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Mason City Councilman John Lee: 'I do not see myself running again'

MASON CITY | Councilman John Lee, the longest serving member of the City Council, said Monday he probably will not seek re-election in 2019.

Lee, a history teacher and former varsity football coach at Mason City High School, was first elected in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015.

In discussing his future plans, he expressed a "never-say-never" attitude Monday.

"I have been telling anyone who asked, I do not see myself running again," said Lee, who represents the First Ward. 

"I am not saying no matter what, I won't be running. But I really plan on walking away."

Lee, who frequently uses history references to emphasize a point, said he thinks eight years is enough. "It was good enough for George Washington," he said. "I think all politicians should do that."

Lee's six-year tenure on the council gives him seniority by far. Other members are Paul Adams, elected a little over a year ago; Joshua Masson, elected last September; and Tom Thoma, John Jaszewski and Will Symonds, all elected in November.

— John Skipper

Clear Lake's Winter Dance Party to honor Mad Hatter, Dean Snyder (with photos)

CLEAR LAKE | A local event steeped in rock ‘n’ roll tradition will honor two more legends this year -- one who started the party and another who saved the ballroom that houses it. 

This year’s Winter Dance Party, which runs Wednesday through Saturday, will pay tribute to Darryl Hensley and Dean Snyder, both of whom had significant roles in the event’s history.

Globe Gazette file photo 

Giving the thumbs up like he first did on Feb. 3, 1979, The Mad Hatter (Daryl Hensley) was introduced at the 2014 Winter Dance Party on the 35th anniversary of the Buddy Holly Tribute that Hensley started at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

Hensley, 79, a well-known Iowa radio personality known as The Mad Hatter, died in September 2017. He was killed in a bicycle-car crash in Henderson County, Illinois, while participating in a group ride with the Bike Burlington cycling club.

A local radio station DJ, Hensley started the Winter Dance Party tradition in 1979 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens’ last performance at the Surf Ballroom.

The three died in a plane crash Feb. 3, 1959, about 5 miles north of Clear Lake.

“We’re honored to carry those traditions on that he (Hensley) started,” said Laurie Lietz, Surf Ballroom & Museum executive director and events coordinator.

Courtesy photo 

Dean Snyder dances with his wife, Joanne, at the Surf Ballroom, a Clear Lake landmark he saved from extinction in 1994. Snyder died Saturday at the age of 87. 

Snyder, 87, founder of Dean Snyder Construction Co. and whose family owns the Surf Ballroom, died in January.

“Nothing seems like enough for what he did for the Surf and North Iowa,” Lietz said.

When the Surf Ballroom was in danger of closing in 1994, Snyder bought it and refurbished it so Clear Lake would not lose one of its gems.

The Mad Hatter will be honored Friday evening, and Snyder will be honored Saturday evening.

“It’s bittersweet to lose such great and important people,” Lietz said.

Hensley’s family and friends will also host The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at 11 a.m. Friday at the Surf District Rock ‘n’ Roll Grill featuring DJ Randy Chestermann, memorabilia, drink specials and more to celebrate his life.

Photos: Winter Dance Party Sock Hop

The Winter Dance Party is considered a “huge boost” to the local economy and the Surf, Lietz said. About 2,000 tickets are sold, drawing individuals from 36 states and five countries, bringing in an estimated $2 million to North Iowa in the middle of winter.

The event will kick off Wednesday evening with the family sock hop at 6:30 p.m. with Johnny Rogers’ “History of Rock ‘n’ Roll Show.”

Thursday’s lineup is Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, Jay Siegel’s Tokens, Austin Allsup and Rosie & The Rivets.

Friday evening will feature The Holy Rocka Rollaz, Bobby Cochran Band, Vito Picone’s The Elegants and the Tailfins.

Saturday's grand finale will include Brenda Lee and Bobby Rydell, along with Winter Dance Party favorites Albert Lee & Friends; Linda Gail Lewis, sister of legendary rocker Jerry Lee Lewis; and Danny B. Harvey & Annie Marie Lewis.

Photos: Winter Dance Party Saturday

Tickets to the Winter Dance Party, good Thursday through Saturday evenings, are $115 in advance or $125 at the door. The VIP tickets are sold out.

Lietz said tickets are still available but are expected to sell out.

Tickets may be purchased at or by calling the Surf’s box office at 641-357-6151 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

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UPDATED: DCI seeking information on shooting near Dows (with photos)

DOWS | The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying individuals part of a shooting investigation in Dows. 

The two people were captured on video at a nearby convenience store prior to a shooting early Sunday, the DCI said in a news release. The black man and woman were driving a gray or silver 4-door SUV, possibly a Jeep Cherokee.

