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#1, ‘newbo evolve’ loses $2.3 million | The Gazette Top Stories 2018

“Newbo evolve” was supposed to put Cedar Rapids on the map. It did, but for all the wrong reasons.

In January, city-funded tourism bureau GO Cedar Rapids announced a three-day summer festival with music, celebrity speakers, culinary experts and yoga and billed as a national attraction in the vein of South by Southwest.

Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5 would headline the musical stage while fashion designers Carson Kressley and Christian Siriano, filmmaker John Waters, U.S. Olympian Adam Rippon and others would inspire and entertain. The Cedar Screamer Zipline would fly guests over the Cedar River.

Despite assurances otherwise from GO CR, the $375 festival pass never resonated with potential customers.

The Aug. 3-5 event received positive reviews, including from talent and city officials. But attendance was well below promises — 602 three-day passes sold out of 4,000 and 8,340 general admission concert tickets sold out of 22,000. Complimentary tickets amounted to 3,804.

The Zip line never was built.

Days after, the GO CR board of directors revealed the festival lost $2.3 million, organization President Aaron McCreight and community events director Scott Tallman had been fired, and the board had been misled about ticket sales, sponsorships and spending.

Numerous checks bounced, vendors were owed $800,000 and Bankers Trust was owed $1.5 million for a loan.

City officials in October sealed GO CR’s fate behind closed doors as council members refused to continue hotel-motel tax payments, saying taxpayers shouldn’t bail out the organization or vendors, in spite of public calls to do so.

Despite promises for a full investigation and transparency, GO CR folded on Oct. 15 without paying vendors and few answers about what happened to the money. Rather than question the board, which included city representation, city officials praised them and redirected the hotel-motel tax money to start a new tourism office.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

#2, Rockwell Collins sale largest in aerospace industry | The Gazette Top Stories 2018

CEDAR RAPIDS — The deal was more than a year in the making. But when the sale of Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids’ largest employer, to multinational United Technologies Inc. finally came to pass, it still offered a few surprises.

The $23 billion acquisition, with $7 billion assumption in debt — the biggest such deal in the aerospace industry — was announced late Nov. 26, clinching the agreement that joined avionics giant Rockwell with Charlotte, N.C.-based UTC Aerospace Systems to form Collins Aerospace Systems.

With some 70,000 employees worldwide, Rockwell counted about 8,000 workers in Cedar Rapids and about 1,350 in Coralville, Decorah, Bellevue and Manchester.

Kelly Ortberg, Rockwell’s chief executive officer and president, became chief executive of the new company. Dave Gitlin, UTC Aerospace’s president, was named its president.

While Collins Aerospace executive leadership will be based in Palm Beach County in Florida, avionics and missions systems work remain headquartered in Cedar Rapids. Its two units now are headed by Iowa executives — Kent Statler for avionics and Phil Jasper for mission systems.

As far back as December 2016, Rockwell was being pressured by a New York investment fund to consider selling itself, among other options, Bloomberg News reported at the time.

But actual talks between Rockwell and UTC began in earnest the following May, according to UTC Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Greg Hayes, and the acquisition initially was expected to close in the third quarter of 2018.

But various hurdles came first, including obtaining approval from the U.S. Department of Justice, the European Union, airplane maker Boeing and the Chinese government — the final OK coming Nov. 23, three days before the deal officially was announced.

Somewhat of a surprise came with that Nov. 26 announcement when UTC also said it planned to break itself into three companies, spinning off Otis Elevator and refrigeration provider Carrier. Collins Aerospace and aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt and Whitney would stay with UTC.

The move follows a current trend among major industrial companies — DowDuPont, General Electric, Honeywell International — to split off units and create additional value by focusing on core functions.

From the start, officials had stated the merging of Rockwell and UTC Aerospace Systems shouldn’t bring about large employee layoffs, but some executive-level staff could be affected. Two weeks after the deal was announced, voluntary severance packages were offered to some Collins Aerospace employees, effective until Feb. 1.

“Collins Aerospace remains committed to Iowa employees and helping the areas in which they live and work continue to thrive,” Collins Aerospace spokeswoman Pam Tvrdy-Cleary wrote in an email to The Gazette.

A specific number of employees the company hoped would accept buyouts wasn’t set, Tvrdy-Cleary said.

l Comments: (319) 398-5873; michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com

Marion teen dies in Dubuque County car collision

A Marion teenager, Jaycee Payne, died Friday in a car collision on icy roads in Dubuque County.

Payne, 17, was a passenger in a pickup traveling southbound on Sundown Road around 4:30 p.m. when the driver, 17-year-old Oliver Clanin, lost control of the 2000 Nissan Frontier and slid sideways into oncoming traffic.

According to a Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office news release, a northbound 2018 Dodge Ram 1500 driven by Michael McArthur, 46 of Asbury, was unable to avoid hitting the truck on the passenger’s side.

Payne died in the crash, and Clanin was taken with serious injuries to Finley Hospital in Dubuque and then transferred to University of Iowa Hospitals.

McArthur was taken to Finley Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to the news release.

Both teenagers were students at Linn-Mar High School in Marion.

“Our thoughts are with Jaycee’s family, friends, and to all who have been affected by his passing,” Linn-Mar High Principal Jeff Gustason said in a message sent to parents. “Our thoughts are also with Oliver, his family, and friends as he grieves and recovers from his injuries.”

Fundraisers have started online to help Payne’s family pay for funeral expenses and to assist Clanin’s with medical costs. According to the GoFundMe page for Clanin, the teenagers were on their way home from snowboarding when they slid off the road, about 1.5 miles north of Highway 151. The collision occurred a few miles south of Sundown Mountain Resort.

Linn-Mar High School is scheduled to have counselors available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday for any Linn-Mar students or staff.

Counselors will remain available at Linn-Mar High and Oak Ridge Middle School through the week beginning Wednesday, when classes resume following winter break.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

New building underway at site of Duchess Cleaners fire

CEDAR RAPIDS — Construction has begun on a new building rising from the ashes of a fire that destroyed a northeast Cedar Rapids business and ended a more than five-decade dry cleaning operation.

Cedar Rapids businessman and entrepreneur John Khairallah is buying the former Duchess Cleaners building at 3905 Center Point Rd. NE. The structure was destroyed by an arson-related fire on Aug. 20.

