Axios Des Moines

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Happy Wednesday and International Day of Happiness!

🌤 Weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 42°.

🗳 Situational awareness: Architect Mike Simonson won yesterday's special DSM City Council election with nearly 60% of the vote, according to unofficial results from the Polk County Auditor's Office.

Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 848 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Our county health rankings

<span style="text-align: center; display: block"> County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, 2024</span>
Note: Health Factors represent things that contribute to longer and healthier lives, such as health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment; Data: University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute; Map: Axios Visuals

Dallas and Sioux counties are among Iowa's healthiest, according to an annual report released today by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Why it matters: Life expectancy of residents in those counties is longer compared to those that ranked among the least healthy, like Clarke and Lee counties.

Catch up fast: The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps assesses communities on dozens of health factors that help determine length and quality of life, like access to health care.

  • Its reports go back more than a decade and often draw connections between social policies, laws and health.

The intrigue: This year's report highlights how counties with more access to information via local news, broadband internet and public libraries are generally among the healthiest.

  • People there have higher rates of civic participation and tend to live longer, per the report.

State of play: Many of Iowa's outcomes stayed relatively steady, including the percent of adults who report being in poor or fair health — 13%, up a percentage point from last year.

By the numbers: Sioux retained its top spot in health outcomes this year among Iowa's 99 counties. Dallas was second, up one spot from the previous year.

  • Polk ranked 64th, up from 69.
  • Lee ranked 98th and Clarke 99th this year.

Zoom in: Life expectancy in Sioux and Dallas was more than 82 years, while it was less than 75 in Lee and Clarke.

  • Polk's is about 78 years.

The big picture: Reviewing individual factors and how they have changed over time is more important than county ranking, Sandra Burke, a research scientist with Iowa State University's Indicators Program told Axios in 2022.

  • The data is intended to help communities diagnose core problems and implement solutions, authors wrote in this year's report.

Full story: Wealth is a factor in our health

2. Ask Axios: Explain these disjointed streets

Thomas Beck Road’s name changes
Map: Axios Visuals

"Can someone explain why Bell Avenue disappears into Thomas Beck Road and then Thomas Beck becomes Indianola Road?" — Ted Stephens, Cumming

Context: Ted's question was prompted by our Thomas Beck Road diet story.

  • The name changes occur along a 1.5-mile stretch of one of the southside's busiest east/west connections.

What they're saying: DSM engineering staff believe the name switcheroos came about as new bridges and street extensions were constructed, city spokesperson Devin Perry tells Axios.

Flashback: That area was near the southern city limits, according to a 1953 DSM Register article about a public hearing to reset street lines.

  • Thomas Beck Road's extension from Southwest 9th Street to Bell Avenue was being planned at that time.

State of play: Today, a separate section of Bell Avenue starts at Druid Hill Drive and dead ends a few blocks east.

  • Meanwhile, Indianola Road is only about five blocks long — connecting Thomas Beck to the intersection of SE 1st Street and Indianola Avenue.

The intrigue: Yet another street name will likely be introduced in coming years as part of the George Flagg Parkway realignment, Perry says.

Our thought bubble: The realignment project is a good opportunity for city officials to review the street names.

  • That idea has not yet been discussed, Perry says.

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3. The Ear: Stalked with news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

💰 Clive City Council approved nearly $300K of new playground equipment at Stonegate Park after an arsonist destroyed it last year. (WOI-TV)

👿 A Mississippi man charged with destroying a Satanic display at the Iowa capitol is trying to get a hate crime charge dropped against him. His attorney argues that the "Satanic Temple of Iowa" is an organization, not a protected religion. (Des Moines Register)

✍️ Gannett, the corporate owner of the DSM Register, will next week stop using journalism from the Associated Press. (AP)

A search warrant application indicates an 18-year-old Story County man weighed about 75 pounds and sustained multiple traumatic injuries prior to his recent hospitalization.

  • Four of his family members are charged with kidnapping and willful injury. (WHO-13)

⭐️ Today's headline maker: Laura Knispel of Grimes.

4. Someone who can bake it happen

Photos: Courtesy of Cake Baby

For Whitney Peter, the zanier the cake request, the better.

  • That's how she ended up making everything from a purple Diet Coke cake to an Arby's sandwich cake out of her West Des Moines home.

Why it matters: Show-stopping cakes used to be reserved for Food Network shows, but thanks to their popularity on Instagram, people aren't hesitating to go big anymore.

How it started: Peter enjoyed sculpting growing up, but didn't know what she wanted to do as an adult. She went to Iowa State and pursued an art and design degree, but that didn't feel right either.

  • Then, Peter got into hobby baking and found she loved sculpting fondant, an icing used to decorate cakes. She worked at Crème for seven years before opening her own business, "Cake Baby," in 2023.

Zoom in: Peter's sandwich cake was a multi-day process of cake stacking, making sure everything was cold before sculpting it.

  • The outside is fondant and airbrushed, which helps give the look and texture of a roast beef sandwich.

Where to find it: People can contact Peter through her website or [email protected].

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🚴‍♂️ Get RAGBRAI ready: Early bird discounts for the Iowa Bicycle Coalition's training series run through March 31.

This newsletter was copy edited by Lucia Maher.