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Spring Flood Watch: Monitor river gauges along the Cedar River, others

As the Cedar River is expected to reach a crest of 18.6 feet Monday into Tuesday, the National Weather Service will be updating the forecast and current readings every hour.

You can monitor in real time where the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids and all other rivers and cities in Iowa are currently measured, and see how the forecasts adjust over time.

Click on any dot on the map to see the line chart of the projected levels for that location.

County leaders to lawmakers on mental health: We can do better

Not too long ago, state government leaders received widespread accolades for a bipartisan overhaul of the adult mental health system, and state leaders are well aware that Iowans want and need a comprehensive system for children. Now comes the hard part.

Reforms of mental health services approved last year included critical access centers for people in crisis, a statewide crisis hotline, removal of residency caps and improved community-based care to spur more comprehensive treatment options for those with persistent illnesses. Some counties within the state’s 14 mental health regions, like Linn, are positioned to move forward on at least some of these goals. Others, however, continue to have difficulty providing basic services that state law already required.

Adding to the complications at the Statehouse is a more recent push for the development of a much needed children’s mental health framework — something the state never has had.

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed a task force to research the issue last year, and that group has provided its recommendations. Not surprisingly, creating a system based on those or other suggestions will require additional taxpayer investment.

The current adult system is funded largely through local property taxes, capped by the Legislature. Some regions also are hindered by caps placed on the amount of funding that can be carried forward to the next year. County leaders, some of whom face mandates that exceed levy capacities, converged in Des Moines once again to plead for a solution.

A video featuring various county and regional officials, as well as parents to a young man who took his own life in 2017, ending a long-term battle with mental illness, recently was released by county leaders.

“It quickly became evident that he needed longer term help if he were to recover from his illness, and there simply wasn’t any,” says Mary Neubauer of Clive, mother of Sergei.

Marion County Sheriff Jason Sandholdt, also in the video, urged lawmakers last week to find long-term funding for mental health services. When parents phone him in the middle of the night to report a suicidal teen, Sandholdt says telling them to go to the emergency room where they “might have to sit there for a couple of days” awaiting an open bed is “not good service.”

Majority Republicans in the Legislature have balked at a system that would allow county governments to increase property tax levies. In fact, a proposal under consideration in the Iowa House would allow voters to petition for a referendum on property tax increases above 2 percent.

Removal of property taxes as the primary funding for mental health services, however, would require taxpayer investment from another funding stream, such as sales tax revenue.

One possibility being debated at the Capitol is for lawmakers to raise the sales tax by a penny, which would enact the three-eighths of a cent tax for natural resources and recreation approved by voters a decade ago. The remaining five-eighths then could be used for other state priorities, such as mental health services.

Others wonder whether backfill funding, used to offset cuts in commercial and multifamily residential property tax enacted by the Legislature in 2013, could be earmarked for mental health services or otherwise eliminated and the money used to create a new state funding stream. Doing that, however, could prompt already cash-strapped county and municipal leaders to further increase property taxes to recoup at least a portion of the difference.

While researching needs and creating mental health frameworks isn’t necessarily an easy task, such recommendations are far more palatable to the public than generating the funding to provide them. Bills enacting such a framework, likewise, are easier political lifts than those that provide the investment needed to make them a reality — especially for lawmakers who appear to be stuck in a never-ending campaign cycle.

But, as county officials reminded us all this week, we can and must do better. The state’s current path on mental illness, which relies largely on expensive and overpopulated jail cells and emergency rooms, is unsustainable.

If we truly believe in a basic set of minimum services as our laws require, or that all Iowa children deserve comprehensive health care as the governor’s task force recommended, then we must be prepared to deliver consistent and sustainable funding.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

$2 million project set to improve traffic safety around Mount Vernon Road Hy-Vee

CEDAR RAPIDS — A dangerous intersection at the access point to Hy-Vee on Mount Vernon Road SE is scheduled for changes, including a new traffic signal, in the coming months.

Residents in that area had expressed concern about difficulty getting in and out of Hy-Vee a couple of years ago during the Mount Vernon Road corridor action plan, said Doug Wilson, Cedar Rapids Paving for Progress manager. The location has seen 22 crashes since 2015, he said.

“This project is asphalt resurfacing, but also several changes to address the collision issue at the exit and entrance to the Hy-Vee parking lot off Mount Vernon Road.”

The $2 million project focused on Mount Vernon Road between 38th Street and East Post Road SE was approved by the Cedar Rapids City Council last week. It will include new and upgraded traffic signals, traffic lane reconfiguration, water main replacement, removal and replacement of asphalt pavement, sidewalk replacement/extension, sidewalk ramp construction, and concrete turn lane construction, according to a city presentation about the plan.

There will be a new combined entrance to Hy-Vee with the entrance of Mercy Care Vernon Village.

Mount Vernon Road will be configured with two westbound lanes, one eastbound land and a new center left turn lane into Hy-Vee.

The project qualified for $500,000 from the Iowa Department of Transportation traffic safety improvement program for installation of a new traffic signal at 40th Street SE, which will serve as the main entrance.

Hy-Vee will construct the remainder of the new access south of the 40th Street intersection. The existing Hy-Vee access will be converted to a right turn-in only.

Council member Scott Olson questioned whether the project addresses needs identified in the action plan and whether this is part of the Paving for Progress budget. Wilson said it addresses the concerns about accessing Hy-Vee identified in the action plan but not the aesthetics. He said the amount not covered from the Iowa DOT grant would be covered by Paving for Progress, which is an $18 million-a-year street repair initiative funded by a local-option sales tax.

Council member Marty Hoeger questioned whether the changes take into account possible future commercial development at two sites near Hy-Vee along the frontage of Mount Vernon Road. Wilson said Hy-Vee is contemplating a convenience store at one of the sites but has not set a time frame, and he was unaware of plans for the other possible development site. The traffic project does account for potential new uses, Wilson said.

The project is expected to start in April and be complete in September. A contractor has not yet been selected.

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

Gov. Reynolds tours western Iowa town hit hard by flooding

HORNICK — During a tour of Hornick on Sunday, Gov. Kim Reynolds saw much of the flooded Woodbury County town, including “waterfront property” owned by Dale Ronfeldt.

The water — several feet deep past his outdoor deck — came courtesy of a breached levee Thursday on the West Fork of the Big Sioux River. Almost all residents of the town of 250 were evacuated as a result.

“We thought our basement would be dry,” said Ronfeldt, a member of the Hornick City Council as well as the town’s fire and rescue department. “Now we have 4 feet of water in it.”

Residents were allowed to survey damage and pick up personal items beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday. However, they were required to leave again by 8 p.m., by order of Mayor Scott Mitchell.

“We’re still waiting to see what happens,” he said, after being asked when residents may be allowed to return home permanently.

Reynolds has issued disaster proclamations for 36 Iowa counties, including Woodbury. That means residents of Hornick can get financial assistance for losses.

Yet Ronfeldt, a Hornick native, said he expected some loss of population because of the community’s aging demographic.

That was a sentiment shared by Mitchell, who also is a Hornick native.

“We’ve been through floods before,” he said. “We’re a family, and the community has always pulled together.”

Reynolds, who also toured the similarly flooded Missouri Valley, Iowa, earlier Sunday, was fast to compliment the efforts of Hornick’s first responders, as well as Woodbury County Emergency Management, for proactive planning.

“They were able to keep residents informed,” she said during a news conference Sunday afternoon at Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City. “They had a plan in place.”

When all the damage is assessed statewide, Reynolds said, this flooding may be more devastating than when the Missouri River flooded in the summer of 2011.

“During that flood, the Platte (River in Nebraska) wasn’t impacted,” she said. “This time, it was.”

Reynolds said it may take months before everything gets back to normal. She is set to give a flood update Monday and may do another tour of the area early in the week.

The Missouri River in Sioux City crested at 29.7 feet around 4 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. The water levels are likely to go down in the coming days.

It was a major concern for Jeff Dooley, manager of the Dakota Dunes Community Improvement District, who said he and other volunteers spent their Saturday night monitoring water levels on the Missouri.

“We began noticing growth above the projected trends,” he said. “With a very small margin for error in the Spyglass area, we decided to go door-to-door at around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning.”

About 240 households were asked to evacuate their Dakota Dunes homes, just across the Iowa border in South Dakota. They were able to return later in the day.

Unfortunately, Hornick residents aren’t quite so lucky.

Despite that, Ronfeldt was encouraged by offers of help from community members.

“People have been incredibly generous,” he said.

Mitchell already is looking toward the future.

“Our volunteer firefighter association is hosting a pancake breakfast on March 30,” he said. “I encourage everyone to stop by to see how Hornick is doing.”

Presidential hopeful Sen. Amy Klobuchar in Cedar Rapids promises to usher America across river of divides

CEDAR RAPIDS — Minnesota senator and presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar told a crowd in Cedar Rapids that Americans “must cross the river of our divides,” a gap that she contends she could help usher the country over if elected president.

The three-term senator was in Cedar Rapids on Sunday during a round of campaign stops throughout Eastern Iowa that included the SaPaDaPaSo parade through downtown.