“I and my son-in-law will be taking possession in a week or two,” Khairallah said Friday. “We don’t have a tenant. We haven’t advertised it, but we’re hoping that we will have somebody soon.”

Khairallah said the 3,000-square-foot building, which will include an undamaged rear portion of the original structure, should be ready to lease in the spring.

“It will have a lot of windows with brick and stone on the outside,” he said. “We are making the building so that it could either be a restaurant, clothing shop or dance studio — whatever a tenant would like.”

Khairallah, who started the Zio Johno’s restaurant chain in 1984, owns Via Sofia’s Italian Kitchen restaurants at 1125 First Ave. SE and 5411 Center Point Rd. NE.

Charges of second-degree arson and third-degree burglary were filed against Grant M. Ajango, 22, in connection with the Duchess Cleaners fire. His trial is scheduled to start Feb. 11.

On Oct. 9, Duchess Cleaners announced on its Facebook page that it was closing its other location at 588 Boyson Rd NE and ceasing operation after more than 50 years in business.

Warren takes major step toward a 2020 presidential run

Sen. Elizabeth Warren took a major step on Monday toward an all-but-certain 2020 White House run, seeking to become the Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump on a message of economic equality and fighting corruption.

The Massachusetts progressive said in a New Year’s Eve email and video message to supporters that she’s launching an exploratory committee for a presidential run, which would give her a potential early edge in fundraising and organization. She said American families were “under attack from every direction,” due to a government that’s “bought and paid for by a bunch of billionaires and giant corporations that think they get to dictate the rules.”

Warren previewed her populist message in a recent interview with Bloomberg News.

“I’m in this fight for hardworking families. And that means reducing the student loan debt burden, increasing our Social Security payments for those who depend most on it, and the overarching piece, reducing corruption in government,” the senator said.

“Right now, Washington works great for the wealthy and the well-connected, it’s just not working for much of anyone else,” Warren added.

Warren, who handily won a second six-year Senate term in November, said she wants to defend the Affordable Care Act from Republican attacks and “find a system of Medicare available to all that will increase the quality of care while it decreases the cost of all of us.”

Warren has become a polarizing figure due to her aggressive criticisms of Wall Street, her support for raising taxes on rich Americans to mitigate income inequality, and her push to regulate large corporations that she often depicts as preying on ordinary people.

But that same advocacy, which dates back to her time as a Harvard law professor, has endeared her to a progressive base full of voters who are hungry for a sharp left turn by the Democratic Party.

“She was doing populist economics before everybody thought it was cool. So she has a background and message that has met its moment,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic consultant based in Boston, who argued that Warren is a front-runner because “she’s spent the better part of the last 18 months laying the groundwork for this moment.”

Warren already has the building blocks of a campaign apparatus — a dedicated staff and a policy platform, outside advocates ready to go to bat for her, a grass roots fundraising operation that’s the envy of her rivals, and a political organization that she used to help Democratic candidates around the country in the 2018 election. She has $12.5 million in her Senate campaign account — more than any of her potential rivals in Congress — and can legally transfer any portion of that to a presidential bid.

Her likely path to the nomination would require winning a mix of women, progressives and non-white voters, Marsh said. She said the senator is well-positioned in the second nominating contest of New Hampshire, which has a history of backing presidential candidates from neighboring Massachusetts. And Iowa, the first contest, has a Democratic base with populist inclinations, as do other Midwestern states like Michigan.

Warren faces demographic and geographical challenges. She’ll be 70 in February 2020 at the start of nominating contests, which will feature scores of millennial and non-white voters who want candidates that are culturally relevant to them. She may face several African American opponents in a party where black voters have been decisive in picking the presidential nominee in the last two open contests — Hillary Clinton on 2016, and Barack Obama in 2008.

Marsh said Warren’s three toughest potential rivals would be Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and outgoing Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who came within 3 points in November of defeating incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz in the red state.

“Beto looms larger than life right now,” said Marsh. “I think Kamala Harris, who quizzed (Supreme Court Justice) Brett Kavanaugh — that Kamala Harris — could be a challenge. The kind of voters she’d appeal to, the Bernie, Beto, Kamala quadrant, would be the ones where they’d be going after a lot of the same voters.”

There will be other competitors as well. More than a dozen Democrats, spanning the party’s ideological spectrum, have expressed interest in making a run for the nomination.

And Warren also faces a biographical challenge. She’s been derisively labeled “Pocahontas” by Trump for her self-proclaimed Native American heritage. Seeking to quell the criticism, Warren in October released a DNA test showing evidence, a move that only provoked more pushback from Cherokee Nation and other advocates, who said it’s wrong and inappropriate to claim Native American identity on the basis of blood.

Warren’s decision to release her DNA test was the “dumbest thing in years,” said John Weaver, a Republican strategist and Trump critic who’s an adviser to outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He said Warren and other liberals may tear each other apart in the primary.

“The populist progressive lane will be crowded, and the bloodletting on the far left as they battle for purity will hurt that wing the deeper they go into the primary calendar,” he said.

An academic by profession, Warren rose to national prominence in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 financial crisis when she was drafted by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, to help oversee the implementation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, the $700 billion bailout of the financial markets.

As a Harvard law professor, Warren focused on bankruptcy law and consumer protection. She extended her influence beyond the academy by writing about economics and consumer finance for a popular audience. Her 2003 book, “The Two-Income Trap,” which examined how declining earning power was pressuring middle-class families, led to appearances on the television show “Dr. Phil,” where Warren proved herself the rare academic expert able to speak accessibly about abstruse policy issues to a lay audience.

“Elizabeth will be a formidable candidate and would make a great president. She has the know how to actualize the policies that will be debated during the Democratic primary,” said Barney Frank, the former Massachusetts congressman who co-wrote the 2010 financial regulatory law. But Frank isn’t endorsing anyone yet. “I want to wait to see how the race shapes up to see who will be the most electable opponent to beat Trump,” he said.

Years before political figures like Trump and O’Rourke used social media to shape the national conversation, Warren’s prosecutorial grillings of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and others who appeared before the oversight panel went viral on YouTube, stoking anti-Wall Street sentiment that was still hot in the wake of the financial crisis and turning Warren into a liberal heroine. After she delivered a sermonette on the need for stricter financial regulation during a 2010 appearance on The Daily Show, the show’s host, Jon Stewart, famously asked her, “Can I kiss you?”

