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Masson easily defeats Weaver for Mason City Council seat


MASON CITY | Joshua Masson cruised to victory in the Third Ward special election Tuesday night, getting 72 percent of the vote in defeating former Councilman Max Weaver.

In complete but unofficial results, Masson received 667 votes to 253 for Weaver with an 18 percent voter turnout.

Masson carried all three vote centers: First Covenant 336 to 88; School Administration Building, 132 to 90; and Courthouse, 110 to 33. Masson also won the absentee vote, 89 to 42. There was one write-in vote.

"There was a short time period to campaign," said Masson, 46, a systems analyst at Curries. "We had to hit it every day. It was pretty stressful, but I enjoyed talking with people. It was nice to end it with a win.

"I am looking forward to representing the Third Ward Citizens in the honest, independent manner that they are expecting from me," he said.

"I am excited to be able to work with others in the city government, and with the citizens to enhance the vibrant and dynamic nature of Mason City. A big shout out and thanks to the many people who supported my campaign in so many ways."

Weaver, a former three-term councilman who has now lost four consecutive races for city office, was gracious in defeat.

"Congratulations and good luck to Josh. Let's hope for the best for Mason City," he said.

In his campaign, Weaver said city officials were wasting their time trying to make the city grow and instead should concentrate on making Mason City the best small town in the country.

Masson pledged to consider all viewpoints on issues and to make decisions based on the best available information.

This was Masson's third try for a City Council position. In 2015, he was defeated by Brett Schoneman for the Third Ward council seat. Last year, he lost, as did Weaver, in a race to fill the at-large seat that became open upon the death of Alex Kuhn. In that one, Paul Adams defeated Andy O'Brien in a runoff of the top two challengers with both Masson and Weaver finishing further back.

Weaver has been in office or on the ballot in nearly every election year since he first won the Third Ward council seat in 1995. In his previous council races, he was elected three times, lost four times and also lost for mayor in 2013.

In less than two months, Mason City voters will go to the polls again, to elect council members for the second and fourth wards as well as one at-large position and mayor.

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Police believe card skimmer used at Mason City ATM

MASON CITY | Police believe a card skimmer was recently attached to at least one ATM in Mason City. 

“A local bank had it in one, maybe two locations,” Mason City Police Capt. Mike McKelvey said. Police believe a skimmer -- a device that's slid over a card reader to collect credit and debit card data -- was used in Mason City, as well as in another incident in the North Iowa area. 

While McKelvey couldn't officially confirm which bank was involved, North Iowa Community Credit Union posted on Facebook that a skimmer may have been used at its west branch ATM, 4063 Fourth St. S.W., Mason City. 

“NICCU has identified through a regularly scheduled inspection that our West Branch ATM may have had a skimming device attached and removed,” the post said. “We have contacted the authorities and they are investigating the situation. We have also contacted the ATM service provider that has heightened security for our members as a precautionary measure.”

The credit union said in the post both its ATMs are available and safe to use.

The Globe Gazette on Tuesday afternoon left a message for a credit union spokesperson seeking additional information.

McKelvey said the police did not retrieve a skimmer but found evidence one was used the past two or three days. 

Evidence can involve how the person mounted the skimmer to the ATM, he said.

McKelvey said police also found video evidence of a person “monkeying around” with the card reader.

“I don’t think they (criminals) leave them in too long,” McKelvey said. “It’s pretty slick.”

Skimmers can fit as tightly as two coffee cup lids, making them difficult to identify, McKelvey said. People who use ATMs should be cautious and report anything suspicious, especially if they see signs of adhesion or if the card reader is loose. 

“If in doubt, don’t use it," McKelvey said.

People should also regularly be checking for bogus charges on debit and credit card accounts. 

“In general, with Equifax, too, people should be taking advantage of free credit check and look at your statements,” McKelvey said. “That’s the best way to stay up on it.” 

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Mason City Council makes it official: two public issues on downtown project go on November ballot

MASON CITY | The City Council approved two actions Tuesday night that lay the groundwork for public votes in November crucial to the success of the River City Renaissance project.

Between now and then, on Oct. 17, the council will hold a public hearing and vote on a development agreement with Gatehouse Mason City LLC which proposes to build a hotel in the Southbridge Mall parking lot; connect it to The Music Man Square via a skywalk; build a conference center/ballroom in The Music Man Square; and move the museum to make room for the conference center.

It's a full plate of activities related to the downtown renovation plan and they were advanced by the council actions Tuesday night. 

Council members unanimously agreed to have voters decide on whether the city should enter into a lease agreement with Southbridge Mall involving issuance of bonds not to exceed $18 million.

The bonds would go toward construction of an ice arena/multipurpose center in the area formerly occupied by the J.C. Penney store in the mall.

Residents submitted enough petitions earlier this year to require the city to put the lease agreement to a public vote.

The city held off on formally putting it on the ballot until other pieces of the River City Renaissance project were in place. If any of them were not fulfilled, there would be no need for a vote on the lease, according to City Administrator Brent Trout.

The $38 million River City downtown plan also includes a Hyatt Place hotel, renovation of The Music Man Square and a new music pavilion at the north end of the mall.

The council also agreed Tuesday night to put another issue on the Nov. 7 ballot. Voters will be asked to consider the issuance of general obligation urban renewal bonds, not to exceed $14 million, for costs associated with the music pavilion; construction of a skywalk that will connect the hotel with The Music Man Square; and costs associated with moving the museum to a nearby site. 

Proponents of the plan presented enough petitions to require the council to put it on the ballot.

