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Requiem for Professor Harold Hill

This news story was published on February 2, 2019.
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Publisher’s note: The following opinion article was submitted to NIT by James Sayles after it was allegedly censored by the Globe Gazette.

Mason City lost a pioneer this past Tuesday.  He was the last survivor of the original cast of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man”.  For over a century, Professor Hill, an epic con-man and charlatan, has been the poster-child for fleecing, conning and deceiving the citizens of Mason City.

Hill was dethroned as Mason City’s most destructive malefactor of all time, by the tag team of Aaron Burnett and Mike Kohan.  Hill was laid out for public viewing on a sheet of ice to nowhere in a $15 Million arena paid for by you.

Professor Hill is survived by no one and his memory will be stricken from history by the atrocity that is River City Renaissance.  The unfortunate and inconvenient truth is that the process, if not the projects have been, since day one, undertaken through subterfuge and fraud.

Our community has been the victim of a coup d’état, artfully masterminded by autocrat Aaron Burnett with collaboration and support of the City Council, Mayor and hired-help.  There are those that say Burnett has not been here long enough to be the one responsible. He is responsible because he demanded to be in charge and took any and all measures to take command of the RMS Titanic-Renaissance.    

The subjugation, hijack and trampling of your constitutional rights to an open, transparent and honest government have been full-throttle since the arrival of Burnett in 2018. The sole factor for which he was hired was his promise, with no excuses, to deliver the Ice Arena for Mason City Youth Hockey, on their timeline, at any cost.

This is where you come in.  Those costs have been progressively transferred to your shoulders by an ever-increasing level of risk associated with all principal players of RCR.  Once the entire burden of this project shifts, and it will shift to the taxpayers, we will never be able to escape that burden. Atlas cannot shrug.

My friends, at the 15 January council meeting, we were witnesses to the most amazing feat of ventriloquism since Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.  It was an extravaganza to behold. The ventriloquists’ dummy with the wood-block head was a ringer for Mayor Schickel. True to form, the voices changed, the message stayed the same, and the ventriloquist’s lips only moved sometimes on the few occasions where Vote Yes partisans appeared out of nowhere.

If the ventriloquist show was not enough, the vaudevillians and magicians at the dais and behind the desk gave us a slight of hand and magic show for the ages.

Messrs. Thoma and Jaszewski tried to sound like Millennials.  Mr. Lee tried to do mental math. The Mayor and Mr. Burnett were performing “Abbott and Costello’s; Who’s on First?”

Messrs.  Adams and Symonds, who were tapped for the Houdini Act, exhibited some conscience through relevant questions, and would have done the right thing, I think, if they could have found an escape hatch to their previous year’s voting history.

Bravo Mr. Masson!  You have provided a little daylight for our citizens experiencing the dark, cold of winter.  I dare say your recent votes and statements could nearly be considered rebellion based on the normal lock-steps and terminal laryngitis of the council.

The showstopper and Tuesdays’ most perfidious act of the evening was Mr. Burnett’s public incompetence. Repeatedly defending the serial-real estate tax evader, Mike Kohan as an acceptable partner.  

Citizens called him out on the seriousness of the inadequacy of fail-safes structured within the 40-year-long contract.  Mr. Burnett’s Rope-a-Dope in the 15th round was more Dope than Rope.

Nowhere within the agreement brokered by Burnett and poorly written by our high-priced lawyers in Des Moines, are the interests of the Mason City Community protected.  You were hung out to dry and where the rubber meets the road, for the purpose of providing a resume line item for Aaron Burnett. In three years, he has had three jobs increasing in salary from $50K to $175K.  

You’ve watched it all happen….

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22 Responses to Requiem for Professor Harold Hill

  1. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 4, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    What is the real story behind getting city Administrator Burnett to Mason City ? It is no coincidence that this project has been fast tracked since he got here. He hit the ground running, so who did he know to get all the information to proceed day one ? And, he was far less qualified than former CA Brent Trout and from a smaller community..yet his starting salary was $ 175,000. Far more than Brent Trout after his years of employment…So, what’s up ?? Inquiring minds want to know ?

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      February 5, 2019 at 9:44 am

      He doesn’t know anyone special and hasn’t fast-tracked anything and didn’t get any information to anyone to hit the ground running. A decision was made to proceed with the Arena project despite no hotel deal(and no Grant funds). He, along with the mayor and apparently the council decided to do something that the previous administration (Trout/Bookmeyer) would never have considered. If no hotel is built this will go down in Mason City History as the biggest violation of public trust ever.

  2. N.E.MCMAN Reply Report comment

    February 4, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    My question at the moment….

    The ice arena has been in place at the “events center” for 30 years. They said the equipment was only good for 20-25 years and is living on borrowed time and this is a major reason why a new facility needs to be built. With a 40 year contract who is responsible for new equipment in 25 years?

    Another question on my mind… Who gets the naming rights for the arena? And if naming rights are sold does the city get any of this money?

    Another question I just thought of… The downtown area is notorious for steam tunnels, does the engineering/architectural firms have enough insurance to cover their mistake of not identifying one if it causes an issue in the future? Or does the city roll over and play dead and just pay the bill?

