May 27, 2021

Happy Thursday, Des Moines!

  • ☂️ Hopefully we're wrong, but expect rain all day long.

Today's Smart Brevity count is 940 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Language barriers and worker shortages

Limited English proficient population, <br>Des Moines metro area
Note: The Des Moines metro area includes Polk, Dallas, Madison and Warren Counties. Data: Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

People with limited English proficiency increased by more than 70% in our four-county metro area since 2000, according to a new report from the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

Why it matters: As our population becomes more diverse, we have a growing need to assist our English learners.

  • Plus: Worker shortages can be better alleviated by adequate language assistance, which refugee advocates say fosters job readiness, community engagement and economic self-sufficiency.
  • Of note: Most governments in the U.S. have an obligation to implement systems that can assist people with limited English proficiency.

By the numbers: 29,146 people who are age five and older in Polk, Dallas, Madison and Warren counties have limited English proficiency, according to 2019 census estimates.

  • That's up from 16,994 in 2000.

Driving the news: Des Moines had the second fastest-growing immigrant population in the last decade, according to a study by Heartland Forward that we told you about yesterday.

  • Business recruitment was credited as a reason for the spike.

The big picture: Iowa's aging population is stagnant and its lack of workers was recently described by a leader of the Iowa Business Council as "bordering on a crisis."

  • More than 90% of restaurants don't have enough employees, Iowa Restaurant Association CEO Jessica Dunker told Iowa PBS' Iowa Press this month.

What to watch: There is a growing need to better link academic and businesses groups to increase job readiness, Pablo Ortega, director of DMPS' English Language Learner program, told Axios.

  • The district has nearly 7K students in its English Language Learner program, up from less than 1K three decades ago.
  • "Yes, there are language barriers but that's not insurmountable," Ortega said.

2. $2.5K to spiff up your home

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A matching grant program that would give residents up to $2,500 to fix up the exterior of their homes is expanding citywide.

Why it matters: Neighborhood revitalization is key to maintaining Des Moines' economic lifeblood, and making sure that there's stable and affordable housing for all of us.

  • Research shows it can even improve your health, especially among children.

Flashback: The incentive started last year in four test neighborhoods: Oak Park/Highland Park; Drake; Franklin and Columbus Park.

  • More than 240 properties took part, investing a total of about $1.1 million.

Driving the news: DSM City Council allocated $200K this week to launch a second Block Challenge Grant Program, expanding eligibility to other areas in the city.

  • The application process begins July 1.

Details: Homeowners must apply with a team of at least five neighbors who live within a visible distance of each other's front doors.

  • Each eligible owner can receive matching funds up to $1,000 or $2,500, depending on the size of their team.

Of note: Invest DSM will administer the grant. It's a collaboration we recently highlighted between the city and Polk County to tackle neighborhood decline. Read more.

3. Mollie Tibbetts: Rivera takes the stand

A poster offering a reward for finding Mollie Tibbetts hangs in a window in Brooklyn, Iowa in August of 2018. Photo: KC McGinnis for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Defendant Cristhian Bahena Rivera testified yesterday that two armed men put Mollie Tibbetts in his trunk the night she went missing, according to the Des Moines Register.

What happened: Bahena Rivera, who's charged with murder in the 20-year-old's death, says the men appeared at his home and forced him to drive to the area where Tibbetts was running, according to the Register.

  • He testified one man exited the vehicle and returned 10-12 minutes later, putting "something heavy" in the trunk. They then fled.
  • When Bahena Rivera checked his trunk, he said he found Tibbetts' body, which he left in a cornfield.
  • He testified that he didn't contact police because the men, whose identities are unknown, threatened him and his family.

Between the lines: It was unexpected for Bahena Rivera to take the stand.

What's next: Closing arguments are today and then the jury will begin deliberations.

4. 🍝 New eats: Anna Dolce

The vodka rigatoni at Anna Dolce. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

👋🏼 Jason here. I got a chance to grab a bite with some friends at the new Anna Dolce Ristorante in West Glen Town Center over the weekend, and it didn't disappoint.

  • 👍🏼👍🏼 to the vodka rigatoni ($21), scallops ($35) and the shared pitcher of bitter melon mojitos ($20 during happy hour).
  • Anna Dolce opened about a month ago in the same spot as the former Blu Toro Cantina & Grill.
  • Blu’s owners are partners in the new restaurant.

Visit: 5585 Mills Civic Parkway in West DSM.

  • 🕰 Hours: Mon.-Sat., 3-10pm

BTW: Linh and I pay for all meals, dine incognito and we don't accept gifts or freebies.

  • Axios pays us to be curious. We love that! So when we plug something, it's because it's new, creative or just dang good and we think you might like it.
  • Know of new or exciting eats? Hit reply and tell us.

5. 🔥 Hot homes

33078 Fox Creek Dr. in Waukee. This home is up for sale for $575,000. Photo courtesy of Suzana Dobrosavljevic

Des Moines' housing market is still as hot as ever, even as prices continue to rise, according to Des Moines Area Association of Realtors.

By the numbers: Despite historically low inventory, April's home sales still increased by 13% in comparison to April 2020.

  • Median home sale price: $244,358 — up from $215,000 last year.
  • Inventory: 1,755 homes were available last month — nearly 50% fewer than in April 2020.

If you're searching or just like looking, check out this extravagant treehouse. Or click here for more.

33078 Fox Creek Dr., Waukee — $575,000

Why we love it: Designed by famous Chicago architects Booth & Nagle — this home is nestled away on a three-acre wooded property.

  • Specs: Three beds, four baths, 3,088 square feet
  • Features: Mid-century modern design and huge windows with gorgeous views
A sitting room at 33078 Fox Creek Dr, Waukee
A sitting room. Photo courtesy of Suzana Dobrosavljevic
The interior of 33078 Fox Creek Dr, Waukee
The home's interior. Photo courtesy of Suzana Dobrosavljevic

6. 👋 Tweet of the day: Hello, 2024

The FAMiLY LEADER announcing former Sec. of State Mike Pompeo as a summit speaker. Screenshot via Twitter

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is returning to Iowa again to speak at a summit held by The FAMiLY LEADER, a religious conservative group.

  • Pompeo already stoked 2024 speculations after speaking with the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale back in March.

What to watch: Other potential Republican candidates include Mike Pence and Rick Scott, according to the New York Times.

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