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NIT Publisher Marquardt questions Steckman and Ragan on $1.5 million secured for Chamber of Commerce (VIDEO)


This news story was published on January 20, 2013.
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Senator Amanda Ragan and Representative Sharon Steckman explain how they work with the Chamber of Commerce.

Senator Amanda Ragan and Representative Sharon Steckman explain how they work with the Chamber of Commerce.

MASON CITY – Saturday morning at a town hall meeting held at the Mason City Library, NorthIowaToday.com Publisher Matt Marquardt questioned Democratic Iowa legislators Sharon Steckman and Amanda Ragan  about the North Iowa Commerce Center, an exclusive club run by the Mason City Chamber of Commerce and paid for with $1.5 million dollars in state funds that Ragan and Steckman secured.

The roughly $2 million dollar North Iowa Commerce Center opened last March.  It is located at 9 North Federal Avenue.  The property is owned by the Mason City Chamber of Commerce.

Marquardt asked Rep. Steckman and Sen. Ragan to describe how they are working with the Chamber of Commerce.

Sharon Steckman (left) and Amanda Ragan (right) met with The Chamber of Commerce's Robin Anderson at the Iowa Capitol this week.

Sharon Steckman (left) and Amanda Ragan (right) met with The Chamber of Commerce’s Robin Anderson at the Iowa Capitol this week.

“We meet with lots of people who do not agree with us,” Sen. Ragan explained.  NorthIowaToday.com published on Friday a photo of Steckman, Ragan and Mason City Chamber Director Robin Anderson standing together at the Iowa State Capitol.  Sen. Ragan and Rep. Steckman claimed that the photo was taken due to an “issue with a bad picture” that went out in a former Chamber of Commerce newsletter.

When asked by Marquardt if she agreed with the agenda of the Chamber of Commerce, Sen. Ragan claimed she did not know what the agenda of the Chamber of Commerce is.

“Well, I don’t know what their agenda is,” she said.

It is widely known and reported that the Chamber of Commerce is a lobbying organization that is against raising minimum wages, is against the rights of workers, is in favor of de-regulating Wall Street, is anti-environment and is pro big business.  The Chamber is funded by, among other means, dues paid by its members.

Last March, North Iowa leaders, under the banner of the Chamber of Commerce, went to Washington D.C. They wore red Chamber scarves into the offices of our elected leaders to show a united front for the policies the Chamber wants to advance.

Last March, North Iowa leaders, under the banner of the Chamber of Commerce, went to Washington D.C. They wore red Chamber scarves into the offices of our elected leaders to show a united front for the policies the Chamber wants to advance.

Marquardt’s contention was that by funding the Commerce Center and giving the Chamber $1.5 million, Steckman and Ragan directly aided an organization that is diametrically opposed to the very ideas and issues for which they fight for in the Iowa Legislature as Democrats.

Marquardt further pointed out to the two legislators that in addition to lobbying for public funds, much of the Chamber’s energies are spent in recruiting new members, who will pay dues, which are then funneled to Washington into the coffers of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to be used in lobbying efforts against the Democratic Party agenda.

Marquardt claimed that despite the fact that the facility was largely paid for with tax dollars, and the Chamber of Commerce is partially tax-exempt, “The Commerce Center is not accessible to regular folks.  You have to be a member of the Chamber of Commerce to use the facility.

“That is not the way it should be,” Representative Sharon Steckman responded.

“It is a regional commerce center,” Senator Amanda Ragan informed.  “That’s what the intent was.  It was not supposed to be specifically for the Chamber.”

Sen. Ragan and Rep. Steckman declared that they would look into the accessibility to the Commerce Center for those who are not Chamber of Commerce members.

“I will definitely check into that,” Rep. Steckman said.

When asked if she was mislead by the Chamber of Commerce, Sen. Ragan replied “I don’t know if I was mislead… I’m going to check it out and see what’s going to happen.”

——–

Watch video of Amanda Ragan and Sharon Steckman explain why they secured $1.5 million for the Chamber of Commerce and their relationship with the organization:

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29 Responses to NIT Publisher Marquardt questions Steckman and Ragan on $1.5 million secured for Chamber of Commerce (VIDEO)

  1. Avatar

    Mike Petersen Reply Report comment

    January 22, 2013 at 11:51 am

    These two ladies talk out both sides of their mouths. they claim they are seperate from the chamber, don’t agree with there agenda, etc., but when the other media states that they secured 1.5 million from them they don’t point out the differences instead they sit back and take credit for that side to.