As part of her work during the post-crisis period, she proposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency that’s seen many of its signature enforcement efforts scaled back under the Trump administration. She was a special adviser to the CFPB from September 2010 to July 2011.

First elected to the Senate in 2012, Warren has been a reliably liberal voice, clashing not only with conservatives but with fellow Democrats in her opposition to financial deregulation. In 2014, she effectively halted the nomination of Antonio Weiss, a well-credentialed Lazard banker, to become the third-ranking official at Treasury. She resisted a push from some liberal activists to run for president in 2016.

Born in Oklahoma City, Warren was the first member of her family to graduate from college after completing high school at age 16. She attended George Washington University on a scholarship but left after two years. She married at age 19 and moved to Texas, where she finished her undergraduate studies at the University of Houston.

Her 2017 book “This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class” renewed her commitment to a message that propelled her to victory over Republican Scott Brown in her 2012 Senate race, and was widely seen as a precursor to a presidential run.

“The country will realize that after trying every kind of guy, it’s time to let a woman clean up the mess,” said Marsh, the Boston-based Democratic consultant.

Local Marine vet runs 150 miles to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research

Everyone has special talents that can be used to help someone else. For marine veteran and ultramarathon runner, Chris Cantrell, 47, those talents include mental discipline and the ability to run long distances — abilities that he used last week to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.

For 48-hours last week — noon Wednesday to noon Friday — Cantrell ran on a treadmill at We Run LLC, on Dodge Road NE, Cedar Rapids, to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.

This is the second year Cantrell has participated in the challenge.

Last year, backed by his running buddies from Team Red, White and Blue, a veterans’ outreach organization, Cantrell said he ran 118 miles and raised more than $4,000.

This year, Cantrell squashed the previous record, running more than 150 miles. The amount Cantrell raised wasn’t readily available by press time.

Cantrell said he first heard about the Dreadmill Challenge last year, when a woman in Virginia put together an event where people could sign up to run 100 miles on a treadmill to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.

But Cantrell said he wanted to take it a step further.

“I just thought if I’m going to do this — if I’m going to do 48 hours on a treadmill and do all the associated training for that, let’s go big and raise some money,” he said. “Let’s see if I can’t get some people on board.”

With his mind made up, Cantrell said he talked to some of his local running buddies, told them his plan and asked them to him pull off his idea.

We Run LLC agreed to host the event in their Cedar Rapids store and Northtown Cycling and Fitness agreed to donate a second treadmill, so Cantrell had a backup machine if the first one broke down. Additionally, the second treadmill would allow people to stop in and walk or run with Cantrell. Other local businesses donated items for raffle and door prizes.

“So basically … we just planned a big two-day party,” he said. “You know, we wanted people to come in a have a good time and tell good jokes, bad jokes, hang out, heckle me, stop by and encourage me. Anything we could do to create a fun environment and draw people in, and hopefully while they’re there they’ll make a donation.”

For most, the idea of running 20 miles, let alone 150 might seem impossible, but for Cantrell running has been a constant in his life.

“I’ve run off and on since I was a kid,” he said. “I did track and cross-country in school, and when I was in high school, if I couldn’t sleep, I’d get up and go out for a long run. I’ve run a few half-marathons, two full marathons and several ultramarathons, anywhere from 50 kilometers to 100 miles. And, when I was in the marine corps, running is just a part of life.”

His military experience, running marathons and ultramarathons and training to run long distances he said prepared him to meet this challenge.

“One of the things that the Marine Corps did a good job of is teaching me to deal with the monotonous,” he said. “And I think some of the things that I learned from last year’s challenge that were important this year, is I learned some different techniques to care for my feet that helped me keep my feet in better shape during the challenge. The other thing is I think had a better grasp of the discomfort that I was facing and was better mentally prepared to live in that, to use a term ultramarathoners use, ‘pain cave.’”

Ultimately, Cantrell said the goal is to raise money for Alzheimer’s research, which is a cause that is close to his heart.

“My father-in-law has dementia and my wife and I are his primary caretakers,” he said. “So for me, this is personal. For me it’s like I’m raising money for him.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

Recalling the Michelle Martinko case: killing shook the community

CEDAR RAIDS — “Thank God for DNA.”

That’s what former Cedar Rapids Detective Harvey Denlinger had to say about the arrest of Jerry L. Burns, 64 of Manchester, who is accused in the 39-year-old stabbing death of Michelle Martinko.

 

A 18-year-old Kennedy High School senior, Martinko’s body was found early Dec. 20, 1979, in her family’s Buick in a parking lot at the Westdale Mall. Police said she had been stabbed in the chest and face.

For nearly four decades, the case had investigators stumped. Then last week, the Cedar Rapids Police Department announced it had used DNA evidence to link Burns to the crime. Police have declined to say when or how Burns, who is jailed facing a first-degree murder charge, emerged as a suspect.

Denlinger was a young detective at the time Martinko was killed. He and others worked on the case for about two months before the investigation was handed off to a specific team.

“I remember it was all hands on deck when she was first found,” he said. “Everybody was working on that case for quite a while, and then it narrowed down to a few investigators.”

Denlinger said “it was really cold” the night she was killed. At the time, the now-retired detective said he was working a 4 p.m. to midnight shift, and after work he went to a Christmas party.

The next morning, he said, he learned of Martinko’s killing.

“Seeing someone that young killed, it’s always hard,” he said. “It’s very difficult.”

Denlinger said he played a small role early in the investigation, mainly running leads and trying to get what information he could.

“When it happened, we did a lot of searching the area and taking statements from people,” he said. “I did a lot of interviews — I talked to a lot of her high school friends and people who had seen her at the mall. There were a lot of difficult and emotional conversations. It was shocking to her friends and those who knew her, and also to the whole community.”

None of the leads or interviews panned out.

“I remember it profoundly affected not only the community, but also those investigators in the police department,” said Kurt Rogahn, a former Gazette reporter who covered the case. “It got under their skin — they wanted answers as much as everyone else did.”

At the time, Rogahn was a fairly new reporter for The Gazette, having joined the newspaper about a year earlier.

