Does speed kill?

November 30, 2008

Do you think cars should be electronically limited to a set top speed? Do you think it would save lives on our highways? Or, perhaps you think our speed limits should be lowered on highways?

At least one person would agree with you. Kent A. Sepkowitz, vice chairman of medicine at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center believes that since most cars are capable of doing over 100 mph, they should be electronically stopped at 75 mph.

We can tell Mr. Sepkowitz is not a car guy. So, we’d like to inform him so he can rethink his plan. The first thing that comes to mind is that the National Highway Traffic Administration’s last study from 2003 shows the flaw in his thinking. In the study, the NHTSA found that 50% of the speed related traffic fatalities occured on roads with a posted speed limit of 50 mph. Another 25% occured on roads with posted speed limit of 35 mph or less.

It’s estimated that up to 70% of the drivers on roads with a posted speed limit of 50 mph or less exceed the speed limit. When the posted speed limit is 75 mph, the number drops to single digits. Add to this the fact that most airbags go off at around 40 mph, and most government crash tests are done at 35 mph or less.

Now does it seem like speed is a problem; or the inept, careless, cell-phone using, drunken, or drugged drivers?

Even if the Big 3 automakers get a bailout, we expect some changes. One that surprised us is that the Camaro convertible has been put on hold, and the fact that there will be no Challenger convertible. Another is that once again people in the know are hearing the death rattle of the V-8 again.

This is due in part to AB1493. That’s a California bill that’s gaining acceptance in 13 other states. It would further reduce CO2 emissions and make the CAFE 43 mpg in 2016. It would look to reach 50 mpg in 2020. This bill could affect up to 30% of the car buying market, and the bill would need a waiver from the EPA. If this happens, full-size cars and pickup trucks wouldn’t make the cut.

I’m going to do my best to help. I’m looking at a new ride with these facts in mind. One I’m leaning towards is huge, has a loud V-8, has a 140 mph speedometer, and should pass anything but a gas station. It’s the least I can do.

Comments on this, or any other subject are always welcome

A couple things

November 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Kenny! 19 years ago today you came into this world, and it hasn’t been the same sinice. Yes, Lil’ Cruiser isn’t so little anymore. We’re going to take him and his girlfriend out for breakfast and have biscuits and gravy instead of turkey.

If anyone has a question about the Davenport Promise, you have until early Monday morning to let us know. I will email the latest set of questions around 9 am Monday and await an answers. We’ll close this post with a few more worthless facts-

It takes your food seven seconds to get from your mouth to your stomach.
One human hair can support 3 kg (6 lb).
The average man’s penis is three times the length of his thumb.
Human thighbones are stronger than concrete.
A woman’s heart beats faster than a man’s.
There are about one trillion bacteria on each of your feet.
Women blink twice as often as men.
The average person’s skin weighs twice as much as the brain.
Your body uses 300 muscles to balance itself when you are standing still.
If saliva cannot dissolve something, you cannot taste it.
Women reading this will be finished now.
Men who read this are probably still busy checking their thumbs.

Comments on just about anything are always welcome.

The 1932 Helicron

November 28, 2008

In the early part of the 20th century, France spent a lot of money on airplane development. The natural offshoot of this is the automobile. In the 1930s idea people with money built propeller driven cars. This is the story of one such vehicle.

In 1932, one propeller driven Helicron was built. It had a wooden frame, body, and even a wooden propeller. In the late 1930s the car was stored in a barn and forgotten until it was discovered in 2000.

When found the Helicron was missing its engine, but otherwise complete. The motor was replaced with a Citroen GS 4-cylinder motor from the 1980s. The car steers by the rear wheels.

When the wooden propeller is spinning at full speed and efficiently, this little 1,000-pound boat-tailed skiff can hit freeway speeds exceeding 75 mph. Since France has safety inspections for vehicles, this car was inspected in 2000 and was approved for use on their roads. This is the one and only Helicron in existence, owned by Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, TN.

For a really neat website on this car, with more pictures and information, go here.

Comments are always welcome.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 27, 2008

morn We hope everyone has a perfect Thanksgiving.

