Friday, June 29, 2007

As if it’s needed, here’s one more nail for the EarthPork coffin

While visiting Arizona last week, I took advantage of the opportunity to tour a forerunner of the PorkForest EarthPork known as Biosphere II, or more commonly, the Biosphere. The Biosphere is a $150 million project built in the late 1980’s to gather information that will be necessary if humans ever decide to build self-sufficient colonies on the Moon or Mars. The cost of the project is not directly comparable to EarthPork’s estimated cost because its designers went to a huge amount of trouble and expense to completely seal off its contents from any contact with the outside atmosphere. Eight people lived inside for two years, subsisting entirely on what they grew and recycling the air and water that was sealed in with them. A second ten-month mission was aborted in 1994 because the inhabitants were spending all their time maintaining the equipment and growing vegetables and had no time left to perform the research that was ostensibly their purpose.

The facility has been open to tourists since 1991, although in the early years no one could enter the buildings. Now all visitors are given an “under-the-glass” guided tour as part of their $19.95 (plus tax) admission. My one-hour tour group consisted of 16 adults, a toddler, one infant and one guide. As far as I could tell, we eighteen were the only visitors on the premises during that hour. The facility had welcomed its two-millionth visitor in 2004, which works out to about 43 per hour, assuming a ten-hour day, so attendance must have fallen off somewhat since the glory days.

Tell me again; how many daily visitors are expected to the PorkForest?

The facility’s primary use now is for research on climate change allegedly caused by increases in carbon dioxide. It does seem ideal for that purpose, as temperature and the concentration of CO2 in the air can theoretically be controlled. However, I noticed some of the glass panels had been removed allowing a free exchange of air with the outside, and plants are still growing like crazy.

The site outside Tucson was selected because it gets 360 days of sunshine per year and the plants growing in the five biomes need a lot of sunshine in order to continue converting CO2 to oxygen. When the tour guide laid this fact on us, I wondered how many grow-lights are planned for EarthPork. Walking through an Arizona greenhouse in June is a lot like walking outdoors in Arizona in June. It costs a lot to cool the Biosphere; Earthpork’s heating and cooling bills would be tremendous.

The tour did not include the rain forest biome, the one I most wanted to see. When I asked why not, I was told that they had just never put a walkway through that area – the largest biome in the facility. I have to suspect there may be other reasons such as heat, humidity, dangerous slippery walking surfaces and interference with the rain forest’s frequent need for, uh, rain.

I also asked why we weren’t bothered by mosquitoes in the more humid biomes. The answer was, “Where would they come from? We’re in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Have you seen any mosquitoes?” The Biosphere is a closed environment which only includes the flora and fauna they want, unlike some similar project in Iowa might be.

My conclusion, based on my admittedly limited sample, is that if an indoor rain forest, given the advantage of plenty of sunshine and a nearby population center of one million people can’t generate enough tourism interest to even justify building a walkway through it, the idea of putting one in Iowa is as silly as I thought it was the first time I heard of it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

David Roederer Wants An Endless Supply Of Pork For Earthpark

Yes, I know that Iowa Child changed their name to or whatever it is these days, but I had to highlight that David Oman and his band of con artists is letting the domain expire after having it since 1997. That's a stupid thing to do. Only spammers or pornographers will grab that domain on the aftermarket. Might as well spend the $10 a year and keep it redirecting over to whatever they're going to call it in the future.

Meanwhile, a reader forwarded this article from the December 1st edition of the Des Moines Register:
Iowa's economic development leaders said Thursday that they want lawmakers to re-establish a state destination program like Vision Iowa, develop a plan for recruiting, retaining and retraining workers, and allow cities to use eminent domain powers in urban renewal areas...

...Addressing criticism that programs like Vision Iowa tend to favor large cities, [David Roederer, executive director of Iowa Chamber Alliance] said incentives shouldn't be determined by size, "but determined by the vision of the community and local support to pull it off."
I remember during Vilsack's veto of anti-Kelo eminent domain legislation (which was later overridden by the Iowa Legislature) that every larger city in Iowa with a chamber of commerce sided with him and embraced civic thuggery. All these unelected, hoity-toity chamber members wanted to preserve a city's ability to condemn perfectly good property and give it to their lawyer friends or some out-of-state developer in order to build more strip malls and crap like that.

More important is that everybody should already know that David Roederer is about as big of a Republican in Iowa as it gets. He was the chairman of the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign.

So do you think Roederer is acquainted with David "Con Artist" Oman and former Gov Robert "Filthy" Ray and Senator Chuck "Weasel" Grassley? Gee, ya think?

Can you figure out where I'm going with this?

You've got to love part about how incentives shouldn't be determined by size. What do you think Roederer is talking about there? It can only be one thing: A source of funding from gambling casinos for David Oman's Earthpork project.

