Congratulations to Mason City residents for overwhelmingly supporting key elements of the River City Renaissance.

The project is an ambitious public-private partnership, which, if successful, will revitalize downtown Mason City and benefit all of North Iowa.

As with any $38 million project there are risks, but doing nothing as Music Man Square and Southbridge Mall struggled held perils as well.

Ongoing concerns include a lack of confirmed financing and a hotel franchising agreement on the part of the developer, Gatehouse Capital, and $200,000 in back taxes owed by mall owner Kohan Retail Investments.

Having intuition without evidence (this is the Opinion page, after all), I predict both situations will resolve favorably in reasonably short order.

Were I a potential private investor in this project, or an official with a higher-end hotel chain, I would likely have been reluctant to commit to the project until the needed public endorsement was secured.

Hopefully Gatehouse will have better luck finalizing things given the strong show of support.

As to Kohan, it seems like a firm that would view paying taxes not so much as a legal and ethical obligation but as just another business expense to be considered using a cost-benefit analysis.

Kohan purchased Southbridge at a relative fire-sale price after Renaissance planning was underway.

Officials there likely saw the proposed ice arena and lease agreement as critical to making the mall profitable and may well have been willing to cut losses and walk had voters rejected it.

If so, why throw a good $200,000 after bad by paying those pesky taxes?

With prospects for the Renaissance now strong, I suspect those tax payments will be forthcoming.

In any case, it will be exciting, if a bit nerve-racking, to watch things unfold.

* * *

Another round of mass shootings in Nevada and Texas has Americans mourning and reeling.

As an NRA Life Member, I’m about as pro Second Amendment as they come. Yet even I agree we can examine whether some restrictions on access to high-powered, high-capacity firearms are warranted.

In particular, I wonder why we would let anyone other than disabled, carefully vetted and specially licensed shooters own a “bump stock,” which apparently allows a semi-automatic weapon to be fired at automatic-weapon speed.

We need to consider the shooters more than the guns as we examine these incidents, however.

Americans have had relatively easy access to guns for generations, and people have struggled with mental illness for as long as there have been people.

Yet only in recent years have those struggling with isolation, detachment, frustration, financial or familial distress, etc. found a “solution” in mass killings on a fairly regular basis.

What were once occasional isolated incidents have coalesced into an ongoing cultural phenomenon, and we need to ask what’s broken in our culture that’s fueling this change.

Things to consider include increasingly graphic violence in movies and video games, the breakdown of the traditional family, failures in mental health care, and the pervasive (excessive?) media coverage of each violent incident.

* * *

Twitter is no longer trivial.

In this digital age, elected officials from President Donald Trump on down are using social media to champion agendas, rally supporters and in many cases lambaste opponents.

Some are also blocking those opponents from following and commenting on their posts.

Lawsuits are pending at the federal level and in the state of Wisconsin challenging this practice.

I hope they are successful, and if not, that federal and state lawmakers will address the issue legislatively.

Public officials using their “private” social media to address public matters, and then dictating who can read and react, flies in the face of our democratic tradition of open public debate.

If that ain’t illegal, it should be.

Tim Ackarman, a regular columnist for the Globe Gazette, lives in Miller.


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