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Head on down to Santa’s House
HORLYK: Santa gets new digs in downtown Sioux City

SIOUX CITY | In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Jolly Saint Nick has some brand-new digs in downtown Sioux City.

Specifically, he's holding court at Santa's House at 409 Nebraska St. 

An annual fundraiser sponsored by UnityPoint Health -- St. Luke's Partners, Santa's House will be open 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays, until Dec. 21.

Children visiting Santa's House will have the chance to chat with Kris Kringle, create holiday craft projects and listen to seasonal stories from Mrs. Claus and her cadre of volunteer elves.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 

Mandi Clifton, 3, and her sister Madison Clifton, 5, of Plum City, Florida, talk to Santa Claus on Saturday at Santa's House in Sioux City.

For a small charge, visitors will be able to pick up a sweet treat, have photos taken with Santa and pick up an affordable present at the big guy's gift shop.

UnityPoint Health -- St. Luke's volunteer manager Diane Wheeler said proceeds from Santa's House will help St. Luke's College scholarships, the Caring Clowns and Comfort Care Blanket projects, as well as UnityPoint Health -- St. Luke's Children's Miracle Network.

"Over the past 28 years, Santa's House has raised more than $298,000," she said. 

A tradition for many Siouxland families, Santa's House attracted more than 4,500 visitors in 2016, and requires a minimum of 20 volunteers, per shift.

"The fun thing is seeing people who first came to Santa's House when they were kids," Wheeler said. "Now, they're all grown up and are bringing their own children.

"We're seeing plenty of second-generation Santa's House families."

Still, Wheeler admitted Santa likes to switch things up every year. Specifically, he'll have a few new craft projects for young artists.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 

Kaiser Madden, 5, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, poses for a picture Saturday at Santa's House on Nebraska Street in Sioux City.

"Children will be able to make mini-aquariums, as well as something we're calling 'Santa's Super Sparkly Slime,'" she said. "Anyone who has kids will know that slime is all the rage today."

Increasingly, live entertainment is becoming popular at Santa's House.

"We have singers, dancers, bell choirs -- everyone to put you in the holiday mood," Wheeler said. "Even after seeing Santa, we want families to stick around and enjoy Santa's House."

That's especially true this year, since the downtown space, donated by Sioux City's Community Housing Initiatives, is temperature-controlled.  

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 

Kelly Doty and Ismael Gomex, both from Sioux City, frost cookies Saturday at Santa's House on Nebraska Street in Sioux City.

"Santa's House moves around a bit," Wheeler said. "This year's location is probably the nicest one we've had yet."

Crediting corporate sponsors like CF Industries, Great Southern Bank and Guaranteed Roofing, Siding and Insulation Co. for their ongoing support, she said Santa's House remains a labor of love for the people who contribute their time, years after year.

"This is our gift to the community," Wheeler said. "The smiles we see from  our visitors make it all worthwhile."

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 

Mandi Clifton, 3, and her sister Madison Clifton, 5, of Plum City, Florida, talk to Santa Claus on Saturday at Santa's House in Sioux City. Santa's House is an annual fundraiser sponsored by UnityPoint Health -- St. Luke's Partners.

Mr. Goodfellow: Great Southern Bank

DONOR: Great Southern Bank

AMOUNT: $1,000

ABOUT THE DONOR: Great Southern Bank operates more than 100 offices in nine states, including seven full-service retail banking centers in the Siouxland area. The bank offers a complete lineup of financial services and products, giving customers more choices for managing their money. Great Southern Bank is committed to investing back into the community; our Community Matters Program serves as the foundation of our company’s philosophy of strengthening and supporting all of the communities that we call home. Our focus on what really matters to our customers and communities is essential in determining where we should invest and prioritize our resources.

COMMENT: “Mr. Goodfellow Charity has a long and inspiring tradition of supporting children in the Siouxland area and we are proud to be a part of that tradition. We wish the children and their families a very safe and happy holiday season."

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Lindsey Wilson's Elly Burke (13) and Grace Blomstedt have helped the top-ranked squad move to 3-0 in Pool Play at the NAIA Volleyball Championships.

Sioux City Council to consider lease with school district for part of city museum

SIOUX CITY | The City Council will vote Monday on a lease agreement with the Sioux City Community School District that will allow the district to re-purpose unused portions of the downtown public museum for specialty courses. 

The school district in mid-July approved a purchase agreement with Museum Building Property Inc. to pay $1.5 million for 75,000 square feet of the building at 607 Fourth St.

That purchasing process is underway, according to city documents. The purchase will require a new lease agreement between the city and the district, which is what the council will vote on Monday. 

