John Pemble

Arts and Culture Reporter

John Pemble is the Arts and Culture reporter at Iowa Public Radio. In 1989, John began his Iowa Public Radio career in Fort Dodge as a program host for jazz, classical, and contemporary instrumental music programs. He joined Iowa Public Radio’s news department in 2008 to produce arts and culture stories.

John spent ten years as an adjunct professor for Iowa Central Community College’s broadcasting department teaching production and operations classes.

John's favorite public radio program is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

Ways to Connect

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

The Madison County Historic Preservation Association says it’s halfway to its goal of raising more than half-a-million dollars to replace a historic bridge destroyed by arson last April.  Brenda Hollingsworth is the association’s program manager.  She says the fundraising goal for replacing the Cedar Bridge near Winterset is $550,000.

“We are at, $246,000 dollars," says Hollingsworth.  "We have made an application for A Great Places grant that would pay for the remainder of that and we will know by December 15th whether or not we’ve received that grant.”

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Actors huddle around microphones as foley artists create sound effects with musicians. They are performing a scene about a teenager running away from gunfire in Burundi. This is Pang!, a three-act play presented as radio theater on a stage at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids.

Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs

Last month at the Iowa State Fair, a two-foot-tall bell was forged to honor past, present, and future members of the military. Some of the metal used to create the Spirit of Iowa Tribute Bell came from commemorative coins, service dog tags, and other artifacts from members of the military and their families.  

Next month, the bell begins traveling to cities throughout the state.  Executive director for the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Jodi Tymeson says the bell will be lent to anyone who wants to display it to honor Iowa veterans.  

John Pemble / IPR

Next year a newly-designed license plate will be available for Iowans.  Earlier this year, the governor's office asked for a new look for the plates. On the first day of the Iowa State Fair at the Department of Transportation’s booth, state officials unveiled three designs.  Gov. Kim Reynolds was on hand for the unveiling, and said she likes what she sees.

“They’ve done a good job,” says Reynolds. “I really am grateful to the staff for really their expertise in being able to design this.”

John Pemble / IPR

Today is the first day of Iowa State Fair. One new change this year is the fair is no longer using one contractor for all the amusement rides. This means the fair itself is now responsible for managing all of the rides.

"We're blending about 20 different companies together to make this midway," says State Fair CEO Gary Slater. "Other fairs that have done that, other events that have done that need, we needed an outside safety consultant, Wagoner and Associates, so that everybody is making sure of the same checklist every day and that we have our own Iowa State procedures."

Meghan Gerke / Iowa Cubs

Thousands of people are being sworn in as U.S. citizens across the country during this holiday weekend.  One of the ceremonies happens Monday in Des Moines during the Iowa Cubs baseball game.  It’s coordinated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Spokesperson Tim Counts says combining immigration and Independence Day is a perfect union to honor new Americans.

NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute

The space probe Cassini has been exploring Saturn since 2004.  One of the instruments on the two story tall spacecraft is from the University of Iowa called the Radio Plasma and Wave Science (RPWS) instrument.  It picks up Saturn’s radio waves.

 

University of Iowa scientist Bill Kurth takes telemetry from the RPWS and converts it to audio files in the human hearing range.  It’s a mix of ascending tones.  Some have a squealing quality.

John Pemble / IPR

The first half of the 87th General Assembly ends Saturday morning, April 22nd, at 7:15. The chambers are mostly silent as amendments and budget bills are finalized in committees. In the middle of the night, House leaders give their sine die speeches a few hours before adjournment. By daybreak, debate begins for the last bills of the session. One expands medical marijuana and the other is the standing appropriations budget bill.

John Pemble / IPR

  

It's the last full week of the 2017 legislative session with many long and complicated discussions about next year's budget.  This week's show stays clear of most of the budget discussion and we can present a final show next focusing on the budget with a wrap up of the past 15 weeks.

For this second to last show in the series, we focus on some of the final non-budget bills passing both chambers.

John Pemble / IPR

As the end of the session nears, leaders are often asked a simple "yes or no" about the likelihood of a bill becoming law.  The Senate president says a bill that would change how independent water utilities are managed isn't moving forward.  This bill's passage would affect the Des Moines Water Works, for example. 

John Pemble / IPR

  

This week, the House passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the state's history.  It bans abortions after 20 weeks except when the life of the mother is in danger.  The bill originated in the Senate two week ago, but the House makes many revisions.  In this podcast, we condense the six-and-a-half hour long debate from the chamber floor to 15 minutes.

John Pemble / IPR

Since 2007, two legislators are surprised every year with an award from the Herbert Hoover Foundation. On Thursday Senator Rob Hogg and Representative Zach Nunn were honored.  Previous honoree House Speaker Linda Upmeyer says it's one of the most meaningful awards a legislator can receive.

John Pemble / IPR

Six weeks ago, legislation about changing Iowa's collective bargaining law featured a long and contentious debate in both chambers, and hundreds of demonstrators at the Capitol.  During this process lobbyist Drew Klein, state director for Americans for Prosperity, advocated for this bill.  Turns out he was not registered during this time as a lobbyist.  The House Ethics Committee took up a complaint about Klein this week and we'll hear part of the committee's process during their first action of this General Assembly.

John Pemble / IPR

Week 10's podcast begins with the state of Iowa being low on money, again.  The Revenue Estimating Conference projects a $131 million shortfall by July 1st. Legislative leaders say budget cuts this close to the end of the fiscal year aren't practical, so the state's rainy day funds will be used.