But before walking in the St. Patrick’s Day parade with the Linn County Democrats, Klobuchar participated in a meet-and-greet hosted by the Linn Phoenix Club at Raygun, with nearly 100 people in attendance.

The Democrat vowed to address climate change, introduce universal background checks for gun owners, reduce drug prices and provide universal health care. She also promised to instill a sense of peace and progress following what she described as chaotic leadership from the Trump administration.

“We have to cross the rivers of our divides, and there are great divides that are going on right now in this country that are exacerbated by the president,” Klobuchar said. “I always say we may look different, we may pray different, we may love different, but we all come from a country and live in a country of shared dreams. This is something that unites us, and this president keeps trying to divide us.”

Klobuchar announced her intent to run for president early last month, but this weekend marked her first visit in Eastern Iowa. She spoke to voters in Waterloo, Dubuque and Independence on Saturday before making her way to Cedar Rapids on Sunday. She also made a stop in Davenport on Sunday afternoon.

At Raygun, Klobuchar touted legislation she’s written in Washington, D.C., in the years since she was elected the first female senator from Minnesota in 2006, and cited a list of accomplishments. For example, when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed in 2007, she said she was among those who pushed for reinvestment in infrastructure. She cited a CNBC poll showing Minnesota’s bridges now are among the best in the nation.

Klobuchar also promised quick action on climate change and vowed to bring the United States back into the Paris Agreement, the United Nations pact to address climate change globally.

Jason Snell, the director of the Cedar Rapids chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led political movement for climate change action, attended Sunday’s event. He said he and others in the group have been to candidate events to get a sense of their priorities.

“They’ve all spoken to it and when they do mention the work they want to do, those are some of the biggest applauses,” Snell said. “So I’ve been happy with a lot of them.”

Klobuchar was one of a handful of Democratic presidential hopefuls in the state this weekend, including Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke.

Craig Wyrick-Solari, a Californian in the area visiting his sister, Anne Wyrick of Iowa City, saw some of the candidates in the past week. He said he still is deciding who to vote for, but agreed with Klobuchar that President Donald Trump is too divisive and plans to vote against his re-election bid.

“I would vote a cheese sandwich if it was a Democrat,” Wyrick-Solari said. “But that being said, we want the best candidate, and we want them to win.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

5 years of kids and coding at the New Bohemian Innovation Collaboration

CEDAR RAPIDS — Five years on, the K-12 initiative at NewBoCo has impacted more than 1,500 students through one-day classes, free events and summer programs.

NewBoCo, or the New Bohemian Innovation Collaboration, started hosting tech and coding programming for students in and near Cedar Rapids to address workforce needs, said Samantha Dahlby, NewBoCo Director of K-12 Education.

“It spun out of a need for tech in the community,” Dahlby said. “We were hearing (from employers), it’s great here, there’s wonderful resources, we love the people — but we have to hire tech talent and we can’t find that here.”

A long-term solution to that problem is exposing more young students to science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — she said.

Elementary students can take coding classes known as “CoderDojo” through NewBoCo — which is housed in the Geonetric Building in Cedar Rapids’ NewBo district — while middle and high school students can work with mentors working in tech to develop their own websites.

NewBoCo also offers professional development to teachers and schools interested in computer science education.

“There’s still work to be done, but we’ve see a huge improvement in STEM, focus-wise” in schools, Dahlby said.

Looking ahead, NewBoCo’s education initiative hopes to build more business and community partnerships as well as grow its volunteer base.

“Impacting more and more students is the trajectory we’re on,” Dahlby said.

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

IF YOU GO

l What: CoderDojo and five-year celebration

l When: 1 to 3 p.m., April 6

l Where: Geonetric Building, 415 12th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

l Cost: Free

City of Cedar Rapids placing HESCO barriers today for 18.5-foot flood projection overnight Monday into Tuesday

The City of Cedar Rapids Public Works Department is placing a row of sand-fill HESCO barriers today “in low-lying areas on the west side of the river” to continue to prepare for this week’s Cedar River crest, expected overnight Monday into Tuesday. The National Weather Service (NWS) crest projection of 18.5 feet is three feet higher than predictions last week.

The Public Works Department also will be plugging additional storm drains and manholes and will be stationing additional pumps in the Time Check Neighborhood, Czech Village District and Kingston Village District.

In a news release Sunday, the city also stated they have closed off the underground storm sewer system to prevent water from backing up and flooding streets or businesses. The city noted that “impacts are not anticipated to homes/businesses” and reminded residents to heed all road barricades and not drive through standing water.

For Vinton, the NWS has changed the flooding forecast from minor to moderately severe due to “an ice jam upstream of Vinton combined with additional flow coming downstream from Waterloo.” With those factors, the NWS advised that the river is expected to crest Monday between 18.5 to possibly over 19 feet. It would be classified as major flooding at or above 19 feet.

Current Road Closures for Cedar Rapids

• Otis Rd

• Ellis Blvd Between Ellis Ln and 18th St SW

• Ellis Rd west of Edgewood Rd

• A St SW

• Bowling St between A and C St SW

• Old River Rd

• 1st St NW between E Ave and Penn Ave NW

• J St SW

• Hawkeye Downs Rd from 41st St to J St SW

Scheduled closures include:

• Effective 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 17: Intersection of C Street SW and Bowling Street SW will close

• Effective 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 17: Edgewood Rd NW fully closed to all traffic between Glass Rd and River Bluff Drive

• Overnight tonight (Sunday, March 17) Ely Road closure at Old River Road

Historic floods hit Nebraska after ‘bomb cyclone’ storm

(Reuters) — Large parts of Nebraska and the U.S. Central Plains were underwater on Saturday after a late-winter “bomb cyclone” storm triggered historic flooding along the Missouri and Platte rivers, causing two deaths, tearing apart homes and swallowing roadways.

The National Weather Service predicted dangerous flooding would continue through the weekend in Nebraska and in south and west central Iowa, particularly along the Missouri River.

“We’re still in a very widely dispersed and intense flooding situation in the eastern third of Nebraska,” said Mike Wight, a spokesman for the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, in a phone interview.

Nebraska has had two flood-related fatalities this week, Wight said. One person died at home after failing to evacuate, although the exact cause of death was unclear, authorities said, and the other was swept away while trying to tow a trapped car with his tractor.

The Missouri River was still rising on Saturday evening, local TV station KMTV reported, with a record crest of more than 47 feet expected early on Tuesday in Brownville, Nebraska, about 70 miles south of Omaha in the eastern corner of the state.

“We’re looking at 4, 5, 6, 7 feet above the highest it’s ever been,” Wight said.

The flooding came in the wake of what meteorologists call a “bomb cyclone,” a winter hurricane that forms when the barometric pressure drops 24 millibars in 24 hours. The storm blew from the western Rockies to the Central Plains last week.

The rising water has reduced stores and homes to rubble and ripped off a long chunk of a highway bridge, according to photos posted on Twitter by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. Ranchers posted images on social media of their cattle being dug out of snowdrifts or stranded in fields.

The flooding has all but blocked access to some small communities along the river, where potable drinking water has become scarce as the flood has contaminated wells, Wight said.

Ricketts visited several flooded communities on Saturday and wrote on Twitter that he witnessed “unbelievable devastation.”

“The whole state is pulling together as we respond to and recover from the ongoing #NebraskaFlood! #NebraskaStrong,” the governor tweeted.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Richard Chang)

Cedar Rapids police ask residents to register security cameras

CEDAR RAPIDS — From thefts to homicides, when law enforcement officers respond to a crime scene, one of the first things they do is check for nearby cameras that may have captured the crime.

Whether the images are from witnesses’ cellphones, ATM cameras or home security systems, cameras have come to play a pivotal role in police investigations, no matter the severity of the crime.

That’s why the Cedar Rapids Police Department is asking residents to register their private security cameras, so when a crime occurs, investigators will know where and how many cameras are in the area.

Sgt. Laura Faircloth said the program is intended to save investigators time hunting down cameras that may have captured a crime scene.

“This is a completely voluntary program,” she said. “For those who register their cameras, the basic information that they are asked to submit will be stored in a database that we created and control. That way, when something does happen, investigators don’t have to search for cameras — they can access the database from their in-car computers and see what cameras are in the area.”

Registering a camera does not give the police department remote access to the footage, Faircloth said. If investigators found a camera that may have recorded an incident and wanted to collect the footage, they would still need the camera’s owner to provide a copy of the recording.

“The only thing this database would do is let officers check to see what cameras are in the area, where they are and who owns them,” she said.

Faircloth said the police department asks those who choose to register their cameras to only do so if the cameras are set to record public areas, such as sidewalks, front yards, alleyways and streets.

“We do not want any cameras that record private space, such as the inside of a person’s home,” she said.

Faircloth said residential cameras are not expected to meet any kind of system, quality or format requirements.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple doorbell camera or a state-of-the-art private surveillance system,” she said. “All we’re hoping to do here is get a better idea of the tools that are available to investigators when a crime occurs and save our officers time when it comes to hunting down possible investigative leads.”

