The Mason City Globe Gazette. Nov. 27, 2015
Dashing hither and yon for holiday fun.
Like Santa and his reindeer, you'll have to be dashing to and fro, hither and yon if you hope to take in the many holiday offerings throughout this season.
What, you say, you're too busy shopping? We understand. But don't shop till you drop - save some energy to relax and enjoy this special time of year. Let's take a look.
We're big fans of community celebrations and Mason City's downtown. Voila! A perfect combination for Home for the Holidays this Saturday. It promises good food, lots of family activities such as trolley rides and, of course, some good bargains at our downtown stores and restaurants.
For those inclined to enjoy a cup or two of "holiday cheer," there's the Jingle Mingle Bar Crawl for adults at the end of the day.
Plus, "It's Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas" continues at The Music Man Square.
Mason City's Rotary Cannonball steam engine will light up East Park this season with its special display. The lighting ceremony will be at dusk on Sunday. It's also a chance to help the Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank, with organizers urging patrons to buy a case of vegetables or other foodstuffs and bring it to the Cannonball - a great way to share the cheer.
In Clear Lake, the Surf Ballroom will be rocking Friday night - a great way to work off some of those Turkey Day calories - with music by The Spazmatics.
They bill themselves as the ultimate new wave 1980s band, offering up all the "sounds, styles and way cool dance steps from the decade we'd love to forget." Skinny ties, Brylcreemed hair, horn-rim glasses - all combine to "recapture the best of the worst."
The music and chance to see friends home for the season will make for good times, always a holiday tradition at the Surf.
Belmond will celebrate the season with its Parade of Lights at 6:30 Friday with the theme of "Christmas In Lego Land." A hot chocolate bar - which seems to be all the rage these chilly days - will be open at the Chamber of Commerce office before the parade.
Two theatrical productions open next week.
A dramatic musical comedy, "Four Tickets to Christmas," opens Dec. 3 at Grace Church, 440 N. Illinois Ave. in Mason City. And Stebens Children's Theatre will present the classic musical, "Annie," starting Thursday.
A highlight of the Clear Lake Christmas Season, the Opportunity Village Festival of the Trees - a prelude to the grand Christmas By The Lake celebration next weekend - opens Thursday with the Lights On 5K run/walk.
Plus, your favorite dining and drinking establishments will be serving up a wonderful array of items - providing you still have room in your tummy after Thanksgiving.
It's a special season and we hope you'll take time to celebrate all the good things in North Iowa. Round up family, friends - perhaps even someone you know who can't get around so well on their own - and celebrate with them in the spirit of the holidays.
We'll see you out and about!
The Quad-City Times. Nov. 25, 2015
Support Independent Map movement.
While much of the national attention directed at Election Day 2016 has been about the campaign for president, there's a statewide issue in Illinois that is gradually gaining steam.
If the momentum by organizers of the Independent Map Amendment continues, Illinois residents will be voting next November on whether they want an independent commission to draw state legislative maps without regard to incumbency or partisanship. The maps also would be required to protect voting rights of racial and ethnic minorities.
We support this effort and encourage residents who are fed up with the woeful state of affairs in Springfield to get on board, too.
Currently, maps for state legislative districts are drawn by politicians. And in the ways of Illinois politics, the district boundaries largely ensure protection for incumbents. As a result, many legislative races — 60 percent of them in November 2014 — go uncontested. In the Quad-Cities, Democrat state Rep. Pat Verschoore was unopposed in his bid for re-election a year ago in the 72nd District.
The nonpartisan Independent Map coalition announced last week that it has more than 400,000 signatures toward its goal of 600,000 to get the initiative on the ballot in November 2016. While the Illinois Constitution requires a minimum of 290,000 signatures, organizers are pushing for double that number as "insurance" against petition challenges by opponents.
And there are opponents to this reform, those who wish to keep the legislative map-making in the hands of politicians, not the people.
The Independent Map movement affects only state legislative districts. Any reform to the manner in which Illinois' congressional districts are drawn would have to come from the state Legislature itself.
Petitions are due to be filed at the Illinois State Board of Elections in May. We are hopeful the Independent Map Amendment gets its chance at the polls next November.
How to get involved: Illinois residents interested in getting involved can download a petition and collect names themselves. For more information, go to the organization's website at MapAmendment.org.
The Sioux City Journal. Nov. 26, 2015
Five reasons we are thankful.
Local economic strength
Signs of economic vitality are evident throughout our metro region.
Consider these examples:
- The $2 billion expansion of CF Industries' Port Neal fertilizer plant continues. At the peak of construction, some 4,000 construction workers will be employed at the site. When completed sometime next year, the expansion will create 125 permanent new jobs, more than doubling total plant employment. The project is forecast to create hundreds of indirect new jobs as a result of increased local and regional economic activity necessary to support the larger plant.
- In May, Merriam, Kan., based Seaboard Foods and St. Joseph, Mo., based Triumph Foods announced plans for the construction of a $264 million pork plant on 250 acres of Sioux City's Bridgeport West Industrial Park. To begin, the plant will employ some 1,100 workers. Construction will begin this year and completion is scheduled for summer 2017.