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      April 12, 2019 at 9:17 pm

      typical areans last 20 years. its costs are huge for proper upkeep and new technology. I was wondering that as well.

  3. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 4, 2019 at 11:20 am

    I knew and talked many nights with Alex K, this is not what he visioned, this is a fragment of what was sold to the city. BOYCOTT THIS FACILITY.

  4. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 4, 2019 at 11:18 am


  5. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 4, 2019 at 11:16 am

    What happens to the current hockey structure at the fairgrounds? Does the county own it. Nobody talks about the ramifications of this arena. Just like the multiple time downtown MC was remodeled, this is a smoke screen worth millions.

  6. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 4, 2019 at 11:13 am

    Mason City does NOT support Mason City. This is a HUGE mistake. It was never for the citizens, only MCYH

  7. Former Resident who Moved Away Reply Report comment

    February 3, 2019 at 8:27 am

    The real travesty that is the underpinning of this debacle, is the lack of “factual” knowledge being disseminated to the TAXPAYERS of Mason City who are on the hook for the “ice arena to nowhere”.

    Mason City’s leaders and local promoters of this “renaissance” have aptly been able to cut most of the pertinent communication regarding this debacle from getting to the voting taxpayers of Mason City. The Globe Gazette, who is supposed to be the cities official news source is also complicit in withholding “pertinent” knowledge from the people.

    Someone needs to start a “truthful” news publication (in Mason City) that is delivered via US Mail to every voters mailbox that informs the taxpayers. IMO if that had been in place prior to the vote, there would have been a huge voter turnout that would have stopped this before it ever got started. This is truly a mess.

    I wish the only the best for the people of Mason City!

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      February 4, 2019 at 8:47 am

      They set the vote up to make it difficult to vote. The only polling place was Mercy Hospital which is difficult to get in and out of. They made sure to make it difficult by scheduling it in the winter and then not using the standard polling places. They didn’t want seniors to vote because they knew it would be voted down.

      • Anonymous Reply Report comment

        February 4, 2019 at 10:42 am

        Mercy hospital was not the only polling place.

        • Anonymous Reply Report comment

          February 4, 2019 at 1:49 pm

          It was for me you dumb ass. And, you missed the point, again.

          • Anonymous

            February 4, 2019 at 3:42 pm

            You actually could have voted at any poling place in town.
            So no I did not miss your point. You seem to be the dumb ass thinking you could only vote at Mercy.Try to stay informed my friend.

          • Anonymous

            February 5, 2019 at 8:12 am

            Oh look another liberal with a superiority complex! I wonder are you able to walk upright without help, Do you wear gloves or just band aids to keep your knuckles from scraping the pavement when you walk? Has it been a challenge surviving with an IQ three points below plant life?

    • NIT Publisher Reply Report comment

      February 4, 2019 at 11:45 am

      If you sharpen your skates and wear elbow and knee pads, everything will work out perfectly. Oh, and invest in several pricy koozies to keep all those $9 beers cold, that you will be buying at the nightly hockey games. That will fix everything.

      • Anonymous Reply Report comment

        April 12, 2019 at 9:20 pm

        Can you sell alcohol at youth games? Its affiliated with the HS, I dont think you can.

  8. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 2, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    What isn’t mentioned is the screw job out of towners get. For some of the money they need, they are going local option sales tax. I don’t live in Mason City, but, it is the only place to really shop. If i need to go to a Doctor, It’s in MC, well your there you might eat or shop or even buy gas. Why should I, and every other person from out of town, have to pay for they folly that is RCR?

    • ‘Nonymus Reply Report comment

      February 3, 2019 at 9:24 am

      Fewer and fewer shoppers come to Mason City any more. The screwing they get is minor compared to the citizens that are stuck with this albatross. Fewer and fewer stores to shop at because there’s not enough shoppers to support them, because there isn’t enough disposable income left from so many lousy jobs in Mason City. It’s not online shopping that’s rung the death nell to big retailers and malls alone. The biggest factor is that so much of our good paying jobs (industrial) have left the country leaving those exemployees sadly under employed (less disposable income), the doubling and trippling of healthcare premiums, and the fact that the baby boomer generation is aging and having to spend as when younger contributes more than one thinks. Out of towers are going where things are good. That’s not here in River City!

      • NIT Publisher Reply Report comment

        February 4, 2019 at 11:43 am

        You could be right, judging from Indianhead, which has lots of empty storefronts it looks like. Bill Schickel invented that deal, I am told by the old-timers. Walmart wanted to build just north of the H65 underpass years and years ago but Bill interfered on behalf of his landowner pal MacNider. That’s why we gotta drive 15 minutes and stop at every red light in town to buy some goddam duck tape. Thanks Bill for your “leadership” all these years, you should next get a job as a demolition expert, cause you wreck things real precisely.

  9. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 2, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    I have agreed with every article Mr Sayles has submitted to the Globe. He is correct in everything he has said.

    We are going to be screwed more with this deal than we were for building this stupid mall in the first place! Mason City youth hockey will never come up with the money to keep their promise.

  10. Screwed Reply Report comment

    February 2, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    DITTO!! So Sad and So True. $$$$

  11. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 2, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    WoW, Very well said.