Wednesday, March 14, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 417 - March 14

March 14, 9:00 a.m.

Credit unions, corporate welfare, the search for Regents, and return on investment in college athletics are four of this morning's topics.

UI Problem with "UICCU"? Oh, "Never Mind"

One of the major reasons advanced for the necessity of a change from "University of Iowa Community Credit Union" to "Optiva" was the representation by the UICCU CEO and Board of objections from the University of a perceived relationship between the UI and UICCU.

Yesterday's actions by the Regents would seem to have put that concern to rest. Knowing that the name change was rejected by the membership, and that the credit union was continuing to use its "University of Iowa" name, the Regents voted to approve the credit union's return to the campus. (At its inception, in 1938, and for years thereafter it was housed on the campus.) See Brian Morelli, "Regents OK UI Relationship with Credit Union," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 14, 2007.

"Corporate Welfare, 'Good;'" "Welfare for the Downtrodden, 'Bad'"

Beth Cody has taken on the local Chamber of Commerce in this morning's Press-Citizen, charging that it "lobbies for . . . corporate welfare for big-industry special interest groups." She continues with examples:

"The chamber's 2007 Legislative Agenda is illustrative of the wrong turn it has taken: They are lobbying to increase big business handouts such as Tax Increment Financing, Economic Development Funds like the Iowa Values Fund (remember the rain forest boondoggle?) and a Destination Attraction Fund.

"They also want more tax-financed research facilities and support Iowa's ambition to become the nation's renewable fuels leader. This is a fine goal -- for private industry, not taxpayer-subsidized ones."

Beth Cody, "Local Chamber of Commerce Has Wrong Priorities," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 14, 2007.

She starts from what is essentially an anti-tax, anti-government position: "The chamber is supposed to work to keep taxes in check so that businesses can thrive." That's where Cody and I part company. As I've written before, I think focusing on taxes qua taxes is almost meaningless. (The exception is tax policy; e.g., how the tax burden is allocated among socio-economic classes; the relative merits of income, property, sales and other taxes; or the role of "user fees," such as using gasoline taxes to pay for road repair.) The discussion, the analysis, needs to begin with programs. Which programs do you want to eliminate or cut -- or add or expand -- not how much do you want to "cut taxes."

But we "meet in the middle" when it comes to programs that essentially transfer taxpayers' dollars into the pockets of for-profit businesses. She's right that there's a certain irony, or hypocracy, to someone simultaneously preaching with a religious fervor that free private enterprise and "the marketplace" are the natural order of things, and that hundreds of dollars to a "welfare mother" is a moral outrage, while simultaneously holding out a tin cup and begging for millions of dollars in taxpayer-financed corporate welfare.

The Search for a UI President . . . and Four Regents

David Letterman has a feature called "A George Bush Joke That's Not Really a Joke." One is tempted to say that this morning we have "A Press-Citizen Story That's Not Really a Story." But that would be unfair.

The lead, page-one story -- Brian Morelli, "Regents to be named this week; No word on who Culver has tapped," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 14, 2007 -- actually does leave us knowing more than we knew before. Example: "Culver has hinted that he is leaning toward naming four new members instead of reappointments, and Arbisser has said Culver told him as much." So the paper is not just offering us the "news" that "there is no buzz about who will be appointed." And see Erin Jordan, "Shake-up of Regents Expected This Week," Des Moines Register, March 14, 2007.
It's a matter of no little consequence for the UI president search. After all, knowing the history of Regents President Michael Gartner's relationship with the University of Iowa would you want to take a job trying to work under his thumb? Or, otherwise put, if Search Committee II comes up with a candidate who is willing to work under those conditions, is that someone the University community should want?

Thus, who the new four Regents turn out to be, and the degree to which they are willing to recapture the powers and responsibilities of the Board of Regents from the one-man rule the present Board members seem to find acceptable, will have a major impact on whom Search Committee II is going to be able to submit to that new Board as "finalists" for the UI presidency.

Meanwhile, the Search Committee II Web site is looking up. There is now a link to "Meeting Minutes" (formerly submerged within "Meeting Schedule"). And there's a description of Iowa City and the University that makes you wonder why even more people don't come here as faculty, students -- and just to live. And a description of the president's job that makes you wonder (a) where we're going to find a single individual with the qualities formerly only found in Jesus plus Jefferson plus Einstein plus Franklin Roosevelt, etc., and (b) why anyone would want it.

If you haven't looked it recently, take a click over to: .

College Athletics Budgets as "Investments"

A professor at the Des Moines Area Community College Boone campus, Bruce Kelly, has an op ed in this morning's Register that addresses one of the arguments for college athletic programs: "they are revenue producers." Bruce Kelly, "Let's Fund Education, Not College Sports Machine," Des Moines Register, March 14, 2007. Kelly reports that of 121 NCAA Division I-A schools, 52 either made no money or actually lost. All told, 75% earned less than a 6% return on their athletic "investment." Not surprisingly, Kelly offers some better ways to spend the nearly $3 billion a year spent on these non-remunerative supposedly "money-making" programs.

UICCU and "Optiva"

The UICCU-Optiva story is essentially behind us. There may be occasional additions "for the record," but for the most part the last major entry, with links to the prior material from October 2006 through March 2007, is "UICCU and 'Optiva'" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 406 - March 3 - Optiva," March 3, 2007.

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[Note: If you're new to this blog, and interested in the whole UI President Search story . . .

These blog entries begin with Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search I," November 18, 2006.

Wondering where the "UI Held Hostage" came from? Click here. (As of January 25 the count has run from January 21, 2006, rather than last November.)

For any given entry, links to the prior 10 will be found in the left-most column. Going directly to will take you to the latest. Each contains links to the full text of virtually all known media stories and commentary, including mine, since the last blog entry. Together they represent what The Chronicle of Higher Education has called "one of the most comprehensive analyses of the controversy." The last time there was an entry containing the summary of prior entries' commentary (with the heading "This Blog's Focus on Regents' Presidential Search") is Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search XIII -- Last Week," December 11, 2006.

My early proposed solution to the conflict is provided in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VII: The Answer," November 26, 2006.

Searching: the fullest collection of basic documents related to the search is contained in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search - Dec. 21-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter), at the bottom of that blog entry under "References." A Blog Index of entries on all subjects since June 2006 is also available. And note that if you know (or can guess at) a word to search on, the "Blogger" bar near the top of your browser has a blank, followed by "SEARCH THIS BLOG," that enables you to search all entries in this Blog since June 2006.]

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Media Stories and Commentary

See above.

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