- Iowa Department of Transportation commissioners in June allocated $136.6 million in the new five-year DOT plan to finish the $400 million, 12-mile reconstruction of Interstate 29 from Sergeant Bluff to the South Dakota border by 2019. Commissioners also voted to put enough money, $286 million, in the plan for completion of the Highway 20 four-lane project by 2018.
- Public and private leaders in July announced plans for a $30 million, 387,000-square-foot retail shopping complex on 46 acres of land at the intersection of Sunnybrook Drive and Sergeant Road.
- In March, Atlanta-based Site Selection magazine rated metro Sioux City number two in the nation for economic development activity in areas with populations between 50,000 and 200,000.
- Metro Sioux City unemployment in September was 3.2 percent. By comparison, local unemployment in 2010 following closing of the local John Morrell plant reached a 25-year high of 7.4 percent.
A robust entertainment community - offering everything from top headliners to the best in local music - has made Siouxland a destination for many.
We're thankful for the aggressive schedules offered by the Tyson Events Center, the Orpheum Theatre, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, WinnaVegas and local arts and entertainment groups. Although some may say there's too much to do, we see it as so much from which to choose.
When you have choices, quality improves. If local residents haven't discovered what visitors already know, they should.
Siouxland is an entertainment leader.
America's men and women in uniform
Respect and admiration for members of our armed forces — the world's finest — and the sacrifices they, and their families, make for all of us is something for which we are thankful each and every day.
As you count your blessings while enjoying your Thanksgiving meal today, pause a moment in reflection of our servicemen and women who stand guard each and every day, around the clock, over our nation's security and freedoms.
In particular, consider those who are serving America away from home. More than 200,000 members of the U.S. military are deployed in roughly 150 countries across the globe.
It seems only right on this day when so many of us will sit down to an abundance of food on our holiday tables to share some words about the men and women of agriculture.
More than anywhere else, we in the nation's heartland understand and appreciate the value and importance of our nation's farmers — the most prolific producers of food on the planet. Today, the average farmer feeds more than 150 people.
Earlier this month, the United States Department of Agriculture forecast the third-largest U.S. corn harvest of 13.7 billion bushels and a record soybean crop of 3.98 billion bushels.
Because about $140 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products were exported across the globe in fiscal 2015, this much is, it seems, clear: America's farmers, indeed, feed the world.
Spirit of volunteerism
Again this year, we reflect in profound admiration at the giving nature of Siouxlanders.
Time after time, year after year, this region rises to the occasion to meet a spectrum of civic and charitable needs, challenges and causes through volunteer donation of time, labor and expertise.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 62.8 million, or one in four, Americans volunteered through an organization at least once between September 2013 and September 2014. The Corporation for National and Community Service said Americans volunteered nearly 7.7 billion hours in 2013; the estimated value of the volunteer service was nearly $173 billion. In addition, according to CNCS, more than 138 million Americans (62.5 percent) engaged in informal volunteering in their communities, helping neighbors with such tasks as watching children, shopping or house sitting.
As area residents for many, many years, the members of our editorial board can attest to the fact the unselfish American spirit of volunteerism is alive and well within the communities of Siouxland.
For this, all of us who call this region home should be thankful.
The Fort Dodge Messenger. Nov. 25, 2015.
Grateful on behalf of the community.
In this season of gratitude, we are particularly thankful for a generous gift recently bestowed on our community.
We refer to the $1 million given to Iowa Central Community College by Bill Greehey, a Fort Dodge native who gave back in a big way.
Greehey's gift is intended to provide scholarships for first-generation students who may not otherwise be able to attend college.
"It's an investment in the future," Greehey said last week when he delivered the gift in person. "It's giving back."
The money from the Greehey Family Foundation is one of the largest cash gifts that has ever been given to Iowa Central, according to Iowa Central Community College President Dan Kinney.
"It's a wonderful gift. It's really going to make an impact on our students," he said. "We really thank Mr. Greehey for everything he's done."
Greehey understands the concept of investing in the future. He is the former chief executive officer of Valero Energy Corp., so he has seen what education can do.
But he has also witnessed the impact of its absence.
"I came from a poor family on the east side of town. My mother had about an eighth-grade education. My dad had 10th-grade education," Greehey said. "Education was not their highest priority.
"They didn't have money to send me to college, so I joined the Air Force, and went to college on the GI bill, parked cars at the hospital, worked my way through college."
The Greehey Family Foundation provides first-generation scholarships for every university in San Antonio, Texas. It also has donated more than $25 million to Greehey's alma mater, St. Mary's University in San Antonio.
"Our foundation has given well over $100 million since it was set up in 2006," he said.
Greehey was chairman and CEO of Valero Energy Corp. from its inception in 1980 until he retired as CEO in January 2006, and as chairman in January 2007.
He is now chairman of the board of NuStar Energy LP, which was once known as Valero LP, and of NuStar GP Holdings LLC, both based in San Antonio.
Valero has had a presence in the Fort Dodge area since 2009, when it took over the former VeraSun facility west of Fort Dodge in the ag-industrial park called Iowa's Crossroads of Global Innovation.
"This is just huge for the college. It's huge for the region. What's great about it is it's someone who came from Fort Dodge, giving back to help people succeed and go through college," Kinney said.
"This guy left Fort Dodge, but he really remembers his roots."
For that, and for whatever other goodness this season brings, on behalf of this community The Messenger is grateful.