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CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst answers questions during a town meeting in the Charles City Grand Auditorium on Thursday.

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Ernst shifts health care blame on Democrats at Charles City town hall (with video, photos)

CHARLES CITY | With a Senate vote on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill looming, that topic was the main focus of discussion Thursday afternoon for Sen. Joni Ernst and about 100 people at a town hall at the Charles City Schools' North Grand Auditorium.

Many audience members expressed concerns to Ernst about losing coverage and rising premiums under Obamacare, along with the time it has taken Republicans to try and repeal and replace the latter.

Photos: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst Town Hall meeting in Charles City

Ernst told them that bipartisan efforts, led by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., were thwarted last week, after the two had held "roundtable" discussions with politicians, activists and those in the insurance industry nationwide to attempt to reach a bipartisan solution.

"The Democrats rejected every offer that came up on the table," Ernst said. "The bottom line [they had] is, 'We just want the money right now.' ... and it all imploded last week."

Those in attendance, however, continued to express doubts with the Graham-Cassidy bill, including Laura Wright of Decorah, who fears she will lose valuable medication under the new plan.

"If I don't have that, I become a cripple at 55 or 60," she told Ernst through tears. "Ethically, do you see it as your responsibility to ensure the state cannot offer a waiver so that they abandon me?"

She added that rural areas are at risk of losing a significant part of Medicaid funds through the new bill. Ernst answered that the Secretary of Health would decide whether state insurance would offer a waiver for medication, and added many rural areas throughout Iowa are facing similar issues.

Ernst also said the medication issue is complex because it is more of a health care issue, versus health insurance, which is what the Affordable Care Act is focused on.

Despite audience members voicing displeasure about health care throughout, the overall discussion was civil, with a few chirping in that it is time for Republicans to stop blaming Democrats for every issue that arises with drafting a new bill.

Another major topic covered Thursday was DACA. Ryan Wolfe of Charles City asked what Ernst thought about President Trump's decision to end the program earlier this month.

Ernst said she agreed with Trump's decision to end the executive order, but thinks Congress needs to determine a pathway to legal permanent status for dreamers, but she "draws the line with citizenship."

One area Ernst has disagreed with the President on his how he uses his Twitter account. Her response when Karie Shoop of Mason City asked about it was simple: "He needs to put the phone down."

Ernst told reporters after the town hall that she was particularly upset when Trump tweeted about the transgender ban on service members, surprising Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

"That's not something you should send out in a tweet," she said. "He does work quite well with his cabinet, but when he does that, he needs to stop and think about it before he does it."

Ultimately, Ernst said the main important issue facing Congress right now is health care. She said she is "leaning yes" on supporting the current Graham-Cassidy bill, but is unsure of whether it will pass.

"We need to figure this out," she said. "This has been one of the toughest issues we have been wrangling with all year, and if it's brought up, I hope we have the votes to pass it. ... If it fails, it fails, and we try something else."

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Actors Carly Neel, left, and Mike Godfrey, right, act out a scene as director Kevin Isaacson watches the monitor during the filming of Isaacson's production of "Oliver Short," a film about a teenager dealing with the death of her father, on Saturday in Mason City.

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Weaver a candidate for Mason City at-large council seat

MASON CITY | Former City Councilman Max Weaver, who lost a race for the Third Ward council seat on Tuesday, announced Thursday he is a candidate for the at-large council seat in the November election.

Thursday was the deadline for candidacy filings.

Weaver said, "Communities move forward in the most positive ways when everyone is constructively involved.

"The alarmingly low rate of voter participation here is a direct result of the arrogance of our elected officials and other self-serving, so-called 'community leaders'."

Voter turnout in Tuesday's election, in which Joshua Masson defeated Weaver, was 18 percent.

Former Globe Gazette staffer Tom Thoma filed earlier for the at-large position.

Earlier Thursday, two other candidates filed for City Council seats.

Former Mason City Human Rights Director Lionel Foster is a candidate for the Second Ward. Matthew Marquardt is a candidate for the Fourth Ward. 

Foster, 79, was a city employee for 41 years, most of those as human rights commission director.

In 2015, when the City Council voted to cut the commission's budget, Foster's job was eliminated. He sued the city, claiming age and race discrimination and received an out-of-court settlement of $240,000.

In his candidacy announcement, Foster said he would use his experience of public policy, community service and knowledge of city government.

"But the major issue before us continues to be balancing fiscal responsibility with sound judgment and making wise spending decisions," he said.

Marquardt, an online publisher, ran four years ago in the Fourth Ward and was defeated by the incumbent, Janet Solberg.

In his campaign announcement, he said he'll bring truth, transparency and responsive representation to the job and will be easily accessible.

One of his goals is to establish a new city department of economic development "to be led by a professional in that field who answers to citizens in a transparent manner."

He is also calling for more aggressive code enforcement, paving the streets in Central Heights and adding more amenities in the city.

The council candidate lineup now includes:

At-large: Tom Thoma and Max Weaver.

Second Ward: Lionel Foster, Troy Levenhagen and Will Symonds.

Fourth Ward: John Jaszewski, Jack Leaman, Matt Marquardt and Philip Sanchez.




John Skipper /   


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Police: Wisconsin man used bogus card to buy North Iowa vehicles worth $30K

MASON CITY | Police say a Wisconsin man has been charged with felony theft after using a bogus credit card to buy three vehicles from dealerships in Mason City and Storm Lake. 

Timothy Lavell Litt, 23, of Milwaukee, is accused of first- and second-degree theft in Mason City, as well as first-degree theft in Storm Lake and ongoing criminal conduct. Additional charges are pending in Milwaukee County.

On July 5, police say Litt presented a credit card to Wheel Man Auto in Mason City to purchase a 2010 Ford Edge for $6,000.

The credit card was found to be not good after Litt took the vehicle, according to court documents. 

At the time the complaint was filed -- July 6 -- the whereabouts of Litt and the vehicle were unknown. Cerro Gordo County issued a statewide warrant for his arrest, alleging he committed second-degree theft by deception. 

On July 10, police say Litt used a Mexican credit card that was not active to purchase a 2004 Infiniti Qx56 for $10,500 from Deanda Auto in Storm Lake.

“It’s a transaction that went through and they were notified the next day that it didn’t go through,” Storm Lake Assistant Police Chief Chris Cole said.

Litt left a grey Mercedes Benz E500 at Deanda Auto that he had purchased in Milwaukee at Al’s Wheels and Deals on June 29, court records say. 

He is accused of using a fraudulent card to purchase the Mercedes, court documents say. The value of that vehicle wasn't disclosed. 

Cole said Litt was gone by the time the police department received the report. He was charged with first-degree theft and ongoing criminal conduct in that incident. 

On July 12, police say Litt used a credit card a First Credit of Schukei Chevrolet Auto in Mason City to purchase a 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan for $11,995. Police contend he knew the credit card was not good. 

Litt took the vehicle after the purchase agreement was completed, police say. At the time of the report, the whereabouts of Litt and the vehicle were unknown. He was charged with first-degree theft by deception in that incident. 

Cole said Litt was arrested in Milwaukee July 18 on a nationwide warrant issued in Storm Lake. Milwaukee police say he got into a physical altercation with a victim of a similar car theft scam he was attempting there. 

Litt was brought back to Buena Vista County and then extradited to Cerro Gordo County Jail, where he is held for $5,000 bond on the Mason City charges. 

It is unclear if any of the vehicles have been located.