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Demolition underway at Andrews Prestressed Concrete in Clear Lake

CLEAR LAKE | Motorists exiting off Interstate 35 near Clear Lake, and then traveling eastbound on Highway 122 might spot a good amount of construction workers slowly taking apart a massive building to their left.

That's because the site, formerly the home of Andrews Prestressed Concrete and the Coastal Mart convenience store, is undergoing demolition.

Clear Lake City Administrator Scott Flory told the Globe Gazette on Monday that the owner of the site is completely demolishing all buildings on the roughly 62-acre site. 

Outside of that, it's unclear what type of redevelopment could occur. 

"While I'm sure the rumor mills are spinning, there simply is nothing more to comment on at this time," Flory wrote in an email.

Arian Schuessler / Google Earth 

Satellite image of Andrews Prestressed Concrete site

Mike Ritter, Clear Lake's chief building official, said several construction items had been auctioned off from the site in the past couple of months.

According to Bidspotter, a website that tracks online auctions and sales, dozens of items were auctioned by Backes Auctioneers and Realty on Aug. 15. A wealth of construction equipment was available, ranging from safety harnesses to bar clamps to gang boxes.

The owner for the site -- 1305 N. 32nd St., Clear Lake -- is TD Fuel LLC, according to Cerro Gordo County Assessor's records. TD Fuel is owned by Hall Industries in Sheffield, a subsidiary of LeMar Industries Corp, according to documents filed with the Iowa Secretary of State.

Todd and Lorrie Hall, the founders of Hall Industries, could not be reached for comment by phone Monday. The company works in grain and seed storage, and expanded its headquarters in Sheffield by 48,000 square feet in 2012, according to a news release on LeMar Industries' website. 

Petersen Contracting Inc., based in Reinbeck, is the company conducting the demolition. Corey Dungey, project manager at Petersen Contracting, could not be reached for comment by phone Monday.

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Mason City rapper dedicates Native American Music Award to late mother (with photos, video)

MASON CITY | 214 days.

That is how long it took for Mvskoke rap and hip-hop artist Sten Joddi to go from one of the worst days of his life to one of the best.

On March 14, after a successful kidney transplant, his mother Vernona Lagers died after sudden heart failure. 

“Other than my children, she was the single most inspirational person I’ve ever known,” said Joddi. “She instilled in me my passion for big dreams and self-worth. She taught me that no matter where you’re from or the circumstances you’re born into, you can be anything you want as long as you’re ready to work hard and sacrifice to get it.”

The days following her death were filled with grief for the Oklahoma-born and raised artist, who now calls Mason City home.

Courtesy Sten Joddi 

Sten Joddi with his late mother, Vernona Lagers.

But soon, the grief gave way to inspiration and a drive to honor her memory, culminating in perhaps the biggest night of his musical career.

On Oct. 14, Joddi won his first Native American Music Award in Niagara Falls, New York, in the Best Hip-Hop Album category for his fourth studio album, “The 7th Generation Prophecy.” 

For Joddi, it was the culmination of a life spent chasing dreams, cultivating his own unique style and separating himself as an elite hip-hop artist to make it to the top. It was also difficult knowing that one of his greatest inspirations, his mother, could not physically share the moment with him.

“That moment was bittersweet. I broke down instantly thanking her for everything,” he said. “It’s been very hard since she left, but I honor her by living every day to the fullest. She lived and died for her family and loved unconditionally, so the win was great but I would give it all back to have her here with us.”

As far back as the age of 10, a fire was lit inside the Mvskoke artist for music. He recalls listening to rock ‘n’ roll and country on his parents’ home and car stereos, but it was not until he heard hip-hop that he was captivated.

It was in this music that he truly found an identifiable connection.

“The struggle, the stories, the beats, the fashion, the art, just the culture as a whole totally hooked me with the first tape cassette played on a boom box,” he said.

Soon after, he began crafting his own lyrics and style. He became confident in the abilities that he was showcasing and found himself separating from the countless ‘internet and YouTube famous’ rappers as he says, into a legit profession.

And at the forefront of his musical career is his Mvskoke heritage. It was that heritage in fact that inspired the award-winning album “The 7th Generation Prophecy.”

Joddi found himself personally and spiritually engulfed in the Standing Rock situation in North Dakota as Native opposition to a pipeline on the Sioux reservation commanded national attention. And naturally, his raw feelings went from pen to paper to the recording studio.

“It is quite possibly the most powerful and epic album I have ever recorded,” he said. “It pushes the boundaries and speaks on a lot of touchy subjects. It gives everyone listening a Native perspective of the way today’s society views indigenous peoples, their rights, their sovereignty and how that effects everyone spiritually, economically and environmentally all over the world.”

GGMollyM / File photo 

Sten Joddi, of Mason City, right, hands a piece of burning white sage to Tim Cox, 37, also of Mason City, during a rally in Mason City in September 2016. The rally was in support of Dakota Access pipeline protesters on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. 

