outside. Students are confined there as a last resort to prevent them from hurting themselves, other students or teachers.
The rooms are not supposed to be used as discipline for lesser, non-violent infractions, like stepping out of line. But in 2017, the guardian of a third-grader complained to the Iowa Department of Education that the Cedar Rapids district locked the girl in a utility closet because she wouldn’t stop crying.
Cedar Rapids administrators told the Gazette there were 237 incidents during the first month of the 2019-2020 school year in which elementary students were restrained or were placed in seclusion rooms. Four years ago, there were 59 such incidents during the first month of school.
Iowa City school district officials were more secretive. They refused even to provide the Gazette with the number of times students were restrained or placed in seclusion rooms this school year.
The justification the Iowa City district’s lawyers gave for the secrecy is preposterous.
They said FERPA, the acronym for the federal privacy law that protects students’ school records, ties the hands of school officials because each report about an incident that leads to use of a seclusion room is a confidential student record.
It is important to know that the Gazette specifically asked that all identifiable details about the incidents — the students’ names, the teachers’ names, the grade each student is in, along with the names of their schools — be blacked out to avoid breaking the privacy law.
The school lawyers said the information could not be turned over to the Gazette even with those details redacted. Information about the use of seclusion rooms exists only on individual students’ confidential records, the lawyers said. They claimed that non-identifiable information cannot be gleaned from those records and be made public without running afoul of FERPA.
That stretches believability.
Iowa City Superintendent Stephen Murley could, if he wanted, legally prepare a summary report on the frequency the district uses seclusion rooms, the reasons students are confined there, and the length of time they are in seclusion. If he wanted, Murley could share that report with residents of the Iowa City district without having to worry about getting in legal hot water.
That’s what an official would willingly do when he understands that it is important for the people of his school district to understand the challenges the teachers, staff and administrators face in ensuring a safe learning environment for students.
If you follow the school attorneys’ misguided logic, the federal education privacy law would prevent Iowa City school officials from announcing each May how many seniors will graduate from West High School and City High School, because that detail would be a compilation that originates on the confidential student records of each senior.
One of the issues being considered this year by the Iowa Legislature — and nationally, too — is what should be done to deal with the growing number of incidents involving out-of-control students who cause damage and injuries in school classrooms.
The Des Moines Register reported earlier this year that the number of teacher and staff injuries in the Des Moines Public Schools has risen from 226 to 425 in the past five years.
The unwarranted secrecy by officials of the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City districts keeps residents from fully understanding what confronts teachers as the number of students in a classroom increases at a time in our history when violence and behavior problems among young people is growing.
Without reliable information from school administrators, the public is forced to rely on rumor, rather than facts, to know how big the problem of out-of-control children in the local schools is and what leads to these worrisome incidents.
The secrecy also prevents the public from evaluating whether seclusion rooms or other forms of restraint are being used for appropriate reasons — as a last resort to prevent children from causing injury or damage. Or are these special rooms and restraint practices being used improperly for discipline for lesser, non-violent infractions?
Iowans should hope officials in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City districts rethink their ill-advised secrecy. And if they don’t, lawmakers and voters should step in and let the officials know that their reasons for refusing to share this information are unacceptable.
Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com.