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Mason City Council to learn development agreement details

MASON CITY | The City Council on Tuesday will deal with two development agreements related to the River City Renaissance downtown project.

One of the agreements — with the Mason City Foundation regarding The Music Man Square property is complete and ready for council approval.

The City Council and the public will get a full report on the status of the other agreement — between Gatehouse Mason City LLC and the city regarding the building of a Hyatt hotel, connecting it to The Music Man Square via a skywalk, and building a conference center in The Music Man Square. Relocation of the museum is also part of the project.

Following the report on the Gatehouse agreement, the council's public forum will be held, giving citizens an opportunity to react.

City Administrator Brent Trout said the agreement with the Mason City Foundation sets terms for the construction of the new Meredith Willson Museum that will be adjacent to the hotel and made necessary to make room for the conference center. The Foundation is required to complete construction of the new museum with city funding not to exceed $1.5 million.

Trout said the Foundation is required to complete construction of a convention center with enough space to hold up to 600 people with the city funding not to exceed $3 million.

The city will provide upfront financing for each project and will reimburse for expenses related to completion of both projects. The new museum must be completed by Dec. 31, 2018. The convention center must be completed by Dec. 31, 2019 — the same dates the proposed Hyatt and ice arena are to be completed.

Trout said the development agreement requires the Foundation to have an operating agreement with Gatehouse Mason City for the operation of the convention space. The city also commits to completing the skywalk.

Funding for the projects would come the Iowa Reinvestment Act funds for which the city has applied for $10 million. The funding is pending approval of two ballot issues in November and final approval from the state for the Reinvestment Act funds.

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North Iowa domestic abuse survivor: Little fights turned into 'busted noses, broken ribs'

Editor’s note: It is the Globe Gazette's policy to not publish the names of domestic abuse victims, in order to protect the victim and their family. We refer to her as "Amy" in this article.

NORTH IOWA | Abusive relationships don’t always start out that way. For a North Iowa woman, it was just little fights at first.

“It turned into busted noses, busted lips, broken ribs,” Amy said.

Amy is in her early 20s and has young children, who she says keep her going. 

The father of her children began abusing her about five years ago, Amy said. She was a teenager; he in his mid-20s.

“I started making calls to the police,” Amy said.

Amy said she began to realize that her children were in danger, not just herself.

There were times where a toddler was forced to be outside in the cold with little to no clothing on. The man knocked a baby out of her arms as well, she said. 

Amy said Xanax and alcohol were a problem for her abuser.

The last straw occurred one day when she was sitting in a chair, holding her baby. He flipped her out of the chair.

“His parents were there and they didn’t do anything,” Amy said. “It was time to go.”

Amy took her children and left about a year and a half ago. She took legal steps to keep him away from her and her children as well.  Now, Amy feels her life is back on track.

Crisis Intervention helped a lot with things, Amy said.

The organization:

• Encourages people to speak up and stand up for victims when they witness demeaning language or behavior. 

• Helps friends or family members who confide about experiencing domestic abuse. 

• Holds people accountable when they are abusive. 

"The general stories of abuse that we hear and that occur happen outside of the law enforcement/criminal justice system's scope,” Crisis Intervention Service and Domestic Abuse Advocate Emily Propst said. “Statistically, only about 25 percent of domestic abuse incidences are reported to law enforcement."

Amy said she was unable to talk to family — or anyone — when the abuse occurred.

“The most important things for victims is to know that there are services available,” Propst said.  

Domestic violence can thrive in silence, Amy said.

“Some people might keep it to themselves, but you should talk to someone,” Amy said.

Rural voters the topic of Democratic conversations

DES MOINES | Rural Iowa shifted its political direction in 2016 and caught Democrats off guard.

The conversation of how to earn back those votes is dominating the conversation among Democrats these days.

It was the focus by speakers at a recent fundraiser held by Democrats from Polk County, which is dominated by the city of Des Moines and its suburbs, as they talked about the party’s need to reach voters outside the state’s biggest cities.

Last week in Des Moines, Democrats gathered again to discuss the need to regain the trust of rural voters at an event organized by a new national advocacy group formed for the sole purpose of having that conversation.

