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Editorial: City Hall silence speaks volumes

This news story was published on January 29, 2012.
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by Matt Marquardt –

An item in Mason City’s 2013 budget piqued my interest and I decided to ask City Hall for some information about it.  I asked about a $60,000 remodeling plan for the first floor of City Hall.

The persons I asked were City Administrator Brent Trout, Mayor Eric Bookmeyer, and our six City Council representatives.  They are Alex Kuhn, Jean Marinos, John Lee, Travis Hickey, Janet Solberg and Scott Tornquist.  I also included Finance Director Kevin Jacobson in the list.

I sent the following questions about the planned remodel to the above nine persons:

“Brent, how does the walk-through with the architect work, for the first floor City Hall remodel?  Is that just a preliminary thing to take a look?  How did the figure of $60,000 come about?  Is that an estimate?  How was that figure arrived at? Has Mr. Cram already been hired to design the remodel?  I talked to another Mason City architect today and he knows nothing about the project.  Will other architects be invited to look at the project?  Whose idea was it to remodel City Hall first floor?  Can I see the plans?”

I also asked about the budget and getting information on that.

“Also I am still waiting to hear back from you about getting copies of the CIP budget and the operating budget, the same materials the department heads received prior to Tuesday’s meeting.  I emailed Chief Platts about the fire truck and he got right back to me.  I have people asking what is going on and they are expecting a story.  No other media attended Tuesday’s budget meeting and the public is demanding information.   I’d greatly appreciate answers to the above questions from you and those that are receiving this, some of which campaigned on ‘transparency.'”

No one ever gave me a response to these questions.  I did get a copy of the budget from Kevin Jacobson and had a brief discussion with him.  I came away from that with a feeling that if he talked to me without permission from higher up the ladder, his job could be in jeopardy.

This is all troubling for several reasons, but let me be clear on a few points first.  I am always courteous to these people, but I am blunt when I am working, and maybe they didn’t care for my tone.  Too bad.  I’m not here to make friends, I just want answers.  Why am I entitled to answers?  I am a taxpayer here in Mason City, a resident, a small business owner, no criminal record, I have never been kicked out of a bar or made my barber cry.  These people represent me the same way they represent everyone else in this town.  They are spending my money.  I believe this is still America; have a right to ask questions and get a timely answer.  Furthermore, the public somewhat expects me to report  on various issues; in fact, I get calls and emails when I don’t.  I am doing my job, a job I hired myself to do that I enjoy.  Here is a reality check for these eight individuals: Let me clue you in on the fact that many people are sick and tired of hearing the skewed news you hand deliver to the other media outlet.  I am talking about regular people here, 99% of which do not fit or are not allowed in your social circles.  These folks are either skeptical of what you are delivering to the other media outlet or outright call it lies and misrepresentations.  It is cooked news to them.  Here is the bottom line:  Silence is still an answer.  A huge portion of the public is not buying your cooked news, and when you offer no answer to a regular citizen like myself, you are encouraging stories like this one and the propagation of rumor throughout the community.  So now I ask, why no answer?  Are you hiding something, are you afraid of what I will report, or do only certain people get to ask questions and get answers?  How much transparency is there, really, at City Hall?



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40 Responses to Editorial: City Hall silence speaks volumes

  1. Avatar

    comment Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Farmers always said if the lead sheep goes into a hole the others will follow until they pile up and die. Feel that way yet council. Just because your leader is an idiot doesn’t mean you have to be. Show some nads and represent all the citizens like you have been elected to do.

  2. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I believe their is a statement in the council persons oath pertaining to cooperating with the news media and all citizens. Could be a breach of what they are elected to do.

  3. Avatar

    Randy Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Robert, I don’t know what fairytale land you live in but people are catching on to many things and are tired of it. Also, have you ever tried to be a news reporter? What do you really know about it? This site has brought a breath of fresh air to Mason City and the ones that don’t like it are perhaps the ones that feel most threatened by it. Why is that? Is it easier to rule when your population is less informed? Of course it is.
    The part about “isn’t having a good working relationship better than not having one at all” is strange in that you mean Matt should compromise his principles just so he can get a story from these guys? Isn’t that the problem with the Globe-Gazette?

