Friday, March 12, 2004


Actually, I disagree with Cedar Pundit that the Register is “smoking crack.” I think dropping acid is more apt. To see why, let’s begin with the opening paragraphs:
They like the rain forest project.

There are good reasons other Iowans should, too.

A majority of Iowans have trouble envisioning what the proposed Iowa Environmental and Education Project in Coralville - better known as the rain forest - could mean to the state. The exception to this thinking? In a recent Register Iowa Poll, more than half of Iowans 18 to 34 considered the project a good idea. Maybe it's time to listen to this fresher generation for some guidance about the future of the state.

In other words, if you are over 34 your head is ensconced you-know-where. Your every day concerns of making a living, raising your kids, planning for retirement, taking your Geritol, etc. has completely blinded you to the realization of what a great idea the Pork Forest is. The folks over 34 probably have more mundane, boring, and ultimately stupid concerns like whether the Pork Forest will work as advertised, whether it is a good idea to fund it with taxpayer dollars, and, if it doesn’t work, will it be taxpayer dollars that are used to bail it out. And a few of them might even be concerned about the viability of the project given that the investment market didn’t seem too impressed by it. After all, Ted Townsend was only able to raise $40 million for the project--$10 million of which was his own money.

What fuddy-duddies those folks over 34 are!

One more thought on that passage: Doesn’t that really hark back to the 1960s ethos of “trust no one over 30”? As if you needed further evidence that the Des Moines Register editorialists nostalgically pine for the Age of Aquarius.
Because Iowa needs more big thinking.

This rain forest is big thinking.

Well, the 1984 World Expo in New Orleans was big thinking! So was the Denver Aquarium! Sorry to say, but because something is big thinking doesn’t make it good thinking.
Funding for the project is growing. Thanks to Senator Chuck Grassley, the rain forest will receive $50 million in federal dollars. Iowan Ted Townsend has donated $10 million of his own money and other sources have brought the amount raised to half the cost of the $180 million project. Discussions are under way about securing state Vision Iowa assistance, but the Legislature needs to replenish that fantastically successful but near-empty fund.

The funding is only growing because the Feds anted up! Like I noted above, Townsend was only able to raise $40 million. And for a little perspective, keep in mind that Townsend has been at this for more than 5 years.

Furthermore, if Vision Iowa is so successful, why isn’t Iowa’s economic growth so much better relative to other states? If, as the Register states, “Marketing surveys show workers and employers rank ‘quality of life’ high among reasons to locate in a place” then why haven’t the quality-of-life improvements from Vision Iowa resulted in better economic growth for Iowa? An interesting question, and one the Register will no doubt ignore.
Yet most Iowans polled are still reluctant about spending the dollars on this project. "It just seems to me our schools are hurting and we need money so many other places that it's kind of over the top right now. It's maybe a terrific idea for the future," said poll participant Marilyn Konicek of Belle Plaine.

Sounds like Ms. Konicek has her priorities straight. Unlike the Register.
Granted, it's hard to think about investing in the future when the state is barely staying financially afloat today.

But what the heck, we can just stick it to the taxpayers to solve those other problems.
But now is exactly the time to look ahead. Interest rates are low. Iowa will recover from these difficult financial times and this state will be glad it had the foresight to invest in a quality-of-life endeavor that attracts tourists and adds entertainment.

Or Iowa taxpayers may come to regret having to service a bunch of debt in the future while also having to help bail out a failed project.
Already, Coralville is in the early stages of building a $60 million hotel and convention center near the rain forest site.

So? Should the taxpayers be on the hook for Coralville's folly too?
Just inside the dome, 300 to 400 jobs will be created. It's estimated the rain forest will generate $120 million to $130 million for the state each year.

Oh, isn’t that phrase “It’s estimated” slippery? After all, who paid for the estimate? Why, it was one Ted Townsend! Imagine that! Hmmm...I wonder what journalistic ethics say about leaving out little facts like that, even in an opinion piece.

Let’s face facts: The Iowa Pork Forest represents everything that’s wrong with Iowa’s approach to economic development right now. Economic growth will occur if we have enough corporate welfare, pork projects, and community attractions. And the belief underlying that approach is that it is government which is best suited to manage the economy. Is it any wonder, then, that the Register editorialists are giddier than a teenage girl on prom night?