Digital bar talk

Tuesday night and Wednesday morning the malcontents capped their social networking campaign by hurling barnyard epithets at our incumbent mayor and The City Beautiful. It was sort of the unbridled marketplace of ideas that the philosopher Milton talked about, but for the basic lack of ideas. The mayor could reshape Storm Lake, drive out the Latinos, make it less a hole into which you inject manure (to paraphrase). Anyone who has read a newspaper here in the past 10 years knows that the mayor is a figurehead with no real authority, sort of like the Queen of England without the palace.

The mayor no longer can hire or fire the police or fire chief, set a city council agenda or fix a traffic ticket. He can lobby the legislature, exhort citizens and try to make Storm Lake look good. That’s it. We have the council-manager form of government under Iowa law. If you want to make a policy difference, you run for the city council.

People complained about the low turnout and how it proves that Storm Lake is indifferent. Voters probably understood that the race lacked real meaning for the future of the city, and it was one of those pre-winter days of cold rain and wind that help our town earn its name.

Complain about the weather here if you will. We certainly do. But we have to say that the ad hominem attacks and the aspersions on the city bug us after awhile.

The city took the lead on dredging the lake. Property taxes have been held in check for many years as the community invests in big, bold projects. We love our Latino neighbors. Our parks are gorgeous and well-tended. We have a fantastic volunteer fire department. City facilities are in good shape. The police on election day cracked a string of burglaries that had struck fear into the senior citizens who were victims — the suspect is a white guy from Sac County.

Things run pretty well here. We have our issues, for certain. We talk about those issues — economic development, how King’s Pointe is doing, whether we need a skate park, whether or not our streets are in good shape. We try to keep it civil. Light illuminates but heat burns.

That debate depends on an informed electorate participating in a moderated discussion. That’s what we attempt to do with this newspaper. Democracy needs a gatekeeper, and that’s how we view our work. It’s why we do not allow random postings on our Facebook page or on our website at We publish nearly every single letter to the editor we get, but we do reserve the right and consider it an obligation to edit. Sometimes we save writers from themselves, as we save each other in the newspaper office from our own worst offenses through editing. Our goal is to provide a forum that can help point out Buena Vista County’s strengths, challenges and aspirations.

We hope that if you want to spread ill will by trashing your hometown for no apparent reason you would keep it to a small network of friends. That’s what bars used to be for. We should not confuse banter with debate.

Dredging works

We are common folks, not hydrologists or geologists. This much we do know: Since dredging started in Storm Lake a decade ago, water quality has been the best we have seen it in our six decades of bearing witness. There can be little question about it. We also have seen how destructive ice heaves can be to a shoreline of rock and sand built by a glacier. An island built by man stands little chance, unless Jerry Smith is building it out of concrete and rebar.

The big island in Storm Lake is sloughing in. It was built in the 1960s to reduce wave action. The waves still roll, pounding that silt construction incessantly.

The scientists from Ames and Des Moines appear to be intrigued with the idea. It sounds to us like it would be costly and, ultimately, ineffective.

Storm Lake needs dredging more than anything. There is at least 10 feet of mud on the bottom of that lake despite our years of chipping away at it. Storm Lake should be as clean and healthy as Spirit Lake, but it is not. It should be an average of 20 feet deep in the center of the lake. It is not. If it were, Storm Lake would be clean and full of perch and crappies. They are few and far between.

The scientists know their stuff. They probably know of more effective ways to build an island that lasts. We know for certain that removing mud from the lake, instead of adding mud to it, is the way to clean water. And that leads to a healthier lake ecosystem.