Saturday, August 19, 2006

Press-Citizen Disses Rain Forest

The Press-Citizen's Managing Editor Jim Lewers writes this morning (August 19) of the increased energy that comes to Iowa City each fall with the start of K-12 and the arrival of the new UI entering class, Jim Lewers, "Notch It Up to School Speed," Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 19, p. 15A.

Included with the positive energy are Coralville's Marriott Hotel and Conference Center and the Riversde Casino & Golf Resort. They are positive notwithstanding the observations of some "that the Marriott will siphon customers from businesses already in the area and that there are already way too many casinos on this side of Iowa." So why positive? Because "they will help bring in more tourism businesses" -- even though "it comes with its own set of issues."

OK, I needn't comment more about that.

Anyhow, the paper is sticking to its realistic view of the public-private financing issues when it comes to the rain forest.

"Another project that remains on the table is the former rain forest, now Earthpark. Soon that project is supposed to decide between Riverside and Pella for its site. In the past year or so, the Press-Citizen Editorial Board has consistently said that the project shouldn't go forward without significant private support. I think that remains an important yardstick regardless of tourism projections."

Thank you, Press-Citizen!

But since that issue has been front and center for the past 10 years, (what I've called "the elephant in the rain forest") during which the project has been unable to raise a dime of local (or other) money (aside from Senator Grassley's willingness to dip into the taxpayers' pockets for a $50 million grant -- which now requires a $50 million match), why is it that so many of Iowa's newspapers consistently supported the project editorially? (See, e.g., Nicholas Johnson, "Unfocused and Unfunded, Rain Forest Inspires Mostly Questions," Des Moines Register, June 5, 2005 ("Last year the Register supported the proposed Coralville rain forest because 'Iowa needs more big thinking' ('Listen to Younger Iowans,' March 12, 2004). This year it was because 'it's not as crazy-sounding as it once was' ('Fund the Unexpected,' April 25, 2005). Really?"))

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