Skip to main content
A1 A1
MCSA and First Presbyterian begin demo days for housing project Friday
  • Updated

MUSCATINE — The Muscatine Center for Social Action is ready to kick off its latest housing project on Friday thanks to local donations and the help of an area church.

MCSA has been working with First Presbyterian Church on a “Double Your Dollars For Housing” campaign, with the church matching up to $30,000 in donations. Now the group is ready to start their latest housing revitalization project at 605 6th St. in downtown Muscatine, with demolition starting at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, April 9, and work continuing into Saturday. MCSA invites the community to watch them work.

Over the course of several volunteer-run demo and rehab days, the 6th Street property will be turned into a modern single-family home with at least four bedrooms. It will be rented out to a local single family at a later date.

“Our community has been talking about housing and doing research on it for years,” Scott Dahlke, executive director for MSCA, said. “MCSA is going to start initiating an entire neighborhood revitalization initiative. I think we as an entire community can improve the look, feel and operation of our housing units, and it’s going to benefit everybody.”

According to Dahlke, MCSA first began these efforts about five years ago when it started doing research and planning. Then, three years ago, MCSA updated its strategic plan to include the goal of “improving the quality and quantity of workforce housing in Muscatine,” further cementing its goals.

“Between trusts and the religious community, we’ve raised about $150,000 so far,” Dahlke said. “It was really a no-brainer that after all the research that went into supporting that strategic plan that now, with the pandemic approaching the rear view and our partners like FPC helping out so much, we can now focus more on improving our community one home at a time."

Dahlke said affordable housing is one of the biggest struggles that Muscatine families face, adding that the city itself is about 990 units short of providing affordable workforce housing to its residents, making initiatives such as these all the more important.

“The people that we serve who are in need are going to have really high quality housing units to move into, and with that high quality housing unit comes a sense of pride and a sense of ownership over it,” he said. “So we do believe it’ll be the catalyst for client outcomes to improve, as well as for the beautification of our neighborhoods.”

While the beginnings of this initiative are underway, the project still needs private investors to help with the neighborhood revitalizations and provide “good quality landlords” that the MCSA can support, as well as further donations.

Currently, FPC is also providing volunteers to help out on the demo and rehab days, but it could always use more help, so Dahlke is encouraging residents to help out, emphasizing that it’s very much an “all hands on deck” project.

“It’s a great way to build fellowship,” he said. “We did another rehab project a couple years ago, the 4th Street apartments, and the volunteers that did that still have that camaraderie and talk about that project to this day. I think it’s a great way for people to come together — just swinging hammers, getting dirty, and building those relationships, knowing that they’re making their community more beautiful.”

If all goes according to plan, this won't be the only house that MCSA helps revitalize. Another property has already been purchased with plans for refurbishment and several others are being researched or in the beginning stages of planning. Discussions with other local nonprofit leaders in housing are currently in-progress as well and a long-term version of the revitalization project is underway.

“We’re really excited. There’s nothing more systemic that we can do in Muscatine to change the trajectory of our future than improving the quality of housing,” Dahlke said. “I’m really hoping people will get enthusiastic about this and get behind it because it takes everybody to complete such a goal.”

To become involved with the campaign either as a donor or a volunteer for the renovation process, go to campaign. Volunteers can also call Paula Stover at 563-506-3079. Donations by check can be made out to MCSA with "housing campaign" in the memo, and all cash donations can be dropped off at 312 Iowa Ave.

Muscatine Symphony conductor looks back on virtual concert season
  • Updated

MUSCATINE — For Maestro Brian Dollinger, this latest concert season for the Muscatine Symphony Orchestra has been unlike any other he has experienced.

Although the symphony has recorded its performances before, this has been its first completely virtual concert slate.

The season comes to a close with a MasterWorks concert titled “Coming Together” this Saturday at 7 p.m. on streaming and 7:30 p.m. on Public Access Channel 9.

Before the final performance, Dollinger took some time to reflect on the season as a whole, which consisted of five virtual concerts, not a single performance missed.

“We have truly been blessed to be able to achieve this goal,” he said of putting on the five virtual concerts without having to cancel a single performance. “While so many other performing arts organizations not only here in Muscatine but around the world have had no performances or have even closed down for good, the Muscatine Symphony has been able to preserve and create five new programs for our community and the larger Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois region.”

Dollinger said he felt the season has been very successful, partially thanks to the partnership the symphony has formed with both Muscatine Community College and Muscatine Power and Water, both of which have helped with the internet streaming and cable broadcasts of the Symphony’s performances.

“I know many of our faithful audience members are more comfortable with mobile technology than others, so being able to sit in their comfortable living rooms and watch on their own TVs was really important to me,” he said. “Keeping in touch with as many people as possible was the goal, and I believe we did a great job with this.”