Faircloth said the program was rolled out early last week and, so far, more than 100 residents have registered their security systems.

“I think that just goes to show how much residents care about this community and that they really do support the police department and want to help the police do their jobs and keep the community safe,” she said.

Those who wish to register their cameras can do so online through the police departments website, at cedar-rapids.org/police.

Once a camera is registered, Faircloth said, the owner's information will be stored in a secure database, and once a year an email will be sent out asking owners to update their information or give them the option to “opt out” and be removed from the database should they choose.

Over the past decade or so, Faircloth said camera footage has proved to be a valuable tool in police investigations and is used to solve every kind of crime.

“Almost all of our investigations now involve some type of camera footage, these days,” she said. “We’ve used home security cameras to solve anything from a porch theft to a homicide, and I can honestly say there are some crimes we might not have been solved without the footage from a homeowner’s private security system.”

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

From ‘evolve’ shadow, city takes on Tourism 2.0

CEDAR RAPIDS — As they try to create distance from the now-defunct GO Cedar Rapids — yet continue many of its initiatives — city and tourism officials have been guarded about some of the inner-workings of the new Cedar Rapids Tourism Office and certain functions the office is and isn’t performing.

The GO Cedar Rapids tourism operation abruptly folded Oct. 15 after the finances for a summer festival called “newbo evolve” went terribly wrong and the bureau couldn’t pay $2.3 million it owed to vendors and a bank.

Shortly after, the tourism operation essentially reopened as a scaled-back version with a new structure and a new name — Cedar Rapids Tourism Office — but with many of the same staff picking up where they had left off at GO Cedar Rapids. The mission was to continue booking conferences and sporting events and marketing the community as a place to visit.

“Right away we wanted to reach out to the clients they’ve been working with for several years,” Mike Silva, executive director of VenuWorks, which houses the Tourism Office, said during a January presentation to the City Council. “We are still in business. We are still moving forward. We are honoring all of the incentives promised by the previous organization.”

The Tourism Office was intended as a stopgap until the city and stakeholders devise a permanent plan for a new convention and visitors bureau.

The city government, which oversees and pays for more than half of the Tourism Office budget through hotel-motel taxes, has a 12- to 18-month memorandum of understanding with VenuWorks, a company the city already contracted with to book events at city venues, to run the operations day-to-day. Silva and city leaders have praised the work of the office so far.

Silva declined to be interviewed directly by The Gazette, show The Gazette its offices in the city-owned DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel or let the five staff members tasked with promoting the city be interviewed about what they do.

The Tourism Office is slated to move to a first floor space with better visibility in the coming weeks, he said.

He responded to questions from The Gazette by email but struck-through most of them, particularly ones referencing GO Cedar Rapids, which he indicated he would not answer. Silva had no role with GO Cedar Rapids.

One of the questions he crossed out entirely: “What services and how much of the mission from the old GO CR carries forward to the new organization? Are there things you are no longer doing?”

Cedar Rapids Finance Director Casey Drew, who oversees the contract and agreement with VenuWorks and the Tourism Office, did not address a similar question about how GO Cedar Rapids and the Tourism Office are different in terms of services.

“City staff were tasked with operating a Tourism Office and operations began in October 2018,” Drew said in an email provided by Maria Johnson, a city spokeswoman. “City staff were not tasked with operating a (convention and visitors bureau).”

Understanding the Tourism Office is important if the community is to weigh in on a model for a new convention and visitors bureau — or give thoughts on if one is needed at all — and how much public money to invest in it.

The Tourism Office is continuing many of the same core services as GO Cedar Rapids, but at about two-thirds the cost.

The office’s only five staff members have all rolled over from the defunct bureau. They are tasked with group services, sports tourism, business development, communications and marketing and meetings and conventions. The same website design with a new Tourism Office logo is used and filled with much of the old GO Cedar Rapids content, and it is supporting events and conferences that had been booked under its predecessor.

The Tourism Office is funded through the same basic mix of sources: hotel-motel taxes; destination marketing fees charged of guests — $2 per room, per night — at 13 hotels; and membership dues. It’s not clear what extra services the hotels receive for the fee.

The city is budgeting $750,000 in hotel-motel fees for the Tourism Office, which is more than half the $1.4 million in expected Tourism Office revenue in fiscal 2020. The office expects to see $1.2 million in expenses.

By comparison, the city had been funding $1 million of the GO Cedar Rapids budget, which had grown to $2 million most recently.

One area the new Tourism Office appears to have trimmed is producing its own events, which is a debated practice among tourism industry professionals.

City leaders sought a consultant in 2014 to provide a high-level view of the Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau — later rebranded as GO Cedar Rapids — and stated their desire for the organization to produce events to attract and retain young people. One of the consultant report’s recommendations was to create an event producer position, which city leaders endorsed.

Aside from “newbo evolve,” GO Cedar Rapids created a number of successful events.

The Indian Creek Nature Center took over the Fat Sac & Fox Enduro Ride, a winter fat tire bike race. The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance — at its request, according to Silva — took over Restaurant Week and Dinner of Champions, which took place in February.

Silva would not answer directly whether the Tourism Office still is producing events.

“The Tourism Office has already financially supported events already like the Halloween Ball, (and would have supported Crown Rally) and other events and will continue to do so,” Silva wrote. “There are a lot of events out there that we financially support in order to bring visitors to Cedar Rapids. No I am not going to give you a list of them ... The mission has not changed — attract visitors and tourism to Cedar Rapids. We are doing that full time.”

Tourism consultant Bill Geist of DMOproz in Madison, Wis., said producing events in the 1990s and 2000s was mainly a non-starter for tourism bureaus. But in recent years many bureaus have created successful events, such as FRYfest in Johnson County or Stroll on State in Rockford, Ill.

But given the history in Cedar Rapids, he said, he is skeptical whether events should be part of a new tourism bureau.

“It really comes down to what does the community need and at this moment in time, I think given the history, if I was the new CEO — and I’m not applying — if I was the new CEO of the new DMO, the last thing I would do is events because there’s a history here that just causes all kinds of consternation,” Geist said. “If the city really believes that events is where they need to go, they need to form an events organization.”

DMO stands for destination marketing organization, another name for a tourism bureau.

Geist said tourism bureau services are essential to a city, and stand-alone organizations are the ideal model. City governments do many things well, he said, but marketing typically is not one of them.

“Every community needs a voice supporting, promoting and proclaiming ‘this is a great place,’” Geist said. “Maybe it is a place to live, but it all starts with a visit ... We are a first date.”

Geist said the GO Cedar Rapids “newbo evolve” debacle is well-known in the tourism industry, but he considers it an anomaly. As local leaders envision a new organization, it is important not to plan expecting the same thing to happen again, he said.

“We understand that you’re in pain,” he said. “We understand that this is an embarrassment. But that doesn’t mean that the new organization would do the same thing. We really do believe that DMOs — and it’s not just because it’s our business — but as we go through communities across this country, the ones who have really aggressive and effective DMOs are the ones that we hear about. They are the ones that are getting written up in Midwest Living, and Condé Nast and USA Today. Those articles in USA Today don’t happen because they stumbled upon you. It happens because there’s an agency in town that is banging on the door of that feature editor saying, ‘Hey, take a look at Cedar Rapids. This place is pretty cool.’”

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said he believes the services of a bureau are necessary, and the organization should be a separate entity from the city. He would like to see conversations for developing a new one begin this quarter, and a long-term solution in place possibly by the end of the year.

“We do believe we need to have a separate entity to handle our CVB, our convention and visitors business,” Hart said last month. “That is my long-term plan. We are starting to gather people to start talk about that. And we plan to bring in an expert to help us figure what are the best practices of CVBs around the nation.”

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

The online world of breast milk sharing

Meagan Rockwell was desperate to get her daughter fed.

Tobin Hansen, her then-14-month-old, was admitted to the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics shortly after Thanksgiving for a stomach virus. Rockwell needed for her to drink a bottle for her dehydration, but Tobin was refusing formula.

So the 28-year-old Cedar Rapids mother put out a plea on Facebook. Please, she asked, does anyone have extra breast milk her daughter could have?

Right away, an acquaintance responded that she had extra in her freezer.

“Tobin sucked down a whole eight-ounce bottle like it was no problem,” Rockwell recalled. “From then on out, we’ve been on donor milk for her.”

When it comes to parenting, “breast is best” becomes the mantra drilled into mothers’ heads early on — but for those without an adequate supply of their own, donated breast milk has become an increasingly common option.

Agencies operating as milk banks offer lab-certified donations for children in the hospital and in some outpatient settings. But many mothers say those services simply are not an option for them due to high costs — $15 a bottle through the Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa.

In response, an effort to connect women whose babies need supplemental breast milk to nearby women who have an extra supply to give away has risen up on social media, described by some as an underground network of mothers helping mothers

“It’s just a huge blessing for people who want to give their babies mother’s milk and can’t,” said Rebekah Dove, 37-year-old Cedar Rapids mother who relies on donated breast milk for her children.