He also draws on his own personal struggles in life and uses them as a way to reach out and give a story of hope to Native youth. Surviving an abusive childhood, a life on the streets, time in jail and an addiction to drugs and alcohol are all experiences he shares in hopes of imparting wisdom on young Native Americans in regards to the paths they choose in life.

Aside from his mother, his five children are the greatest motivation in his life and have led him to have a heart for the younger generation.

“At this point in my career, I’m able to reach out to youth everywhere and especially Native youth with a positive message,” he said. “I share 100 percent real-life experiences and with that comes wisdom, wisdom that some youth may not be ready to hear but needs to hear. I make sure to let them know they do have self-worth and that they can do anything they want as long as they work hard, dedicate themselves and never stop pushing to be the best human they can be.”

Joddi lives the example he shares of work ethic, showing no signs of slowing down by producing three full-length mix tapes and four studio albums in the last five years. A fifth studio album, #TheSingles, is in the works and will debut this winter.

While it certainly keeps him busy, Joddi’s music is not the only artistic medium that he practices, nor is it his only source of income. He is the owner and operator of his own professional tattoo shop, TMG Studios, in Mason City. He lists tattooing as another major reason he was able to overcome obstacles in his life.

Courtesy Sten Joddi 

Sten Joddi and his wife, Amber, accept the award for Best Hip-Hop Album at the Native American Music Awards in Niagara Falls, New York.

“I have always had a passion for drawing and art,” he said. “I did my first tattoo on myself at the age of 12 and now I am a very well-known, accomplished tattoo artist of over 10-plus years.”

From a guy that has a hit song called “Big Dreams,” you would have to assume that there are still goals remaining for Joddi to check off his list. He is now working on booking a tour across the U.S. and hopes to one day play the main stage back home for his tribe at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Festival.

“That would be nice, and you know I’m coming anyway,” he laughed. “Just to get on that stage…it would show that Creeks can achieve anything just like everyone else.”

Through every experience, hardship and obstacle Joddi has maintained a singular focus that keeps the drive to succeed alive in him. He just wants to make his family proud. That includes his wife, Amber, their five children and the memory of his mother.

“She instilled the passion of big dreaming in me and that journey is never complete until the day I go on my journey to the spirit world,” he said. “I will continue to reach for greatness as she would want me to.”

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Iowa withdraws 'stopgap' plan for Obamacare

DES MOINES — Thousands of Iowans face paying significantly more for their individual health insurance premiums — or going without coverage — after a state effort to win federal waivers of some Affordable Care Act provisions to prop up Iowa’s collapsing marketplace ended Monday.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen and Gov. Kim Reynolds called a Statehouse news conference to announce that Iowa was withdrawing its “stopgap” proposal — first made in June — to stabilize the individual market in part by attracting healthy Iowans needed to temper rate increases.

“We were doing something no state had tried to do,” Ommen said. The health law popularly known as Obamacare “has caused our market here in Iowa to collapse, and unfortunately now its inflexibility is preventing us from picking ourselves up and making the adjustments that are needed in order to attract healthy people back in.”

Ommen said Iowa offered an innovative approach, but Reynolds said Obamacare provisions proved too inflexible to overcome.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Reynolds, who added that Trump administration officials gave Iowa a fair hearing.

“It came down to the law. As it’s written, it just does not afford the flexibility that we need to be creative,” she said. “The bottom line is we need Congress to do their job. They need to act and they need to act sooner rather than later.”

In a statement, U.S. Sen, Chuck Grassley joined his fellow Republican in asking for Congress to try again.

“As written, the law hamstrings the administration’s ability to help Iowa,” Grassley said. “I hope Congress will act soon to repeal and replace this unworkable and unaffordable law.”

However, the news also comes about two weeks after the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump personally called the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services in August to direct that Iowa’s application be denied, as one of several actions he has taken to unravel the health insurance law.

Iowa’s withdrawal comes only a week before this year’s enrollment period opens Nov. 1 and despite the state insurance division’s warning that without the plan, 22,000 Iowans will drop out of the market.

Ommen said the Trump administration informed the state last week it was still “several weeks” away from determining how much federal funding the state might receive, a key part of the proposal.

Monday’s announcement means that Minnesota-based Medica will be the only statewide insurer in the Affordable Care Act marketplace in Iowa for 2018.

Medica said its premium rates would go up an average of 57 percent in 2018, partly because Trump also has ended cost-sharing subsidies to the insurance companies that held rates down.

State officials had complained that large of an increase would significantly hurt people who don’t buy on the marketplace or don’t qualify for federal tax credits.

“We certainly understand the state’s desire to improve the individual market in Iowa, and we are appreciative of being a part of those discussions,” said Larry Bussey, Medica’s communications director. “While this is not the preferred outcome for the state of Iowa, we want consumers to know that Medica is ready.”

Bussey said consumers who previously purchased coverage through will receive information from the government and Medica over the next week explaining options.

