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Protesters plague Robin’s Prestage pork party

Robin Anderson and her protege, Julie Valencia formerly of Kaplan University, leave the "meeting".
Robin Anderson and her protege, Julie Valencia formerly of Kaplan University, leave the “meeting”.

MASON CITY – Robin Anderson’s Prestage pork extravaganza held Thursday morning had more protesters outside than people attending inside.

As many as 100 people were outside the Historic Park Inn hotel Thursday morning leading up to the 9:30 event. It was invitation-only, and NorthIowaToday.com was excluded. The Globe Gazette was allowed in, and they “live-blogged” as the meeting was held. That newspaper has been a strong supporter of going ahead and building the $240 million hog processing plant on the city’s south side.

Anderson invited “centers of influence” and “volunteer leaders of local boards” to come to the Park Inn to discuss how to bring the Prestage Pork Plant to a second vote.  Perhaps two dozen people attended, including media.  Three Mason City council members attended: Brett Schoneman (already strongly in favor of Prestage) and more importantly, Bill Schickel and Alex Kuhn – who are both rumored to be considering flip-flopping their votes.

The talk outside the Park Inn, amongst the protestors, was that at least one councilman is all set to flip-flop his vote but is waiting for at least one more councilman to come along. Bill Schickel has already indicated he would consider a new proposal from Prestage.  Several protestors remarked about councilman Brett Schoneman’s demeanor after the meeting.  He hung around outside the Park Inn and talked with some folks, who came to NIT and said his “confidence” really “stood out” to them.

“He knows something,” one woman told NIT.

A 3-3 tie vote back on May 3 put the brakes on Prestage Foods’ hog plant, but, one more councilman’s support would change the course of history in Mason City and lead to the plant’s existence here.  Currently, Prestage is seeking a home in Iowa for its plant, and Mason City has always been at the top of the list due to the availability of treated water and sewage capacity we already have.  NIT has been told for weeks that a new deal with Prestage is imminent, and Robin Anderson and others are lobbying the three “no” councilman hard to come around and support a “sweeter” deal so the plant can be built.

As Anderson’s meeting ended, people from inside trickled out, sheepishly, and strode past the protestors, who were armed with signs, loud voices and chants of “no Prestage”.

Frontman Rick Mathes – who is lobbying council members too change their vote to support the plant – came outside and refused to answer questions from NIT about how much money he thinks his business stands to profit from the pork plant if it is built.  He distributed flyers before the meeting on tables in support of the plant, but NIT is told he was asked to stop.

Anderson finally came outside with her new protege, Julie Valencia, who used to work for Kaplan University, known to take students to the cleaners. Both refused to answer questions.

Police arrived on the scene, and had a long conversation with the only black man who participated in the protest. An unmarked police car drove by numerous times, while two MCPD cars were parked outside.

Eventually, everyone dispersed.  Now, the people of Mason City wait to see what Robin Anderson and city hall will do next.  The smart money, NIT is told, is that a big development in this saga could come as early as Friday, June 3.

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