More Promise questions

November 26, 2008

Once again we emailed some questions to Mr. Malin. Once again he emailed the answers back in a very timely manner. So here are the latest questions and answers as we recieved them-

Davenport Promise Questions & Answers
November 26, 2008

What was the reasoning behind requiring the community service for those who wish to use the scholarship?
I think the reasoning was four fold. First, having teens engaged in the life of a community is a good thing in and of itself. Tens of thousands of hours of community service in Davenport each year could be fairly transformative. Second, there was from the start a Midwestern sensibility about work and reward built into the Davenport Promise concept. If students are to receive an extraordinary opportunity provided them by the community, the community has a right to expect something extraordinary in return (and in advance). Building on this, completion of a 400 hour commitment to something (something positive) before completing high school will serve the students well in their next step in life, whatever that may be. Life gets more difficult after high school, and having completed 400 hours of something that kids from other communities didn’t have to do will give them confidence to persevere when the going gets tough. Finally, there was a sense that 400 hours of community service would provide a deep and lasting connectedness to the people and places of Davenport. Post college wanderlust will occur for some, but the friendships made and the personal investment of 400 hours of community service in Davenport before they ever leave will provide some “glue” to staying (or at least returning when they become parents).

Would the school district be asked for any monies to support the Promise?
There are three school districts that serve Davenport children. Their primary responsibility is education. If the question is will the school districts be asked for money to directly support the Promise, the answer is no. The Davenport Promise is an economic development strategy for the City of Davenport. It is not a program of any one of the three school districts educating Davenport children. Iowa school districts have no legal means to spend public funds on post secondary scholarships. If the question is, will each of the three school districts spend money to educate Davenport children, the answer is yes (they are doing so now). If the Davenport Promise program is approved by voters, the districts will continue to spend money to educate Davenport children (likely, more children, which will help the districts financially) but they won’t be spending money directly on the scholarship component of the Promise.

Will the veterans who use the downpayment on a home be required to live in the home for any length of time?
The current guideline is veterans would be expected to live in the home for five years to have the homestead grant completely forgiven (on a pro-rata basis, 20% forgiven each year).

Why aren’t kids getting the scholarships required to go a local college?
The simplest answer is choice and mobility are enduring American values. The technical answer is the Upjohn Institute’s analysis modeled the impact of a portable scholarship rather than a restricted scholarship. A restricted scholarship would lessen the growth potential of the Promise. A slightly longer answer is the Task Force was careful to make the program inclusive. Some families may have a legacy of attending a certain institution. Some children may be set on a program of study that is not available locally. In resolving this, the practical answer will likely be that local schools – both colleges and vocational schools – will continue to have the advantage of being local and will be able to effectively compete for students. The Davenport Promise doesn’t pay for room and board, so there is no built in incentive to attend a non local school.

How much revenue has the LOST generated in each of last two years?
Local option sales tax revenue in FY 2007 was $14,408,214, in FY 2008, $14,920,679.

Did anyone ever find out why nobody could access the video to the latest Council meetings over the weekend?
IT is taking a look at any problems we may have had over the weekend. We can’t identify (at the moment) that we had any technical challenges. There may have been some confusion in that the Special Council Meeting was separate from the Committee of the Whole Meeting and some folks got a little lost on our website? If we find out more, I’ll let you know.

Comments on this or any other subject are welcome.

Below is the City’s answer to the question about problems on their website-

IT Director Rob Henry indicates to me that there were no known issues or errors in the system log that indicates the system was down over the weekend. He further states that sometimes the issue can be on the user side because of their ISP and doesn’t mean the City’s system was down. These can be hard to pinpoint but IT’s best guess is that everything was working.

Please advise if you need anything further.