Rogahn said he learned of the murder the morning Martinko’s body was found. At the time, he said, The Gazette was an afternoon paper “so I probably had until about noon to get a story together for the front page.”

From the beginning, it was clear police didn’t have many leads, he said.

“There was just so much that police did not know about this, and I got the sense at the time that they were telling me as much as they knew,” he said.

Back then, Rogahn said video surveillance systems were not as prevalent as now, which meant investigators relied heavily on what people saw or heard.

“It was a lot different investigating cases then,” he said. “We didn’t have the technology then that we have now — there were no cellphones or cameras all over the place, there was no DNA analysis, we didn’t have the computer software and programs we have now.”

And, because there was so little information, Rogahn said “speculation ran rampant.”

“I remember in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, there were a lot of urban legends about kidnappings or attempted kidnappings at shopping malls, and the Martinko case sparked similar urban legends here,” he said. “It was a horrible act and it really haunted the community. At that time, we believed whoever did it had managed to escape detection. We didn’t know how they did it or why.”

While covering the case, Rogahn said he had to do a lot of difficult interviews with people devastated by the news. But the most emotional interviews — the ones that have stuck with him — were conversations with Martinko’s parents.

 

“I remember I spoke to her mother and she was just beyond upset. She said they had gone looking for Michelle the night before, when she didn’t come home, but didn't find her. The mother was just beside herself with grief,” he recalled.

Rogahn said he also sought to talk to Martinko’s father at work.

“He was a jeweler at Smulekoff’s — that was a department store that sold mainly furniture ...,” he said. “I remember I felt really uncertain about walking into the store. I remember walking up to him and attempting to interview him and he just looked exhausted. He didn’t really want to talk much, but I remember the most he would say was, ‘How would you feel if something like this had happened to your daughter.'”

Now, with a suspect in custody, Rogahn said he can’t help but think of the people who died without answers.

“It saddens me that the parents and investigators on the case never got the answers that we are getting now,” he said. “I think her death profoundly affected everyone, and I learned in subsequent years that her mom was really severely affected. She was devastated. It devastated both parents, really. I know they would have wanted to know what happened to their daughter.”

Denlinger retired from the department about 18 years ago, ending a 30-year career. But the Martinko case has continued to weigh on his mind.

“I wish we had been able to solve it at the time,” he said. “I wish we could have done that for her parents.”

Now, nearly 40 years later, Denlinger’s son, Matt Denlinger, is an investigator for Cedar Rapids police and has worked the Martinko case for the past four years, ultimately helping bring it to a close.

“It’s sort of neat that I was on the case when it started and he got to finish it,” Denlinger said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

Biggest Iowa political stories of 2018

DES MOINES — The midterm elections provided plenty of political news for 2018 in Iowa. But not all the top political stories came off the campaign trail.

Here are the five biggest stories in state politics from 2018:

1. Reynolds defeats Hubbell

Kim Reynolds already made history in 2017 by becoming Iowa’s first female governor, when she was promoted after Terry Branstad became U.S. ambassador to China.

Reynolds made more history in 2018 when she won Iowa’s gubernatorial election, becoming the first woman elected to the Iowa governor’s office.

Reynolds, a Republican, won a competitive race against Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell, a retired Des Moines businessman.

Hubbell challenged Reynolds primarily on the state’s handling of its $5 billion Medicaid program, which is managed by private health care companies. Reynolds campaigned on a message that the state is prospering under Republican management after tax cuts and pro-business policies.

Reynolds won by just shy of 3 percentage points, earning a full four-year term.

2. Blue wave hits Iowa

While Republicans were very successful in state-level elections in Iowa, the blue wave that swept the country at the federal level across the country hit Iowa as well.

Democrats flipped two Republican-held seats in the U.S. House: Abby Finkenauer beat Republican incumbent Rod Blum in Eastern Iowa’s 1st District, and Cindy Axne beat Republican incumbent David Young in central Iowa’s 3rd District.

In doing so, Finkenauer and Axne became the first Iowa women elected to the U.S. House.

In addition to those wins, the blue wave almost did the unthinkable in Iowa: sink 4th District Republican Rep. Steve King.

The GOP firebrand barely held off a serious threat from Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten, winning by just more than 3 percentage points. King, in previous re-election bids, typically has won by double digits in a district where Republicans have a registered voter advantage of roughly 70,000.

3. #MeToo

State Sen. Nate Boulton, a Democratic candidate for governor, never made it to the primary election after he withdrew from the race when three women alleged he touched them inappropriately about three years ago.

Boulton, an attorney from Des Moines, was viewed as a serious challenger in the Democratic primary for governor. But he withdrew just days before the primary when three women made their allegations public in a story in the Des Moines Register.

Boulton’s exit came just a few weeks after Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix resigned from office after a video showed Dix, who is married, kissing a woman in a Des Moines bar.

4. Trade angst

President Donald Trump kept his campaign promise to alter U.S. trade deals with other countries, especially Mexico and China. But Trump’s move to renegotiate those deals disrupted markets, contributing to falling crop prices.

Iowa farmers and agricultural groups spent much of 2018 with a close eye on those trade negotiations and the effect on ag markets. Some criticized the Trump administration’s approach to trade; others said they support the strategy, especially in renegotiating with China, which farmers say has been a bad actor in recent years.

2020 parade steps off

The march to the 2020 Iowa caucuses will be one of the biggest political stories in 2019, but the parade of candidates started picking up steam this year.

The field of Democrats seeking the party’s nomination for president is expected to be large — perhaps as many as two dozen or more.

In 2018, many lesser-known potential 2020 candidates — like Reps. John Delaney and Eric Swalwell, along with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and others — made multiple trips to Iowa. And during the run-up to the midterm elections, some of the potential field’s bigger names — like Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — also started showing up in the first-in-the-nation state.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

The top Gazette news photos of 2018

2018, if it was nothing else, was an interesting year in Iowa. Our staff of photographers picked out some of the most memorable news photos they took recording the year's ups and downs.

                                                                     

Expanded North Liberty scuba site set to debut this summer

NORTH LIBERTY — Construction of a new diving facility, which promises to be “the most advanced aquatics center in the area,” is set to begin in North Liberty this week.