“We strongly encourage consumers to see if they qualify for a premium subsidy” that could “dramatically reduce” costs for those found to be eligible, he said.

Reynolds said the lack of the waiver will hit farmers, self-employed Iowans, early retirees and others who rely on individual insurance coverage. She said the state continues to explore short-term options to help Iowans get some type of affordable health-insurance coverage, but most require waivers.

Newly installed state Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines said Democrats are ready to work with Reynolds to find a workable, bipartisan solution. But, so far, she said, Republicans “have done everything possible to undermine Obamacare.”

But Republican Party of Iowa spokesman Carlos Cruz said the blame falls to the failure of Obamacare — and he applauded Reynolds and Ommen for trying.

State Sen. David Johnson, an Ocheyedan independent, said the situation calls for presidential leadership but the current approach appears to be to allow Obamacare to fail in hopes the GOP-led Congress will replace it.

“I don’t believe that’s a winning strategy — that failure leads to success,” Johnson said.


Trump shoots down retirement limit to pay for GOP tax cuts

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump shot down a possible approach for raising revenue to finance tax cuts in politically must-do legislation for the Republicans, promising Monday the popular 401(k) retirement savings program will be untouched.

Still, the head of the House's tax-writing committee indicated that changes to the 401(k) structure may still be on the table as Republicans push an ambitious timetable to get tax legislation written. Asked about the issue, Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Kevin Brady said: "I don't want to get ahead of the committee. That will all be part of the tax reform bill."

And in response to whether Trump's tweet changes in any way what the panel was planning to do, Brady replied only, "no."

Republicans are scrambling to find new revenue sources to pay for anticipated tax cuts exceeding $1 trillion. A proposal to eliminate the widely-used federal deduction for state and local taxes has run into heavy opposition from GOP House members from high-tax states, threatening the enactment of tax legislation that Republicans deem essential to retaining their majority in next year's elections.

Trump pledged in a tweet there will be "no change" to tax incentives for the 401(k) retirement programs.

The No. 2 Republican in the Senate, Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, said he's "sympathetic" to Trump's opposition to curbing 401(k)s because "we don't want to discourage people from saving."

But he cautioned against ruling out ideas at this stage of the legislative process. "I do think we need to be careful because there are going to be a lot of different trial balloons, and what counts is how you put all this together," Cornyn said.

The plan crafted by Trump and Republican leaders calls for steep tax cuts for corporations and potentially individuals, a doubling of the standard deduction used by most Americans, shrinking the number of tax brackets from seven to three or four, and the repeal of inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates. The child tax credit would be increased and the tax system would be simplified; most Americans would be able to file their income taxes on a postcard, according to the plan.

Crucial details of the plan have yet to be worked out, notably what income levels would fit with each tax bracket.

With the possibility of the state and local deduction being at least partly preserved, some Republican lawmakers were considering limiting the amount workers could save in 401(k) retirement accounts.

"It was a trial balloon and it crashed," said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute. "They're struggling to find legitimate offsets" for tax cuts.

"Everyone has been promised they are going to be better off with tax reform and that's really hard to do in a fiscally responsible way," Riedl said.

Employees' earnings from defined-contribution retirement plans such as 401(k)s aren't taxed until retirement; pay-ins by both employers and employees also receive tax-preferred status. That cost the government $82.7 billion in lost revenue in the recent budget year ending Sept. 30, 2016 — a potentially juicy target for Republican tax-cutters.

With 55 million U.S. workers holding some $5 trillion in their 401(k) accounts, the plans have become a touchstone of retirement security for the middle class.

"This has always been a great and popular middle class tax break that works, and it stays!" Trump tweeted. "There will be NO change to your 401(k)."

Appearing with Ivanka Trump in Pennsylvania, U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza echoed the president, telling the audience the retirement plans "will not be touched."

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said of the Trump-rejected proposal on retirement plans: "There are still some dials that do have to be turned. This is a major effort and when you dial one thing you have to look at another."

House Republicans will be working to pass a budget this week so they can turn their attention to the tax overhaul. Trump warned Sunday that action on tax reform is crucial to avoiding political failure in 2018. He'll work to rally support for the plan at the Capitol today at a lunch with Senate Republicans.

Trump personally implored House GOP members on a conference call to swiftly adopt the budget that was passed last week by the Senate, with the hope of clearing the way for what he described as historic tax cuts.

Trump told the lawmakers they were on the verge of doing something historic, according to one Republican official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss publicly what was intended as a private update for members.

Another GOP aide familiar with the conversation said Trump told the members again and again that the party would pay a steep price in next year's midterm elections if it failed to pass his plan.

The Senate last week passed a budget plan that includes rules that will allow Republicans to get tax legislation through the Senate without Democratic votes or fear of a Democratic filibuster. House Republicans signaled Friday they would simply accept the Senate plan to avoid any potential delay on the tax measure.