Axios Des Moines

Picture of the Des Moines skyline with DSM written across it.
March 18, 2021

Hi, Des Moines, it's Thursday!

  • Today's high is 52° F and we're pumped for the sunny temperatures this weekend.

📣 Situational awareness: Hundreds of low-income families will face a greater likelihood of becoming homeless if Gov. Kim Reynolds signs a bill passed yesterday that would allow landlords the ability to deny Section 8 rental subsidies, DSM Neighborhood Services Director Chris Johansen told Axios late Wednesday.

  • Landlords have argued the city’s voucher mandate violates property owner rights and forces them to engage in unnecessary red tape.

Today's Smart Brevitycount is 926 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Asian American discrimination in Iowa

A screenshot of a Facebook post by Lucky Lotus that calls for the end of Asian hate.
A screenshot of a Facebook post condemning Asian discrimination by Lucky Lotus, a restaurant in Des Moines. Screenshot via Facebook

Discrimination is happening against Des Moines' Asian community — even if it's not visible to the public, said Amanda Lovan, civic engagement lead for Iowa Asian Alliance.

Driving the news: A suspect in Atlanta, Georgia was charged with murder and assault after allegedly shooting and killing eight people — six of whom were Asian women.

  • Police are still investigating if the shooting was a hate crime.

What's happening here: Aggravated assault cases against Asians in Des Moines actually decreased from 33 in 2019 to 24 in 2020, according to data from DMPD.

  • Yes, but: Lovan said people in the community are hesitant to file a report — making their experiences invisible.

In the last year, Lovan said her friends shared these racist encounters with her:

  • An Asian American woman was outside a carwash off Indianola Avenue when someone called her a slur and told her to "go back to your own country."
  • A driver threw an egg at an Asian American woman by Double Dragon in Des Moines last month.

The bottom line: Even if Asians in Iowa haven't experienced the violent assaults making headlines in larger cities, racism still exists here, Lovan said.

Plus: The model minority myth places Asian Americans on a fake pedestal that erases their struggles and is used to excuse racism against other marginalized groups.

  • As in: If Asians can succeed in America, so can Black people, Latinos, etc.
  • This racist thinking robs us of our humanity and makes it easier for the public to ignore acts of violence against minority groups.

The bigger picture: We can become better allies by acknowledging others' humanity and by supporting Asian-led nonprofits like the ones Lovan lists here.

Linh's take: My mom asked me a few weeks ago if she should buy Mace after seeing national news about attacks. My heart feels heavy.

If you see or experience racism against Asian or Pacific Islanders in Des Moines, report it to the Des Moines Civil & Human Rights Commission here or call 515-283-4284.

2. 💉 Everyone will soon be eligible

A photo of Gov. Kim Reynolds
Photo: Olivia Sun/The Des Moines Register/pool

All Iowans will be eligible to be vaccinated starting Monday April 5, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced yesterday.

  • That's dependent on Iowa’s vaccine allocation being increased — and Reynolds expressed confidence that it would.

Why it matters:

"Getting vaccinated is the most important thing that each of us can do to ensure that our state’s recovery from COVID-19 is both strong and sustainable."
— Gov. Reynolds yesterday

State of play: Eligibility doesn’t mean you’ll immediately get your first dose.

  • Vaccination appointments will still be required by the Polk County Health Department, spokeswoman Nola Aigner Davis told Jason. (Check out these tips for landing an appointment.)
  • Mass vaccination clinics in Polk County are possible in coming weeks but that depends on supplies.

Bonus: Vaccines are up, cases are down

Data: Iowa Department of Public Health, CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Iowa Department of Public HealthCSSE Johns Hopkins University; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Nearly three months have passed since Iowa received its first COVID-19 vaccine shipment and one thing is clear:

  • "The vaccine is working and life is getting back to normal," said Gov. Kim Reynolds during her Wednesday news conference.

By the numbers:

  • Hospitalizations are down 90% from their peak in November.
  • Only one long-term care facility has an outbreak and it's expected to recover in the next few days — which will mark the first time there’s been no active outbreaks in nearly a year.
  • More than 1.15 million doses have been administered in Iowa, which is 86% of our state’s allocation.
  • More than 31% of Iowa adults have received at least one dose.

Yes, but: We’re not in the clear yet.

3. ☀️ One interesting thing: Matt McCoy’s solar panels

The solar panels installed last week at the home of Polk County Supervisor Matt McCoy.
These are the solar panels installed last week at the home of Polk County supervisor Matt McCoy. Photo courtesy of Matt McCoy

Polk County Supervisor Matt McCoy had these solar panels installed at his Des Moines home last week.

  • They were purchased and installed through PureLight Power, a company based in Iowa and Oregon.

The payoff: He estimates his average $91 electric bill will be eliminated, using MidAmerican Energy’s "net metering" program.

  • It will pay for itself in about 12 years.

Details: McCoy's project cost was about $26,000, which he was able to borrow at a 1.49% interest rate.

  • Federal and state tax credits will cover roughly half of the costs.
  • The system has a 25-year warranty but has a projected lifespan of about 40 years.

What’s next: McCoy says he’ll push for county government buildings and future projects to add solar panels.

  • "We’re missing all these opportunities to not only do the right thing environmentally, but fiscally as well," McCoy said to Jason.

4. Meet Des Moines' microinfluencers

A screenshot of Emily Steel's oat milk latte from Instagram.
A screenshot of Emily Steele's oat milk latte from Instagram. Screenshot via Instagram

When Emily Steele tried the oat milk latte at Horizon Line Coffee downtown, she was hooked.

  • So, obviously, she turned that passion to her Instagram. Then her friends and followers got the coffee and raved about it.

What's happening: Steele's goal is to recreate that buzzy experience through DSM Hummingbirds, a group of microinfluencers who get free access to local events and products in exchange for social media posts. The hummingbirds signal that a post is a collaboration using the hashtag #DSMhummingbird.

How it works: Local residents can sign up to become a "hummingbird," and get added to a private Facebook group.

  • Businesses pay Steele and her co-founder to feature their events and products, which group members can then try and post about.

"Influencers" conjures images of James Charles or head-to-toe Gucci posts — which Steele acknowledges.

  • But what makes her business different are the 300 local hummingbirds who aren't catering to huge follower counts — their voices are authentic and directly reach the targeted audience, she said.
  • And if a hummingbird didn't end up liking something, there's no pressure to post about it.

Some clients so far have included Hy-Vee, the Iowa Events Center and the Iowa Speedway.

  • What they're saying: "We realized our everyday decisions we were making in Des Moines were because of what our peers or co-workers or neighbors were posting on social media," Steele said.

5. Pic du jour: Everlasting love

A local couple recreated their wedding photos 50 years later.
Carolyn and Kelly Gay recreate their wedding photos from 50 years ago. Photo courtesy of Two Hoyles Photography

On March 12, 1971, Carolyn and Kelly Gay got married at DSM First Church.

  • 50 years later, the happy couple decided to recreate the photos to celebrate the momentous anniversary with Two Hoyles Photography in Des Moines.

Their original wedding costs:

  • Dress: $46.35
  • Catering: $63.82 to feed 193 people
  • Honeymoon in New Orleans: $91.20 for 4 nights

See more pictures here.

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