Your city at work Putting a curb across a bike path. A look at some planks in Iowa’s party platforms. CITYVIEW

Bikers then took matters into their own hands. On Sunday, July 2, someone — someone who rides bikes a lot — painted the curb with a glow-in-the-dark yellow paint. And someone, presumably that same someone, glued three toilet plungers to the top of the newly painted curb as a further warning to cyclists. Three days later, the plungers were removed, presumably by the city.

Still, the city blames the bikers for the accidents. In its reply to Evans’s lawsuit, the city says Evans failed to “use due and reasonable care,” failed “to maintain a proper and adequate lookout,” failed “to maintain adequate control,” neglected “to monitor the condition of the roadways,” and failed to observe “general standards of care.”


So, to date: the city has torn out a ramp and put in a curbing, has put in a bench and a trash bin, has removed the bench and the bin, has torn out the curbing and put a ramp back in. And has been sued twice. Two bikers have been seriously hurt, two others less seriously so. And someone bought a can of yellow paint and three toilet plungers. …

The 17th Amendment, which was ratified in 1913, established the direct election of United States Senators. Until then, the Senators — as mandated by the Constitution — were chosen by their state legislatures. The idea was that, if legislatures appointed senators, the balance of power between state legislatures and the federal government might be a bit more even.

Kaul, who died of cancer on July 22 at age 83, saw the absurdity in everything — in war, in politics, in raising kids, in the state legislature, in (especially) Richard Nixon’s presidency. And, on slow news days, he could always get the state worked up by writing about six-on-six girls’ basketball. (“Where else can you see a basketball player in full battle dress wearing a corsage?”)

He probably will be remembered as the co-founder, with John Karras, of The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, but he should be remembered for more. He was smart in print and quick in person, and while he enjoyed outraging readers, he got equal joy out of amusing friends. He was genuinely kind. And quirky. (Who else do you know who drove a Checker automobile?)

He started out in 1960 on the afternoon Des Moines Tribune, where he was a good reporter with a good reporter’s disdain for most editors, particularly his immediate boss. But the top editors at the time — Managing Editor Frank Eyerly and Editor Ken MacDonald (whom Kaul idolized) — saw something in his writing, or perhaps his newsroom behavior, that made them think he could succeed the bland and aging Miller.

He asked for a transfer to Washington in the early 1970s — where he could find even more absurdities to write about — and then became crosswise with Register editor Jim Gannon. Gannon ultimately fired Kaul. Or perhaps Kaul quit. It was never clear. At any rate, Gannon’s successor, Geneva Overholser, rehired him, and all was right with the world again. He was back in rare form. (“I was also the first to identify the classic defense of girls basketball: Standing in One Place and Waving Your Hands a Lot.”)