Now is a good time to trot out a five-word guide to problem solving I learned from retired Navy Adm. Norman Ray of Mason City.

Ray has had a career of assessing serious situations and dealing with them, and he says the analysis often boils down to "What?... So What? ... Now What?"

If we apply that to the city, the "what" occurred last week when 75 percent of those who voted approved of the lease agreement with Southbridge Mall to build an ice arena/multipurpose center in the space once occupied by the J.C. Penney store.

By about the same margin, voters supported the plan for the city to issue up to $14 million in bonds to pay the city's share of expenses related to the building of a hotel in the mall parking lot, connect it via a skywalk to The Music Man Square and museum and build a convention center in The Music Man Square.

That's a lot of "what."

As for the "so what?" -- the stage is now set for major revitalization of not only the downtown area but the city as a whole because so much of this will create visitor traffic to hockey games, concerts and conventions. Hopefully, that will mean throngs of people coming into the city, staying overnight, eating in our restaurants, filling their gas tanks at our service stations, paying hotel/motel taxes and sales tax and perhaps making plans for return visits.

The "so what?" also means new life for The Music Man Square and for Southbridge Mall and probably the birth of new businesses in the mall and in the downtown area -- and that means jobs, jobs, jobs.

Here's perhaps the most important "so what." Mason City achieved a momentum change Tuesday night that was long overdue. We finally said "yes" to something. It's something that, as a community, we've been lacking for quite a while.

That brings us to the most important part of the "what" pattern -- "Now what?"

Seventy-five percent of the voting public has done something it has rarely done in recent years; it has expressed trust that all of this will be carried out.

It is imperative that newly-elected Mayor Bill Schickel and the City Council, which will include three new members, be relentless in overseeing this $38 million River City Renaissance project.

Right now, we have a mall owner, Kohan Retail Investments, that owes more than $200,000 in back taxes and a Gatehouse Capital representative, David Rachie, who, the last time we heard, did not have signatures on the bottom line for his financing and did not have a signed commitment from Hyatt as the franchisee.

We say "the last time we heard" because Rachie has not been the best at returning phone calls.

So it's pretty clear what the "now what" is: The mayor and council need to hold everyone's feet to the fire and get this thing done.

The citizens have done their part.


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