I moved to Mason City from Minneapolis over five years ago now. I moved here for the slower pace, the great Iowa people, and the stunning history of architecture in this town. Being an Iowa native, I knew that the people of Iowa are some of the most hard-working, honest, and loyal people you will ever meet. And, being a Frank Lloyd-Wright fan, I was excited to live next to some of his finest works. As for the slower pace, well that’s where the story falls apart.
You see, I chose to live on 1st Street NW, in the beautiful and historic Forest Park neighborhood. I figured the proximity to the hospital, the downtown, and the growing west end made buying a house here a no-brainer. And, I was mostly right. Almost immediately upon settling in, I noticed it. You could hear it. You couldn’t help but see it. The 1st Street I had so happily settled on had a speeding problem.
Morning, noon, and night the 1st Street Drag Strip, as I call it, is a dizzying parade of speeders. Soccer moms, farmers, motorcycles, everyone speeds down 1st Street.
The frustration built. I began to make weekly phone calls to the police dispatcher, requesting that someone be sent out occasionally to patrol. I was ignored. I attended neighborhood meetings with police officers. I was patronized at best, and told that they didn’t have the manpower to be everywhere. This, after watching a presentation detailing just how large their police force is. I wrote emails to every City Councilperson, the Mayor, the Police Chief. I was given lip service, and largely marginalized.
The Mason City Police Department did send out a squad car on occasion, and even put out the speed trailer for a good three hours once. I knew I was getting somewhere. My months of work were paying off. When I would go out to thank the officers for coming out to patrol, they never had time to talk. It was never more than thirty seconds before someone would fly by and have to be pulled over and cited. Drivers are, in fact, so used to speeding down this street that they don’t even slow down for a clearly marked patrol car. One officer I spoke to said writing speeding citations on my stretch of road was like “shooting fish in a barrel”. And yet, the squad cars would never sit out there more than an hour. I figured there must have been something more pressing for them to rush to. One look at the police blotter would prove otherwise.
The city even performed a speed study. Those in positions of power read it as being “within acceptable range”. Yes, most cars were going less than 40 miles per hour. That seemed ok to them. Well, it didn’t seem ok to me. I requested and received a copy of said speed study. In addition to many drivers going 35-40 miles per hour in a residential neighborhood, there were isolated incidents of readings as high as 65, and even 80 miles per hour! Now, these may have been patrol cars or ambulances, speeding to an emergency (in this town?), but it hardly matters to the parents of a child who is killed after getting hit by a car what kind of car it was. To add insult to injury, the police themselves have been spotted numerous times flying down the street without their lights and sirens blaring.
Today, the story is much the same. I am still in touch with the Mayor, the City Council, the City Administrator, the Police Chief, and others on a regular basis, trying to fix this problem. I have concluded that the best option is for a stop sign to be place at the intersection of 1st Street NW and Linden Drive. This would force traffic to slow down, as it would break up the long stretch of road and prevent racing to beat any possible trains that might be approaching to the east. I am sure this will be annoying to drivers, but after all, it is the same drivers that have forced this action. I am presently circulating a petition demanding as much.
Email me at to voice your support and I will bring you a petition to sign.
Until the stop signs are up, I ask you personally, the drivers of Mason City, to take it easy. My neighbors can’t afford any more repair bills after getting their cars run into. And why should one of their pets or children have to be injured or killed before this simple problem is fixed? Be thankful for the fact that you live in a place that doesn’t have much that requires speeding to, and only takes five minutes to drive across. Slow down and notice the world-class architecture, the well-kept parks, the ducks, and the families that call this place home. You just might find, as I have, that this community has a lot of good in it, and many reasons to be proud of it, and to treat it with respect. And not to speed through it so fast that you miss it.
Mason City citizen
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