“We have to make our argument with courage, and we have to make it everywhere,” said Jason Kander, a former Missouri secretary of state and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Kander was one of the speakers at the event in Des Moines hosted by New Democracy, an advocacy group formed to help expand Democrats’ appeal in the Midwest, the region that Democrats’ losses took the biggest hit in the 2016 elections. Formerly blue states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania all flipped to Republicans in the presidential election.

That swing was magnified in Iowa, a state that went twice for Democrat Barack Obama but in 2016 went for Republican Donald Trump by almost 10 percentage points.

From the 2012 to 2016 elections, the state swung nearly 15 points from the Democratic candidate to the Republican.

Obama won 38 counties in 2012; 32 of those went for Trump in 2016.

Most of those 32 counties that swung away from Democrats were in rural areas, particularly in eastern Iowa.

“(The 2016 election) brought home a reality that we were dimly aware of, but were not focused on,” said Will Marshall, who formed New Democracy. “We have to expand the party and we have to expand in all directions, reaching beyond our core partisans and engaging voters who are not now Democrats or are not now voting for us.”

Marshall added, “We have to go everywhere and build real, winning coalitions and majorities again.”

So how do Democrats earn the support of rural voters?

“Before the Democrats can win over the folks you mention, they have to get these folks to be willing to listen to them,” said Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University and author of a book on Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. “You don’t do that with a list of policy proposals; you do that by presenting an overarching vision for the country that respects them and includes them.”

“Calling them delplorables or focusing on an identity politics that speaks to every group that’s not them will not accomplish that,” Goldford said.

That message seems to be getting through to Democrats.

“What happened in Iowa (in 2016) unfortunately and tragically has happened all over the United States. Because our party, for whatever reason, stopped showing up and stopped competing effectively in rural areas,” said Tom Vilsack, the former two-term Iowa governor and U.S. ag secretary for all eight years of the Obama administration. “We stopped understanding the hopes, the dreams, the aspirations, and yes the frustration and anger of those who live, work and raise their families in rural areas. We forgot how to talk to folks, and when we did we often talked down.”

How Democrats talk to rural voters is a problem, said John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster. The website for the polling firm ALG Research, in which Anzalone is a partner, believes he has helped beat more incumbent Republicans and take back more Republican seats than any other polling firm in the nation.

Anzalone said Democrats can get trapped by holding hard-core stances on issues like immigration, and by holding contempt for voters who don’t agree 100 percent with their stance on the issue.

“The problem is is that ... we, generally, as Democrats, if they have those feelings, we kind of treat them like idiots. We condescend, literally treat them like idiots in elections,” Anzalone said. “And I think that this is a really big problem that we have to figure out, to understand that their values and their concerns aren’t ones that we can just dismiss, in small towns or big towns. Because a lot of what I’m talking about is actually in suburbia, in a place like West Des Moines.”

Anzalone said, when that happens, as Goldford alluded to, voters will tune out Democrats regardless of whether they are talking about the right issues.

Many Democrats have said they must shift their message in 2018 and beyond to focus on jobs and the economy. But, Anzalone said, none of that will matter unless Democrats first learn how to talk to voters on issues with which they may not perfectly align with Democrats.

“We want to talk about believing that there is a magic fairy dust on our economic message,” Anzalone said.

Democrats can do that simply by being genuine, multiple leaders say.

Kander said, while there is a debate within the party about which direction it should go ideologically — more to the left or more to the center — he feels it’s more important for Democrats to be genuine and honest, and that voters will respond better to that regardless of the candidate’s ideology.

Kansas City mayor Sly James said it’s about listening, not pandering.

“It’s not about putting on overalls, sitting on a tractor and acting like you know what it’s about,” James said. “That ain’t what it’s about. It’s about listening to them.”

If Democrats do that — simply listen — they may begin to win back those rural voters they have lost, said Matt McCoy, an Iowa state senator from Des Moines.

“Our future is not how we talk to rural Iowa,” McCoy said, “but rather how we listen.”