But officials at milk banks often warn the public these social pages pose very real risks to the well-being of Iowa’s youngest.

“Those babies, they depend on us. So in good conscience, I couldn’t recommend that,” said Jean Drulis, co-founder and director of Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa.

A SAFETY NET

Tobin was diagnosed with Canavan disease, a progressive, fatal neurological disease that is caused by a genetic abnormality, shortly after her birth. Rockwell said her daughter is losing her ability to eat, swallow and breathe on her own, meaning nursing always was a struggle and her supply eventually was depleted.

Tobin will need a feeding tube in the next couple months, but Rockwell said breast milk has been keeping her as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

“Not only does she absolutely love it, it keeps her hydrated. That’s key,” she said.

The benefits of breastfeeding are clear, according to recent research, and the majority of women in the United States start out exclusively breastfeeding their babies, according to a survey of children born in 2015.

However, by the time the child reached its first three months, about 47 percent were exclusively breastfed nationwide, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 25 percent were breastfed through six months.

Less than 52 percent of Iowa mothers exclusively breastfed through three months and about 30 percent through six months, the CDC said.

“These rates suggest that mothers may not be getting the support they need from health care providers, family members and employers to meet their breastfeeding goals,” according to the CDC.

In recent years, Facebook pages such as Eats On Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies have increased in popularity among parents seeking to meet these goals.

“It gives parents a safety net that allows parents to feed their children,” said Brandi Kennedy-Evans, a Council Bluffs resident who has monitored the Iowa and Nebraska Eats On Feets pages for nearly eight years.

Kennedy-Evans, who worked as a doula for several years, said she wanted to bridge the gap between moms struggling to produce enough breast milk and women looking to donate their unused supply.

Dove, of Cedar Rapids, discovered the network after the birth of her second child, and is exclusively feeding her third child on donated breast milk. She struggled with breastfeeding with her first child, and describes groups such as Eats On Feets as “a tremendous blessing” for her family.

“This is huge to me,” Dove said. “It continues to be huge to me and my family.”

A CODE

It offers that safety net, but at what risk?

The sale of human breast milk on websites such as onlythebreast.com — where, in some cases, bags are selling for hundreds of dollars — is technically legal, but largely unregulated, according to one legal commentary on the website of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Academic studies highlight the risks involved in traversing these websites, including a 2013 study in the journal Pediatrics that compared human breast milk purchased online with milk donated via a milk bank. Of the two, the study found milk sold online had higher bacteria levels.

Drulis said Iowa’s milk bank, as well as those in other states, pasteurize donated milk to eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses.

Kennedy-Evans said Eats On Feets guidelines prohibit any money from being exchanged in these scenarios, which is intended to diminish any dishonesty, such as diluting breast milk with cow’s milk.

Kennedy-Evans oversees the Eats On Feets pages every day, but no regulatory body exists to serve as a check on the milk passed between two individuals.

“I completely understand there’s a risk with it. Absolutely,” said Elizabeth Medlang, 31, of Prairieburg, who has donated breast milk for five years. “If it’s not safe for their own child, I wouldn’t think they would give it to someone else’s child.”

It’s up to the donors to self-report any risky behaviors or potential red flags to recipients of their donor milk, and recipients are encouraged to request blood screenings and ask personal questions about lifestyle and habits.

“I feel like there’s kind of code, maybe unwritten code, that this is for the kids,” Dove said. “I’m not doing this for another mom, I’m doing this for a baby.

“It’s like nursing — you don’t make a choice to nurse because it feels good to you, you make the choice because it’s good for your child.”

OVERSIGHT

Milk banks, common in other parts of the world, were created as a safe method to exchange donor breast milk.

Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa is the only one in the state and one of 27 across the nation recognized by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, the regulatory body of not-for-profit milk banks.

In 2018, Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa dispensed 224,000 of donated breast milk across 17 states. Some 85 percent of donations goes to 61 hospitals in those states, and the remaining 15 percent to outpatient settings.

Drulis said breastfeeding mothers are screened by the milk bank before they become donors and must submit for blood testing and have written approval from their health care providers.

That’s in addition to the rigorous testing done on the milk itself.

As to the comments from women who turn to peer-to-peer milk sharing because, they say, the milk bank is too costly, Drulis said, “Those are valid criticisms.”

The $15-a-bottle price through the Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa goes to cover overhead and lab procedures. Drulis said. The milk bank makes no profit from breast milk donations.

Most insurance companies and Medicaid won’t cover a breast milk prescription, Drulis said.

This was the challenge for Dana Arenas, a 33-year-old Cedar Rapids woman who sought out milk banking for her then three-month-old son who refused formula.

Arenas said she fought with her private insurance company for two weeks to reimburse her for $400 of donated milk — or about two days’ worth — and was denied coverage.

So she went to Facebook and found support through peer-to-peer milk sharing.

“Every doctor and nurse kept telling me this was not OK ..., but how am I going to feed my baby without this?” Arenas asked.

Drulis said she believes milk banks could be more accessible if these insurance companies opted to cover donated breast milk for Iowa families.

Drulis continues to advocate for families to come to a milk bank for breast milk, and hopes more people using peer-to-peer will bring their network under the safety of a regulatory body.

But mothers such as Dove are content where they are.

“There’s so much about raising children that people try to make controversial,” Dove said. “It’s not just what they eat. Every decision you make as a parent can be put under the microscope.”

• Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

Bohemian-Irish series: It was Kolaches vs. Shamrocks in 1910 baseball contest

More than 100 years ago, the biggest show in Cedar Rapids was a baseball series between the city’s best Irish and Bohemian players.

It started when those amateur players — who played for Don Reddy’s “Reddy’s Colts” and Joe Kvitek’s “Kvitek’s Colts” — gathered after practice in front of Alex Groundwater’s barbershop on Third Street SE.

The conversation started out on major league baseball but then evolved into an idea: How about dividing up the teams into nationalities, with the Bohemians versus the Irish?

What started as an idea for an impromptu game turned into a best-of-seven series — the so-called “Championship of the World.”

TWO-NATION BATTLE

The first game took place at the Sinclair packinghouse diamond Aug. 1, 1910. A red-and-white Bohemia flag flew from one end of the bleachers, and a green Irish flag waved from the other.

More than 800 fans gathered in the stands to see the “battle of two nations.”

“The sons of Bohemia handled the bat in much better style than did the Irishmen,” The Evening Gazette reported. “They registered five hits, while the Irish team got only two. When it came to errors, however, the wearers of the green had the Czechs outclassed. The Irish made only two errors and the Bohemians registered four.”

The score reflected the errors, with the Irish winning the first five-inning contest, 4-3.

The series garnered so much attention that the Model Clothing Co., operated by Bohemian P.N. Serbousek and Irishman Eugene Quinn, offered $10 in gold to the series winner. The store owners also offered $1 in cash to any player who hit a home run.

game 2

Game 2 on Aug. 4 drew a large crowd — “at least 10,000” (a bit of blarney) — according to the news story, which noted, “On the rear side of the diamond and around the bleachers, the crowd was 100 feet deep, and a string of humanity extended all around the diamond.”

The crowd was so dense the ball was lost in that humanity a couple of times, allowing base hits when the ball couldn’t be retrieved.

The Bohemians won that game, 1-0. The Irish won the third game, 5-0.

By then, news reports were referring to the teams by their nicknames: the Kolaches and the Shamrocks.

“These amateur players and the Bohemians and Irishmen who watch the game deserve credit for fine behavior,” The Gazette opined on Aug. 4. “Not a word of slang can be heard, and in spite of the awful yelling which is done by both sides, there is all fair play and honor for the baseball hero, be he a Shamrock or a Czech.”

the drama

The Irish won the fourth game, 7-4, and were poised to take the best-of-seven series Aug. 13.

But the Bohemians won that game, 8-1, thanks to first baseman and fan favorite Ed Krajicek, who hailed from Chicago and worked at the Sinclair packinghouse and who smacked a home run. The team was rewarded with fresh kolaches.

The Bohemians won the next game, too, tying the series at 3-3.

The seventh and final game of the series was scheduled for Labor Day at the Sinclair diamond but was moved to Sunday afternoon, Sept. 1, at the Alamo field, which was located where Roosevelt Middle School now sits at 300 13th St. NW.

The players preferred the Sinclair field because they liked to see if anyone could hit the ball over the Sinclair smokehouse. No one had been able to do that, though Krajicek, the Bohemian slugger, had parked one on top of the smokehouse.

A large crowd turned out despite of the rain for the nine-inning contest. The Bohemians won the title, shutting out the Irish, 5-0.

rave reviews

The Evening Gazette raved about the idea and its execution, with a bit of patriotism thrown in.

“The idea of having each team composed of the members of two nations, which make up a large percentage of the population of Cedar Rapids, proved a novel one indeed, and the public proved eager to find out which of these two nations gives the country the best players of the great American game,” the newspaper wrote.

“It is not only the skill of the players which is shown in these international contests, but each game played so far has shown what the American spirit really is. The games prove that men of two different nationalities whose origin has been in countries far distant from each other, and whose language has no relation at all, can live together as Americans. ...