  4. Avatar

    Randy Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Eventually enough people will complain about their property tax assessments not being in line fairly with their home value and the taxes will need to be reduced accordingly. Then we will have even less money for the city to spend. All of these things are factual and yet the city leaders want to pretend like it is not true and continue the spending with microfinancing and city hall remodeling. STOP THE SPENDING !!

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 30, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      Really the city should make do with what is has and put the $60K away in savings. Totally unnecessary waste dreamed up by people with too much time on their hands. Look at the water fund mess MC is in, described in detail by our finance director. Not one council person stood up and said “no” to this. That is embarrassing for them and provides proof that this deal was cooked up between them and the Mayor.

  5. Avatar

    dave h Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Mason City has always been like this.It is a town where the people who are in government think they are more important then everyone else.$60000 to move offices?What are the movers making 200 an Hour?The Globe Gazette?What a joke,until John Skipper and the current editorial staff are gone will never cover the city of mason city,in a way it should.Mason City has not and will not grow until the people in the city vote these jokers out.

  6. Avatar

    Sandy Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    It is going to be a long two years…….

  7. Avatar

    Bender Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    what about residential property taxes? I have seen in the last 3 years, midwest home prices have dropped 30%. Are our tax assesments going to drop 30% as well?? They should

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      A great point, one that has not been asked. Perhaps all residential property should be re-assessed and taxed accordingly.

    • Avatar

      tax payer Reply Report comment

      January 30, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      This is a fact – it is not made up. Our taxes went up on our house because we painted it! No kidding. My husband called the court house and asked why our taxes went up and who ever assesses our taxes said they drove by and noticed we painted our house and figured it was worth more.

  8. Avatar

    Randy Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Any of our city leaders worried about the planned Iowa legislature looking at cutting commercial property taxes as they are too high and put us at a disadvantage in competing with other states for business and jobs?

    Where is this money going to come from when the commercial property taxes get cut? If they don’t reduce spending (like not remodeling city hall) they will have to raise other taxes like your own personal property taxes. Is that what you want people of Mason City? You are okay with that? Go figure. Do people mind going without something they may want for their family to continue paying for stuff these government leaders dream up?

  9. Avatar

    Peter Children Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 8:06 am

    What Matt wrote in the above article was pricise and 100% correct. NIT is a breath of fresh air sweeping across North Iowa ; Marquart has pulled the covers off those in City Hall….as the majority of bloggs here indicate. It is abundantly clear how those who are responding feel about the Mayor and council. There are good people in City Hall who are classified as “staff”; these are those who are caught in the net of hyprocrisy and compromised by an inpt Mayor and a complacient council. These people are going to throw a big party and you and I are going to pay for it.

  10. Avatar

    concernedcitizen Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 6:55 am

    Well, I see it has already begun. The new council and mayor are going to try and spend all the taxpayers money in their first year of office I believe. Oh, that’s right. We are stuck with our mayor (Hitler) for another 2 years. I don’t think Mason City taxpayers can survive that. Remodeling at city hall, huh? And why is it that the city council each need their own office? How much time do they actually spend there? What a joke! Then, of course, the salary we pay Trout? Another joke! Now I read where Marinos thinks we need a new police station. All these people know how to do is spend money and I am afraid we are all in for it. And they wonder why we continue to loose population in Mason City??????? They don’t seem to ever bring good jobs to town to keep people and they keep raising taxes so that will drive people to move to other towns. Common sense! This town is in a mess like they are in Washington so we get a double whammy! Take off your rose colored glasses, citizens of Mason City and pay attention. We need to impeach the mayor and council and start over, I believe!!!!!! Mickey Mouse comes to mind for mayor and would do a much better job and he would be sober!

  11. Avatar

    comment Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 6:47 am

    Its a simple delay move. No information for the public to digest before our rubber stamped council votes on the issue Tuesday. And they will all repeat someones will that it is a wonderful idea meant for the betterment of the public. This guys like a pinata. Colorful on the outside, fun at a party but break it open you don’t know what you will get. In this case empty beer cans.

  12. Avatar

    Follow the Leader! Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    This pretty much proves the new council members have been given their orders.

  13. Avatar

    JOKE Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Anyone who comments otherwise to your honest and the way it should be with questions to them all is one of THEM! A gross misrepresentation for the people. I’d like to know what happened to all of the writers excuse me actually one who wrote under many names said this is going to be the greatest group of people to get things done. He can’t dispute a single word or the path these holes are going down. Thanks Matt you are the best. Everyone is completely stoked at the idiots doing exactly what you and Weaver and tons of people said would happen…don’t ya just love it. Let’s not forget Kuhn having his bar room drunken brawl just after the election. Bunch of parteyin fools that think they are awesome. JOKE.

