The Iowa Utilities Board is finalizing plans to make 563 the new area code for eastern Iowa, including the Quad Cities, Muscatine, Clinton, Elkander, and Decorah. Optional use will begin March 4, 2001, and mandatory use will start in September. Keeping the 319 area code will be Waverly, Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Seven-digit local dialing will still work except in some places near the line splitting the area codes, where people will need to dial 10 digits to complete local calls. The Quad Cities will keep its seven digit local dialing into Illinois. You can see a map of the split along with more information at the Iowa Utilities Board Web site at (

Rushing to replace your Firestone tires on your SUV? It might be a good idea to know that the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) has started an investigation into light-truck tires made by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company that have been linked to 15 deaths and 129 injuries. The NHTSA claims it has received 37 reports of tread separations, including 31 crashes involving the heavy-duty Load Range E tires that Goodyear has been manufacturing for the past year. About 21 million Goodyear Load Range E tires of various sizes and names are under investigation, with about half of the 27 million manufactured by Goodyear still on the road.

Believe it or not, Florida's presidential-election recounting nightmare has Iowa roots. The so-called IBM Port-A-Punch idea was developed by an Iowa man, Merle P. Prater, in 1959. There are a number of reasons why the now-infamous chad could be "hanging," including the card stock used, the way the stylus punches the chad out, and even humidity. The system Prater developed was designed for smaller commercial applications, in which the number of punch cards was so small that the consumer couldn't afford to use more expensive commercial machines. This method of voting is still used today because it's cheap, and states and counties have gotten used to it. None of Iowa's 99 counties uses the punch-out ballot system.

It might merely be a coincidence, but days after a report by the Iowa Department of Transportation claiming that 86 percent of motorists drove faster than the 65 mph speed limit on highways, public officials began calling for increased fines for speeding. The Department of Public Safety has drafted a bill with that purpose. Currently, speeding fines range from $10 to $120 before court-cost surcharges. This is cheap compared to nearby states such as Wisconsin, where speeding fines range from $30 to $300, and Indiana, where they range from $50 to $500. The proposed increases are part of a larger proposal to revamp Iowa's fine structure for simple misdemeanors not requiring a court appearance. One of the more controversial aspects of the proposal is raising parking-violation fines from $5 to $15. Contact your legislator to give your opinion.

You might have already noticed a new riverboat moored by the Government Bridge in Davenport. The Treble Clef has arrived from its previous home in Bossier City, Louisiana, and will undergo $18 million in refurbishing and renovations before it replaces the President Riverboat Casino sometime next spring. By the time you read this, the Treble Clef will be pulled alongside The President and then will be taken over to the Rock Island side of the river for the bulk of the renovations.

The Quad Cities are second after Charleston, South Carolina, for having the most polite people, according to etiquette expert Marjabelle Young Stewart. She bases her list on thousands of letters and faxes, many from people who have taken her etiquette classes. Stewart, who lives in Kewanee, Illinois, said the Quad Cities have instructed "taxi drivers how to greet guests and make guests feel welcome." She added that people who have sent her letters about the area "loved to do business there." Milwaukee ranked third and Las Vegas was fourth on the list, which was rounded out by Mobile, Alabama; Seattle, Washington; Savannah, Georgia; San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois; and the Council Bluffs, Iowa-Omaha, Nebraska area.

The Rock Island City Council has passed an ordinance not allowing anyone under 21 to enter any gaming premise licensed to Casino Rock Island by the Illinois State Gaming Board unless authorized by the casino and the gaming board. Violators can expect to pay a minimum $150 fine or to appear before a circuit-court judge or an administrative hearing officer if they contest the charges. The ordinance was passed in response to a November 10 memo from the Rock Island Police Department listing many problems with minors under 21 gambling on Casino Rock Island. You can find out what the Rock Island City Council is up to by reading its minutes at (

The Iowa Department of Transportation is planning to remodel the Interstate rest stop in Bettendorf and turn the 900-square-foot area into a new and expanded 5,570-square-foot facility. The new rest stop will not only have the usual rest rooms and vending machines, but more windows, high ceilings, a pitched roof, and a map of the Quad Cities painted on the floor. No word yet on how much this project will cost or even when construction will begin.

Interested in seeing and doing new and interesting things, but don't want to leave Iowa? Check out the Official Iowa Tourism Web page at ( Included on the Web site are events, lists of places to stay and to camp, merchandise, Iowa facts, travel areas, and much more.

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