7 hours ago

Axios Des Moines

It's Monday. We're back at it.

🎵 A sign of summer (and more normality): The Exile Music Fest is returning this August.

📣 Situational awareness: Saturday's winning bid at a Des Moines Christian School fundraiser for dinner with Gov. Kim Reynolds at Terrace Hill was $30,100.

Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 911 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Hy-Vee reigns supreme in DSM
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Data: Chain Store Guide Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Hy-Vee is the top grocer for central Iowans — handily defeating behemoths like Walmart, according to Chain Store Guide, a sales-tracking firm that examined 2020 grocery revenue.

The state of play: Even though Hy-Vee's prices may be slightly higher, it's the top choice for local consumers because of its quality, convenience and still-competitive pricing, said Brittain Ladd, a supply chain consultant.

  • "Hy-Vee has never said they're going to be the lowest price, but they certainly can say to the consumer, 'We are conveniently located and no one can beat our quality,'" Ladd said.
  • Plus, the company's huge role in distributing COVID-19 vaccines in Iowa will draw in new customers or reacquaint people who haven't stopped in for a while.

Between the lines: Fareway squeaked out ahead of Target, and even though we all like to joke about how long we can shop in a Target, "it's not a great experience shopping for groceries," Ladd said.

Worth noting: Even though Hy-Vee has consistently topped our area's list, its market share has dropped 3% since 2018 as competitors expand.

  • Expect the challenge of the future to come from Amazon Fresh, Ladd said.
  • Though no expansion plans have been announced for Iowa yet, the high-tech, cashier-free stores have eaten up grocery dollars in other markets like Chicago and Seattle, Ladd said.

🍪 Linh's take: Two things I miss from my childhood at Hy-Vee — free cookies and Heee-Haw.

2. Big events are returning

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Concerts, sporting events and conventions are returning, pushing hotel bookings up since the darkest days of the pandemic, officials reported to Polk County supervisors last week.

  • Hundreds of metro area events were canceled during the pandemic, an economic hit of more than $317 million, Greg Edwards, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau said.

Why it matters: Both jobs and our overall quality of life depend on a successful recovery — but we're not out of the woods just yet.

  • Business travel, a key segment of the hotel industry, could take more than a year to recover, Edwards said.
  • Social distancing and virtual attendance are still components of most events, so crowds are generally still smaller, Chris Connolly, general manager of the Iowa Events Center added.

A few DSM comeback highlights noted by Connolly and Edwards:

The bottom line: "A year ago it was doom and gloom, so this is awesome news," said Polk County supervisor Angela Connolly.

3. DSM to Reynolds: Veto rental authority bill

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

DSM is asking Gov. Kim Reynolds to veto a bill that would allow landlords to reject Section 8 rental subsidies from their tenants, city officials told Axios.

Why it matters: Nearly 3,200 Polk County low-income families receive the federal rent assistance and face a greater likelihood of returning to substandard housing or homelessness if their housing options are further limited.

  • DSM passed a city ordinance in 2019 that mandates landlords accept the payments because hundreds of families could not find housing. Iowa City and Marion have similar ordinances.
  • The average monthly assistance is $455.
  • But it requires landlords to participate in an additional city inspection, which some don’t want to do.

The other side: Republican lawmakers said property owners should have a right to choose what payments they accept.

  • Their bill would void the city mandates in 2023.
  • Reynolds has not indicated whether she will sign the bill.

What they’re saying: The ordinance is an essential component in helping the city reach housing goals, DSM city manager Scott Sanders wrote in a March 19 letter to Reynolds that was obtained by Axios last week through a records request.

  • "This is our most vulnerable population, and this just adds another hurdle for them to find housing in our community," Chris Johansen, DSM’s municipal housing agency director, told Jason.

What’s next: A procedural step in which a bill is sent to the governor by legislative leaders has not yet been taken. That would generally give the governor three days to consider legislation. (Or 30 days if it’s sent to her desk at the end of the session.)

4. The Ear: What we're shucking today

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  • Three people were injured following a shooting at Court Avenue Saturday morning. (WOI-TV)
  • At least five Polk County inmates have accused a medical provider at the jail of sexually abusing them. (Des Moines Register)
  • Former DSM Police Sgt. Greg Wessels resigned after allegedly making "inappropriate" comments during a police union meeting. Wessels already had a decades-long history of disciplinary action against him. (KCCI)
  • OSHA issued a warning against the Anamosa State Penitentiary last year, saying there wasn't a reliable way for employees to contact each other in an emergency. (KCRG)
5. 🦫 Beavers are killing our trees

DSM park officials have fenced some trees like this cottonwood near SE 14th Street and the Des Moines River to help protect them from further beaver damage. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Beavers recently damaged about 20 trees between E. 14th Street and Hartford Avenue, and a city group will meet to consider recommendations about their fates, DSM parks spokesperson Jennifer Fletcher told Axios last week.

  • The Urban Conservation Committee will discuss possible solutions.
  • Jason tried to crash, but was told it's an advisory committee and isn't subject to Iowa's public-meetings law.
  • Recommendations are expected to go to the full parks board, whose meetings are public.

Of note: Conservationists generally "let beavers be beavers," Polk County conservation director Rich Leopold told us.

  • They tend to focus on trees like cottonwoods that can overpopulate low-lying areas.
  • "So most of the time they are actually doing us a favor," Leopold said.

🦌 🐰 🌱 Have beavers or other members of our wildlife community done damage on your trees or gardens? Tell us and send pics!

6. 1 sweet thing to go

Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

Linh enjoyed her free Krispy Kreme doughnut in her car after completing her vaccinations.

  • 😎 We're getting there, friends.

One last goodbye: A remaining Tulsi Gabbard sign was finally removed off I-80.

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  • 🌇 See you tomorrow!