“At every game, the friendly spirit prevailed.”

more games

Later that summer, the two teams played an exhibition game at the Marion Interstate Fair on Sept. 23.

The Independent baseball team of Iowa City challenged the winner of the Bohemian-Irish series for the “championship of the world.”

On Sept. 29, 2,000 fans gathered at Alamo Park to watch the two-city contest. The game went to the Bohemians by forfeit when the Independent captain objected to an umpire’s call and led his team off the field.

The next year, 1911, the Bohemians led off the series with an 8-0 win at Alamo Park on July 30.

The Irish countered by bringing in Jimmy LaValle, who once pitched for the C.R. Bunnies pro team in 1903. The contest went 11 innings.

“The way the Irishmen went after the Bohemians in the last half of the game and the way the Bohemians fought back was marvelous,” The Gazette reported. The game was finally called on account of darkness, still tied at 5-5.

The second championship series concluded Sept. 17 at the Alamo field, with 1,500 fans watching and new Chicago Cubs pitcher Cyril Slapnicka showing off his talents. The game ended in a 7-2 victory for the Bohemians.

In 1912, the Irish won the series.

In 1917, the Bohemian-Irish series was played at various ballfields, including Ellis Park, Alamo League Park and the Central Association minor league baseball park. It didn’t engender the same interest as in previous years — perhaps it was the impact of the world war — and it was the last one.

The series produced two professional players: Earl Tyree, who played one game for the Chicago Cubs in 1914, and Cy Slapnicka, who pitched for the Cubs in 1911 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1918, but who made his mark as general manager and then as a scout for the Cleveland Indians; he died in Cedar Rapids in 1979 at age 93.

• Comments: (319) 398-8338; d.fannonlangton@gmail.com

Updated criminal complaint adds murder to charges against Dallas Tullis

The state of Iowa has amended charges against Dallas Tullis to include Murder in the First Degree, according to an amended criminal complaint filed with the District Court of Linn County.

Tullis was previously charged with first-degree arson and assault on a police officer, assault with injury, and interference with official acts after allegedly setting fire to Hawthorne Hills Apartments in southwest Cedar Rapids and assaulting a police officer and hospital security officer.

Multiple people were injured during the apartment fire, including 65-year-old Steven Craig Balvin, who died a few days later. According to the complaint, investigators interviewed multiple witnesses who suggested the defendant had several conflicts with other tenants and management personnel in the weeks preceding the fire.

Murder in the First Degree is a Class A felony and is punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison

Photojournalist Lawrence Schiller brings award-winning eye to JFK exhibition

Lawrence Schiller has traveled the world, bringing history into focus, from the front lines of politics and pop culture.

He’s photographed Robert F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Bette Davis, Barbra Streisand, Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali — and Lee Harvey Oswald. He also directed part of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Lady Sings the Blues.” His 11th book was “Marilyn & Me: A Photographer’s Memories.”

And now he’s coming to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art at 1 p.m. March 23, to discuss the golden age of photojournalism and his work amassing the touring exhibition, “American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times.” The collection of 77 photographs captures the charismatic president’s life, from his infancy in 1917 to his death in November 1963.

Kennedy was a key player in the golden age of photojournalism in the late 1950s and early ’60s, and Schiller was on the forefront at home and abroad, camera in hand.

“Kennedy opened the door. He was the first Paul Newman of politics,” Schiller said by phone from his home in Newtown, Pa., near the point where George Washington crossed the Delaware River. “And that was the beginning of the Kennedy era.”

EVOLUTION

The world was changing, and so was technology, ushering in a new way to gather, record and deliver news.

“You have to look at how we communicated coming out of World War II,” Schiller said. “Franklin Delano Roosevelt really established radio as a form of communication, with his Fireside Chats.”

People still gathered around the radio to listen to news, serials and soap operas. But the tide began to turn for photographers when the bulky large-format press cameras gave way to smaller models that were more mobile and easier to handle.

“In essence, photojournalism started to come alive in the early to late ’50s,” Schiller said.

National Geographic and Time magazines became the educators of the world, he noted. “And LIFE magazine became the visual educator of the world,” he added.

Smaller cameras allowed photographers to shoot more quickly, use more natural light, and ship the film faster — all contributing to the rise of photojournalism.

CAREER TRAJECTORY

Schiller started in the late ’50s, working as a photojournalist for a local newspaper, the La Jolla Light, in La Jolla, Calif. His star began to rise as he collected awards for his work, and before he finished college, he was traveling the world on assignment for the French magazine Paris-Match, as well as Life.

“I started to meet all the great photographers of that era,” he said. “I remember meeting Margaret Bourke-White, the woman who had the first cover of Life, the first cover of Fortune magazine. I remember her telling me in the elevator — I was only 21 at the time — ‘Remember Larry, you just better be alive when you die.’ That was her advice to me. ‘Don’t die in a hospital.’

“This was a period where everybody communicated. You’d pick up the phone — you had to call collect in those days — but it was a one-one one relationship with subjects. Celebrities didn’t have hair dressers and business managers and PR people running around.

“I remember photographing Jack Lemmon once. I was very tired, and he knew that I had to drive like 40 miles. ‘Sleep on the (expletive) couch Larry.’ Do you think that would ever happen at Kim Kardashian’s house? No, even though I know the Kardashians — known them even before they were born.

“So that was the golden age of journalism,” he said, “and there were like 40 or 50 of us worldwide who covered everything.”

The Kennedys were willing subjects, and Schiller photographed Robert Kennedy before turning his lens on older brother John, when they were young senators.

He also photographed Richard Nixon “a lot,” and Nixon would try to set up the shots, ordering Schiller around.

“(John) Kennedy didn’t care how you photographed him, where you photographed him, whether it was from behind, whether in front. (The whole family) knew the power of an image, and they weren’t afraid of the visual image,” Schiller said. “I think the father instilled that in them.”

Just as photography has evolved over the years, so has his career.

“I reinvent myself every 20 years,” he said. “That’s why I’ve got five kids, five wives, five grandchildren, and all the wives get together on Hannukah and Thanksgiving. One of them, sadly, passed on. We’re all like one family, and my first wife stays over at my house when she comes to visit some of the grandchildren.”

When Schiller grew bored with photojournalism — “It was just different heads on the same body” — he became a motion picture producer and director, picking up an Oscar and seven Emmys. Then Norman Mailer taught him how to write. “And I’ve written five New York Times best-selling books,” he said matter-of-factly.

“I just enjoy the challenge of doing something I’ve never done before,” he said.

KENNEDY EXHIBITION

“Who would say, ‘Larry Schiller, you’re going to curate the centennial exhibition of JFK at the Smithsonian.’ Well, I’ve never done that before. When the Smithsonian sat down with me, they were scared (expletive), excuse my language. And before they knew it, they had seen something that they normally would never have done themselves. It just knocked them out.

“Coming up with that logo of JFK walking, that’s just out of the ‘Mad Men’ era, the way that’s done. To have that era in the American Art Museum in the main hall — they loved it, because it brought, again, the television audience into the Smithsonian. When I invented that logo, I said to my art director, ‘I need a logo, an image that is going to appeal to the people of today.’ I’m not interested in the people who are 60, 70 years old. Even though I’m 80, that’s the way I think.”

He had 43,000 photos from which to choose, all on a highly organized database. From there, he narrowed the field to 5,000, then about 600.

At that point, he and his wife, Nina Weiner, founding president and chairwoman emerita of the Israel Scholarship Education Foundation, sat down at the dining room table and laid out the exhibit pieces.

“It was easy,” he said. “ ... It’s not difficult if you know the subject. You have to have a certain amount of taste, you have to understand how to present images that look fresh, even if they might have been seen before.”

The response has been “extraordinary,” he said, with people lining up and the down the street to see the exhibition in Springfield, Ill.

He hopes viewers take away a couple of points to ponder.

“Don’t be afraid of youth, number one,” he said. “Believe in the person, not necessarily his heritage, because that’s what people did with Kennedy. They didn’t worry about his Catholicism.”

He also points to Kennedy’s famous charge in his inaugural speech: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

“And if we want this to be a country that will be the right home for our children and grandchildren,” Schiller said, “then that’s what we should take away.”

If You Go

• What: Lawrence Schiller lecture: “JFK & The Golden Age of Photojournalism”

• Where: Second-floor auditorium, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 410 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

• When: 1 p.m. March 23

• Admission: Free; regular fees for gallery admission

• Speaker’s website: Lawrenceschiller.com

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

Lily and Rose Floral Studio sells what the owner loves

MARION — Lora Dodd-Brosseau is putting to use the lessons she once taught students who aspired to careers in the floral industry.

After spending the past 18 years teaching as a floral careers professor at Kirkwood Community College and the 18 years before that working in and managing local flower shops, Dodd-Brosseau opened Lily and Rose Floral Studio in Marion on Feb. 1.

“It was always in the back of my mind that I would open my own flower store,” she said. “It was a bucket list item.”