The 8,500-square-foot building by Diventures, a swim and scuba center, is planned for the southeast corner of West Penn Street and Penn Court. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Thursday.

The facility will include an 88-degree pool, classrooms and a shop flush with high-end scuba gear, according to a news release from Diventures, a swim and scuba center that has operated out of a much smaller strip mall space in North Liberty for two years.

“We’re excited to be a bigger presence in North Liberty,” Diventures store manager JoAnn Haack told the North Liberty City Council when it approved the project in October. All Diventures’ operations will relocate to the new space.

Scuba is the main focus of the business, Haack said, though the company also will provide swim lessons and space for Alzheimer’s and arthritis therapy in the 88-degree pool. The North Liberty business typically plans about 30 group scuba trips per year and sells and services gear.

Haack previously told The Gazette that Diventures “is all about trying to find underserved markets,” which helps explain its focus on the Midwest. In nearby Cedar Rapids, Ocean Reef scuba operates a scuba storefront and offers lessons and certification courses.

Designs for the building, developed by H Design Group in Springfield, Mo., show a modern structure set back from the street and landscaping features.

“I think it’s everything that we’ve been talking about for some time,” City Planner Dean Wheatley told council members. “I can’t really think of anything that could have been a better application, frankly, for this site.”

The new facility, at 1895 W. Penn St., is expected to open this summer.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

US health care worker with possible exposure to Ebola evacuated to Nebraska

An American health worker who was possibly exposed to Ebola while treating patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo was evacuated to the United States Saturday and placed in a secure area at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, hospital officials said. The person has no symptoms of the deadly hemorrhagic fever and is not contagious, but will be monitored closely for up to two weeks, hospital officials said.

If symptoms develop and the person tests positive for the disease, the individual will be admitted to the medical center’s biocontainment unit. The person was treating patients outside the urban epicenter of the outbreak and had contact with a patient who was later diagnosed with Ebola, according to U.S. officials.

“We are not aware of any other United States citizens with potential exposures to Ebola at this time, and there is no health risk to the U.S. public due to this evacuation,” according to a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The individual was flown back to the United States in a private plane, not commercial aircraft.

The individual will be monitored in a unit at the medical center that can safely quarantine individuals exposed to highly infectious diseases, such as Ebola.

“CDC recognizes that Ebola generates a lot of public worry and concern,” the statement said, noting that the agency has “several measures available” to prevent the introduction of disease in the United States. Ebola patients or people who have been exposed to Ebola can be safely transported to the United States and cared for when appropriate precautions are used and infection control procedures are in place to prevent transmission to others, the CDC said.

The American was among hundreds of health care personnel who have been responding to a growing Ebola outbreak in Congo, the second largest in history, with nearly 600 cases and 360 deaths. The outbreak in northeastern Congo has been especially difficult to control because it is taking place in an active war zone. Attacks on government outposts and civilians by dozens of armed militias have complicated the work of Ebola response teams, who often have had to suspend crucial work tracking cases and isolating people infected with the deadly virus. Violence has escalated in recent weeks near Beni, the urban epicenter in North Kivu province, and the city of Butembo.

Congo’s health ministry, the World Health Organization and some nongovernmental organizations have been forced to temporarily suspend their Ebola containment work because of protests related to Sunday’s presidential election. The government issued a last-minute decision to bar people in Beni and Butembo from voting because of the outbreak. About a dozen U.S. government personnel, including Ebola experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are working on the Ebola response in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, about 1,000 miles away.

Taylor Wilson, a spokesman for the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said the potential exposure took place about a week ago. After the exposure, the health worker received the experimental Ebola vaccine that has been given to more than 53,000 people in Congo, including health care personnel, according to U.S. officials.

“This person may have been exposed to the virus but is not ill and is not contagious,” said Ted Cieslak, an infectious diseases specialist with Nebraska Medicine and associate professor of epidemiology in the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health.

The Ebola virus cannot spread to others when a person shows no signs or symptoms of the disease. Symptoms include fever, severe headache, diarrhea, and unexplained bleeding or bruising. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after contact with the virus, with an average of 8 to 10 days.

If the exposed person develops symptoms, Cieslak said, the Nebraska team is among the most qualified in the world to deal with them because of the medical center’s previous experience caring for Ebola patients. The individual will be monitored in a secure area inaccessible to the public and patients. Monitoring could last up to two weeks, hospital officials said.

The virus spreads through direct contact with blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died of the disease or through semen from a man who has recovered from the disease. It can also spread through objects contaminated with body fluids from a sick or dead person.

While this exposed individual isn’t officially a patient, hospital officials said they will be honoring the person’s request for privacy. The hospital also said it will not be providing updates on the person’s status unless the person needs to be transferred to the special biocontainment unit.

Nebraska Medicine treated three patients with Ebola during the epidemic that ravaged Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea from 2014 to 2016. In 2015, several others were monitored after exposures, none of whom developed the disease. Nebraska Medical Center is one of a handful of places in the United States that has a dedicated biocontainment unit.

Iowa raid foretold Whitaker’s immigration stance

MARSHALLTOWN — Matthew Whitaker was in his third year as a U.S. attorney in Iowa when he learned that hundreds of undocumented immigrants might be working at a meat-processing facility in Marshalltown, an hour’s drive from his Des Moines office.

He said he was “shocked” and decided to take action. What followed became one of the highest-profile and most controversial actions of Whitaker’s five-year career as a prosecutor.

Federal agents in 2006 raided the plant, arresting nearly 100 workers. Some were later deported, advocates said.

Whitaker also brought charges of harboring undocumented immigrants against a company personnel manager and a union vice president. One case resulted in probation and the other was dismissed, according to records and interviews.

Whitaker’s aggressive actions foreshadowed the role he now is playing at the highest levels of the Trump administration. While attorney general nominee William P. Barr waits for his Senate confirmation hearing, Whitaker is using his remaining time at the helm of the Justice Department to promote President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

As acting attorney general, he unveiled a new rule making it harder for immigrants to seek asylum. Earlier this month, Whitaker delivered a blistering speech in Austin praising the border crackdown and declaring that “massive illegal immigration makes all of us less safe.”

Whitaker promoted the administration’s effort to end what he called “President (Barack) Obama’s unlawful DACA program,” which allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to remain under certain conditions.