John Pemble / IPR

This week, the House passes a bill expanding gun rights.  Among the things it will allow includes a person with a permit can bring a concealed pistol to city council meetings, but not school board meetings.  Similarly, one can be brought inside the state Capitol. 

Representative Matt Windschitl leads the effort to pass this bill. During the debate he says, “If I had my druthers, a law-abiding Iowan would be able to carry a firearm wherever they are lawfully present.”

John Pemble / IPR

This is the first funnel week of the session, where bills that have not come before a committee are eliminated. It also provides party leaders a chance to reflect on what they've accomplished and what they can realistically expect to see coming to the House or Senate floor for debate.  Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), minority leader, says the Republicans' remaining agenda is "nonsense." House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) says Hogg's use of "hyperbole" is an example of the Democrats having a tough time refuting the success of a Republican-dominated session. 

John Pemble / IPR

There is lingering bitterness from last week's long debate about changing Iowa's collective bargaining laws.  On Monday afternoon, Democratic senators use their points of personal privilege to voice their disappointment and to ask more questions about the authorship of the bill.

John Pemble / IPR

A Republican bill changing collective bargaining passed through the House and Senate on Thursday after a long and contentious debate.  Governor Terry Branstad signed it into law on Friday.

John Pemble / IPR

On this show, representative Monica Kurth from Davenport took her oath of office on Monday.  She won a special election on January 31st.  Now the Iowa House is full and her first day was a long one.  The House debated a K-12 education spending bill, as well as a new rule banning the use of visual aids, during a debate without approval from the Speaker of the House.

John Pemble / IPR

Floodwaters destroyed the University of Iowa’s School of Music in 2008.  Last fall, it was replaced with a new building that includes six organs. A Klais organ from Germany is in the largest performance hall at the Voxman Building.

 

John Pemble / IPR

Three-and-a-half weeks ago, Governor Terry Branstad presented two major proclamations during his Condition of the State speech. One, budget reductions for this fiscal year, which the House and Senate just delivered.

Second, redirecting family planning money that would not include funding organizations that perform abortions.  Last Thursday, the Senate passed a bill accomplishing this goal.  But it was a heated debate, often involving Senate Rule Nine.

Melissa Stukenholtz / Gorman House Photograph

Sixteen years ago, Patresa Hartman started writing songs, but she kept them hidden because she was afraid to let anyone hear them.  By 2011, she had enough of this performance phobia and looked for a place to play her music.

John Pemble / IPR

With 29 Republicans and 20 Democrats in the Senate, the majority party is winning everything put to a vote, including the most anticipated legislation of this session, Senate File 130. It’s the budget bill cutting $118 million from the current fiscal year ending June 30th. On this show, we’ll hear some of the debate. The bill moves to the House next week where it is expected to pass and be signed into law by Governor Branstad.

John Pemble / IPR

During this weekly podcast of highlights from the Iowa legislature, nobody knows how long Governor Terry Branstad will remain in Iowa.  President Trump wants him to be the next U.S. Ambassador to China, but a timeline for the confirmation process is not set.

Once he makes the move, Branstad will serve at a delicate time in U.S.-China relations under President Trump, who is off to a rocky start in his relations with that country. Iowa Public Radio reporter Clay Masters looks back to a few months ago when it started to become clear what was to come for governor.

John Pemble / IPR

This new podcast from Iowa Public Radio highlights the activity at the Iowa Capitol during the legislative session.

Our first week begins with the opening of the 87th General Assembly, where Republicans control the Senate, House, and the governor’s office.  In the first half hour of the session, outgoing Senate President, Democrat Pam Jochum hands Republican Senator Jack Whitver the gavel. Republican priorities this year include changing collective bargaining, implementing voter ID, and defunding Planned Parenthood.  

Danville Station Library and Museum

In 1940, weeks before Amsterdam was occupied by Germany, Anne Frank and her sister Margot wrote letters to eighth graders in Danville, Iowa as part of an international pen pal exchange.  Enlarged copies of these documents have been available to view by appointment only, but this year they’ll become more accessible in a museum. It will be in a building called The Danville Station which also houses a new public library that just opened.

John Pemble / IPR

For 30 years, native Iowan Bill Stewart has been a professional jazz drummer living on the East Coast.  He has appeared on dozens of albums, including his sixth solo record Space Squid that came out earlier this year.

Most of Stewart's recorded work is as a sideman, but when he has enough material and isn't in demand with other bands, he makes his own music.  He recorded his first album "Think Before You Think" in 1988 after graduating from William Patterson University in New Jersey.

John Pemble / IPR

In the 1920s, bar associations refused African American lawyers membership, so a dozen lawmakers formed their own in Des Moines. The founding of the National Bar Association in 1925 will be honored with a 30-foot statue this spring called “A Monumental Journey.”  It will be installed this spring in a downtown Des Moines park.

John Pemble / IPR

A year before the Iowa caucuses, hundreds of journalists come here to cover the many presidential candidates. This month, a Los Angeles crew is in Iowa filming six 30 minute episodes of a comedy television series about being a reporter during the campaign season.  “Embeds” centers around four young reporters covering a presidential candidate struggling to stay in the race.  

John Pemble / IPR

Ten Iowans have been honored at the Iowa State Fair with governor’s Lifesaving Awards.  Two of those recipients are Craig Smith and Steve Neal from Mount Vernon.  Last March they were sitting next to their friend Adrain Ringold during a coffee club gathering. Ringold suddenly passed out and had no pulse.  Smith and Neal took him to the floor and began performing CPR.

Neal sang the classic disco hit “Stayin Alive” by the Bee Gees, while Smith began applying chest compressions.

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