Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The $185 Million Dollar Questions

Newspaper reports of a public meeting of the Riverside, Iowa, City Council on August 3, 2006, included the following:

"'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.'"

Mary Zielinski, "Riverside Wants 'Hard Copy' Answers for Earthpark Questions," Washington Evening Journal, August 4, 2006.

Apparently it was a problem getting answers within a week, but they finally arrived on September 19, and by noon today (September 20) the Iowa City Press-Citizen had scooped the competition and had them on its Web site. See, Press-Citizen, "Answers to Riverside's Questions," September 20, 2006.

When my wife and I watch the evening news the game we play is spotting the stories that aren't covered.

Since I was in class for most of this afternoon, I'm merely relaying for now the comments of Brad Franzwa (in an email to me this afternoon) who was apparently playing the same game with regard to the questions that weren't asked by the City of David Oman. Franzwa notes:

"The questions were somewhat insignificant considering the unresolved issues. The town asked questions about nearby hunting but failed to ask about 500 other more pertinent questions. No questions about cost overruns? No questions about attendance projections? No questions about specific financial details? How about operation costs? Spending to date? Lack of Vision Iowa funds? Funds already procured and in the bank? Siemens agreement? Other corporate lead promises? What about forecasting errors? What about the need for taxpayer funds being used for operations as well as construction? What about city/county requirements assuming the State offers nothing? How about any formal agreements between the casino and the rain forest? What about the match assuming Foundation contributions?

"If the project fails, who assumes the debt? Omen answered only about what would happen if there were assets left over after a project failure. Mr. Omen, who would be responsible for the remaining debt if there were not enough liquid assets to cover all of the debt? Will this project not be upside-down for at least a few decades? How often are there liquid assets left over after a total bankruptcy of a non-profit? Who would pay to relocate the monkeys? Who would be willing to pay for the lizard food? Seriously, what would it cost to dismantle and dispose of this project? How much in losses would have to be absorbed by the taxpayers before Omen would allow the project to die?

"This reminds me of any possible terminally ill elderly patient in our hospital’s ICU. The patient is 102 years old and just suffered a massive heart attack and a stroke leaving him on a vent, brain-dead, and unable to ever function again. No response to pain, no chance of recovery, and owning a hospital bill that goes up a thousand dollars every hour. The patient had been surrounded by 15 family members that said their goodbyes and have gone.

“'Doctor, why are we keeping this patient alive?' asks the nurse. 'Because WE CAN…'” responds Dr. Omen."

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2 comments:

Tom Gill said...

Next David Oman will ask for an IPERS investment, and get it.

Nick said...

Tom: That's what the IPERS retirees are worried about! - Nick