To many in this city of 27,000, Whitaker’s embrace of immigration crackdowns is misguided. The 2006 raid did not bring more security to their community, they said, but rather upended a community in urgent need of workers for local pork-producing facilities and other companies.

“We’re still trying to recover from it,” Marshalltown police Chief Michael Tupper said. “I think that there’s just a lot of fear that it could happen again. It was a very traumatic experience for our community. Not just for the families and people that were directly impacted, but for our school system, for our local economy, for our community as a whole. It was, in many ways, a devastating experience.”

Mayor Joel Greer, a Democrat, said he has “concerns about the enforcement of the immigration policy that Mr. Whitaker espouses.”

“Every large employer in town is having trouble finding workers,” Greer said. “If I had the magic wand, I would wave it and stop the ICE raids and figure out how to let people come in as immigrants legally and fill our plants.”

Whitaker did not respond to a request for comment.

After serving as a U.S. attorney in Iowa, the former Iowa Hawkeye football player based a 2014 run for the U.S. Senate in part on the actions he ordered in Marshalltown,

During the campaign, he highlighted his role in the arrests of a company official and union worker, telling The Gazette that “in Marshalltown, I pursued those who hired illegal immigrants.”

Having visited border areas in Texas and California as U.S. attorney, Whitaker told the blog Caffeinated Thoughts, “I was able to see what our border looks like and the fact it is under assault on a daily basis from people trying to bring illegal people and illegal drugs into our country.”

He said he would not support amnesty for undocumented immigrants, which was being discussed at the time, “because the American worker who currently cannot find a job, if we legalize 11 or 12 million people, that will put them under tremendous pressure in their job search and on their wages.”

As U.S. attorney, Whitaker took credit for initiating the six-state raid that was designed to be one of the largest crackdowns of undocumented workers at the time. He said he decided to take action when he learned that as many as 664 potential undocumented immigrants were working at the Marshalltown plant — about a third of its workforce.

Whitaker told NPR at the time that when he learned that so many undocumented immigrants were believed to be working at the plant, “it shocked my common sense and reason.”

Whitaker told the Associated Press that after he was alerted to the situation by immigration authorities, “I determined that something had to be done.”

The morning of Dec. 12, 2006, began festively, as many migrants throughout the city prepared to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint. Roses were arranged at the Catholic churches, where parishioners offered prayers of devotion and patriotism.

More than 1,000 people headed to their shift at the plant, ready for another day of butchering thousands of pigs.

Federal agents arrived and asked workers for identification papers, according to news accounts. The workers were asked if they had children. If they did, one parent would not be immediately deported and was supposed to be allowed to stay with them in Marshalltown, according to Sister Christine Feagan, director of Hispanic ministries at Saint Mary Catholic Church.

But Feagan said many immigrants feared that if they revealed that they had children, then their sons and daughters would face deportation.

“They separated the men and the women, and then they were asked if they had any kids,” Feagan said. “They thought that meant that (the agents) would be taking the kids. And so they said, “no, they didn’t have any kids.’”

So when some of those parents were deported, their children were left behind, she said.

The feelings from that day remain so raw that many “still wake up in the middle of the night, afraid,” Feagan said.

The raids in Iowa and five other states took place at plants owned by Swift & Co., a Colorado-based firm. They resulted in 1,297 arrests, about 10 percent of the company’s employees, according to news reports.

A number of those arrested were found to have used fake names and identification papers, according to news reports at the time, but it is not clear how many were later deported.

At Marshalltown, 99 people were arrested, far fewer than Whitaker had anticipated.

“All I know is that we did not encounter as many as we had expected when we went in there last week,” Whitaker said at the time.

In the years that followed, his office focused on prosecuting two cases related to the raid.

Braulio Pereyra-Gabino, a union vice president at the Swift plant, was arrested on charges of harboring undocumented immigrants. He had been secretly recorded by an immigration agent advising Spanish-speaking workers what to do if approached by government authorities.

Pereyra-Gabino’s attorney, Keith Rigg, argued that his client was merely giving a speech to workers, not harboring undocumented immigrants. Pereyra-Gabino declined to comment.

“This case was big because they prosecuted somebody for giving a speech,” Rigg said. “It is one of the most important cases I’ve ever done in my career. If they want to prosecute you for what you say to people, you need to fight that back with every breath you have.”

Pereyra-Gabino was acquitted of charges of identity theft and Social Security fraud, but he was convicted on the harboring charge in May 2008 and sentenced to one year and one day in prison, along with a $2,100 fine.

But an appeals court sent the matter back to the lower court, and the case was dismissed in 2009 after prosecutors decided not to pursue it.

In the second case, a Swift human resources official, Christopher Lamb, pleaded guilty to hiding an undocumented immigrant and was sentenced to probation and a $200 fine. Lamb could not be reached for comment.

Today, large numbers of undocumented immigrants continue to live in Marshalltown, according to advocates and city officials, although figures are impossible to verify.

At the Abarrotes La Salud grocery store near the plant, co-owner Silvestre Vargas said many migrants like himself had come from the Mexican state of Michoacan. With plenty of job opportunities at the local plants and in construction jobs to repair damage from a severe tornado that hit in July, “a lot more” immigrants would come if they were allowed, Vargas said.

The Swift plant eventually was bought by a company called JBS, and it is thriving, according to city officials, who said they believe the operation would expand if it could find more workers.

The company declined to comment, but a notice for an October job fair on the company’s Facebook page said the starting wage for maintenance workers is $18.80, far above Iowa’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Whitaker, in his Dec. 11 speech in Austin, associated illegal immigration with crime, drugs and gangs. The United States “spends billions of dollars on illegal aliens” that “could be spent on Americans,” he said.

But Marshalltown officials said immigrants have helped their community thrive.

“The reality of it is that immigrants are less likely to commit crime than our native population,” said Tupper, the police chief. “Our immigrant community here is in many ways the backbone of our community.”

The Gazette's best sports photos of 2018

A contest between two teams is more than a battle for the best score, it is actually a collection of stories: stories of teams and players, of parents and children, stories of hardwork, triumph, setbacks, fans, crowds, culture and communities.Our Gazette photographers shoot sports all year, in weather good and bad, trying to catch both the action and the stories behind the action. Here are some of their favorite photos from 2018.

