Mosquito Alert

02 Jul 2010

[UPDATE 7/2/2010 - Funding has been approved by the Des Moines City Council for short-term resumption of spraying for adult mosquitoes. The spraying map (dependent on weather conditions) is available online at http://arcgis.dmgov.org/extmapcenter/mosquitomap.aspx]

As summer get into full humid swing, so comes mosquito season, and this year is set to be particularly mosquito-ridden. Due to severe budget constraints, the City will not be spraying for adult mosquitoes.

The city will continue to maintain the capability to spray for adult mosquito control if and when circumstances call for these measures, such as an impending public health emergency. In the interim, citizens are encouraged to eliminate breeding sites around the home such as stagnant water in birdbaths, gutters, and garden pots. Wear protective clothing such as long sleeve shirts and long pants if you must be outside during the early morning or late evening hours when mosquito activity is generally at its peak.

Anopheles (mosquito)Anopheles (mosquito)Two evenings ago, I sought refuge from the heat of our house (the air conditioning is out) by working on the front porch. My setup included laptop, Sam Adams (of course), pens, floor plan drawings to correct, and a heavy dousing of high octane mosquito repellent. Yet even with multiple applications over the course of an hour, the mosquitoes were somehow finding places to bite that I didn't even know I had.

Mosquito fogging is one of those quality of life issues that is easy to take for granted until it is gone... certainly the inconvenience of mosquito bites is less critical to public safety than, say, fire protection, but the little things add up. People who live near Greenwood park will be inside all summer - the mosquitoes are simply unbearable in that "neck of the woods" so to speak.

Note that in a public health emergency such as an outbreak of mosquito-borne illness, the City will undertake control measures. Until then, we just have to tough it out against the small but mighty Anopheles.

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The Census Bureau releases annual population estimates by City. The most recent (2009) estimates were released last week.

I pulled statistics for the Des Moines metro area and created a couple graphs to show trends over time. Here are the top five things I noticed in these graphs:

1 - The City of Des Moines has clearly turned a corner

Like many central cities that have experienced declines in population, the City of Des Moines is is now gaining population in absolute numbers. This is good for the City and good for the region.

Des Moines MSA Population Trend by CityDes Moines MSA Population Trend by City

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What I Read

30 Jun 2010

I consume the vast majority of my news and analysis in digital form. on a rare occasion (like when the Rehabbers Club gets press) I pick up a paper to save, and I do enjoy reading the Sunday version cover to cover.

Here are some of my favorite Des Moines online sources (in no particular order):

  • Des Moines Report - A relatively recent venture that aggregates Des Moines related news and commentary. I look for this one to grow over time and become a great one-stop summary.
  • Des Moines Is Not Boring - Promoting Des Moines as a fun and interesting place to live and play.
  • Locally Grown - Local chef/writer has great prose and insight.
  • Des Moines Register - The online version is great if you don't bother to read the user comments, which trend towards thinly veiled racism and general idiocy.
  • dsmBuzz - Promoting locally-owned businesses.
  • Living Downtown Des Moines - Personal blog of an active and engaged downtown resident.
  • Brianne Sanchez Blog - Juice Magazine writer living Des Moines to the fullest.
  • Our New Old House - Renovating a home in the Union Park neighborhood.

Check out these great blogs and news sources!

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Last year, I scooped the Des Moines Register (by a day) when I posted about the closing of the Mandarin's Beaverdale location. In that article I wrote:

This is a classic example of where not to locate a restaurant! The building, constructed in the mid 1970s, is situated perpendicular from Beaver so that none of the office spaces face the main street. Rather, they face the parking lot (accessed from Euclid, the side street). There is no planned pedestrian access between the sidewalk and the entrance to the Mandarin restaurant.

This design typology is symptomatic of the automobile era: rather than enhance the pedestrian experience and knit the building into the surrounding residential neighborhood, each building is designed to behave autonomously - as if the only way anyone would ever arrive at the building was by car. It turns its back on the main street, necessitating massive signage to direct cars into its parking lot.

Turns out, you CAN have a successful restaurant at this location - you just need to relocate a loyal customer base from a restaurant formerly situated directly across the street. El Aguila Real seems to be making a pretty good run of it after moving into the vacated Mandarin space. It was packed and steady when we visited for dinner a few days ago.

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The Des Moines Register recently published an editorial in part promoting the extension of Martin Luther King drive through a new I-80 interchange to Ankeny. In response, Michael Baldus of the Neighborhood and Natural Recreation Protection Project (NNRP.org) wrote a guest column that was published today.

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I just implemented Facebook "Likes" into the Des Moines Perspective. If there is an article you enjoyed reading, or think someone else might enjoy, please look for the "Like" button at the bottom of the article text, below the Comments - it will automatically share the article on your Facebook Wall for your friends to read!

Ingersoll Avenue is on its way to becoming a "Complete Street". The 6th Avenue revitalization project has identified "Complete Streets" as a goal of the infrastructure improvements. Beaverdale intends to remake a major neighborhood intersection to align with a "Complete Streets" philosophy. The City of Des Moines has adopted, over vocal objections of some business owners and residents, a general policy promoting "Complete Streets".

What is a Complete Street?