  2. Avatar

    barney google Reply Report comment

    January 20, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    http://globegazette.com/news/local/building-chosen-for-regional-business-center-in-mason-city/article_3f266dbc-176d-11e0-9c7d-001cc4c002e0.html

    @Anonymous,I doubt they are being misled. And neither does Pappajohn…..I think he probably is a lot smarter and educated than all the posters here combined. Hopefully you can all comprehend what this centers purpose is and being used for. JOB creation. Why would the non members want to use it? There wouldn’t be any purpose for then to. duuuuh.

    • Avatar

      Katie Reply Report comment

      January 21, 2013 at 11:31 am

      Thank you for posting that link. It answered some questions. It doesn’t appear that money came from flood funds, but from I-JOBS grants. It would be interesting to know if non-Chamber members are allowed to use the high-tech business center and if businesses have to pay to use it and if the fee is the same whether they are members or not. Unfortunately, there has been no surge in jobs since its completion.

      • Avatar

        barney google Reply Report comment

        January 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm

        There are no “surg of jobs” anywhere. However the remodling will provide work for the construction businesses. With over 600 members in the Chamber it wouldn’t be fair to them to take up office space and leave members (who paid dues for use)out in the cold when they need the space. The iniative doesn’t just involve MC. It involves and effects all of the NI business corridor and populus.

    • Avatar

      LVS Reply Report comment

      January 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      @barney-OK, I read the link and it was interesting but I am still confused here. Where are the jobs? Has anyone put this to use and if so, who was it and what were the results? This came out of I-Jobs funding which is our taxes so we are entitled to know if we got a return on our investment. Or is this like so many of the tax payer funded projects? Now that it is built it is forgotten and somehow becomes the exclusive property of the Chamber? I bet it really irritates them that Matt stirred this up. Good Job Matt.

  3. Avatar

    J SChade Reply Report comment

    January 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    You are attacking Matt lay back

  4. Avatar

    J SChade Reply Report comment

    January 20, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Matt let them speak good lord

    • Avatar

      D Foel Reply Report comment

      January 20, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      Do NOT take God’s name in vain, heathen.

      • Avatar

        Joao do Carmo Reply Report comment

        January 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm

        “Do NOT take God’s name in vain, heathen.”

        “Matt let them speak good lord”

        Notice the small “l” in the word lord, obviously refers to a lord, not THE LORD.

      • Avatar

        50 miles south Reply Report comment

        January 22, 2013 at 12:57 pm

        D Foel: its people like you that make me want to extend my middle finger. Please keep that religious bullshit to yourself. who are you to tell people what they can say, think, or believe in. To me, people like you give religious people a bad name.

  5. Avatar

    Faye Reply Report comment

    January 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Hoping to hear more on this story and what the money is being used for.

  6. Avatar

    GlobeGazetteStinks Reply Report comment

    January 20, 2013 at 10:37 am

    I agree with you Matt, that the Commerce Center meeting space should be available to non members, especially with the amount of tax money that went into the project. There are counter organizations to Chambers that have started in many communities that have no direct affiliation to the US Chamber of Commerce. These are commonly 501c3’s and have a much broader representation from the community. Instead of members they rely on donors. The Chambers concept is quit old dating back to the Industrial Age of the late 19th Century. Today, most chambers just do networking (Business After Hours) and wander for other missions to do that will benefit members. However, because they have been around for such a long time, they have become institutions in communites that businesses feel they must be a member. They feed off small businesses and in many instances don’t serve them, but the agendas of large corporations like Wal-Mart.

    • Avatar

      4ever49 Reply Report comment

      January 21, 2013 at 9:59 am

      To follow your logic, we should all have access to any farm land owned by someone who has accepted a subsidy, right? Further, we should be able to use school facilities for meetings as they are tax supported as well even though we are no longer students.
      If your intent is to oppose an institution because it has been around a long time and perhaps is out of touch, you need to do so by presenting facts. For instance, you say they actually work against the local retailer by supporting policies at the national level that support big box retail. Please say what these policies are.

  7. Avatar

    Mr Foad Reply Report comment

    January 20, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Matt: You brought up some good points at the Forum, but sometimes your style is a little too in your face for my taste. If you are considering running for office, you will need to less brash when making your point. Perception overrules facts, ask Max. He was absolutely for the people of Mason City, but the perception became to be that he was just a noisy rabblerauser. It was too bad because he brought up good points, but no one listed to WHAT he was saying, just HOW he was saying it.