                                                           

Jerime Mitchell’s lawsuit won’t be heard any time soon

CEDAR RAPIDS — A lawsuit accusing the city of Cedar Rapids of negligence, filed after a police officer shot and paralyzed a motorist two years ago, likely won’t be heard by a jury anytime soon while a dispute continues over keeping potential evidence secret.

Jerime Mitchell, 41, of Cedar Rapids, filed the suit in February 2017 in Linn County District Court after he was shot and injured during a traffic stop early Nov. 1, 2016, near Coe College.

Officer Lucas Jones, who authorities said was snagged by the door of Mitchell’s pickup truck as Mitchell tried to flee, fired three rounds. One bullet pierced Mitchell’s spinal cord, paralyzing him from the neck down.

The lawsuit has been on hold for almost a year as the parties wait for the Iowa Supreme Court to decide whether Mitchell and his attorney can access certain police reports on the shooting and on the officer involved.

For now, the civil trial has been bumped to Aug. 11, 2020 — nearly four years after the shooting.

Pressley Henningsen, Mitchell’s Cedar Rapids attorney, said depositions haven’t been taken and won’t be until the issue before the state’s high court is resolved.

“Jerime continues to work hard at his recovery and he’s thankful for the love and support of his family,” Henningsen said. “But, unfortunately, he is paralyzed so he faces the same significant challenges experienced by all folks with severe spinal cord injuries and he will for life.”

The defendants — the city and Officer Jones — are asking justices to review a ruling by 6th Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Grady.

In November 2017, Grady ruled the city must turn over to Mitchell’s attorneys any requested law enforcement investigative reports, including electronic recordings and phone communications and interviews or conversations with law enforcement at the scene that are related to the shooting.

Mitchell’s attorneys also asked to access documents from the city and the police department over Jones’ involvement in another incident — a 2015 fatal shooting that is the subject of a separate lawsuit in federal court.

The city’s attorney argues that some of the documents related to Mitchell’s shooting and the 2015 shooting shouldn’t be available to the public and should remain confidential. The documents involve Jones’ employment, the 2015 shooting, internal reviews and Mitchell’s medical records.

Mitchell’s attorneys argue the police department is funded with taxpayer money — and so the public has a right to know how it’s being run.

The city also is asking the state justices to consider previous conduct by another Mitchell attorney, Larry Rogers Jr., of Chicago, who they believe will give confidential records to the press.

Rogers, the city argues in court documents, already has made comments to the media about the case that “have had or could have a substantial likelihood of prejudicing” the proceedings.

The city states Rogers has made detailed comments about Mitchell’s injuries and his rehabilitation. It also cites comments Rogers made about Jones — that “he is off the charts with respect to how frequently (officer-involved shootings) happen, even in metropolitan areas.”

Grady, in his ruling, said the city must turn over any investigative reports or electronic communications generated or filed within 96 hours of the Mitchell shooting. But he stopped short of requiring the city to turn over any reports or memos used solely for a police internal review.

The city asked Grady to reconsider his ruling, arguing the documents are considered confidential under Iowa open records laws. Grady denied the motion, and the city filed an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Jones shot Mitchell early that morning after he pulled over Mitchell’s pickup on Coe Road NE.

The stated reason for the stop: the truck’s license plate lights were not working, according to Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, who released the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation report of the incident a year ago.

A police car dashboard camera video later released by police shows Jones, who is white, was in his squad car some distance away from the pickup when he accelerated to catch up to Mitchell, who is black.

After Jones pulled over the truck, things escalated to an altercation between the two.

Mitchell tried to drive away, and Jones became stuck in the pickup’s open driver’s door. The officer fired three times as Mitchell drove away.

Though the video captured what happened, Jones’ body microphone was not functioning. So audio of most of what he and Mitchell said was not recorded.

Police later found a pound of marijuana, scales and cash in a backpack inside Mitchell’s truck, indicating he was on the verge of making a marijuana deal, Vander Sanden said.

Vander Sanden convened a grand jury to consider the case following the DCI investigation. The grand jury found Jones was justified in the shooting.

That decision and its timing were criticized by community members because investigators had not interviewed Mitchell, and he did not appear before the grand jury.

Neither he nor the officer faced charges.

Mitchell, in a statement to The Gazette later, gave a different account of events than authorities. He said Jones was the aggressor and attacked him “without provocation.”

“I was frightened, and decided it was in my best interest to get back in my truck,” Mitchell said. “At that point, Officer Jones got even more aggressive toward me and slammed me against the truck, then without provocation from me, he tackled me to the ground and released his dog who started attacking me.”

In February 2017, Mitchell and his wife, Bracken, sued Jones and the city, asserting he was negligent in his decision to stop Mitchell’s truck and in his handling of the incident by using excessive force, assaulting Mitchell and acting illegally. The Mitchells also allege the city was negligent in allowing Jones to continue as a police officer because it knows he has a “propensity toward violence” as an officer.

Jones and the city denied the claims.

In court motions, Jones denied any negligence, saying he acted within his duty as an officer and acted in self-defense. Any injury was the result of Jerime Mitchell’s “willful or negligent acts,” he said. Jones also said he is entitled to complete or qualified immunity.

ANOTHER LAWSUIT

The city, its police department and Jones — along with seven named officers and five unidentified officers — face a lawsuit filed last November in U.S. District Court by the family of Jonathan Tyler Gossman, 21, of Cedar Rapids.

The suit asserts Gossman was “fleeing from unlawful arrest” when he was shot following an Oct. 20, 2015, traffic stop.

Gossman was a passenger when a car was stopped in the area of 29th Street NW and Ravenwood Terrace NW.

Officers pulled Gossman from the car and he was chased by three officers, along with Jones and his K-9 dog, when he started to run, according to the lawsuit.

The police dog was directed by Jones to “attack” Gossman, which stopped him and caused him to lose his balance.

The suit states officers “erroneously” decided Gossman had fired a gun at them and they fatally shot him, discharging 25 times from two firearms.

Gossman didn’t threaten any of the officers with his gun or fire it, the suit alleges.

Vander Sanden, in a January 2016 review of the shooting, said a police officer believed he saw and heard a gun being fired in his direction, which prompted police to open fire on Gossman.