The opportunity came when Kirkwood eliminated its floral careers program due to budget cuts. Dodd-Brosseau took early retirement and left Kirkwood in July 2018.

“I was going to take a whole year off to ponder life and spend time with my two grandsons,” she said. “But it turns out I’m not the kind who can’t work.”

When she found a converted, 1920s-era Craftsman-style bungalow for rent on Marion’s main street, Dodd-Brosseau accelerated her plans to become a business owner.

“I love Marion,” she said. “I love that it has the feel of a small town but is close to Cedar Rapids.

“I did look at other locations in Marion and Cedar Rapids, but it was really the house that spoke to me.”

With renovations on the house already complete, Dodd-Brosseau was able to open the new shop just one month after signing the lease.

“I did it with a lot of help from good friends and support from my husband and kids,” she said.

The shop takes its name from what Dodd-Brosseau would have called a daughter if she had one. (She has two sons.)

The shop’s small retail space offers fresh flowers, green and blooming plants and an array of gift items such as soaps, lotions, handmade art and fresh, local honey.

“I do best selling products I love,” Dodd-Brosseau said. “If I could sell shoes, I would.”

The house is decorated the house in a 1920s theme with vintage furniture pieces that Dodd-Brosseau’s friends purchased at estate sales while she was on a buying trip for the store.

One such piece, a large sideboard, serves as the point-of-purchase counter in what had been the living room of the home.

Dodd-Brosseau converted one of the home’s bedrooms into a small classroom, where she plans to offer weekly hands-on workshops on topics such as floral design, wreath-making and terrariums.

She also plans to convert the kitchen — now used as a work room — into additional retail space and bring in some kitchen gift items.

During warmer months, she hopes to use the house’s porch for live music and iced tea and perhaps even offer wine and dessert.

“I want to create a really relaxing environment,” she said.

• Know a business in the Corridor that could make an interesting “My Biz”? Let us know via michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

At a Glance

• Owner: Lora Dodd-Brosseau

• Business: Lily and Rose Floral Studio

• Address: 620 Seventh Ave., Marion

• Telephone: (319) 777-6695

• Email: lilyandrosefloral@gmail.com

• Website: lilyandrosefloral.com

737 MAX crashes make it the most troubled airliner debut in modern aviation

SEATTLE — The 737 MAX is hardly the first case of a commercial aircraft launch or redesign that has run into serious problems.

The debut of Boeing’s own 787 Dreamliner, starting in 2011, was marred by everything from faulty supply chains and production delays to onboard fires from overheating batteries — and a grounding for more than three months.

But you have to go back many decades to find the introduction of a commercial aircraft that has involved such a staggering loss of life, or has raised such uncertainties.

“I can’t think of a time since perhaps the 1970s or even the 1960s, when you had two examples of a brand-new aircraft crashing within six months of each other, within the first couple of years of service,” said Todd Curtis, a Seattle-based aviation safety expert who tracks aircraft safety data on the website AirSafe.com.

And although the 737 MAX’s relatively short life span — it was first delivered in May 2017 — makes statistical comparisons difficult, at this point the 737 MAX has a crash rate that is roughly 14 times as high as the 737 series as a whole when measured by number of fatal crashes per million flights, according to Curtis’ calculations.

Aircraft introductions and major redesigns are almost never problem-free, said Jim Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates aircraft accidents. In any new or redesigned aircraft, Hall said, “there may be bugs or things that were engineered that, in actual service, need tweaking and need adjustment.”

What distinguishes the debut of the 737 MAX is not only the sheer magnitude of the tragedies — a total of 346 lives lost on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 last Sunday and the Lion Air Flight 610 in October.

As noteworthy is the fact that these two successive disasters occurred in what had been one of the safest eras in commercial aviation safety, when decades of work by manufacturers and regulators alike had succeeded in dramatically lowering the risks of serious crashes.

Investigators don’t yet know exactly what factors led to the crashes of either Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 last Sunday or the Lion Air Flight 610 in October or to what extent the accidents are related.

In grounding the aircraft Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration said the two flights “behaved very similarly,” raising “the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed.”

Boeing plans to roll out a software fix next month intended to solve the flight-control problem linked to the Lion Air crash.

Nonetheless, the events have raised daunting questions about an aircraft that is expected to be a major best-seller for Boeing and the next generation of a workhorse jet for the airline sector.

The twin crashes have also invited unwelcome comparisons to commercial aviation disasters from earlier periods, when the industry’s ability to build aircraft — and to understand why some of them failed — was orders of magnitude below what it is today.

The classic case is the Comet, the world’s first jet airliner. Launched in 1952 by British aircraft firm de Havilland, the 36-passenger Comet enjoyed massive commercial and cultural success for barely a year before a series of high-profile fatal crashes.

In 1953, all 43 passengers and crew aboard a British Overseas Airways Corp.

Comet died when the aircraft broke into pieces shortly after departing from Calcutta. Eight months later, a second Comet disintegrated after leaving Rome, killing all 35 passengers and crew.

BOAC grounded its remaining Comets, but the flights soon resumed after government investigators were unable to identify any structural or mechanical defects.

Four months later, a third Comet exploded in midflight, killing all 21 aboard. A second inquiry determined that the hull structure had weakened after repeated pressurization and depressurization and that the doomed planes had simply exploded as the pilots pressurized the ascending aircraft.

De Havilland scrambled to fix the design flaws in later Comet versions, but the aircraft never recovered commercially and was swept aside in 1958 by the world’s second, and much more successful, commercial jet — the Boeing 707.

But the Comet’s problems were hardly unique. Although the 7o7 would dominate commercial aviation through the 1960s and seal Boeing’s reputation as the leading aircraft maker, the 707 itself suffered an abysmal safety record, especially in its early years.

Between 1958 and 1966, the 707 recorded 12 major accidents that killed 1,061 passengers and crew — including in one instance, the entire U.S. figure skating team. In a single year — 1962 — four 707 crashes left 435 dead.

Yet because commercial jet aviation was still in its infancy, and because there was far less media coverage of accidents back then, the public’s tolerance for risk was far higher, Curtis said.

Still, manufacturers such as Boeing, along with regulators, airport operators and other members of the aviation sector made huge gains in aviation safety.

Between 1959 and 2017, the number of fatal accidents per million flight departures on U.S. and Canadian airlines fell from 40 to zero, according to statistics compiled by Boeing.

Even by 1979, the year of the deadliest airline accident on U.S. soil — the crash of American Airlines Flight 191, which killed all 271 passengers and crew aboard a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 lifting off from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago — flying had become remarkably safe on a statistical basis.

The last crash involving major fatalities on a U.S. airline came in 2009, when the crash of a Colgan Air commuter aircraft near Buffalo, New York, killed 49 passengers and crew and one person on the ground.

That dramatic improvement is one reason that more recent crashes, including the two 737 MAX disasters, are so shocking. In the modern era, there are major commercial aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 or the Airbus A380 and A340, where there have been “no fatal events, not even of a single passenger,” said Curtis. “And (then) you have two planeloads going down with the 737 MAX.”

Still, Curtis warns that it’s far too soon to label the 737 MAX as an unusually dangerous aircraft. The model has racked up less than half a million flights, Curtis estimates, which is a fraction of what is necessary to determine whether an actual pattern exists.

Aviation experts also say that, until the Lion Air crash last year, the 737 MAX had been marred by remarkably few performance problems, indicating that whatever factors led to the crash may not be deep-rooted and systemic.

“Frankly, up until the Lion Air disaster, the MAX was going really smoothly,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation industry expert with Teal Group. “Its first year, year and a half was just fine.”

As important, while Boeing has dragged its feet in acknowledging some technical issues in past crashes, such as 737 rudder problems that led to the 1991 crash of United Airlines Flight 585 in Colorado Springs, the company has been much more responsive to recent problems.

The speed with which Boeing found a fix for the Dreamliner battery issues, and then scaled it up across the fleet, shows how effective Boeing can be in fixing problems, Aboulafia said.

That record, coupled with Boeing’s vast financial and technical resources — and substantial motivation to get its cash cow back in the air — make many experts confident that the company will weather this newest setback.

As Aboulafia put it, Boeing has “resilience in scale.”

Still, given the peculiarities of the crashes, some experts warn against assuming that the fix will be straightforward.

“You are talking about events that should be very low probability,” said Adam Pilarski, an aviation consultant and former chief economist with Douglas Aircraft. “And if two events of very low probability happen, that raises flags.”

Some of Nike’s self-lacing internet connected shoes became corrupted

Nike’s most-advanced kicks have been turning into bricks. Blame the internet.

Last month, Nike began selling shoes that lace themselves, much like Marty McFly’s sneakers in “Back to the Future 2.”

The $350 Adapt BB shoes wirelessly connect to a phone to tighten and loosen with an app.

Then a dream from 1989 met the exhausting reality of 2019. Fresh out of the box, Nike’s connected shoes recommended a software update — which broke some.

More than an embarrassment, it exposed a truth that bears repeating about the future of all sorts of products: When something connects to the internet, you’re not really in control of it.

