Smack from the north
You hear some odd things around the boardrooms of northwest Iowa.
Overheard in the Clay County Board of Supervisors meeting recently in Spencer, during discussion of that city's bid to develop a big private prison facility:
"What that prison will do is turn Spencer into Storm Lake, and I don't think we want that... Once you make a mistake and you mess a town up, there's no redoing it."
The speaker was part of a group of local retirees lobbying against a $100,000 feasibility study toward a 500-bed prison, according to a local media report, and was referring to "Storm Lake's immigration and poverty concerns," the report said.
Well now. Storm Lake has never tried to hide its challenges, but those would be fighting words.
No, Spencer speaker, you wouldn't want to be like Storm Lake, would you?
You wouldn't want to have an incredible natural resource in the form of a great glacial lake and all of the beauty and recreation that goes with it.
You wouldn't want to have a phenomenal university, with the infusion of youth, depth of thought and variety in speakers and performances that it brings.
You wouldn't want to have the vibrant downtown district with half a dozen new, unique local businesses clamoring to get in (our condolences on a boarded-up K-Mart and vacant spots in a mall.)
You wouldn't want to have crime levels declining in many of the most critical areas.
You wouldn't want to have millions and millions of dollars of community developments on the horizon, from the community center and indoor/outdoor pool proposal to the BVU Science Center to the impressive medical center expansion including a rare Women's Health Center.
You wouldn't want to be one of the very few small cities in Iowa that is actually growing in population, as evidenced by the 2000 Census.
You sure wouldn't want to have the human kaleidoscope of ethnic diversity, and the opportunities for a more global understanding and an eclectic mix of philosophy, foods, music and culture that it can bring to the community.
Believe it or not, that is Storm Lake, and we are long since tired of all the stereotypes to the contrary. Statements such as the one made in the Clay County meeting should not go unchallenged.
Spencer is a progressive and ambitious neighbor community with its own projects worthy of applause. And we would hope its general citizenry does not share a negative viewpoint of Storm Lake. Those that do would be missing something, and we feel sorry for that.
Spencer doesn't need to turn into Storm Lake. Both cities are unique and have their own virtues and challenges. A private prison may be a good economic effort and job building project for Spencer, but not a good idea for Storm Lake's skyline.
We can appreciate the Spencer speaker's desire to maintain his community as a "nice town," but we wish he'd pick on someone else if there is a need for negative comparisons. We've had our share of unfair hammering from the uninformed national media with their ulterior motives.
Spencer and other places need not fear becoming another Storm Lake. There is only one Storm Lake, and it has a lot going for it. Including a bit of an attitude that it need not accept barbs from outsiders, even if they are unintentional.