Let's stop these Republican thieves and liars from further ripping off the public.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Earthpark Questions

Nicholas Johnson is full of obvious and important questions concerning the proposed Rainforest and the impact it might have on residents of Riverside, IA (pop. 961):
This representation by Oman can most charitabily be characterized as "misleading."

(a) He, and the casino, have represented -- without involving the City -- that a hotel/motel tax will be enacted, the money from which will go to the rain forest.

(b) They've also suggested that the casino's Foundation, which is supposed to provide a share of casino profits to local projects, such as schools, libraries or swimming pools, will, instead, divert those moneys to the rain forest.

(c) There will, presumably, be additional infrastructure costs required by the rain forest (such as roads, water and sewer lines) borne by the City.

(d) Speaking of water, has anyone in Riverside explored the potential impact on Riverside's water table, or other sources of water, required by a rain forest (that must be kept humid) and aquarium (that uses 600,000 to 1 million gallons of water)?
And that's not all. There's more. Read the whole thing. Especially the part that speculates about what happens to the rainforest and Riverside if the project fails to meet projections and cannot sustain itself over the long haul.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Town Of Riverside Are A Bunch Of Suckers

From the Washington Evening Journal:
Proponents of the $155 million Earthpark Thursday painted a rainbow of opportunity, complete with a proverbial pot of gold, in a move to get city support for the rain forest/science learning center.

After more than two hours of visual presentation, discussion and public comment, the mayor and council asked Earthpark to put it in writing.

"We will get a packet of questions together," said Mayor Bill Poch, "and we would like you to write down the answers. We want hard copy." He also asked if the answers could be done within a week after receiving the questions.

Earthpark CEO David Oman said, "It will not be a problem..."

...A key issue is Earthpark's seeking a $25 million community contribution, as well as needing a governmental entity-a city or county-to apply for a $20 million Vision Iowa grant.

"If Riverside is not supportive, it probably will be going to Pella," said Dan Kehl, CEO of the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort that is offering a $12 million to the project. In addition, Kehl has suggested that the Washington County Riverboat Foundation, the non-profit group that will have $3.2 million to distribute to non-profit and charitable groups in the county, give $8 million at the rate of $800,000 for ten years.

However, the Foundation board at its July 19 meeting, said the Earthpark would have to apply "like everyone else," and objected to Chairman Tim Putney's suggestion that special committee be set up just to deal with Earthpark.

Thursday, the Earthpark proponents outlined what they termed a "creative package," that could bring 1.2 million visitors to the area and generate an estimated $130 million economic impact.

Part of that would be additional sales tax, including a hotel/motel tax, revenue that could generate $6.8 million referred to by John Norwood of Earthpark as "incremental revenue Riverside city would receive about $1.6 million of that.

Earthpark proposed a "sharing arrangement" involving a three-way contract with the Earthpark, the city and the Environmental Development Group. The latter includes the Kehls and the casino and holds the option for the site occupied by River Products, a quarry operation, on Highway 22 directly south of the casino.

Although Norwood spoke of the generation and use of "future dollars," he also said, replying to a question from council member Todd Yahnke about the sharing agreement, "It is hard to predict the future."

Council members, though, made it clear Riverside did not have money to put into the community match, which is needed for the $50 million in federal funds, said Oman.
Look at how the con-artists representing EarthPork at coming into a town like Riverside, demanding a sales tax increase, and basically acting like they're entitled to all of the Washington County Riverboat Foundation's money.

There's not even a phony pretense of raising private money anymore. All you get out of David Oman and this John Norwood character are demands for casino money, foundation money, sales tax increases in a town of less than 1000 people, and plans to go into debt.

And what about the absolutely phony prediction of 1,200,000 people coming to Riverside? That's nearly 3300 paying customers per day, every day of the year. Even Mondays. Even Christmas. Even days when there's a foot of snow on the ground and the high temp is zero. Where are they going to come from?

Riverside residents raise questions on Earthpark

From the Cedar Rapids Gazette by Gregg Hennigan:
Though Riverside is one of two finalists trying to land the proposed $155 million Earthpark indoor rain forest, people here still have many questions about the project.

Those concerns were aired last night during a City Council meeting attended by about 35 residents that included a presentation by Earthpark officials. The meeting, which began with a 65-minute presentation by Earthpark officials, was not finished as of press time.

``There's a lot of ifs and buts there we need to watch out for,'' Riverside resident Jim Rose said.

City council members focused their questions on the financial responsibility of the city. Earthpark is requiring $25 million in local funds for the project.

``If Earthpark would happen to fail, who does that come back on? The city?'' asked council member Mariellen Bower.

Riverside and Pella are finalists for the project, formerly The Environmental Project, which would include a four-acre indoor artificial rain forest that would include a 575,000 gallon aquarium, exterior prairie and wetland exhibits and galleries about environmental science issues.

