Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Flooding, Greenbelts & Catching Up With State29

June 18, 2008, 4:45 p.m.

Greenbelts and Flooding

Two days ago I wrote,

Even if we had never suffered the losses from flooding in the past, and would never have another flood in the future, we should promote the idea of a Greenbelt around the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids Coridor, and Greenways and filters along Iowa's Rivers.

There are hundreds of ways of setting aside land for conservation besides purchase or gifts -- and no need to recite them all now. Uses such as golf courses and farming can continue -- along with forests, prairies and wetlands. The benefits include recreational uses, hunting and fishing, wildlife habitats, "smart growth" for urban areas, with increased real estate values.

But the values also include cleaner water, less soil erosion -- and reduced impact, or elimination of damage from, flooding."
Nicholas Johnson, "Greenbelts, Greenways and Flood Prevention," June 16, 2008.

This morning I was pleased to see Jim Throgmorton -- who knows more about this stuff than I do -- hit a similar theme. Jim Throgmorton, "Looking for Sound Flood Alternatives," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 18, 2008, p. A15 ("eliminate existing structures in the floodplain and . . . use the land only in ways that can accommodate future flooding. As parkland, for example. . . . [T]he long-term conversion of tall grass prairie and wetlands into corn and soybean fields has (when coupled with increased coverage of land with concrete and asphalt) had the effect of reducing the soil's ability to absorb rainfall and slow runoff.")

Catching Up With State29

The past six weeks has involved a variety of semester's-end tasks, along with meeting a goal of creating another book. The former is completed; the latter nearly so.

Not only was I not blogging much during that time, I was also not tracking State29's blog as closely as usual. It turns out that I missed a lot of what he self-describes as "insightfully vulgar" commentary on events and issues we both care about -- even though he often takes me to task for my positions on one of the many matters about which we disagree. Here are a very few selections from the dozens of blog entries he's provided during May and this much of June.


State29, "Why Do We Encourage Development in Flood Zones?" June 15, 2008.

UI Athletic Program

State29, "You'd Think The University Of Iowa Would Have Learned Something From The Pierre Pierce Case,"
June 17, 2008.

The Stories Project

State29, "Feedback Wanted About The Stories Project in Coralville," June 7, 2008.

State29, "Pulp Fiction: The Stories Project Scam in Coralville,"
June 6, 2008.

K-12 Education

State29, "Des Moines, The Dropout Factory," June 3, 2008.

And perhaps our most closely shared sense of outrage -- Corporate Welfare -- and its commonly linked relationship to campaign "contributions"

State29, "The Roosevelt Corporate Welfare Hotel in Cedar Rapids," May 28, 2008; State29, "Cedar Rapids Approves $775,000 Corporate Welfare Loan," May 30, 2008 ("Sherman Associates owns and manages nearly 5000 rental units, yet somehow they had to ask the taxpayers of Cedar Rapids for a $775,000 loan [to buy the Roosevelt Hotel]. Why can't they go to a bank? Or, better yet, why can't they self-finance that loan? Also questionable are the nearly $4 million in Federal and State tax breaks that Sherman will get for supposedly fixing up the joint, . . ..").

State29, "Tom 'Electric Bus' Harkin," May 29, 2008 ("I'm surprised that absolutely nobody has picked up the story of Tom Harkin's $10 million+ electric bus program for Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which was recently scrapped and sold at auction for a grand total of $30,000.").

State29, "Congratulations, Bettendorf!" May 28, 2008 ("This [Bettendorf revising TIF policy] is good news. Business owners need to get wise about what sort of politicians are in charge of their own city. . . . Would they allow tax credits for a direct competitor? You business owners really should be asking these questions of your local elected flunkies and trumpeting the results far and wide.").

State29, "Well Well Wells," May 21, 2008 ("Several years ago, the State of Iowa funded the Iowa Agricultural Finance Corp, which was supposed to be this venture capital-like fund exclusively for Iowa businesses that had ties to agricultural-related businesses. It should have been a hit, right? It has been a disaster. Take a look at this PDF and see what it "invested" in:

* Rudi's Organic Bakery. $13 million. Failed and moved to Colorado.

* Wildwood Harvest. $7.1 million. The company has never generated a profit.

* ProdiGene. $6 million. No employees in Iowa. "Struggled" and was fined by the USDA.

* Sioux-Preme Packing Company. $5 million. Profitable. Acquired in 2006 by Hilco Equity, a company out of Chicago, Illinois.

* Iowa Quality Beef. $3 million. Shut down in 2004 and 540 employees laid off.

* Ag Waste Recovery Systems. $150,000. No sales, no employees, and is considered an "idle corporation".)
State29, "Iowa Republicans Took The Rubashkin's Slave Labor-Tainted Money," May 12, 2008 ("A search on details the campaign contributions from the execs of alleged slave laborers and illegal alien-exploiters Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa."); State29, "Iowa Lt Governor Patty Judge Should Resign For Taking $10,000 In Slave Labor-Tainted Campaign Donations," May 12, 2008.

State29, "Local Option Sales Tax Money To Be Diverted To Corporate Welfare?" May 12, 2008.

State29, "Why Does Iowa Have A Brain Drain? Let Me Count Thee Ways," May 8, 2008 ("'Businesses must be willing to pay more competitive salaries, too. A January report from the Generation Iowa Commission blamed lagging wages as a key reason young professionals leave. Even adjusted for cost of living, Iowa salaries often compare poorly, such as management occupations paying last in the region, the commission reported.' [From a Register editorial. And a suggestion from State29:] . . . End taxpayer-financed corporate welfare. Quit subsidizing politically-connected companies and people at the expense of competition that's already here in Iowa. The State has a bad track record at doing this.").

Iowa Constitution

Although I don't mean to make a legal argument that the Iowa Constitution forbids corporate welfare being provided by the state or its cities, it does seem to me that the following provisions (kindly brought to my attention by Jeff Cox) do rather suggest a general anti-fascist, anti-corporatism spirit of the drafters:

"STATE DEBTS. Credit not to be loaned. SECTION 1. The credit of the state shall not, in any manner, be given or loaned to, or in aid of, any individual, association, or corporation; and the state shall never assume, or become responsible for, the debts or liabilities of any individual, association, or corporation, unless incurred in time of war for the benefit of the state." Iowa Constitution, Art. VII, Sec. 1.

"State not to be a stockholder. SECTION 3. The state shall not become a stockholder in any corporation, nor shall it assume or pay the debt or liability of any corporation, unless incurred in time of war for the benefit of the state." Iowa Constitution, Art. VIII, Sec. 3.

And finally . . .

My thanks to State29 for carrying the entire burden of taxpayer protection during my absence, and making it possible to take a break for other tasks knowing that he would more than adequately do so.

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Anonymous said...

Is it true that you appeared on the cover of "Rolling Stone"?

Nick said...

Anonymous: Yes, but with much more hair. See for links to cover and story. - Nick