By Dennis Orpen, former Mason City resident
Not too long ago, I had an intriguing conversation with a citizen of Mason City who is very near and dear to me. I want to share a question, especially for those of you (myself included) who have at one time lived in Mason City and now live elsewhere. It’s a question that has been on my mind since that conversation.
Simply put, since we no longer live in Mason City and since whatever happens in Mason City has no bearing on our lives now, why do we still follow what goes on? Why do we either read the Globe Gazette or NorthIowaToday.com? Truth be told, I really don’t care what happens there because it will not change my lot in life one bit. I feel that I have a unique perspective that being a onetime citizen and now a former citizen. But it is a question I am having trouble answering.
I made a phone call not too long after the latest murder at Casey’s gas station. I wanted to see if this person was doing fine since the killing was not too far from their home. I went on to say it seems like for a small town like Mason City, they have more of their share of crime given the size of the population. And this is not the first time that I have pointed out this fact.
Apparently this did not sit too well with this person who is a lifelong resident. I guess I struck a nerve and this person went on to say to me that they were sorry that not only was I born in Mason City, but that I am ashamed of Mason City as well. I have to admit, I was not ready for that comment at all.
After our conversation, I really started to think. Am I ashamed to say that I am a former resident of Mason City? I can only answer that question this way, yes and no. I’m not sorry that I was born there. A person can’t help where they’re born. I do remember the good times when I was younger, but that was then. However with everything I read online whether it’s the Globe or NIT since I have moved away, I have to say yes I am ashamed and I will try to explain why.
I spent the first 35 years of my life in Mason City. My family and I moved away almost 16 years ago to the Phoenix, Arizona area. It was one of the best things we could have done; and the time was right for such a move. Sure, no area of the country is perfect, Phoenix included. We have our problems and troubles here as well. But the fact remains that per capita, Mason City has more than its share of crime.
I remember a time when Mason City had such potential to be more than what it is today. The population hovered near the 30,000 mark with the chance of growing. There were plenty of good, decent places to work and be able to provide for a family. The downtown was thriving. Business owners did well for themselves. It was clean, friendly, and somewhat safe. The town as a whole had a pleasant environment.
So, what happened? What caused this town to take such a downward spiral? I don’t think that it’s just one reason, but many. Let’s face it, crime there is just out of control. The face of the population has changed over the past 20 years and it isn’t good. If any of you have paid attention to the Cerro Gordo county sheriff’s website inmate population report, you will see that most of all the arrests are drug related and most are repeat offenders. I had made the comment one time to someone who lives there that Mason City seems like it’s becoming the drug capitol of the Midwest. It looks like its proving me correct. These people are content to bring drugs and crime into neighborhoods and no one seems to care.
Then I recently read a story on here about the transients, homeless, drifters or whatever word you care to use who was sleeping near or close to the underpasses and helping themselves to someone’s outside water faucet. That act alone is theft. They didn’t pay for the water, the homeowner did. They didn’t ask they just helped themselves. On top of that they were trespassing as well. However, you had people on here commenting how they were in favor of what these people were doing. What kind of logic is that? If these are the types of people you wish to have in your area, you can have them.
Another thing I have noticed is the city government and its total lack of leadership. It’s tantamount to nothing less than a circus clown show. I have watched them on YouTube, only to sit and laugh. How they must look to others who watch that spectacle in action. Infact, that very comment was once made on here and someone commented back that they don’t really care how they (city council) looks like to others.
And I guess that right there is the problem. No one cares. Talk about an unprofessional bunch. What can you say when only a few on the council cares enough to dress for the occasion? If you look and dress professionally, then maybe you will start to act professionally and not like a bunch of out of control adult children representing a city. Citizens may just respect you more and start taking you seriously. Of course the citizens there have to take responsibility…..after all you voted them into office. And those of you who chose not to vote, it’s your fault too because you didn’t vote.
I have watched our city council here where I live and I can see a stark difference. There are times that I don’t even know they are there because they act professional and get the job done without making fools of themselves. Somebody on here commented one time that Mason City should put its council meetings on DVD and sell them. Its title should be, “How Not To Run A City.”
The job situation there or a lack there of, leaves a lot to be desired. That alone was the driving factor on our choice to leave as it is with others who choose to leave. Who wants to stay where there is no chance to better yourself? When kids leave for college, they get their education and move on to other cities. They don’t come back to Mason City. There is no reason to. I heard someone comment that in order to get ahead in life, you need to leave Mason City. Often I get asked when are you going to move back. I tell them never! You would have to put a gun to my head first! To me, moving back is the same as taking two steps backward. Moving back there is not nor will it ever be an option.
Some of you may sit there and think that I am being critical of Mason City since I no longer live there. Truth be told, I was just as critical of Mason City when I did live there. I guess I just had the good sense to leave when I did. Plus, the time was right. I saw a community circling the drain in a hurry. I knew that in the back of my mind, Mason City was a going nowhere town with no positive future. How anyone can sit there and look at Mason City and say that they are proud of how the city is right now and what it has become is beyond me. Those who say this are only fooling themselves!
However, with all that said, it still begs the question I asked in the beginning. For those of us who no longer live in Mason City, why do we still follow what goes on?