Bike-Friendly Street in Toronto: Copyright notice: This image was downloaded from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.Bike-Friendly Street in Toronto: Copyright notice: This image was downloaded from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.Beginning with the advent of the interstate highway system and the ensuing suburban construction explosion, streets have been designed with one overarching goal: to move cars as fast as possible from starting point to final destination. In contrast, Complete Streets refers to a roadway that is designed and operated with all users in mind - including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

A complete street is not necessarily urban. However, urban areas are inherently compatible with the complete streets philosophy - urbanity depends on density, layered uses, and interacting transportation networks. The idea behind an urban "Complete Streets" makeover is to consciously design and operate a roadway to take advantage of all that an urban environment has to offer.

A Complete Streets Extreme Makeover

Several weeks ago, I proposed removing a section of Interstate 235 that divides downtown from the neighborhoods to the north and slices through the heart of several established neighborhoods.

Ultimately, the city would be better served by a transportation network that links downtown to the rest of the city instead of providing a direct conduit to the suburbs.

UPDATE, 6/25/2010After a long discussion with my wife last night, I came up with the following clarification. I think the highway should lead to Downtown Des Moines as a destination by dumping out onto a "connector" that is tied to the street grid between 42nd street and the Capitol complex. This "complete streets" connector would be designed to do all of the following:

  • Move automobile traffic efficiently
  • Create a better relationship between downtown and the neighborhoods to the north
  • Layer transportation systems (pedestrian bike, auto, and transit) into a street that works for many different "trip types"
  • Promote more efficient use of the existing urban street grid
  • Take pressure off the streets that currently feed limited access points to the highway

But what would replace the Interstate? A Complete Street, of course! Let's see what that might look like:

Mixed-Use Complete Streets Replacement for Interstate 235: A potential design for reclaiming Interstate 235 through downtown Des Moines as a "Complete Street".Mixed-Use Complete Streets Replacement for Interstate 235: A potential design for reclaiming Interstate 235 through downtown Des Moines as a "Complete Street".

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A Des Moines Register article today reports that the the Ingersoll fiasco bike lane addition left automobile travel times essentially unchanged. Not only is the street now more accessible to bicyclists, but it was done without substantially impacting automobile travel.

Commute times on Ingersoll Avenue have changed little since traffic lanes were reconfigured, according to city traffic studies...

In the worst case, travel times increased roughly 20 seconds for westbound motorists traveling between Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and 42nd Street during the afternoon rush hour, said Gary Fox, the city's traffic engineer. There were essentially no changes overall and slight improvements in midday vehicle travel times, he added.

Um, yeah. I probably could have told you that without a GPS-outfitted car, but such technology makes the conclusion a little more believable to the naysayers. Perhaps.

UPDATE, 6/30/2010: A reader who lives just off Ingersoll and commutes every day on the street notes that her commute time has actually decreased!

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[UPDATE 7/4/2010: Voting is over - we ended up in sixth place. Thank you to everyone for their help!]

Victorian Home in Danger of Demolition: This home is on the City's "Public Nuisance" list and may be demolished if deficiencies are not corrected in a timely manner.Victorian Home in Danger of Demolition: This home is on the City's "Public Nuisance" list and may be demolished if deficiencies are not corrected in a timely manner.The Des Moines Rehabbers Club is a loose affiliation of people with a common interest in renovation, preservation, and maintenance of Des Moines' historic buildings.

The group is in the running for a $1000 grant through the "Dream Big Grow Here" project of MyEntre.net. MyEntre.net is an entrepreneurship development system consisting of an online social network and free web-based entrepreneurial resources, coupled with collaboratively driven services and capital for entrepreneurs in Iowa.

The $1000 grant will be awarded to the top vote getter each month. You can help out by voting daily and getting your friends to vote, too. Voting opens June 16 and closes June 30, 2010

Send an email to steve@renovatedsm.com to be included on a daily reminder list.

The Des Moines Rehabbers Club will use the grant to incorporate as a sustainable organization, sponsor additional events throughout the year, and hopefully send two (or more if there is enough left) members to Lead-Safe Work Practices trainings.

Thanks for your help!

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The online forums are filled with people complaining about the new bike lanes on Ingersoll. People who claim to have previously shopped at stores on Ingersoll are boasting that they have "taken their business" to West Des Moines because of the new bike lanes and will "never drive down Ingersoll again. (My guess is those people never did a whole lot of shopping on Ingersoll to begin with).

Mars Cafe Bike Night PosterMars Cafe Bike Night PosterThe hills are alive with extreme claims that the bike lanes will be the end of business on Ingersoll.

If they are concerned about business falling off, businesses on Ingersoll should take a page from Mars Cafe's brilliant playbook and embrace the bike culture. Every Tuesday evening is "Bike Night" at Mars Cafe - riding a bike there gets you drink specials and happy hour prices all night long if you come with a group.

Here are some other ideas for Ingersoll businesses to take advantage of the transportation upgrade:

  1. Biker Specials - Copy Mars Cafe and offer discounts to patrons who arrive on two wheels.
  2. Bike Festival / Bike Show - Collaborate with local bike shops to host an annual Bike Show and kid-friendly Bike Parade.
  3. Bike Race - Host an annual bike race up the 42nd Street hill.
  4. Pre-RAGBRAI Bar Crawl - Bikers, get ready for RAGBRAI! Ingersoll Bars could host a pre-RAGBRAI bar crawl, where each bar represents one of the overnight towns.

What other events or promotions could build on the new bike lane asset?

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