(Op-ed by Peter J. Children)
The headline was carried the on front page of September 20th in the local propaganda machine. Its author tried his best to remain impartial when writing about his nemesis Max Weaver but in the end failed. These two people are what they are and nothing will change that fact. Their preferences, likes and dislikes were set in place sometime during junior high school. That is not to say opinions do not change during the course of one’s lifetime because we know that happens.
What is now before us are two people with polar opposite goals. Weaver has built his constituency on the working class, people who actually work, like to go bowling and do not trade cars every year. And Marinos is the darling of the affluent tennis set, museum crowd, country clubbers along with everyone else who holds a high opinion of themselves. It is true that she and her husband own a home in the Greek Isles, and that means she’ll be gone from the council table about two months or more a year while she works on her tan, but should she win, her absence won’t really matter because if Bookmeyer gets his way there will be enough clones sitting there that no one will really notice. Let’s face it, it really isn’t about her presence at the table that matters, it isn’t the reason she threw her hat in the ring. She entered the race in hopes of beating Weaver to keep him off the council. Remember this train wreck only needs four votes to get whatever he wants, and there are already three people sitting there who are more than ready to drink the Kool-Aid for him.
Personalities are certainly a big factor in any political race; they serve as a road map as to which direction a candidate will lean toward should they get elected. If you are truly interested in conservative form of government then you will vote for Weaver; if you want to spend more of your money and don’t want to drive up to Northwood to do it then vote for Marinos. You will be sitting in the most expensive hockey arena in the Midwest should that happen.
Let’s dig further into this wood pile. Jean was against the Casino; she stated that the only way she would vote in favor of it were if the city owned it. Well, there was no way this city was going to go into the casino business, no way, no how. So that was a nice way of saying no. To date, according to information supplied to me today by the casino and gaming commission in Des Moines indicates that the city tax paid to Northwood has amounted to $2,028,000.00. We didn’t just lose the casino, we lost probably over a hundred jobs & we lost revenue from casino guests that would have spent money here outside of the casino. That two million dollars has done a lot of good in that community; we could have had that but there was no foresight by the mayor to fight for it. It wasn’t entirely her fault but she was a part of it, it was on her watch.
Then there was the matter of the North Iowa fairgrounds. There was a proposal on the table for a shopping complex on that corner; Jean told the fair board that if they would vote to refuse it she would personally raise $15,000,000.00 to build a new horse facility….well do you see a horse facility out there that looks like it costs $15,000,000.00? Now let’s talk about the shopping complex that would have sat on that corner. To begin with we might just look at both Target and Staples tax bill each year. Target pays $261,150.00 a year and Staples pays $51,982.00, totaling $313,132 that is paid out each year that is split between communities here in our district, that is no small amount. The proposed shopping complex would have generated greater revenue. It would have been anchored by a nationally known chain store which would have been surrounded by other stores. We not only lost out on that but also the many jobs it would have created & the revenue spent by out of town shoppers in our stores and cafes. Is this the sort of wisdom you want back at that table? The land that Target and Staples sits on once belonged to the fair board; if they sold that, they could have sold the corner but they believed the promises offered by Jean that never came true.
When it came to the Park Inn Hotel, they wanted the city to go on the hook as a guarantor for repayment but Weaver, along with Marsters and Nelson, refused to go along with it. As a result the city is off the hook and the Chamber is now responsible for any monies that may or may not need to be repaid. The way I see it if you are a member of the Chamber of Commerce in this city you could be assessed your share. It should also be noted that the likely hood of any sort of re-payment ever occurring is 99.9% non-existent.
I want it to be known that I am a big proponent of that hotel. Although I have yet to enter it, I think what I see outside is beautiful and the inside has to be even better. But I also know it will never cash flow. With only 27 rooms that are not filled every night it just isn’t going to happen; even if they were filled each night it still will not generate enough revenue to carry the load. It might if all the employees waived their salaries…maybe. The cafÈ inside is empty because the asking monthly rental is impossible to consider. I am told the bar is charging $6.00 for a glass of wine, in this town that will be a tough sell for a local business. I was told of one guest who stayed there & left the hotel to find a less expensive place to buy a drink…not good because next time they will stay somewhere else. The panache of Frank Lloyd Wright will give way to cheaper product after once experiencing the ambience of the setting. You must be competitive in a local market in a town of this size in an economy like this. For your lounge to be profitable you need local patrons; you’re not going to make it with just the guests who might fill 27 rooms. I am not advocating they want to fill the lounge with hard core drinkers, those who gravitate towards places where they get more bang for their buck, but empty chairs are not profitable. It is one thing to create a beautiful edifice; it is another thing to know how to make it run like a well-oiled machine. Make no mistake, this is a project that carries national significance , perhaps even global. No one who worked on this endeavor with the Wright on the Park group will ever need to apologize for anything done related to that hotel; on the contrary, they all need to stand and take a well deserved measure of appreciation.
Jean Marinos is said to have headed the hotel project, & we all know of course that there were others here locally who worked shoulder to shoulder alongside her. Maybe this is a field she excels in; it would seem so, but her past record does not at all indicate that her expertise lies in the field of city government.
Here is an ironic twist for you to consider; Jean Marinos was against bringing the casino to our city; in all fairness, and you all know I am fair and just, the funds that feed Vision Iowa in order to give the grants to various projects across the state are themselves derived from the gaming industry. So while Jean didn’t want that casino sullying up our city, the checks she wrote to pay for the project came from monies lost on those green felt tables.
For those of you who might have an interest, here is the breakdown on just how Vision Iowa funds were spent in Mason City.
1) Park Inn Hotel … $18,554,375.00
2) Interpretive Center … $822,172.00
3) Library … $9,242,841. 00
4) Streetscape … $2,640,918.00
5) Parking Components … $560, 744.00
All of these funds came from gamblers, directly or indirectly. By that I mean the state issues bonds then retires the bonds with funds from revenue derived from casinos. I would personally like to thank all who might have lost their money, in some cases their life’s savings, shooting dice for this magnificent hotel, our wonderful Library, the Streetscape and the Interpretive Center as well. It was most generous of you.
Peter J. Children