The district's stated plans include constructing new rooms in a portion of the museum building that at one time housed a Delta Air Lines call center before the center closed in 2012, resulting in 165 lost jobs. The building originally served as a J.C. Penney retail store before a large portion of the space was converted into a more expansive home for the public museum. 

The proposed lease with the school district includes the following terms:

-- The 50-year lease will begin Dec. 1 and cost $1 per year. 

-- The museum will be responsible for all maintenance and utilities within its leased space. 

-- Common area charges will be split between the museum and the school district based on the square footage used. The museum will be responsible for 45 percent of the costs. 

The move is seen by the district as a more centralized way to offer Life Academy and Career Academy courses, which have previously been spread through all three high schools -- West, North and East -- as well as Western Iowa Tech Community College and the downtown Ho-Chunk Centre. The classrooms could be converted by the 2018-19 school year. 

The district's growing Career Academy allows students to take specialty courses in business and marketing, family and consumer science, health science and industrial technology. 

Life Academy courses have been held at Western Iowa Tech, but college officials have said they need that space for other uses. The Ho-Chunk Centre space is leased for Career Academy courses at a cost of $75,000 annually through 2024. 

The Ho-Chunk and museum space is connected via the city skywalk to the school district's administrative offices. 

Conyers steps aside from Judiciary post amid sex allegations

WASHINGTON — Michigan Rep. John Conyers, under investigation over allegations he sexually harassed female staff members, said Sunday he will step aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee while fiercely denying he acted inappropriately during his long tenure in Congress.

In a statement, the 88-year-old lawmaker made clear he would prefer to keep his leadership role on the committee, which has wide jurisdiction over U.S. law enforcement, from civil rights and impeachment of federal officials to sexual harassment protections.

But Conyers acknowledged maintaining the post would be a distraction "in light of the attention drawn by recent allegations made against me."

"I have come to believe that my presence as ranking member on the committee would not serve these efforts while the Ethics Committee investigation is pending," he said. "I cannot in good conscience allow these charges to undermine my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus, and my friends on both sides of the aisle in the Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives."

Denying the allegations, Conyers, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who was first elected to the House in 1964, urged lawmakers to allow him "due process."

"I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family," Conyers said.

News website BuzzFeed reported last Monday that Conyers' office paid a woman more than $27,000 under a confidentiality agreement to settle a complaint in 2015 that she was fired from his Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances. BuzzFeed also published affidavits from former staff members who said they had witnessed Conyers touching female staffers inappropriately — rubbing their legs and backs — or requesting sexual favors.

Conyers says he will fully cooperate with the Ethics Committee, which said it will review the allegations of harassment and age discrimination as well as using "official resources for impermissible personal purposes."

At least one House Democrat, Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York, has called on Conyers to step down from Congress. Two others, Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., co-chairman of the largest group of congressional liberals, had said Conyers should at least step aside from his leadership role on the Judiciary committee.

In a statement Sunday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she welcomed Conyers' decision to give up the committee leadership post.

"Zero tolerance means consequences," Pelosi said. "Any credible accusation must be reviewed by the Ethics Committee expeditiously. We are at a watershed moment on this issue, and no matter how great an individual's legacy, it is not a license for harassment. "

The California Democrat noted that the House in the coming week will vote on requiring anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all members and their staffs. She suggested that nondisclosure agreements like the one Conyers signed to settle the 2015 complaint should be made public.

The Senate already has approved a measure requiring all senators, staff and interns to be trained on preventing sexual harassment.

The flurry of activity Sunday comes as Congress prepares to return from its Thanksgiving break, amid increasing attention on the issue of sexual harassment with multiple men in entertainment, media and politics facing allegations of misconduct. On the congressional level, Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore also are the subject of accusations.

Earlier Sunday, Pelosi defended Conyers as an "icon" for women's rights and told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he will do the "right thing."

"This is about going forward," she said. "We also have to address it for every person, every workplace in the country, not just in the Congress of the United States. And that's very important. And a good deal of that would be done by the Judiciary Committee."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is the next most-senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee after Conyers, the only African-American to have held the position of chairman or ranking member on the panel.

"Even under these unfortunate circumstances, the important work of the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee must move forward," Nadler said. "I will do everything in my power to continue to press on the important issues facing our committee, including criminal justice reform, workplace equality, and holding the Trump administration accountable."

"Ranking Member Conyers has a 50-year legacy of advancing the cause of justice, and my job moving forward is to continue that critical work," he added.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who sponsored legislation to overhaul the system by which sexual complaints are made and settled on Capitol Hill, said Congress must show a greater commitment to addressing sexual misconduct. Last month, she shared her own story of being sexually assaulted by a high-level aide while she was a staffer.

"This is absolutely a priority that we must focus on in terms of fixing the system," she said on ABC's "This Week." ''We say zero tolerance, but I don't believe that we put our money where our mouths are."