Jennifer A. Nahra

Communications Director

Promise questions with answers

November 25, 2008

We mentioned we emailed Craig Malin with some questions. He has answered the questions so we will include them in this post. Here they are as they were emailed to me-

Davenport Promise Questions & Answers
November 25, 2008

Some have told me that the Mayor and City Council didn’t follow the appropriate procedures when they placed the Promise on the ballot. If this is true, will the Council be taking corrective action and set another date?
The Council vote on placing the Promise on the ballot was appropriate. While there was a motion to call the question, this typically is not voted on but, rather, is an indication that a Council member would like to move on to a vote on the main motion. Deputy Clerk Holocek recorded the vote as such (and no Council member indicated a separate vote was required). I asked Corporation Counsel Warner about this and his reply includes the following:
“It’s an interpretation under Robert’s Rules which we know is only a guide. I checked with Jackie about how she recorded it the next day. Jackie recorded it as a vote on the main motion. It’s a practice of the Council to not vote on calling the question unless some actually insists – you can call it practice or custom or you can consider it acquiescence on the call the question statement. I don’t believe Council was confused about what they were voting on as I did not hear a single elected official question it on the floor; which to me clearly demonstrates their intent as to what motion was being voted on.”

Why are there no actual minutes from City Council meetings available
to the public?
Minutes are available on the City’s website. Just click on “minutes” in the Document Center section on the City’s homepage and then select from more than 750 documents in reverse chronological order.

Why was only Kalamazoo used in the Upjohn study? Couldn’t Pittsburg, Denver, or El Dorado, Arkansas been added?
Kalamazoo was used for a few reasons. The main reasons are that the Kalamazoo Promise is the longest running local government bounded program in existence and Kalamazoo is, in many ways, more similar to Davenport than Pittsburgh, El Dorado or Denver. Secondarily, the Upjohn Institute has been studying the Kalamazoo Promise almost since its inception and has the most complete amount of information about the Kalamazoo Promise.

Can Davenport withstand 10+ years of capital budget shortfalls if the worst case scenarios of the study prove correct?
If by worst case, the question refers to the full range of scenarios modeled in the Upjohn analysis, yes. The worst case modeled by Upjohn has an $11,507,705 capital budget funding challenge (spanning ten years, averaging $1.2 million per year). The average annual capital budget plan is just under $40 million, so this would be manageable by the means outlined in Finance Director Guard’s presentation to the City Council on Nov. 12. If by worst case the question refers to some hypothetical set of circumstances that would be a problem with or without a Promise program, that is difficult to address with any specificity. The local option sales tax has been a historically growing revenue source (there are a few years where it dips year to year but these are the exceptions, not the rule) and the City has made good use of this resource in twenty years and thus the magnitude of funding challenge has been mitigated somewhat. The essential question tested by the Upjohn Institute is whether Davenport citizens would get a better return on their investment with a partial reallocation of the local option sales tax to the Promise program and the essential answer, in all modeled scenarios, is yes.
In the best case scenario of high school graduation, Davenport will still be under the Iowa average.

Would measures be taken to raise the graduation rate?
A range of measures are and would continue to be undertaken to both improve the graduation rate and the academic preparedness of Davenport School District students. I’ll forward your question on to Supt. Almanza for a more detailed reply, but I will note the Kalamazoo Promise has substantially increased graduation rates in Kalamazoo, especially for some (the Kalamazoo Gazette reports a 43 percent increase in graduation numbers for African American students). For every student, one of the critical transformations the Davenport Promise may bring forth is a focus in the earliest years of a child’s life that completion of high school opens the door to the full range of post high school options. It is one thing to believe or hope this is the case. It is another thing, entirely, to know there are options beyond high school, and have this known throughout the entire community.

The Upjohn study was based on a 2.5% inflation rate, and a tuition rate increasing the same. It also states if tuition rates outpace inflation it will lower the impact of the Promise drawing new people to the city. How will the skyrocketing cost of tuition affect response to people moving here?
A few responses here. First, the amount of local option sales tax which may be dedicated to scholarships would be capped by the referendum. So there is no “blank check” for the program, at least from the public sector side. Whether private or foundation sector resources could fill a gap is to be determined, but is not unlikely. Secondly, there has been discussion (and some evidence of success in Kalamazoo) that a community’s “buying power” with a Promise program can be leveraged with nearby universities to obtain admissions at less than full tuition rates. Again, this is yet to be determined but would be a strategy employed by the managing foundation. Thirdly, from a technical perspective, the Upjohn analysis is based on the dollar amount available to existing and new residents, not the percentage of tuition paid. The comment regarding tuition cost increases is well taken, but the Upjohn Institute’s basis for projecting the number of people moving into Davenport due to the Promise is based on – as you might expect from research economists – the net present value of the potential scholarship amount.

