Axios Des Moines

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Happy Wednesday!

🌤 Weather: Cloudy with a high of 72°.

🍻 Member alert: All this week, you could win fun prizes and support local journalism when you become an Axios Des Moines member.

Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 795 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Reducing Iowa's prison population

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

An Iowa law that factors the impact of legislative proposals on marginalized groups is helping lower the state's prison population, former state Rep. Wayne Ford (D-Des Moines), tells Axios.

Why it matters: The law Ford advocated for 16 years ago could help other states lower their prison populations.

Catch up fast: Iowa was the first in the nation to require "minority impact statements" for bills dealing with public offenses or sentences.

  • The statements evaluate the effects of proposed legislation on minority groups like people of color, women and those with disabilities.
  • It was created in response to a 2007 report by The Sentencing Project showing Iowa had the greatest racial disparity in prison populations in the U.S.

How it works: The nonpartisan Iowa Legislative Services Agency provides lawmakers the impact statements before debate by the Iowa Senate or House.

  • The review includes an estimated number of criminal cases the legislation would annually impact and the likelihood that additional prison capacity would be necessary if the bill were enacted.

The intrigue: Since the law passed, Iowa bills having no effect or a positive effect on minority incarcerations were nearly twice as likely to pass, per a 2015 review by the Associated Press.

  • At least eight states have implemented impact statements since Iowa.

By the numbers: Black Iowans were 13.6 times more likely to be imprisoned than whites in 2007, but that ratio declined to 9.3 by 2019, according to an analysis by The Sentencing Project.

Reality check: There is frustration that Iowa's prison disparity rates haven't improved more.

  • The ACLU of Iowa in September issued a statement about the "continuing crisis," noting the state was tied for the seventh-worst rate in the nation.
  • Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, called for systemic reform in every facet of the justice process in the September statement.

Keep reading

2. We're the gassiest

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Des Moines is one of the worst metros for emitting transportation pollution, according to a report from Streetlight Data examining the top 100 most populated metros in the country.

Why it matters: Transportation is the largest contributor of greenhouse emissions, according to the EPA.

State of play: The high number of miles driven per person is the biggest contributor to the metro's low ranking, according to the 2024 report.

  • Des Moines residents travel an average of 10 miles per trip, according to 2017 data from Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
  • Out of 100 U.S. metros, Des Moines ranks 92nd worst for vehicle miles traveled, per Streetlight Data. It ranks 86th overall.

What they're saying: Reducing urban sprawl by allowing denser could help, like in Woodland Heights and Sherman Hill, says Alec Davis, founder of Momentum DSM.

Full story

3. The Ear: Catch up on the news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🐕 An animal welfare group is asking Iowa's attorney general to investigate an alleged puppy laundering scheme. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

💵 The salary of UI women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder should reflect her "phenomenal job," Gov. Kim Reynolds said during a press conference Tuesday.

  • Bluder's annual salary is nearly $2 million less a year than men's coach Fran McCaffery. (Radio Iowa)

👩‍💻 A powerful tech company initially helped Iowa investigate online betting fraud without search warrants, but stopped following the arrests of Iowa athletes. (Des Moines Register)

🚴 Waukee's City Council is considering how to make Hickman Road safer for cyclists as the road grows busier. (KCCI)

4. ⛹️‍♀️ Charted: Women's sports surge

Data: Sports Media Watch, Nielsen; Note: 2020 NCAA Championships canceled due to COVID-19; Chart: Axios Visuals

A whopping 18.7 million people watched the South Carolina-Iowa women's NCAA title game on Sunday — a new record for a women's college game and a five-year high for any basketball broadcast, according to ESPN.

State of play: The star power behind Caitlin Clark, LSU's Angel Reese and other women's college players is expected to push newfound interest in the WNBA, which is currently negotiating for a new TV contract beginning in the 2025 season, writes Axios' Sara Fischer.

The intrigue: It's unclear whether the NCAA will continue to draw such high ratings in the absence of some of this season's biggest stars.

  • Last Friday's Final Four game, for example, between N.C. State and South Carolina drew just 7.1 million viewers. That was half of the average audience that tuned into Clark's winning performance against UConn that same evening.
  • On the other hand, South Carolina's title win was driven by freshmen who will return next year and potentially build followings of their own.

5. Win a $100 Big Grove gift card

Photo: Courtesy of Big Grove Brewery

Our weeklong giveaway continues. We want to celebrate our members, and gain 100+ more by Friday.

  • Becoming an Axios DSM member helps us secure more resources to cover the city we love. Plus, you'll score perks like invitations to exclusive events and members-only emails.

Today's item … a $100 gift card to Big Grove Brewery.

  • All members are automatically entered.
  • Happy noshing, and thank you for your support!

Sweepstakes rules apply

🏀 March Madness winners: Big congrats to our men's and women's bracket champions, Brandon Geib and James Anthofer!

This newsletter was copy edited by Lucia Maher.