Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Call the Bluff

Okay, everybody knows I've thought this was a stupid idea from the beginning, unlike Dweeze. I should caveat that: I thought using tax money to pay for it was a stupid idea, given all the other things the taxes could go for, like schools, the courts, health care, etc. If they were solely using private donations . . . hell, they could build a lunar landscape in the ped mall for all I care. I had these same issues nearly two years ago:

The editors then go on to ask a series of questions about the money - but NOT the $90 million in tax money, which is taken for granted. If these politicians and developers wanted to build their Fake Rainforest in Coralville with private funds, I wouldn’t have any problem with it (other than wondering if the building be reusable if it goes belly-up like the laser center). But to use $90 million of government money is more than irresponsible. It’s offensive and embarrassing.
"In all fairness, we concede that project leaders probably can't answer all of the questions. Organizations certainly must maintain a modicum of privacy when negotiating, and we respect that. In other instances, IEEP board members already have said they honestly don't have an answer because the project isn't at a point where the issue must be addressed. In a few cases, board members have attempted to provide answers, but because of the project's current stage, even they admit responses are nebulous."

Pardon? You want to us put $180 million into a project for which this board can offer only “nebulous” responses to our questions? They sought this area out. They asked to build this assinine thing.

Why is the Press-Citizen, a member of the “fourth estate” meant to watchdog against government excess and abuse, now chastising its readers like naughty schoolchildren, reminding them not to ask impolite questions? I thought Oman “offered figures that could be substantiated?” How do you define substantiated? Is it synonymous with “based on ethereal, wildly optimistic attendance projections”? Or “predicting a ripple-effect job market by using a multiplier higher than any mega-project in the history of economics?” If so, I can agree. But if you define it like the rest of us “hick” Iowans, then it means “verifiable, able to withstand analytical scrutiny and skeptical questioning.” Don’t you dare tell us to sit down, shut up, and eat our $90 million plate of pork without asking any more of those darn inconvenient questions. . . .

What have I seen to date? 1.5 million projected visitors opening year (4100 per day), settling down after five years to 1.3 million (3550 per day). The Denver rainforest had only 1 million and went belly-up; New York’s gets about 550,000. “Ripple effect” jobs numbering 2900? Maybe if you take a multiplier of about 5 to 7 compared the direct jobs – several times the normal average. You can’t simply pick a number, you know. This isn’t a magician’s card trick.

I believe fervently in supporting business growth, and I’m proud of the way Coralville has cleaned up and expanded to something other than just the “strip.” But a majority of Iowans are against this project because we understand that the presumptions on which your cost projections are based are simply not sound.

That said, you've got to admire the balls on these guys. Not only are they still dodging the same questions about where they're going to come up with the private funds years afterward (they've had six years and nary a dime raised), and managing to justify rather large expenses involved with attempts to raise these funds ($2.9 million spent so far, mostly on salaries. Hmm.), but now they're trying to force Coralville to give up any reasonable requests for accountability by threatening to take the project elsewhere.

Would someone please give these guys the boot in the ass they so richly deserve? Pretty please?

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