Is there a plan B if the number of new residents don’t meet expectations?
I haven’t heard of a specific “Plan B”. But neither the Davenport Promise nor any other successful strategy is a “set it and forget it” initiative. Successful cities continuously improve across all aspects of their operations and throughout the entire city. I have every expectation Davenport will continue this approach. The Davenport Promise does appear to have the potential to be a breakthrough, game changing strategy, creating growth through a community wide focus on education and workforce improvement. There are any number of other Plans A – Z already at work in the organization and community, and we’ve made good progress on many fronts. Whether the Davenport Promise is another plan the City can employ for economic development is, appropriately, in the voter’s hands.

On an unrelated note, why did the City website have so many dead links over the weekend; and why were the City Council updates stopped?
On the dead links question, if you give me a specific example, we’ll take a look at it. I cruised around the site this morning and, after clicking on a few dozen links without hitting a dead one, gave up. On the Council Update question, I put the Update on hiatus for two principal reasons. First, the current Council is fully accessible by e-mail. Many informational items that used to be communicated in the Update are now communicated faster by e-mail. Second, I made a deliberate effort to step back a bit and let the current Council take the lead, as good Councils are more than able to do. I’m just the hired help around here. I’ll do what is necessary for Davenport’s success, but I have no need or inclination to lead on policy matters in the community.
Those two things said, I’ve been asked by quite a few folks (including Council members) to restart the weekly Council Update, and suspect I’ll take a crack at doing so over the Thanksgiving break.

Have a great T-day.

Comments on this or anything else are welcome.

Too safe

November 25, 2008

We wonder if cars today aren’t too safe. It’s time for the release of the crash test data on new cars, and some in the media have chimed in with opinions on both sides. A wise old car guy told me a long time ago that if I wasn’t afraid of my hot rod I should sell it. I thought at the time he had inhaled too many exhaust fumes. But I wonder.

If you are even a little afraid of putting a car through its paces you drive safer. If you are afraid of someone running into your ride, you drive safer. If you think that the two ton plus living room on wheels you’re driving makes you invincible, you get careless. And there is the problem. We believe that these super-safe cars of today actually cause accidents.

Then when you add cell phones, mp3 players, and all the distractions related to driving today, I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents. Cars are getting expensive and it’s no wonder. Cars today have 5 mph bumpers, crumple zones, air bags, passanger air bags, side-curtain air bags, rollover strengthening, side impact reinforcements, anti-lock brakes, and traction control. to name a few safety features.

We remember the day when cars didn’t have seat belts, padded dashes, tilt steering columns, or much safety equipment at all. Some of the older cars we bought didn’t even have safety glass! And yet we survived. But we have to wonder if making the new cars idiot proof hasn’t given rise to a whole generation of unsafe drivers. Cars have somehow changed from being an instument of transportation to being vacation cabins and mobile offices.

Comments on just about anything are always welcome.

A few things

November 24, 2008

When you look over the Upjohn Institute review of the Promise concept, you see 29 pages of charts, graphs, and numbers. Parts of it even seem impressive, but if you look closely you have more questions that answers. At least we did.

The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research review of the Davenport Promise Concept final draft is available here. In table 1 it states the city, with the promise, will have a population growth of 9,136 to 9,604 between now and 2018. What about the years of capital budget shortfalls possibly extending beyond 10 years? Seems like a long time to take a hit.

Table 2 concerns scenario assumptions of the future student. They start by saying the annual inflation rate is 2.5 percent, and college tuition won’t increase any faster. Then they add a rider that says if tuition does outpace inflation it will lower the impact of the promise drawing people to our city. All the while giving us a graduation rate between 76% and 85%.

The review mentions several things that bother us. A few are that the population change may not be as strong as forecast, rate of enrollment may drop drastically in second and third years, property values along with revenue may raise slower , and several others. If you haven’t read it, you have the link now.

Someone mentioned the members of the Davenport Promise Task Force. Here are the members of the group, with a few links at the end of the post.

