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NIACC Performing Arts Series announces 2021-2022 season lineup
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After more than a year and a half away, the slate for a new NIACC Performing Arts and Leadership Series is set.

Tuesday night, via Facebook and YouTube, event officials shared the news that the 2021-2022 season would feature concerts by the likes of the Gatlin Brothers, the Righteous Brothers and Jefferson Starship as well as musical performances of "Rent" and "South Pacific" and a speaking engagement with Pulitzer Prize-winner Eli Saslow. 

"We’re fortunate to share another season of entertainment and experiences with you," NIACC Performing Arts and Leadership Series Director Lindsay Dalrymple said in an announcement release prior to the evening event.

According to Jessica Vetter, the assistant director for the series, a number of the events, such as the Carole King musical "Beautiful" (December 6) and an unplugged concert from country singer Pam Tillis (November 12), were re-scheduled from the 2019-2020 season that the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted.

Then a few shows, including the "Classic Albums Live" rendition of AC/DC's "Back in Black" (Jan. 27, 2022) and Japanese percussionists Drum Tao (March 20, 2022), were refunded and are now back on.

Still others are wholly new to people. 

Jared McNett / Jared McNett, Globe Gazette  

NIACC Performing Arts and Leadership Series Assistant Director Jessica Vetter sits in the recently improved NIACC Auditorium. She said that the adjustments will help draw people back for the new season since certain repairs help make the space more navigable.

Of the new events, Vetter said that Grammy award-winning music group Ranky Tanky will be one of the biggest surprises for people. Set to perform on Oct. 3, the quintet plays music that borrows from jazz and the Gullah tradition of the southeastern United States, which developed among enslaved African people on plantations. 

"They are just starting to get their audience and their base, but they’re going to be really big soon," Vetter said about the band. 

She also said that she thinks the Irish group Goitse, scheduled for March 3, 2022, will catch people off-guard. The five-piece plays more traditional takes on music from Ireland alongside original cuts that make prominent use of banjo and accordion.

The long-running acts, like the Gatlin Brothers or Jefferson Starship (Nov. 19) are the ones that Vetter said will likely sell the fastest with the website now live and the box office open for season ticket purchases. People who buy a package of 7-12 shows get a 5% discount and those getting tickets for more than 12 shows get a 10% markdown. 

When people make their way back to the NIACC Auditorium for the first show, the Gatlin Brothers on October 1, Vetter said that improvements to the facilities will make it easier to get around. 

"It’s a lot more accessible," she said. 

The seats are brand new, as are some of the aisles in the lower sections and the lighting on the ends of rows. 

Initially, Vetter said that those changes would've been made sometime next summer, but closing for a year-plus gave NIACC officials time to do the work while no one was watching. She said that such work was funded through the $15 million in bonds for NIACC that voters in North Iowa approved in March 2020.

"The only reason we were able to do these upgrades is because the bond issue passed," Vetter said. 

As far as safety protocols, Vetter shared that organizers have been closely with the college and with CG Public Health to determine what is safe and what best practices are. At this time, capacity for seating will be at 100%. 

Jared McNett / Jared McNett Globe Gazette  

Improvements to the NIACC Auditorium include new seating and new aisles in the lower level of the venue.

"There’s been a little difficulty pulling all of this together with COVID because we’ve been saying since the beginning that the performing arts industry was one of the first to close and is going to be one of the last to reopen," Vetter said. 

Now, the NIACC Auditorium is reopening and the NIACC Performing Arts Series has 20 shows lined up for the fall and spring. 

"This whole region is so supportive when it comes to arts and culture and we’re just lucky to be here," Vetter said.

For more information on specific events and prices, call the NIACC box office at 641-422-4188. The Globe Gazette and Lee Enterprises sponsor events in the series.

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Govt-and-politics
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Mason City Council approves step toward new 102-unit downtown apartment complex
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In January, developers from the South Dakota-based Talon group and a contingent of Mason City business leaders and government officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 133-unit housing complex along the south loop of Highway 65.

At the event, Talon CEO Steve Boote teased the prospect of developing a second housing block in the area that would further add to Mason City's stock of what he's consistently called workforce housing.

Tuesday night, the Mason City Council unanimously approved a resolution that could help make that stock rise further. 

Specifically, the council members voted 6-0 to provide grant support to Talon as it puts in for a "Workforce Housing Tax Credit" benefits from the state of Iowa to the tune of $1 million. On top of the potential state benefits, the city likewise intends to provide development incentives in the form of a 10-year, 100% tax abatement worth an estimated $2.45 million. In a memo found in the latest city council packet, Mason City Administrator Aaron Burnett said that the credit is needed because of the "significantly higher cost of materials."

If constructed, the new development, known as "The River II," would feature 102 units and rates similar to those of the current site which run from $625 for a studio up to $1,400 for a three-bedroom town home.

"Talon has been looking at Mason City since they saw the performance of their first project," Burnett said. According to him, Talon is looking at next year for its construction season, though it has a number of hurdles to clear before getting to that point.

While it's the largest, the Talon housing sequel wasn't the only incentivization matter the council greenlit. 

The panel also approved setting a public hearing date of August 3 to discuss applying for a $500,000 "Community Development Block Grant" on behalf of Foxtrot Properties, LLC which Simply Nourished Mason City owner Melissa Fabian is behind. Even though the grant program goes through the Iowa Economic Development Authority, federal funds are involved, which is part of why the city applies.

Plans for the development of the upper level of 13-15 S. Federal Ave. call for four market rate apartments.

