Sunday, July 23, 2006

Rain Forest: Monday July 24 Update

The Monday, July 24, Update for the Iowa Rain Forest Web site has been uploaded and is available at http://www.nicholasjohnson.org/politics/IaChild. (Ever since the failure to hold the promised mid-June board meeting, and the refusal to annouce its next scheduled meeting, one of the most skilled public relations operations to come along in a long time, with regular "news" announcements as regular as clock work, has mysteriously gone silent.)

Here's an excerpt:
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Those who are fans of CBS' "Late Night with David Letterman" will recognize the line, "Oprah didn't call again today."

What's going on? Why isn't the mainstream media finding out for us?

1. Are the promoters trying to keep the illusion that this is still alive through the November elections to avoid additional embarrassment for Senator Grassley, and the other Republicans identified with the project?

2. Are they on the verge of announcing a $100 million gift that will make construction possible (along with a perpetual subsidy to cover the probable shortfall in operating budgets)?

3. Or, are they further reducing their plans to fit the money ("Honey, I shrunk the rain forest").

If you've been following the evolution of this story over the past few months you may have noticed the shrinking size of this project. Originally a $300 million undertaking, it was first reduced to $225 million. At that point, one of the project's own consultants pointed out that any further reductions risked its ability to generate enough income to sustain operations. (The rationale: the only way to attract enough visitors, especially in Iowa, is if the rain forest is truly "the world's largest" -- the claim of the Omaha Zoo's rain forest for many years.)

The next reduction was to $180 million, which remained for many months the fixed number -- "the $180 million rain forest project" -- even though there was never any explanation of exactly what this $180 million would, and would not, cover (e.g., construction only, trees and animals, the included school or teacher training facility, parking lots, pre-opening promotion, subsidies for school children); they weren't saying.

During the past six months, though I'm not sure exactly when it began, it has become a $155 million project, with a smaller acreage under cover, and a smaller aquarium (although all the components itemized above remain just as unknown as they've always been).

As such, it illustrates a number of the problems the project has had from the beginning:

1. the failure to focus,

2. to know and reveal precisely what it is they're talking about,

3. the rather casual off-hand way in which changes of direction are announced without board endorsement or details, and

4. the willingness to ignore the consultant's counsel regarding the necessary size of the project if it is to have even a chance at financial sustainability.

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3 comments:

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work. thnx!
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