While having the ability to stream and broadcast their performances has been a relief in some ways, it has also been a struggle in others.

“There are so many moving pieces when we go virtual,” Dollinger said.

Those pieces ranged from making sure the audio is crystal clear to placing cameras to even something as simple as a rehearsal, which had to be altered the most.

“I was very reliant on each individual musician coming to our rehearsal time even more prepared than usual,” he said. “We did not have the opportunity to have multiple rehearsals for each concert, so we had some very intense, condensed rehearsal times.”

Dollinger also admitted that getting used to performing without a live audience took some time for him and his musicians, and that it was occasionally a bit awkward. At the same time, however, he has also found a new creative outlet through the post-production editing, where he would match the various camera angles to the audio recordings and make it into an engaging video performance.

“I think that it has been nice for me to be able to choose what was being ‘seen’ during the performances,” Dollinger said.

As enjoyable as that part has been for him, Dollinger is still hoping to get back to in-person performances with a live audience for the next season of MasterWorks concerts.

“As always, we’ll be looking ahead with multiple plans in place. But, like this past year, we have to be able to pivot and utilize technology to its fullest in order to continue on our successes,” he said, adding that the symphony would have to focus on remaining financially stable as well as continuing to provide entertainment to the community, due to it being reliant on ticket sales and donations.

Dollinger is also hoping the 2021-2022 season will provide a chance to properly celebrate the Symphony Orchestra’s 20th anniversary, even if this celebration will be a year late. As for this upcoming concert, Dollinger is excited to bring the symphony’s woodwind and brass sections back into the performance, making this concert truly feel like a “coming together” moment.

“Because of the nature of COVID-19 being a respiratory illness and these instruments utilizing the movement of breath to make their music, we have erred on the side of caution with their inclusion in our previous performances,” he said. “But, as viewers will see, we have utilized all our resources to find safe and effective ways of including these wonderful musicians again.”

Alongside classical composers such as Mozart, Haydn and Mendelssohn, the symphony will also feature a piece composed by David Stern. His piece, “Rhapsody for Violin and Strings” will have its world premiere at this concert.

This isn't the first time an original Stern piece has premiered at an MSO concert. Friends with Stern since their time at Ball State University, Dollinger said that two of them have supported each other with Stern often sharing newly written compositions with him.

“With the unique restrictions that the orchestra has to deal with, I felt that this would be a wonderful opportunity to showcase not only his piece in this premier, but also our longtime concertmaster, Heather Turner, as the soloist,” he said. “My only wish is that our audience could experience it in-person with the composer in attendance, but I’m sure this will not be the last time I perform this work, nor premiere more of his music.”

Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler meet on the the range during a practice day Monday for the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. Spieth is coming off a victory heading into the event.

Reynolds calls for ban of vaccine passports
  • Updated

JOHNSTON — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that she wants legislation that would prohibit so-called vaccine passports in Iowa, citing her concern for potential action from the federal government.

But just a day earlier, the White House said there will be no federal vaccine passport.

During her weekly press conference Wednesday at Iowa PBS studios, Reynolds expressed her staunch opposition to vaccine passports. Although Reynolds was vague about what kind of prohibition she seeks, vaccine passports generally speaking are documents that prove an individual has received the COVID-19 vaccine, thus enabling the person to, for example, fly on an airplane or attend a concert or sporting event.

“Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve consistently put my trust in Iowans to do the right thing rather than demand or mandate it. And vaccination is no different,” Reynolds said. “While I believe in the efficacy of the vaccine enough to get it myself and encourage Iowans to do the same, I also respect that it’s a personal choice. But I strongly oppose vaccine passports and I believe that we must take a stand as a state against them, which I intend to do.”

Reynolds said she will work with state lawmakers on passing a law, and if that is unsuccessful, she will issue an executive order.

Reynolds said she wants a provision in place “based on what they would do at the federal level.” But during a press briefing Tuesday at the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki ruled out a federal vaccine passport requirement.

“Let me be very clear on this — I know there’s been lots of questions: The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Psaki said. “There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

Reynolds cited myriad privacy concerns for her opposition to vaccine passports.

 “I think there’s all kinds of questions that are raised with moving in that direction: privacy implications, (medical privacy), First and Fourth Amendment rights, Americans with disabilities. And I think what you’re doing when you move forward with something like that is you’re creating a two-tiered society, and you are either engaged or you’re marginalized,” Reynolds said.

Psaki said the discussion essentially started in the private sector, and she expects it to end there. She said the federal government will at some point provide public health guidance.

“There is a movement, as you know, in the private sector to identify ways that they can return to events where there are large swaths of people safely in soccer stadiums or theaters. That’s where the idea originated, and we expect that's where it will be concluded,” Psaki said. “We will be providing some guidance … that provides important answers to questions that Americans have, in particular around concerns about privacy, security, or discrimination, soon.”