As those housing projects are starting to ramp up, North Iowa Area Council of Governments (NIACOG) planner Steve Wendt appeared at the meeting to tell the council about an ongoing housing program for folks of low-to-moderate income.

In 2019, Mason City received funding in the amount of $199,500 to help five homeowners with home rehabilitation and cover attendant administration costs.

Per Wendt, three housing projects have been completed and a fourth is about to begin construction. 

Highway 65

By 2024, Mason City motorists may well see a whole new Highway 65 in town. 

The council gave its blessing to a predesign project agreement with the Iowa Department of Transportation that would: add left turn lanes at the intersections of 15th Street and 19th Street South, replace traffic signals at Eighth Street and 19th Street South, construct a new storm sewer system in the area and improve ADA curb ramps and sidewalks. 

Per Mason City Engineer Mark Rahm, the area of Highway 65 included would be from 27th Street South up through Sixth Street South. 

As of now, Rahm wrote in the packet that the DOT will likely hold right-of-way meetings with affected property owners in 2022 and make final acquisitions by 2023 with a bid letting date of Dec. 15, 2023. 

When it comes to costs, Rahm wrote that "preliminary and final plan design will determine funding needs which will be brought forward during the budgeting process."

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Govt-and-politics
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Jim Carlin talks campaign for U.S. Senate
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Republican state Sen. Jim Carlin, representing Iowa's 3rd District since 2017, announced in February of this year that he would be running for U.S. Senate, gunning for the seat currently occupied by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Carlin spent time on Tuesday night speaking with the Globe Gazette at a Pizza Ranch in Garner about the issues important to his campaign and why Iowans should write his name down come election time.

Campaign issues

Carlin talked about numerous issues, but he made it clear that the most important goal for his campaign was protecting freedom for Americans.

“My reasons for running for U.S. Senator are pretty straightforward,” Carlin said. “One of the questions I asked myself last year was if you look 20 years down the road from now do you see your grandchildren free. The honest to that for me was no.

“Once you answer that question, no, it triggers a responsibility to do something.”

Carlin, who currently resides in Sioux City, hopes to counteract what he considers attacks on American freedoms with numerous different policies. Carlin spoke at length about how the U.S.’s greatest threat moving forward is China, and that government officials need to act “before it’s too late.”

Tim Hynds, Lee Newspapers 

State Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, talks during an interview Feb. 19 in his Sioux City law office. Carlin announced mid-February that he would be running for a U.S. Senate seat currently being held by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, a fellow Republican. 

Carlin promoted the idea of a coalition of nations to “engage the Chinese on trade and military.” Carlin slammed current leadership, except for former President Donald Trump, for their inactivity on China.

Another passionate point of conversation for Carlin was immigration, specifically protecting the U.S.’s southern border. Carlin said this should be a top priority, voicing his support for a southern border wall to keep illegal immigrants out of the country.

“We need a wall separating us from Mexico,” Carlin said. “99 percent of the methamphetamines that come into Iowa comes from Mexico. One in five of our state inmates are there for meth.”

North Iowa issues

Carlin spent some time discussing issues specific to North Iowa, including the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to becoming a freer nation.

Carlin said that continuing to invest in biofuel and taking steps towards energy independence are crucial to the United States long term.

“It helps our farmers, helps our prices and our markets for corn,” Carlin said “Raising the RFS is a good idea.”

Staff shortages across North Iowa, and the entire state, were another issue Carlin spoke on. Carlin emphasized the importance of better education in Iowa as a key to reversing the staff shortages across the state.

Issues with Democratic Party

Carlin accused the Democratic Party of attempting to take away freedom from America and American citizens.

“The government is on a path and trajectory that is taking away constitutional freedoms,” Carlin said. “The right to defend yourself, your self-expression, your religious freedom, the value of the money you earn, all of these things collectively which strips people of their freedom.”

Carlin said that the Democrats in federal government are currently attempting to remove voter ID laws and American’s second amendment rights under President Joe Biden. Carlin also claims that the Democratic Party is trying to reconfigure the Supreme Court to give the party a majority.     

“If you don’t have the majority in the Supreme Court, you just make up new rules until you have the majority,” Carlin said. “Joe Biden has talked about that. The Democratic Party has talked about that.”

Most egregious of all, according to Carlin, is the inflation being triggered from “massive” infrastructure bills, raising taxes that middle-class families won’t be able to pay.

“The working middle-class man cannot afford 12 percent annual inflation,” Carlin said. “Right now, it’s six percent… if that goes up to 12 percent this year, which it’s projected to, that means one out of eight dollars he has earned is gone.”

Issues with Sen. Grassley

Accusations were also levied against Grassley by Carlin about his role in expanding the nation's debt over the past 40 years.

“In 1980, we were the world’s leading manufacturer, the unquestioned military leader of the world. We were the beacon of freedom to the world,” Carlin said. “Presently, we are no longer the world’s economic leader in manufacturing, we are $30 trillion in debt, and in 1980 we were $1 trillion in debt. That’s a failure of leadership.”

Now, Carlin has thrown his hat in the ring to seek election to the U.S Senate, regardless of whether Grassley decides to seek reelection.

Grassley has yet to announce if he will seek reelection or not, but he expects to decide sometime in the fall of this year.

Currently, Carlin is the only Iowa Republican who has announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate seat in 2022. Two Democratic candidates have announced their candidacies: Glenn Hurst and Dave Muhlbauer.

The general election for the U.S. Senate seat will take place on Nov. 8, 2022.

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