Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Call the Cops: $3.755 Million Robbery in Progress

Mason Williams (composer "Classical Gas," Emmy-winning writer for the "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour") once wrote, "I'd call the cops, but they're already here."

The City Council of Iowa City is "the cops," and they're at it again, with another "inside job" that should net nearly $4 million.

Notorious bank robber, Willie Sutton, when asked why he robbed banks, said, "Because that's where the money is."

But as someone pointed out years ago, robbing them isn't the most lucrative -- or safest -- way to get their money. At that time, the average bank robber walked away with $10,000, the average embezzeling bank employee $100,000, and the average computer hacker made away with $1,000,000. (Interestingly, there is an inverse relatonship between the amount taken and risk of significant punishment.)

Presumably inflation has long since raised those numbers.

But Woody Guthrie's lyrics are, if anything, even more applicable today than when he wrote them: "Some men rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen."

So what am I talking about? I'm talking about today's (October 18) news of a massive fountain pen heist. I'm talking about the folks we've elected to represent our best interests having decided for us that we'd just jump at the chance to transfer $3.755 million of our money to the profits of some California outfit called National Genecular Institute, Inc.

It takes the form of $1.2 million of Iowa City taxpayers' property taxes, $800,000 of Coralville taxpayers' property taxes, $655,000 in a straight out cash grant from Iowa income taxpayers (by way of the "Iowa Department of Economic Development and Reverse Robin Hood"), plus an additional $1.1 million in "job training assistance."

In addition, the role of the University of Iowa in all of this is not totally clear. The new Coralville facility (to be a 73,000 square-foot building) will be shared between NGI and the UI -- 41,000 sqare feet for NGI and 32,000 square feet for the UI. And the chief scientist and director of research for NGI (Tannin Fuja) is also an adjunct professor at the UI. Understandably, he says he looks forward to "what we consider a very synergistic relationship here." Couldn't we all do with a bit of "synergy" like that?

It's one thing to rob the bank and share the money with the poor and middle class. What the Iowa City City Council members prefer to do is to rob the poor and middle class and give the money to the bank -- in this case a "biobank."

See Hieu Pham, "Council OKs TIF to Build Biobank," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 18, 2006, p. 1A.

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1 comment:

Mitch said...


You seem a little confused to me. After some due diligence, it appears to me that the money NGI is going to be rebated is against the additional taxes the taxing entities will collect on the IMPROVEMENTS NGI is going to make to the land/property they are buying. If they do not come, the taxing entities will not makde any new taxes on the improvements (of which they are going to rebate NGI a small portion of which you seem to object to) and no new jobs for the people or taxes paid on those salaries to the taxing entities.

I think if you step back a little, and run the economics, you will see that it is a GOOD thing for Iowa.

Why do you think they both want to do this venture, because it is a good thing for BOTH, not just NGI.

That is just my opinion of course. I would be glad to debate it more at

PS my grandfather farmed in Nebraska, now lives in a nursing home in Iowa where my aunt and uncle are. I think it is a great state.