Councilman Bill Schickel said a basic question for residents is whether their property taxes are going up as a result of the River City Renaissance project.

"The answer is no," he said.

Seventy percent of the costs are paid by the private developer and various grants, said Schickel, with the remainder paid through new taxes generated by the projects.

"This is an exciting time for Mason City," said Councilman Travis Hickey. "Now it's up to the citizens as to whether this is a 'go' or not."



John Skipper /   



Immigration policy change could hamper Iowa business, ag workforce

DES MOINES — Some Iowa industries — manufacturing in particular — could lose workers if federal protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children are removed, state business leaders say.

President Donald Trump announced recently he will end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program implemented under former President Barack Obama.

Under DACA, federal law enforcement officials do not pursue for deportation immigrants living in the U.S. who were brought here while they were children.

Should DACA be rescinded, federal law enforcement personnel could begin deporting those immigrants who have lived in the U.S. since they were an average of 6 years old, according to a recent national survey conducted by pro-immigration groups.

That could have an impact on Iowa’s workforce, state business leaders say.

The state’s manufacturing stands to be most affected, according to U.S. Census data.

More than 1 of every 10 Iowa workers in manufacturing are foreign born, and of those workers, more than 3 of 5 are not legal U.S. residents, according to census data compiled by Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson.

“If you talk to any manufacturer in the state, I can’t believe they won’t all say the same thing, and that’s that we need more people,” said Mike Ralston, president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry. “Folks hear the word immigration or changes in immigration policy, and the concern is it will make it harder for people to come to the U.S. or Iowa, and that is a concern for manufacturers in Iowa.”

DACA-eligible immigrants, however, are only a portion of Iowa’s immigrant workforce.

Immigrants are eligible for DACA protections if they were born after June 15, 1981. That date caps eligibility at 36 years of age. They also must have been brought to the U.S. before they were 16 years old and have continually lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.

Roughly 2,400 DACA grantees currently work in Iowa, according to an expert’s estimate based on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data.

The estimate was cited in a lawsuit brought by 15 state attorneys general, including Iowa’s, against the Trump administration over the DACA repeal.

“There’s not that many DACA (recipients) in Iowa,” Swenson said. “It’s not a very big number. They, in and of themselves, are not a big fraction of Iowa’s workers in terms of foreign born.”

Iowa business leaders, however, said any changes to federal immigration policy that could lead to fewer workers will negatively affect the state’s workforce.

“The vast majority of (DACA grantees living in Iowa) are already working and contributing in our state’s key industries,” said Mary Bontrager, executive vice president of talent development for the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Bontrager is responsible for recruiting and retaining talent to the Des Moines area for the Partnership, a collaboration of 6,000 central Iowa business organizations. She made the comments on a recent conference call hosted by New American Economy, a national coalition of local government and business leaders who support federal immigration reform.

“These young adults have been educated here, prepared themselves for the opportunities that are here in central Iowa, and we certainly cannot afford for them not to continue to be strong contributors to our economy here in central Iowa,” Bontrager said. “These are bright, hard-working young people who have worked hard to build for the American dream, and we certainly believe that that needs to happen here. So ending DACA and removing protections for these young adults would be a considerable loss for us here in central Iowa and across the state. They have become job creators, and they are filling critically needed positions in our workforce and are contributing to the state’s economy.”

Iowa’s agricultural industry also could feel an effect of DACA repeal or other federal policy changes that restrict immigration, although that impact might not be as widespread because the ag sectors most influenced by immigrant labor are a small part of the state’s agriculture footprint.

Dairy farms in particular have a high rate of immigrant workers: Nationally, more than half of dairy farm workers are immigrants, according to a 2014 study by Texas A&M University’s Center for North American Studies for the National Milk Producers Association.

In Iowa, however, dairy farms make up about 1,400 of the state’s farm operations out of nearly 90,000.

“Labor is always something that our dairy farmers struggle with. We are constantly going through a flux of employees,” said Mitch Schulte, associate director of the Iowa State Dairy Association. “Quite a few dairy farmers use immigrant labor, and it’s important that we continue to look into that issue to make sure that we do what’s best for not only the dairy farmers but all of ag in the U.S.”

The state dairy association’s official stance on immigration reform calls for policy that strengthens border security but also strengthens the economy with a “responsive and effective” guest worker system and keeps families together.

“Dairy farmers face a critical shortage of workers every year, as citizens are largely unwilling to engage in these rigorous activities and guest worker programs are unable to respond to the marketplace,” the dairy association’s official policy reads. “This situation makes our farms less competitive with foreign farmers and less reliable for the American consumer. Securing a reliable and competent workforce for our nation’s farms is essential to agriculture and the U.S. economy.”

Swenson said that within agriculture, animal feeding operations also have a high rate of immigrant workers.

“If we did something drastic with regard to foreign-born people in the U.S., that industry would suffer immediately,” Swenson said.

Swenson and Schulte said immigrant workers are more prevalent in areas of agriculture that find it challenging to hire because of the nature of the work.

“The reason that stands out with the food processing is those are jobs that the average Iowan, for one reason or the other, just simply won’t do, at least not at the rate they’re being paid,” Swenson said. “They’re just hard, dirty, awful jobs. They’re not bad in terms of pay; they’re bad in terms of the work you have to do.”

Schulte said it's getting "harder and harder to find people that want to work on a dairy farm."

"In all of ag, working on a farm, period, is a tough job. It’s hard work. ... In today’s society, it’s getting harder and harder to find people who want to do those jobs," he said.