DMPerspective's blog

I found myself at the Southridge Mall Target over a lunch break a few days ago. On the way out of the (horribly designed and poorly maintained) parking lot, I witnessed an accessibility failure of monumental proportions. I had to take a picture.

What you see here in the middle of the photo is not a scooter, motorcycle, or other street-legal vehicle. It is a person in a motorized wheelchair forced to use a busy street because there are no sidewalks available. This situation represents a failure of the developers, designers, and local government code officials to adequately plan for pedestrian access to the site.

According to the Assessor's web site, the structures were originally built in 1975, well prior to passage of the Americans with Disability Act. A lot has changed in regards to Americans' understanding of accessibility since 1975, but what hasn't changed is our focus on automobile-oriented development patterns.

The buildings have seen significant and relatively recent remodeling/tenant alterations. In fact, the parking lot was paved in 2001 - a great time for everyone involved to think about pedestrian accessibility. It's never too late to do the right thing...

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Iowa Senate ChamberIowa Senate ChamberIowa State Legislature class of '09 opened, as it does every year, with prayers by local religious leaders. It almost sounds like the start of a bad joke, "A priest, a rabbi, and an imam were invited to speak the the Iowa Legislature..." But there is no punchline.

While I could make a case that state-sanctioned prayer at the Legislature's opening ceremonies, regardless of how many different religions are represented, violates a couple of the most important amendments to our Constitution, I won't. Instead I will discuss my problems with legislative prayer from a more pragmatic standpoint.

First and foremost, it is ridiculous and grandiose to think, as across the world people die from starvation, children work their fingers to a bloody pulp sewing shoes, and entire towns are eradicated by disease, that any God would spend its time helping the Iowa Legislature debate the finer points of the state gas tax. Any God that would devote time to helping the Iowa Legislature over any number of more pressing world problems doesn't deserve our praise or respect.

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According to Quirkology, most people who make New Years resolutions fail to keep them.

At the start of the study, 52% of participants were confident of success. One year later, only 12% actually achieved their goal.... An extra 22% of men achieved their resolution when they engaged in goal setting, and women were almost 10% more likely to be successful when encouraged to persist in the face of setbacks.

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Twice a year, during the NPR fund drives, I switch my car radio over to conservative talk radio right-wing blathering. It reminds me why education, knowledge, and logical analysis are so important. I make no apologies for being a strong progressive on both social and economic issues (many of which are interrelated, of course). On the other hand, I also see merit in open, substantial, and reasoned debate over difficult policy decisions. Such debate doesn't happen on right-wing radio.

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Johnston Park and Ride at City HallJohnston Park and Ride at City HallJohnston City Council voted Monday to withdraw from the Des Moines Regional Transit Authority, effective in 18 months. There is currently one "express" route that connects Johnston City Hall to Downtown - the 91 line with two trips in the morning and two trips in the afternoon. City leaders cited lack of service and upcoming DART levy changes as reasons for the decision.

According the the Des Moines Register, the City of Johnston found 16 regular riders on the Northwest Express (91) line. Dividing the Johnston DART levy by the number of regular riders equates to an annual cost to the City of Johnston of approximately $12,000 per rider. If the annual levy is $192,000, dividing by the population of Johnston (13,600 as of 2006) equals a per capita annual contribution of $14.

The problem with Johnston's approach to this decision is two-fold.

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After decades of serving Chinese food to Beaverdale and surrounding Des Moines area residents, the Mandarin restaurant will be shutting its doors at this location for good by Christmas. The owners are heading to Taiwan for an extended vacation from Iowa cold, and the restaurant business.

The woman who rang up my carryout last night said they may open another restaurant at a new location, possibly in the Beaverdale area.

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Yeesterday morning, the Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Varnum vs. Brien regarding the constitutionality of Iowa's so-called "Defense of Marriage Act". Passed in 1998, the act defines "marriage" as a union between a man and a woman. The Iowa Supreme Court may uphold the lower court's ruling declaring the act unconstitutional under Iowa's equal protection and due process laws.

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The Iowa chapter of the American Planning Association recently honored West Des Moines for its publication of a "pattern book". Pattern Books are locally specific guidebooks detailing appropriate interventions in existing neighborhoods (both renovation and new construction). This particular book is focused on the older areas of West Des Moines. Examples used in the book are the Cape Cod, Ranch, and Split Level home.

The 45-page book is available for free on the West Des Moines web site.

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General Growth Stock Price PlummetsGeneral Growth Stock Price PlummetsReal estate investment giant General Growth stock plummeted to around $0.35 per share this morning on news that the company may declare bankruptcy. General Growth developed and owns the Jordan Creek Town Center "retail resort" in West Des Moines.

Over the next few years, almost $4 billion in debt from recent property acquisition comes due, but current income from their real estate holdings doesn't cover the payments. General Growth acquired Rouse Company in 2004 for $7.2 billion, mostly financed through short-term debt instruments. Defaulting on one debt would likely cause other creditors to call their loans due, precipitating a catastrophic avalanche of defaults.

General Growth officials blame the "credit crunch" for the company's current financial woes. That is, they cannot find people to loan them money to cover their existing loans. Now that there is blood in the water, it becomes even more unlikely that anyone will loan them money - a self-fulfilling prophesy.

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From Obama transition co-chair Valerie Jarrett (via the Washington Post), plans are underway to establish a White House Office of Urban Policy in order to better coordinate federal efforts to help America's cities.

I have blogged about this before. I am excited that president-elect Barack Obama has such a clear understanding of urban issues and a demonstrated intent to deal with them in a comprehensive and straightforward manner.

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