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5 questions for Mason City's Fourth Ward council candidates

MASON CITY | Voters in Mason City's Fourth Ward (southwest area) will choose between four candidates on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

The candidates are:

John Jaszewski, 69, semi-retired videographer. Married, one son, two grandchildren.

Jack Leaman, 85, retired landscape designer and city planner. Widower, four children, eight grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren.

Matthew Marquardt, 45, owner of Internet Marketing Professsionals of Iowa, Inc. Four children.

Phillip Sanchez, 59, crane body assembler at Iowa Mold and Tool. Single.

How would you have voted on the Prestage plant proposal?

Jaszewski: Moot point.

Leaman: Against.

Marquardt: Against.

Sanchez: Against.

How do you intend to vote on the city's lease agreement on the proposed hockey arena and the bond issue related to Gatehouse hotel/conference center expenses?

Jaszewski: For and For.

Leaman: For and For.

Marquardt: Against and Against.

Sanchez: Against and Against.

What do you see as Mason City's greatest strength?

Jaszewski: Mason City's greatest strength is its citizens, who are generally friendly, engaged and hard-working people who care about their city and their neighbors. Mason City's geographic location between Minneapolis, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo/Cedar Falls offers the amenities of these metropolitan areas while providing a small town lifestyle.

Leaman: Tourism and location.

Marquardt: The potential that resides within most Mason Cityans to be productive citizens who take pride in their community.

Sanchez: We have benevolent and empathetic volunteers who give of their time to help build a better community. From serving at the Community Kitchen, participating in Habitat for Humanity or cleaning up Georgia Hanford Park, we see our citizens giving back to our city.

What do you see as Mason City's greatest weakness?

Jaszewski: The occasional unwillingness of some of its people to tolerate unfamiliar ideas.

Leaman: Citizens' negative attitudes — by some.

Marquardt: In recent years, Mason City has become home to far too many crime-prone outsiders who, while able-bodied, aren't productive. Their presence here has had a destabilizing impact on some neighborhoods and is directly associated with an uptick in drug dealing and usage, burglaries and even violent crime.

Sanchez: Our elected officials continually are unresponsive to citizens desires, needs and opinions. Many on the current City Council have displayed outright animosity for our city workers, which adds to a disruptive climate and leads to morale issues at city hall.

What sets you apart from other candidates?

Jaszewski: My greatest strength is probably my 12 previous years of experience on the City Council. I was on the council when we hired all but one of our city administrators. We will be hiring a new city administrator in the next several months. If elected, I will be the only council member who has gone through that process.  Finding a good administrator may be the most important decision the next council will make. My years of experience have taught me that having a council made up of people with diverse ideas is a good thing. Having a wide range of opinion and multiple perspectives helps the City Council make good decisions. Individual council members do not have to have the same opinion on all issues but if each member is honest and respectful of the other members of the council, solid decisions are made and good government is the result.

Leaman: I believe that with my education and experience and background, I could be a positive influence on all decisions for the future of Mason City.

Marquardt: I never hesitate to ask tough questions or speak truth to power. Titles and status don't impress me and in pursuing information Mason Cityans need to know, I always do my homework. I refuse to be bamboozled by so-called "authority figures" and I call 'em as I see 'em and tell it like it is. This determination enabled me to rise from humble beginnings; I'm from a working-class family and put myself through NIACC and the University of Iowa. I have a good "BS detector" which I'll put to good use on behalf of our workers, retirees, students and ALL Mason Cityans. We cannot afford to waste the abilities of even one Mason Cityan who wants to help improve our community. But we also can't continue with the status quo — that's Latin for the current fix we're in. Most of all, I want Mason Cityans to feel welcome in Mason City.

Sanchez: I have a mantra that I try to embrace and that is to "live in the actions and passions of our times." That compels me to be involved in my community with issues and concerns that impact it. I have eclectic interests that range from improving the environment, veterans concerns, and labor issues. I would like to see the public forum portion of our council meetings televised again. More council listening posts and some scheduled for the weekend to accommodate second shift workers. And we have a challenge ahead of us that will greatly impact our community and Iowa. The Iowa Legislature has gutted collective bargaining rights for public employees. This will affect our teachers, city, state and county workers. How we deal with this new law will reveal the character of our community.