Wealthy and bankrupt

It continues to drive us nuts every time we see that pile of concrete next to the municipal golf course that was supposed to rise into more than 40 condo units. Regency Commercial Services of Des Moines went broke in 2007-8, the condo project stopped, and that heap of concrete awaits the next developer. Several contractors were left holding the bag as Regency’s owners, the Myers family, rode off into the sunset.

So we read with interest an update on the Myers thanks to David Elbert of the Des Moines Business Record. Jamie Myers and his wife Robin each filed for bankruptcy.

Jamie filed for bankruptcy in 2009 with debts of $183 million and assets of just over $1 million. In 2013, Robin filed for bankruptcy with debts of about $1.25 million and assets of about $560,000.

Jamie Myers was absolved of his debts when his bankruptcy case closed in 2012.

Robin Myers filed for a Chapter 7 liquidation, seeking to wipe out all her debts. But the bankruptcy trustee, Donald Neiman, asked the court to make hers a Chapter 11 reorganization. This is rare, Elbert reports. Why would the trustee ask?

Because Jamie Myers has income of $17,000 per month. A lot of that income could go to creditors left out in the rain.

The Myers claim living expenses of $7,000 per month. That leaves $10,000 per month that could be used to pay off $690,000 in debts that her other assets could not cover.

Robin’s lawyer, Steven Wandro, argued that she does not have access to Jamie’s income though they are married.

The bankruptcy judge agreed. Robin Myers will be forgiven all her debts.

We hope the Myers are not too put out on their meager living expenses of $7,000 per month, or $96,000 per year, which is more than twice the average household income in Buena Vista County.

Meanwhile, you cannot declare bankruptcy for student debts or crushing medical expenses.

But if you are a high-flyer who throws around the money of other people, bankruptcy wipes you clean so you can plan your next party.

And that really drives us nuts.

By the way, the author of the bankruptcy law that exposed student and medical debtors but not high-flying developers was none other than US Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Thank him for the Myers’ excellent fortune.

Green energy prevails

Renewable energy faces opposition at every step in every region of the United States. In the 2013 legislative session 26 bills were introduced around the nation to roll back or repeal renewable energy portfolios. Another 66 sought to modify renewable requirements at the state level, which is the next best thing to roll back or repeal. Fortunately, none of them were successful.

Iowa has had a renewable energy requirement of its power providers since the early 1980s. The 105MW portfolio is what spurred the first and largest wind turbine farm in Iowa located between Alta and Peterson, which primarily serves MidAmerican Energy, now part of Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

Last we heard, nearly 40% of the power in our territory now comes from wind turbines that span Buffalo Ridge from Peterson to Carroll and points south. The initial requirement of 105MW amounted to about 2% of electric demand at the time. So we can see that Iowa, the second-largest wind energy generator outside of Texas, has far exceeded the modest standard set years ago.

Iowans love it. More wind energy means more rural income, more jobs dispersed in rural areas, and a cleaner environment. Wind is a more efficient — yes, cheaper — way to produce energy than coal or nuclear. The cost keeps coming down and soon should be as cheap as natural gas. The technology just keeps improving.

In Kansas, an effort led by the oil men Koch Brothers of Wichita to repeal a renewable energy standard died in the Republican-controlled House. Wind energy is the future of the Great Plains, and Kansans know it.

Minnesota expanded its renewable portfolio in the last legislative session.

Iowa could have solar energy capacity similar to Florida’s, according to recent reports. It will take a new renewable portfolio to jumpstart the solar industry here, power company officials say. If that effort materializes, expect a counter-effort to repeal the renewable standard in Iowa. This is another state where the Koch Brothers might meet their match.