Anyone with information about these two people should call the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office at 641-456-273.

About 1:30 a.m. Sunday, the sheriff's office received a report of a shooting at the Dows rest stop, located at I-35 exit 159.

The shooting victim was transported to Mercy Medical Center--North Iowa for treatment, the sheriff's office said in a news release. The person's identity and condition hasn't been released. 

The incident is being investigated by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Iowa State Patrol, Wright County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa DCI.

— Courtney Fiorini

Iowa considers expansive immigration enforcement bill

Iowa has jumped into the national debate over immigration with an expansive enforcement bill that would require local governments to comply with federal immigration agents or risk losing state funds.

The measure, scheduled for at least one vote this week in the Republican-controlled Legislature, would force law enforcement to hold a jailed person for possible deportation if requested by federal agents. The proposal has been framed as a ban on so-called sanctuary cities, a catch-all label for jurisdictions that limit local involvement in federal immigration enforcement.

Iowa has no sanctuary cities, though some communities have related guidelines.

Legal experts say holding people longer than normal could be unconstitutional, and the wide scope of the bill raises questions about local control.

"It's without question that you're going to get a legal challenge," said Anna Law, a political science professor at City University of New York, Brooklyn College, who specializes in U.S. immigration and the Constitution.

That's in part because while the federal government has authority to make and enforce federal immigration law, local governments also have some legal power to determine rights and privileges for immigrants once those individuals are in their jurisdictions.

The bill would prohibit policies that don't allow local authorities to:

• Question the immigration status of people under lawful detention or arrest.

• Assist federal immigration agents with arrests.

• Use any Iowa jail as part of federal agents' work.

Local governments that intentionally violate provisions would be denied state funding.

The GOP-majority Senate passed the measure last session, and the two-year legislative calendar means it just needs votes in the Republican-led House if there are no changes. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has indicated support.

A House panel of two Republicans and one Democrat is scheduled Tuesday to review the legislation.

Sen. Julian Garrett, an Indianola Republican who wrote the bill, said the focus is on individuals in the country illegally who are accused of crimes. He argues the measure isn't expansive.

"If you haven't committed a crime, if you're not getting arrested, this bill has no impact on you at all," he said.

The bill describes lawful detention as someone suspected of a public offense, which excludes such minor offenses as moving traffic violations.

Madeline Cano, an organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a left-leaning group that lobbies on social and environmental policies, called that definition vague and said other provisions give broad power to federal immigration agents.

"It leads to a lot of interpretation," she said. "That to me is very dangerous."

The legislation comes amid a congressional debate over immigration policy that in part led to a shutdown of the federal government over the fate of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the county illegally as children. President Donald Trump last week unveiled a plan that included a path to citizenship for such immigrants but also sought $25 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico and other steps, and called for sharp reductions in legal immigration.

Roughly 40,000 people in Iowa were in the country illegally in 2014, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

Alexa Rodriguez, a community organizer in the Des Moines area, said the bill would make immigrants who are fearful of deportation less inclined to report crimes, which could hinder police investigations.

"If people are scared to come forward because they're scared of local police, that puts all of us in danger," she said.

The Iowa State Sheriffs' & Deputies' Association and a host of groups representing local governments are registered against the legislation. The Iowa Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a group against illegal immigration, is the only organization registered in support.

Rep. Steven Holt, a Denison Republican who will be on Tuesday's panel, noted the legislation states a person reporting a crime, including a victim, would be exempt from immigration enforcement. He said the argument masks a bigger problem.

"As long as people are not here legally, and this system isn't fixed, there's going to be people who are always living in fear that they're going to get deported," he said. "This law, on the books or not, is not going to change that."

Holt said he plans to add language to the bill that clearly ensures authorities don't hold a jailed person beyond the period of time he or she would otherwise be detained. It's unclear whether such a change to the bill, which also includes a section prohibiting discrimination, would protect the state from civil lawsuits.

A handful of states have enacted legislation in recent years to ban sanctuary cities, though with a range of enforcement provisions. A 2017 Texas law threatened jail time for officials who don't follow federal immigration directives. The law is not fully in effect because of a lawsuit that could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Courts are also reviewing a Trump executive order to withhold money from sanctuary cities.

Rony Molina, a 17-year-old high school senior in Des Moines whose parents immigrated to the country, said his community is on high alert. He and others are responding by pushing for legislation and policies that help immigrants with their legal rights. Still, Molina worries the enforcement bill is already doing harm.

"Just the talk about the bill passing ... it encourages fear," he said.