Earthpark officials have already had a falling out with one community. For five years Coralville was the presumed site for the project until talks broke down late last year after failing to reach a land deal.

Final site selection is expected to be made next month. Earthpark Executive Director David Oman said he has been to the Riverside site -- directly south of the soon-to-open Riverside Casino & Golf Resort on Highway 22 -- several times and is impressed.

Earthpark officials said the city carried little risk because city money would not be used. Riverside Casino CEO Dan Kehl said the casino and his family would contribute $12 million toward the $25 million local match. He also suggested the Washington County Riverboat Foundation would consider donating $8 million over 10 years. The rest of the money could come from taxes from future development, he said.

But earlier on Thursday, Patty Koller, the casino foundation's vice chair, said the organization has not discussed giving any money to the rain forest. It is estimated that the foundation will receive $3.2 million per year from the casino, and board members have already said 25 percent would go to cities in Washington County. $800,000 would represent another 25 percent.

But Koller, a teacher in Washington, said she was a fan of the rain forest and thought it would meet the foundation's goals of promoting education and economic development.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Radio Iowa Blog Covering The David Oman EarthPork Press Conference

David Oman's typically evasive defense of how Iowa Child, The Environmental Project, EarthPork, EarthPark is going to be financed is on full display in Kay Henderson's Radio Iowa blog.

Required reading for all of you following the Pork Forest project.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

EarthPork Update: Down to Riverside and Pella

From the Des Moines Register:
Organizers of Earthpark, the proposed environmental learning center, announced today that two communities have emerged as finalists for the $150 million project.

Development organizations in Riverside and Pella submitted financial packages to Earthpark directors that met or exceeded the $25 million in local funding stipulated last spring by the Earth Park board of directors...

...David Oman, the executive director of Earthpark, is scheduled to discuss the decision that led to selection of the two communities at a 3 p.m. news conference today.

Does David Oman really think that over million people a year are going to come to Riverside, much less Pella?

Pork, pork, pork, pork, pork, sueeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

No Earthpark For Grinnell

From the Des Moines Register:
The city of Grinnell withdrew from the list after it failed to raise the required $25 million match needed to contend for the proposed four-acre indoor rain forest...

The three cities left on the list of proposed sites are Pella, Tiffin and Riverside. Pella and Riverside have already secured the necessary $25 million, but as of the beginning of June, Tiffin had not.
About three weeks ago, Riverside made their offer public, which is tied to the casino there, but Pella had remained mute. The only indication I could find was a May story in the Register which quoted former Branstad/now Huckabee mouthpiece Eric Woolson as saying that Pella had exceeded their goal.

I'm not sure how Pella could come up with the money for EarthPork without a casino to supply the dough, unless they're planning on trafficking cocaine or winning the European International Lottery every month for the next 26 years.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"the way we have financing set up, it would not be a burden to county tax payers"

From the Iowa City Press-Citizen:
With two of four finalist communities having secured the necessary $25 million funding to land the mammoth project most commonly known for its indoor rain forest, some are calling for the list to be trimmed...

...The Riverside group recently disclosed their land offer and the sourcing for their $25 million, while the Pella/Lake Red Rock group has remained silent.

"While we are in the midst of competition we are going to keep that to ourselves," DML Development spokesman Eric Woolson said Tuesday. "(DML) has put together a very credible package. At this point, they are going to keep that between the site selection committee and ourselves."

Riverside Casino and Golf Resort CEO Dan Kehl will dip into his own pocket if it will land Earthpark across the street from his casino.

Kehl's family would contribute $2 million and the casino would pay $10 million over the next 10 years. The Washington County Riverboat Foundation could contribute $8 million over the next 10 years, and remaining funds could come from revenue from a hotel/motel tax.

"People were concerned that if this doesn't succeed it would end up on the backs of county tax payers, but the way we have financing set up, it would not be a burden to county tax payers," Kehl said.

The land gift would be more than 100 acres, which would include 40 acres for construction and wetlands and quarry lands, Kehl said.

He also is proposing a $4.1 million parking facility for Earthpark, and complimentary development including a 2000-seat amphitheater, an extreme sport indoor/outdoor water park, a hotel and a mixed-use development.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

How To Make $2 Million To $5 Million A Year

First, donate $3000 to Chuck Grassley. He'll then turn around and get $50 million from everybody, including our great-great-great grandchildren.

Second, try to get more public money.

Third, spend 10 years snowing and stringing along various communities on your idea. Make sure the big newspaper in the state is in your back pocket and refuses to print anything other than your press releases and the occasional minor criticism by a rogue reporter.

Finally, just make shit up:
Earthpark officials said they expect the center to turn a profit of between $2-5 million a year.

What? Do they plan to attach a casino onto the side of the thing?