Vander Sanden acknowledged he had no evidence Gossman had fired a weapon at the officers. But he said the shooting was justified because guns were found in the car and because the traffic stop involved drug-related activity, “heightening the sense of danger.”

Attorneys for Gossman’s family have until Jan. 23 to respond to a motion from the defendants that the court issue a summary judgment in their favor.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

#3 Less flooding in 2018, but still costly | The Gazette Top Stories 2018

CEDAR RAPIDS — If 2018 taught Cedar Rapidians anything new, it was that flood events along the Cedar River are becoming a common occurrence, and that they don’t come cheap.

Three separate flooding episodes in September and October — the Cedar River crested downtown at 15.55 feet on Sept. 10, 17.94 feet on Sept. 26 and 14.67 feet on Oct. 14 — have been estimated to cost the city nearly $1 million to build sandbag walls, stage pumps, block drain intakes and cover staff overtime pay.

Officials have said this year’s flooding, as well as 2016’s deluge and the devastating flood of 2008, underscore the city’s need for permanent flood protection. A flood control system has been estimated at $550 million, or $750 million when considering inflation over 20 years.

In July, the Army Corps of Engineers announced the approval of $117 million to help cover flood protection costs.

The city has spent about $61 million so far on flood protection.

All told, the city has lined up nearly $400 million in state and federal funding for levees and flood walls.

To meet the gap in funds, the city has proposed a 10-year property tax levy increase of 22 cents per $1,000 in property value. That is an additional $18 for an $150,000 home.

The levy — the city’s first in a decade — would allow the city to issue $200 million in bonded debt over the next 10 years.

• Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

#4 Disappearance, death of Mollie Tibbetts captures nation’s attention | The Gazette Top Stories 2018

On July 18, 18-year-old Mollie Tibbetts went for a run in Brooklyn, Iowa, as she had many times before, and never returned. Her disappearance quickly captured the nation’s attention.

About five weeks later, the rising University of Iowa sophomore’s body was found in a cornfield just south of Guernsey in Poweshiek County, and a 24-year-old undocumented immigrant was charged with her murder.

The Medical Examiner’s Office found that Tibbetts had been stabbed multiple times.

The arrest of Mexican national Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who authorities said entered the United States illegally and has lived in the Brooklyn area for about seven years, swiftly spurred calls for stronger immigration policies from state legislators. President Donald Trump used Tibbetts’ death as evidence of the need for his proposed border wall.

Rivera was charged with first-degree murder. His case still is going through the court system.

In the first few days of the investigation, hundreds of volunteers searched the fields around Tibbetts’ house, and within days, state and federal authorities joined the search — deploying 30 to 50 investigators, as well as analysts specializing in digital analysis and evidence collection.

Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation field operations, said investigators ran down more than 4,000 leads and led multiple searches of areas in and around Brooklyn using manpower, air, water and police dog units.

With the help of FBI forensic experts, investigators also examined Mollie’s digital footprint, which included sifting through data from her cellphone, social media accounts and Fitbit, a physical activity tracker.

Though Tibbetts’ story ended tragically, her death sparked a movement among runners — especially female runners — around the world, many of whom began dedicating their runs to Tibbetts using the #milesformollie hashtag on social media.

Several local runners also adopted the hashtag, many of whom told The Gazette they would not let what happened to Tibbetts deter them from running.

When she runs, Cedar Rapids runner Megan Lemke, 34, told The Gazette that she often thinks of the young woman whose death inspired so many runners to stand up.

“We are not going to stop running, we are going to keep going,” she said.

• Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

Short stories go high tech at ‘literary kiosk’ in Iowa City

IOWA CITY — A “literary kiosk” that has been touring the Iowa City area has printed more than 3,000 works for passers-by.

Residing in the Iowa City Public Library this month, the kiosk provides free literary works that take one, three or five minutes to read.

“It’s sort of on the down-low,” said Elyse Miller, an administrative coordinator for the Iowa City Public Library. “It’s super cool, but it’s more of something that someone discovers.”

The kiosk is scheduled in January to move to the Coralville Public Library. Then, it will have monthly residencies at the North Liberty Public Library in February and the Cedar Rapids Public Library in March.

Since its debut at the Iowa City Book Festival in October, the kiosk had printed 3,228 stories by late December, said John Keegan of University of Iowa Libraries.

UI Libraries and the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature partnered to bring the kiosk to Iowa City, with Friends of the UI Libraries covering costs.

About half of the works printed so far have been short, one-minute reads. The other works have been almost evenly split between three-minute and five-minute reads.

“We wanted to bring at least one kiosk to town and the region to create another facet for engaging with the public, in what is internationally understood to be a literary place,” said Keegan, head of UI Libraries’ digital scholarship and publishing studio. “ ... It’s shown great promise early on, and we expect to continue to grow.”

The kiosk, which currently prints only works available in the public domain, is part of a pilot program that could include additional kiosks as well as local content this spring.

Some of those local authors could soon be area students, said John Kenyon, director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature.

He plans to make students’ award-winning submissions to Iowa City’s children’s literature fair, One Book Two Book, available to the public through the kiosk. The fair is Feb. 23 to 25.

As the literary kiosks program expands, Kenyon said he hopes the community will engage with the machines.

“It’s not just something to stand and look at and think, ‘Oh, that’s neat,’” he said. “I hope people go up and push the button and have something print out and read it. Take it home, share — really engage with these.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

Shots fired at Dodge Charger on 14th St SE in Cedar Rapids, passenger treated for minor injuries

On December 29 around 4:38 p.m., the Cedar Rapids Police Department reportedly responded to Mercy Medical Center for a subject who claims he was shot at. The report states the subject was driving a rented Dodge Charter on 14th St SE in the 500-700 block of Cedar Rapids when the car was shot at and hit three times.

According to the report, there were no injuries from gunshots, but Mercy Medical Center staff treated the passenger for injuries from glass fragments. The driver and front passenger were reportedly the car’s only occupants, and no other injuries were reported.

According to Cedar Rapids Police, no arrests have been made.

If you have any information regarding this or any crime, call Linn County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-CS-CRIME (272-7463) or text to CRIMES (274637) and in the message/subject, type 5227 and your tip.

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