  14. Avatar

    Robert Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I agree with anonymous and Matt I just read your response. I think you thinking is flawed. Read your article you make assumptions and statements without facts to back it up. You write Kevin Jacobsen wouldn’t talk to you because he was afraid of being fired by higher up the ladder. Did he say this? Maybe it is just because he doesn’t trust you either. Where is the facts? You say you ask hard questions. I don’t believe that. People are not afraid of anwering tough questions people don’t like to feel that they are going to slandered. I think if people really have questions. Call or email your council person I am sure that they will answer them and if they don’t then Matt you may then have a true story. My last thought isn’t having a good working relation better than not having one at all?

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 29, 2012 at 8:44 pm

      Robert, thank you for the reply. I appreciate your thoughts. First let me say, you have put words in my mouth. Kevin did speak with me. He stated he was hesitant to give me much information, that this is his livelyhood. I wrote above that it was my impression that his job could be at stake by speaking to me. This is my opinion; he did not state specifically that he would be fired, nor did I write that. I hope that clarifies this for you. Second, I have never slandered any of the persons in this story, and I did send the email to all 8 of them. I copied the email verbatum in the story, did you miss that part? You said that if I contact these people and if they do not answer then I have a story. Well, you have made my case perfectly. Thank you.

  15. Avatar

    someone Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Well first off Randy cram is part of that club and thats why no other architect is asked to do the work or even bid on them. Matt the iowa attourney genal and the states ombudsman office will assit you in getting answers from these yahoos. They won’t give them silent treatment. There is laws they have to follow even tho they think they above it. When we ask questions there is a time line on when they have to respond and it dont matter how you ask, and dont matter how impolite you are, even tho it helps to be sometimes. Other times you need to be firm. There is a man in western Iowa that might help you also turn that city concil into a transparent form of goverment his name is Paul Dorr, he knows the laws these people have to follow and he knows the right people in DesMoines to make these yahoos follow them. Good luck

  16. Avatar

    MC Bystander Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    As a taxpayer in this town I want to know what my money is being spent on. As a taxpayer in this town I have a legal right to know what my money is being spent on. Information on taxpayer money being spent by public officials is supposed to be of public record. When you have eight officials that won’t respond to a simple list of questions that leads one to believe that there is something they are trying to hide. They all were elected to represent the taxpayer to the best of their ability and if they can’t answer some simple questions that you and I have the legal right to know then they have failed. Whether they like NIT or not they should be answering. My understanding is that they want to move the administrator to the first floor, great. My question is why not move him into the finance office and put the finance dept into the administrators old office? Sounds cheaper than spending $60,000. My personal feeling is if your going to move him to the first floor, move him another 20 feet right out the front door and save the taxpayer the $60,000 in a remodel and the $100,000 in his salary. I think since you and I are paying him that kind of salary he better be answering a few questions that we have about OUR MONEY,if he can’t get someone in there that can. I’m just saying.

  17. Avatar

    Jim Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    too bad the mayor took away our right to speak or to vote on what they want to spend our money on, is this the way Hitler started?

  18. Avatar

    anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Matt. You are wrong. You are no longer just a normal citizen and taxpayer so to speak. You are representing yourself as a media outlet. You first have to give respect to get respect. Maybe if you represented your views on your website in a more professional way. Instead of labeling people and digging at them every time you print a article they would be more likely to respond to you. It is called professional courtesy and building trust. Obviously they don’t trust you so they won’t and don’t have to respond to you. So you are right their silence does speak volumes and maybe you should look at yourself to be part of the problem and find a way to resolve it. Just some food for thought.