    Keep up the good work Mark!

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 20, 2013 at 9:12 am

      I’m flattered to be mentioned in the same comment as Mr. Weaver. I cannot hold a candle to his ability to hammer people, however. In this instance, I wanted to show respect but yet not give up on my line of questioning. The subject is easily changed and I think pressing for answers is a must.

      With that being said, I truly believe this town needs a heavy dose of truth and honesty from its leaders and sometimes that’s not pretty.

    • Avatar

      Just My Opinion Reply Report comment

      January 20, 2013 at 10:44 am

      I just watched the video. I didn’t see anything wrong with the way Matt asked his questions. I thought he was very polite and considerate. He had to be a little bit what you might call “pushy” because it was the only way he could get them to stay on topic. I don’t think Amanda & Sharon felt threatened by his tone. I’m just glad we have someone like Matt going to bat for us.

      I think Katie asked some excellent questions about the Commerce Center. I, too, would like answers.

  8. Avatar

    smoothy Reply Report comment

    January 20, 2013 at 8:42 am

    My question to these two reps are if someone needs money can we call you two up or stop by the office and if ourr story sounds good will we get a piece of the pie? Matt you do an excellent job on bringing out the truth and we really do need you to run for mayor. Also if you do run for mayor I bet we would get a council that would make great decisions instead of just going with the fat man that says you half too.

  9. Avatar

    JBJ Reply Report comment

    January 20, 2013 at 12:51 am

    Real question what the hell is state doing funding this? How many other little 1.5 million deals like this went down

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      January 20, 2013 at 11:42 am

      The funds are flood recovery money from the state.

      • Allen

        Allen Reply Report comment

        January 21, 2013 at 7:58 am

        Did the chamber office receive flood damage. From what I understand, to receive flood money, you must have flood damage. People go to prison for lying, some do anyway.

  10. Avatar

    Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

    January 19, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Truth seems to be, Robin used these two ladies. Apparently, they were schmoozed by Robin that the commerce center would be some big asset to the people of North Iowa but in reality it is just another playpen for the rich and Robin’s personal palace. But hey, $1.5 million only goes so far. Really sad that kids are going home starving, the schools can’t stuff enough food in their backpacks after school so they don’t go to bed hungry while Robin is draped in velvet. Why didn’t Mayor Eric Bookmeyer talk about this in his fairy tale State of the City address? I guess liars will keep lying until they are caught. I wonder if Robin can look out her office window and see the homeless people in Central Park foraging for cans and bottles. Mr. toot would be playing a sad song if he really existed.

  11. Avatar

    ArmBears Reply Report comment

    January 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Matt. Thanks for keeping both sides of the political divide honest. Can’t wait till you turn up the heat on Harken and Grassley!

  12. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Good job Matt! I hope this opens Sharon and Amanda’s eyes that they are being misled.

  13. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Matt, the question you should have asked is how Sharon and Amanda felt when at the Grand Oening of the Commerce Center Robin Anderson recognized Linda Upmeyer and Merlin Bartz by name and never mentioned them. At all.

  14. Avatar

    Katie Reply Report comment

    January 19, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    So what is the function of a regional commerce center? What would a person do there? What is the Chamber keeping non-members from doing there? I really don’t know the answers to these questions and would like to know. I honestly need to be educated.

    • Avatar

      Just me Reply Report comment

      January 19, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      I would also like the answer to these questions, very good questions!

  15. Avatar

    Bob T. Reply Report comment

    January 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Those two are acting just like a couple of “madams” trying to justify to their preacher why they’re running a whorehouse.

  16. Avatar

    blog Reply Report comment

    January 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    That’s the attitude difference between a newcomer in the political system and one that’s been in long enough to no longer serve the average voter. Sooner or later they all care about nothing other than how do I get reelected. On another note Andersons photos are great for keeping the crows out of my trees.

  17. Avatar

    LVS Reply Report comment

    January 19, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Matt-Excellent, excellent questions. I am sorry I missed it as I intended to come but spaced it off this morning. My belief is they knew exactly what the money was going to be used for and never expected to be asked about it. I am sure they didn’t do it to be traitors but got caught up in the Robin Anderson moment. I think Rep. Steckman was somewhat concerned that she had been used but Sen. Ragan was upset that you had attacked her. That is the attitude of someone who is guilty. What is done is done but lets see if anything else happens. Good job.