Mike, a sneaker collector in Virginia, said his expensive shoes were suddenly no longer even useful as ... shoes. The software update via his Android phone corrupted the “lace engine” so the sneaker couldn’t tighten — even with manual buttons.

“The whole thing is surreal,” said Mike, who spoke on the condition of not using his last name because he’s in the shoe-reselling business and feared retribution.

Nike says the problem affected a small number of customers, though its app has a 2.4-star rating in Google’s Play store.

The self-lacing shoes are hardly the first “smart” thing to turn dumb. We’ve seen Nest thermostats freeze out owners and Teslas that won’t drive after an over-the-air update, a phenomenon called “bricking.”

As a gadget reviewer, I’ve been locked out by a smart lock and awakened at 3 a.m. by a connected fire alarm gone rogue.

These experiences have a profane name, and even a Twitter feed.

The term is a play on the awkward adolescence of the Internet of Things, or IOT, the Silicon Valley idea that connecting ordinary objects to a network will revolutionize homes, cities, farms and, in the case of Nike, feet.

Despite the frequent faceplants, connected gadgets aren’t going away. There’s an argument to be made for going slow in adopting this technology, particularly when it offers trivial benefits.

But connectivity already is becoming standard on new cars, speakers, thermostats and doorbells — some of which are quite useful.

The world will have nearly 19 billion connected “things” by 2020, triple the number from 2016, Gartner estimates.

There’s a ton at stake for our security and privacy, not to mention sanity and money. So how do we get the good connected things and avoid the ones that are going to end up on the Internet of (expletive) list?

Nike says it has now fixed its shoes, but we can learn a few things about staying in control from how it bricked them in the first place.

Gyroscopes in your shoes

What really is a connected shoe — or smart speaker, thermostat or other connected thing? It’s a way for a company to stay in your life.

Before you bring one home, it’s best to ask if they’re truly relationship material.

Of course, the manufacturers don’t present it that way. Nike says the power-lacing tech in the Adapt BB sneakers allows the shoe’s fit to adjust to athletes’ changing needs.

A cable tightens the shoes when you press a button or tap on a smartphone app.

I don’t recall the shoes in “Back to the Future 2” using an app to operate. Nike’s app lets you dial in a precise fit and personalize some buttons.

But they’re already planning for more. Inside the shoes, there’s also an accelerometer, gyroscope, capacitive and temperature sensor that could be unlocked with software updates to collect information about your steps, performance or ... who knows.

In interviews at the shoe’s launch, executives talked about the Adapt BB as an “intelligent product” or even a communications device.

Staying in our lives after a purchase gives a manufacturer new opportunities to make money, be it from our data, advertising, in-app purchases or services.

Software updates usually are a good thing, I was reminded by Yves Béhar, the celebrated designer of many connected devices, from August door locks to the Snoo connected baby bassinet.

“When it works, over-the-air software updates are incredibly useful at prolonging the relevance of a product,” Béhar said.

Electric car updates improve battery life, and speaker updates improve sound quality, he said. They also provide critical security updates, which we want.

But there’s trust in that relationship that has to be earned, and can be easily ruined by putting features ahead of privacy, simplicity and reliability.

My least-favorite example is printer makers that got caught issuing updates that make it harder to use cheap, unauthorized ink.

Nike, which has had fits and starts with connected products including the Nike+ footpod and Fuelband that it no longer supports, missed a few trust elements.

For one, these sneakers have physical buttons, but they still require working software and power to operate.

Second, while software mishaps happen to every company, Nike really messed up. There are many different phone models, and in its testing Nike didn’t realize some couldn’t maintain a Bluetooth connection well enough to apply a software update.

A corrupted update wouldn’t have been lethal except for another Nike oversight — some shoes shipped without a “gold image” backup of the software they needed to operate. It was a recipe for making self-lacing shoes come undone.

Accountability

Many makers of connected things treat customers like guinea pigs. What’s missing is accountability.

Nike could have communicated better about its software problem, but at least it had a warranty and responsive support team.

For Mike in Virginia, the episode mostly cost time in emails, a conference call with Nike, and lots and lots of fussing with his shoes.

“I tried all the troubleshooting steps — resetting the hardware, resetting the software, resetting the Bluetooth, uninstalling the app and reinstalling,” he said.

A Nike spokeswoman said: “After working directly with the small number of affected customers, we have resolved the isolated connectivity issues with a software update that will be rolled out.”

At least you can take off the sneakers. Imagine if you’ve built a smart product into your home, and its maker goes out of business, sells to another company or for whatever reason shuts off your product.

“The law around all of these is developing. We don’t really know if someone sells a connected product, what are the manufacturer’s obligations with regard to it,” said Justin Brookman, a former staff member of the Federal Trade Commission who now runs privacy and technology policy for Consumer Reports.

In this wild West, Nike’s broken shoes looks relatively innocent. Lots of IOT devices are also making grabs for data — keeping track of where you drive, or when you turn on the lights.

Google got in trouble last month for not disclosing it built a microphone into its Nest security product, which it activated after the fact with an update.

Another concern is how well, and for how long, makers of connected products issue updates for security risks, as we expect on laptops and phones.

Good grief, how are we supposed to figure out which products won’t crap out, spy on us or let in hackers?

Consumer Reports is working to include security and privacy practices in its reviews, but Brookman said getting clear answers out of privacy policies is a challenge even for pros.

Another not-for-profit, the Mozilla Foundation, has been conducting security and privacy audits for its own online guide called “Privacy not included.”

Among its discoveries were scary privacy practices by adult toys, which you definitely don’t want spying on you.

You’d think the products made by big brands would score best, but that’s not always the case, said Becca Ricks, a researcher at Mozilla.

“The companies with a lot of brand recognition may have done a good job locking down security, but what we have questions about is their business model with our data,” she said.

Last month, the Internet Society, Mozilla, Common Sense Media and other consumer-rights groups appealed to retailers to endorse standards for IOT products they sell. They were truly bare minimums — using encryption to keep customer data private, offering security updates, having a process to handle bugs and offering a privacy policy that doesn’t require a law degree to read.

Nike ended up telling Mike that his shoes were not recoverable and needed replacing.

He opted for a refund.

New owner of Kathy's Pies finds a routine to the business

 

By Katie Mills Giorgio

By the taste of it, you might not know that Kathy’s Pies in Cedar Rapids has a new owner.

Amy Jordan took over ownership just a few weeks ago, and while her name is not Kathy, she plans to keep the name and most of what customers have grown to like about the bakery over the past few decades.

“Everyone knows this name and the reputation they have built over the years,” she said.

   

“The most important thing for me has been the consistency of our products. The same people are making the treats our customers are buying. And so many of our customers we have had for a long time.”

Some of the regulars, in fact, have stopped in and asked to meet Jordan already.

Not a stranger to creating delectable treats, Jordan is a longtime baker. She got her license to start an in-home bakery in May 2018.

 

“I was planning to make muffins and homemade Pop Tarts,” she said, noting that her long-term goal was to open her own bakery within a few years.

Just a few months into starting her own in-home venture, Jordan heard Kathy McCauley and Terri Henecke, sisters and the owners of Kathy’s Pies, Cedar Rapids’ downtown bakery at 616 Fifth Ave. SE that opened more than 33 years ago, wanted to sell the business.

“I came in and looked around,” recalled Jordan, who toured the store back in November. “I didn’t know they did more than just pies!

“They tell me the Realtor told the owners after our meeting that I was going to be the new owner. They had had a lot of calls about it after it was on the news, and the Realtor just had a feeling.”

Jordan was interested in buying, so they spent the month of December in negotiations and closed the deal on Feb. 1 of this year.

A large part of the appeal of taking over the business, Jordan acknowledged, is that Kathy’s Pies always has been family owned. She plans to carry on that tradition as well, working closely with her own family.

Jordan’s mother, LuAnn, is in the store daily helping with the baking. Her dad, Steve, and her brother Bill pop in on occasion to do maintenance and keep everything in working order.

“This is a whole family affair. I brought them all when we took the tour, so they have been a part of the process from the start.”

Because their purchase agreement was reached before the holidays, it was possible for Jordan to spend Dec. 23 and 24 — major pie production and pick up days — in the store observing the operations.

   

“It was great that I could see how the process worked,” she noted. “Then in the following weeks, I would pop in and spend a few hours like that throughout January.”

She said it was key having McAuley and Henecke agree to stay on for 60 days.

“We don’t need them every day, but they are a phone call away,” Jordan said. “Walking in the door on Day One, you have a feeling like you don’t know what to do.

“I was able to shadow Kathy and Terri and they could guide me through things. That’s how we trained.”

 

It’s also very helpful, especially in terms of the consistency that Jordan wants to maintain, that all the employees have stayed on through the ownership transition.

“All the staff has stayed on in their roles,” Jordan said. “We have been cross-training and it’s all going well. There’s a lot of longevity here with this staff and they are great.”

The building land itself is owned by Mercy Medical Center, which in turn leases the property. In purchasing the business, Jordan bought the rights to the name, everything within the building, all supplies on hand, the website, software for the cash register and other operations and, of course, all the recipes.