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      Anonymous, I appreciate your comment, but I disagree. What you have described Mason City already has. It is alive and well at the Globe Gazette. NIT is not the Globe Gazette. I do not desire to be part of this good old boy clique, sitting in offices taking dictation and creating warmed-over news. I do desire to report news for the common person that they can learn and benefit from. Your assumption that I have somehow not treated the Mayor or Council with respect is preposterous and not true; I ask tough questions and they perceive that as disrespect. I would counter with this: Our elected officials need to earn trust as well. The first time I met Mayor Bookmeyer, he approached and told me, in front of several people, that NIT would be a failure and that I should give up, before I had even begun. That was in 2010. Not exactly getting off on the right foot and building trust there. Furthermore, your assertion that Trout, Bookmeyer, Marinos, Kuhn, Lee, Hickey, Solberg, Tornquist do not have to respond to questions from the public is absurd. Yes they can ignore, but as I wrote, silence is worth a thousand words.

    • Avatar

      X Reply Report comment

      January 29, 2012 at 8:22 pm

      Mr. Marquardt, do you think publishing 3 or 4 columns a week calling the mayor a drunk, suggesting he is a bad husband and father, etc. should afford you access to him?

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 29, 2012 at 8:36 pm

      Anonymous, you exaggerate on the frequency. Perhaps that is the number of times you read each of those stories. The Mayor seems to have rubbed the writer of those editorials, Mr. Peter Children, the wrong way. I suggested to the mayor that he contact Mr. Children and work out their differences. I believe that is called politics. I also believe Mr. children once wrote for the Globe Gazette and did so for years, writing the same types of stories about local politicians. In your world, apparently it is OK for them but not for NIT.

    • Avatar

      X Reply Report comment

      January 29, 2012 at 9:36 pm

      No matter who writes them, you publish them. Let’s say some national media outlet allowed similar columns about the president; they would likely lose access to him. Just a natural reaction.

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 29, 2012 at 9:47 pm

      A fair assumption, and I have no problem with that. The mayor made it clear to me I was cut out of his loop very early on. That is a long story and will be written about. In other words, he has given me nothing anyway. It is not a loss to NIT. How do you explain the other 6 council members, and Brent Trout’s silence?

    • Avatar

      X Reply Report comment

      January 29, 2012 at 11:02 pm

      They all get ripped here. Doesn’t matter if you are the writer or not, it’s your site so you are associated with the content. You provide the forum.

  19. Avatar

    jack jones Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    What terrific article; never find this in the Globe

  20. Avatar

    Betty Woodard Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    What a sad state of affairs this city is in, talk is cheap, we need to take action on recall. Just watch, its going to get worse.

  21. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    They have their corrupt little dynasty now but the more there are of these kinds of actions the quicker and harder it will come crashing down. Drunkmeyer is his own worst enemy.

  22. Avatar

    comment Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    I will email my council rep for an answer on this behavior and hope many others will to.

  23. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Anonymous Reply

    January 29, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Now that the project has been explained in the globe here are several comments. As explained by Trout it makes sense but this is still a 60k expense to the taxpayers so the question is was this action the result from multiple requests from our citizens or the work of an insecure, manipulating control freak to keep a better eye on people. Also I find it most disturbing that all our council members refused to give information to NIT. Would expect this from the existing three but not the new members. So were faced with what to believe. There’s the wonderful world we now live in with unicorns on every corner and a double rainbow over city hall portrayed by one side or what many are now finding a more complete printing by NIT. Its a toss up like the Super Bowl. (Go Giants.)

  24. Avatar

    GlobeGazetteStinks Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    They’re in kahoots with John Skipper and the Globe-Gazette in shutting NIT down in not providing you with any information.

  25. Avatar

    Publius Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Slow clap for Mr. Marquardt for having the stones to speak the truth.

  26. Avatar

    slick willy Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    lets all go out on the town and get as many pics of our mayor drinking or being drunk and stupid, Then post them where ever we can and make that idiot resign.

  27. Avatar

    Similarities??? Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Sounds like maybe the County Supervisors are giving our City Council lessons.
    Maybe there should be a movement like they did with the judjes on the last election.
    THROW ALL incumbents out-start with a clean slate and fresh ideas!!

  28. Avatar

    Larry Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    60K to move a couple of offices is bull. You can build a whole building for that. If we are going to get rid of the administrator why should we move him. The council member don’t need anything for a office. They are just saying that to increase the costs.

  29. Avatar

    Taxpayer Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Matt, It’s call the ‘GOOD OLE BOY’S CLUB’ & you are NOT in the CLUB with the ‘BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE’… Sorry Matt

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm

      I never applied for admission… not my cup of tea, it’s much more fun to push the buttons of these types then drool over a beer with them. As for the looks… I’ll keep working on that, haha.