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Several years ago, I wrote a book on the history of the Iowa caucuses.

As part of the research for that book, I came across an anecdote involving John Edwards, who at that time was a U.S. senator seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Early in his campaign, he was warned by his advisers about his reliance on the American Trial Lawyers Association as a major donor and recruiter.

“Don’t put all your begs in one ask-it,” he was told.

In Mason City, it’s an entirely different set of circumstances, of course, but I fear the fate of the $38 million River City Renaissance project rests pretty much with the city’s faith in one person to deliver – G8 Development President Philip Chodur.

Who knows whether city officials are begging yet, but Chodur represents the “ask-it” – asking for him to come up with his end of the bargain, showing proof he has the financing to build the hotel. There seems to be a delay in that happening.

The city has been approved for about $10 million in state funding contingent, among other things, on financing for the hotel being approved. A state requirement for the grant is $10 million in private investment which the hotel plan fulfills.

Chodur first came to the city’s attention in 2013 when he proposed to build a Hilton hotel in the parking lot next to City Hall. That proposal died when Hilton declined to grant a franchise.

Chodur then came back to the council in 2014 with a proposal to build a Marriott on the same site. The City agreed to give him the chance and put together some deadlines in a development agreement.

By July 2016, construction was supposed to start. Chodur was granted a three-month extension because he was still arranging financing. In October, he still did not have financing, according to city officials, and he was declared in default of the development agreement. As per terms of that agreement, he was given 30 days to come into compliance. When he failed on that, his deal with the city was dead.

The City Council sought new proposals for the hotel project and received two – from G8 and from Gatehouse Capital, The council, fresh from its recent experience with G8, chose to go with Gatehouse Capital with an entirely new hotel proposal – to build the hotel in the south parking lot of Southbridge Mall and connect it to The Music Man Square via a skywalk.

The city negotiated with Gatehouse for several months. So many changes were made from the original proposal that officials were required by state law to open the process for bid. G8 responded with a proposal that council members felt was a better deal for the city than Gatehouse’s.

So here we are. The city has put its “begs” in one “ask-it,” and the city and state are waiting for written confirmation that Chodur has the financing in place.

He says he does. Perhaps Chodur’s banker is waiting for confirmation that the state has approved the project just as the state is waiting for confirmation that he has the financing.

Here’s an idea. If Chodur has the financing lined up, why doesn’t his bank send a letter to the city and state confirming that?

Why – or why not?

John Skipper retired from the Globe Gazette in February 2018 after 52 years in newspapers, most of that in Mason City covering North Iowa government and politics.


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