The Davenport Promise Task Force members are- Ed Rogalski, retired President of St. Ambrose University; Ethelene A. Boyd, a retiree of the Davenport Community School District; Betsy Brandsgard, Executive Vice President of Davenport One; Ken Croken, Vice President of Corporate Communications and Marketing for Genisis Health System; Tom Engelmann, former 8th Ward Alderman; Lori Rodrigues-Fisher, EdD, Vice President of Academic Affairs at St. Ambrose University; Sharon Fortney, retired from accounting; Jeff Heuer commercial real estate broker; Jim Kadavy, managing director of RSM McGldadrey’s Central Plains practice; Sue Ketelsen, sales department KWQC-TV; Frank Klipsch, President and CEO of the Scott County Family YMCA; David LaRoque, owner of a Financial Arcitects office in Davenport; Clyde Mayfield, retired Davenport Firefighter; Vickie Mulch, retired business owner; and Theodore S. Woodruff PhD, professor micro and macro economics at St. Ambrose University.

Betsy Brandsgard, Ken Croken, and Frank Klipsch were members of the orginal Davenport Promise Exploritory Committee. For the entire list, and short bios go here.

For all the information listed on the City website for the Promise Task Force, go here. Comments are always welcome.

Some neat cars

November 22, 2008

Have you ever heard of Allegheny Ludlum? They are known for their stainless steel, nickel alloy, titanium, armor plating and more. Their goods are used by the aerospace industry, the construction industry, the automobile, truck and railcar industry, the medical profession, electonics, food service companies, and more.

The history of the company can be traced to 1854 and the Pompton Furnace in the ore fields of New Jersey which almost a century before had produced cannonballs for the Colonial forces and hand-forged chain links to block the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War.

Stainless steel started as a 20th century material. Its invention is most often credited to Harry Bearly of Sheffield, England in 1912. Both Allegheny Steel of Pittsburgh and Ludlum Steel of Watervleit, New York led the commercialization of the new rustless metal in the United States. In 1938, they merged to form Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation.

Now the fun part, during the 20th century this company collarborated with Ford to build 11 cars with stainless steel bodies. The first were six 1936 Fords, and four of them are still around today. All four of the remaining cars have over 200,000 miles on them, and one is still running and in road worthy condition.


In 1960, the company and Ford got together again to build two 1960 Thurderbirds. The cars now have over 100,000 miles with the original mufflers and exhaust.

In 1967, the companies got together for the last time. They made three 1967 Licoln convertibles. These also had a stainless steel body, and the rest of the vehicle was pretty much like any other car of the time. As a statement to the durability of stainless steel, nine of the original cars are still around. A complete set of all three vehicle years is on permanent display at the Crawford Auto Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

To find out more, and see a few pictures of these cars go here.

We’re going to be busy tomorrow so we hope you enjoy the post. Comments are always welcome.

A little more

November 22, 2008

When we did the post on the Council meeting, we didn’t have a lot of information. We still don’t have, but we felt some clarification is order. First, we don’t believe that if a mistake was made it was intentional or done with any malice. Whether we agree with members of the City Council or not, they are people just like us. As such they are entitled to mistakes.

We mentioned that the Call the Question was rarely used. We have since found out that City leaders all over the country are fond of using it. We couldn’t find out why this is, just that it is used mostly at City Council type meetings. In most other cases though we still believe it isn’t used very often.

We mentioned a 6/5 vote and linked it to the call the question. That has since been proven wrong.
We heard the numbers on a local TV newscast and believed it was the vote to put the Promise on
the ballot. Then we heard that the vote was wrong and the Promise was never actually voted on. You can see why we were confused.

We would also like to thank Mr. Malin who has answered all questions we’ve emailed to him. We’ll
wait until he gets our list of questions on the Promise program to see if this practice continues.
We were a little surprised when he told us transcripts of the minutes of the meetings weren’t kept.
We also found that the minutes that are kept on the City website are sketchy at best. But in these times of everything being on video, there may be no need to do so.

We still honestly don’t know if any problems could arise from this or not. What would it mean if there was no actual vote on putting the Promise on the ballot? We honestly don’t know. We don’t
plan on pushing the matter either way. It seemed like an interesting problem to look into when it
was brought to our attention. We hope if there is a problem that it can be fixed without taking the
Promise off the ballot. While I wouldn’t vote for the Promise, I do believe it’s important to let
everyone have their say on the matter.

Comments are always welcome