Axios Des Moines

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February 08, 2024

Hi, Thursday.

🌧 Weather: Windy, a slight chance of rain with a high of 62°.

πŸ₯³ Axios Des Moines turns 3 today β€” help us celebrate by becoming a member! Your contribution will support our work and allow us to do more of it.

  • Plus, join by midnight tonight and you could win an Axios Local swag bundle. Rules apply.
  • Existing members are automatically entered.

Today's Smart Brevityβ„’ count is 894 words β€” a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: War on books shifts to Iowa libraries

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The Iowa Library Association is warning that public libraries across the state would have to close or greatly reduce their services under a bill introduced in the Senate last week.

Why it matters: Modern libraries are essential for many Iowa communities.

Catch up fast: The initial draft of Senate Study Bill 3131 would repeal the state law requiring local governments levy taxes for public libraries.

  • Another section would allow cities easier ways to change a library board's makeup, which the library association says would leave them with less autonomy from elected officials.

Of note: The bill was introduced by Sen. Jesse Green (R-Boone), who voted to advance legislation prohibiting local governments from restricting LGBTQ+ conversion therapies last month.

State of play: A subcommittee hearing on the bill was delayed Monday but Green still met with library supporters, Sam Helmick, a spokesperson for the library association, tells Axios.

  • Green, who didn't return our requests for comment, agreed to remove the section of the bill that could revoke library taxes, per Helmick.

Meanwhile,Β a House bill was introduced yesterday that would allow city councils to change how library directors are hired without asking voters for approval.

The big picture: The bills are an extension of a larger movement that is hyper critical and focused on books or libraries, Helmick says.

Read more: DSM library promotes banned books

2. Ask Axios: When will Nitefall return?

The Simon Estes Amphitheater has been closed to most events since 2019. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

"Is Nitefall on the River coming back? This warm weather has me daydreaming," β€” Mike Slusark, DSM

State of play: The downtown concert series is delayed at least another two years because of soon-to-start reconstruction of the adjacent Walnut Street Bridge, Des Moines Parks and Recreation director Ben Page tells Axios.

Catch up fast: Nitefall was displaced in 2019 when the Simon Estes Amphitheater closed for repairs.

  • The event had a brief stint at Brenton Skating Plaza but was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
  • City officials announced in 2021 that it wouldn't return until this year because of bridge work.

What's happening: Construction was delayed after the bridge's estimated cost spiked more than 40% and city officials reconsidered their options.

  • But City Council recently approved moving forward with what is now a nearly $20 million project.

What's next: The bridge work completion is anticipated for 2026.

  • The amphitheater will reopen in 2027 and Nitefall will return then, Page says.

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3. Your weekend plans

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios


πŸͺ© Enjoy a family valentine's dance under a disco ball at the DSM Children's Museum. 6-8pm. Tickets: $10.


πŸ’ Build your own petite Valentine's bouquet at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. 11am-12pm. $12 a bouquet.

πŸ₯³ Celebrate African American culture and Black History Month at "I'll Make Me a World in Iowa" at the Horizon Events Center. 11am-7pm. Free!


πŸ’” Stop by an Anti-Valentine's Day Variety Show at xBk Live. Watch drag and burlesque or get your tarot read. 5-10pm. Tickets: $13.17, with a portion supporting Perry's victim fund.

🐲 Learn about Chinese New Year and watch a live lion dance and a kung fu demonstration at Jester Park Nature Center. 10:30am-12pm. Free, but registration required.

Check out the full weekender

4. Des Moines' losing its finance reputation

Wells Fargo sign. Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The city's financial industry β€” once touted as a national beacon that elevated the metro β€” is shrinking amidst layoffs and pandemic-related changes, Tyler Jett of the Des Moines Register reports.

Why it matters: Jobs at major employers like Wells Fargo and Nationwide pay some of the highest salaries in the metro. Those employees then invest and spend money elsewhere locally.

Driving the news: Since 2017, local employers in the financial activities sector cut 2,500 jobs β€” a 4% drop over the last six years, according to the Register's analysis.

  • Employers from similar industries nationwide actually increased their payrolls by 9% during the same time period.

Zoom in: Wells Fargo, Des Moines' top job driver for two decades, also became the source of the area's biggest losses following the company's fake accounts scandal in 2016. The company has cut 1,400 local jobs since 2017.

Between the lines: Flexible remote work policies at other local companies could also be allowing more workers to leave for other cities.

Worthy of your time: Read the first in a series from the Register

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5. πŸͺ¦ 1 grave-y thing to go: A cemetery sale

A portion of Des Moines Masonic Cemetery near 48th Street and Franklin Avenue could be sold later this month. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

An unused five-acre portion of the Des Moines Masonic Cemetery could be sold to make way for a new ChildServe center.

State of play: DSM agreed to take ownership of the 40-acre cemetery last year after Masonic members encountered financial difficulties in maintaining its grounds and structures.

  • The roads are in "dire need" of repairs, Parks and Recreation director Ben Page tells Axios.

Meanwhile, ChildServe β€” a Johnston-based group that assists children with special health care needs β€” wants to relocate and expand its DSM center currently located in Woodland Heights.

  • The nonprofit last year announced a $10 million capital campaign for the project.

What's happening: City Council will consider selling the five-acre plot to ChildServe for $600,000 on Feb. 19.

  • Proceeds would help pay for improvements for the remaining portions of the cemetery.

Read more

❀️ Thanks for supporting us these last three years. (Time flies!)

This newsletter was edited by Everett Cook and copy edited by Lucia Maher.