As of late November, Kathy’s Pies sale price was listed at $195,000.

And while it’s only been a little over a month since the sale, Jordan has gotten into a nice routine.

“My day starts at about 5 a.m. I get the wholesale orders ready to go out the door,” she said, noting the business has large wholesale operation that delivers six days a week to retailers from Waterloo to Williamsburg.

“Then I’m baking cookies in the morning. I want to be done with that by 7 a.m. so that when the doors open and the phone starts ringing, I’m ready to go.”

The rest of her day is filled with whatever is needed.

“I just go with the flow of the day. We might be busy with cakes or cheesecakes or cookies on any given day,” Jordan said. “We make about 30 pies for retail each day and I am hoping that increases.

“When we sell all the pies in the case, that’s a good day.”

While Jordan said she’s excited to continue the Kathy’s Pies legacy, she has goals to grow the business.

“I don’t see us moving by any means, but I would love to have a location in North Liberty in the next couple of years. It would be a retail shop as the production would happen in Cedar Rapids,” she said.

 

She also hopes to add an online ordering option to the website.

“Everything they were making here at Kathy’s Pies were things I wanted to make for my own bakery,” said Jordan, explaining why she believed it was a smart decision to invest in buying the business.

 

“I also thought I could add value with some of the products I’ve been working on and the ideas I have.”

Jordan introduced her homemade Pop Tarts last week to fellow staff members and, if they are well received, the desserts will be added to the retail offerings soon.

“I am challenging the employees to come up with new product ideas, too,” she said.

“We will keep all the staple items, everything that everyone loves about Kathy’s Pies, but it’s exciting to add new items as well.”

Meskwaki man educates, builds understanding through his art

IOWA CITY — A Meskwaki Nation man attending the University of Iowa wears many hats — writer, poet, sculptor, activist, clothing entrepreneur, graphic designer, jewelry maker, radio host — but through each medium he tells the story of his culture.

Dawson Davenport, 38, a senior who grew up on the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama and has been living in Coralville while attending the UI, is educating others on the history of his people and other indigenous people at a time when understanding each other is most critical, he said.

“We are being erased,” Davenport said. “We are being whitewashed, and people don’t seem to care because they don’t know about us. I think if people knew about all of the cultures and the land we sit on we could heal as a nation and a society.”

Davenport was named one of three 2019 Bicultural Iowa Writing Fellows selected to write the “next chapter of Iowa, stories that intertwine global history, migration in present day America, and the bicultural experiences of living in Midwest” through the Iowa Writers House. He’s in the final stages of a book, which focuses on his experiences growing up from age 8 to 16. It’s due out in June, he said.

“Iowa is known as a welcoming state, a place to raise a family, a farming state, but it was a different perspective for me growing up a Native person,” he said. “There was racism, prejudice, hatred. All of those things shaped who I am today.” He recalls shopping in Tama and being stared at because he looked different. Attitudes toward Mexicans are equally troubling, he said. Mexicans and Native Americans have been on this land for centuries, yet are treated as the immigrants, he said.

More recently, as a university student, he has had to explain his culture and background semester after semester, class after class. He’s struggled to explain to teachers assistants when he has to miss class due to a death in the family, which requires a two-day ceremony, he said.

Davenport, who has six children, said in Meskwaki culture, men generally stay home and work, while women leave to earn a degree. He credits his family and the mothers of the children for allowing him to pursue a degree. It takes a village, he said.

In his book, Davenport, who took part in the Dakota Access Pipeline protest with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, also discusses a troubled past, including a lengthy rap sheet, and how he has tried to turn a corner.

“I wanted to live a better life,” he said. “I had kids, and I owed it to them to be a good father. I don’t regret my past because it has made me who I am today. I have worked hard at changing my life, being sober for five going on six years; being a part of AA has really helped me. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I am still working at being a better person. Still trying to improve and help people along the way.”

Meanwhile, he is opening the Indigenous Peoples Gallery and Cafe, 119 1/2 E. Washington St., hopefully before April 20, the date of the next University of Iowa Powwow, he said. He said it will be an education hub about indigenous people, featuring products of various populations, vegan pastries, poetry series and more.

Davenport is due to graduate with a bachelor’s in fine arts in May, and he’s contemplating continuing his education seeking a doctoral degree in Native American art history, he said.

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

An Iowa impeachment drama, circa 1919

When the present day gets a bit much, I dive into The Gazette’s archives. Sometimes, you can escape today’s tumult. But not always.

It turns out Iowa had its own red-hot, front page impeachment debate 100 years ago, flaring from February through mid-April of 1919. Instead of a misbehaving president, it was Iowa Gov. William Harding who faced possible removal from office.

You might recall Harding from columns last year marking the 100th anniversary of the “Babel Proclamation” during World War I, making it illegal to communicate publicly in German and languages other than English. It didn’t sit well with many Iowans, especially in immigrant communities such as Cedar Rapids. It also elevated Harding’s national political stature.

But it was a pardon, not a proclamation, making trouble for Harding in 1919.

In the fall of 1918, Harding pardoned Ernest Rathbun of Ida Grove, a young man convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison. In early 1919, as the Iowa Legislature came into session, the pardon quickly became the stuff of scandal.

Eventually, lawmakers would sift through the evidence and decide whether Harding had accepted a $5,000 cash payment from Rathbun’s father in exchange for the pardon.

By February, according to The Gazette, petitions of protest bearing the names of hundreds of Ida County residents began arriving at the Capitol. The petitions insisted Ida County’s “reputation for morality and decency has been shamefully disgraced” by the pardon, which spared Rathbun before he spent a day in prison.

By Feb. 10, the House Judiciary Committee was weighing its options. Meanwhile, a grand jury was being convened in Ida County to investigate charges of perjury connected to the pardon. The governor was expected to testify in person.

But on the way to Ida County, The Gazette reported, Harding came down with a painful “ear infection,” or maybe an “infected gland.” Harding detoured to the hospital in Carroll.

“In the gray of breaking dawn scores of townsfolk gathered at the (Ida Grove) railroad station at 5 a.m. in expectation of the arrival of the governor … but they were disappointed,” The Gazette reported on Feb. 18. No word of pitchforks or torches.

Two days later, a doctor reported Harding had mumps, while also “denouncing published reports tending to minimize the governor’s condition.” The doctor ordered Harding back to Des Moines for potentially weeks of rest.

But the Waterloo Times Tribune diagnosed Harding with a case of “Rathbun-Itis.”

Harding actually did testify on Feb. 24, but other drama grabbed the spotlight. Iowa Attorney General Horace Havner worked out a deal in which Rathbun waived his pardon and agreed to go to prison. The pardon is declared “invalid as it was fraudulently obtained.”

The Gazette’s editorial page balked at the notion the deal ended the case.

“The Rathbun case is not closed. The reformatory doors are closed behind Rathbun, but that is all. The people do not yet know why he was pardoned,” The Gazette opined. “All we do know is an error was made, an error that was outrageously rank.”

On March 6, The Evening Gazette’s front page headline blared “Harding defies his accusers.”

Harding blamed Havner, arguing the attorney general supported a pardon, then overstepped his powers and coerced the Rathbun family into accepting the waiver deal. Harding also insisted he was deceived and called for an investigation leading either to “impeachment or exoneration.”

A House investigation and political jockeying followed.

On March 21 came a bombshell sworn affidavit from Rathbun’s father detailing how he gave $5,000 to lawyer George Clark that was supposed to be passed on to the governor. Harding called the allegation “so utterly preposterous” that he did not consider it worth “dignifying with a denial,” The Gazette reported.

On April 12, the governor defiantly vowed to “stand pat” as the Judiciary Committee’s majority recommended impeachment. A minority report recommended censure.

“Fate of Harding is in the balance,” screamed The Gazette’s banner headline April 16 as the House debated impeachment before a packed gallery. A key factor, the paper noted, is that no proof had yet been found that Harding actually received the $5,000.

Harding’s allies, of course, blamed the media.

“You all know certain newspapers have been bitter enemies of the governor. There were some who thought the governor’s foreign language proclamation was a mistake,” an impeachment opponent argued, pointing to a paper that called for resisting the proclamation.

“That paper hated Gov. Harding more than it loved its country,” he said.

“Both the law and the facts are against the governor,” an impeachment supporter insisted. “It is the governor’s duty to enforce the law and not to obstruct justice …”

Around 1 a.m. April 17, according to the paper, the House voted 70-34 for censure rather than impeachment. Harding survived.

“No man in Iowa has had to submit to more severe political persecution than I,” Harding said in a statement, vowing to expose the conspiracy against him.

Throughout the House probe, The Gazette was skeptical Harding would be impeached. It often used a front page column called “Current Comment” to express that skepticism, and its distaste for Harding.

But it was certain the saga would have at least one effect.

“Regardless of which action comes as a result of this investigation, the governor is as dead politically as Ernest Rathbun is unhappy in his prison cell,” Current Comment commented.

Harding did not run for re-election in 1920.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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