Monday, April 30, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 464 - State 29

April 30, 2007, 10:45 a.m.

State 29 on Earthpork, Economic Development, Campus Security

State 29 is a popular blogger. No one's ever seen him or her or knows where he is (I'll just use "he"). All of which makes his self-appointed service as chair of my exploratory committee in what he believes should be my primary race against Senator Tom Harkin a reason why it remains a committee of one.

He's very productive, irreverent, funny, and creative. His blog may not be exactly something you'd want to show your mother or use as a substitute for Junior Scholastic in your elementary school. But no one can complain that he's not an equal opportunity offender; this is not a partisan apologist.

What follows are some illustrations of his comments (to let you see how mild and respectful I am by contrast), and updates from him on some of the issues he and I both track -- while I've been off keeping an eye on the Board of Regents and University of Iowa.


Earthpark -- what State 29 dubbed "Earthpork" -- is the latest name for a project supported by some pretty influential Republicans: Senator Chuck Grassley, former Governor Bob Ray, former Republican candidate for governor and Earthpark CEO David Oman, the most recent Republican candidate for governor, Jim Nussle, and Des Moines businessman Ted Townsend (campaign contributor, whose idea it was, and whose $10 million pledge got it started 11 years ago). Through the years it's been called "Iowa Child," "Iowa Education/Environmental Project," the "Environmental Project," and now "Earthpark."

I've been speaking out about it since January 2001 (including 14 published articles, and 15 speech texts and other unpublished pieces), and maintaining a rain forest Web site that contains what I believe to be the most thorough collection of material about it available anywhere on the Web (links to stories and commentary).

The project has also been a major focus of the colorful style of State 29 over those years. In fact, that's what first brought him to my attention.

The project's most serious financial problem is its inability to articulate, from among its many shifting purposes and features over the years, exactly what it is. Necessarily there is, therefore, a lack of basic business plan data. Most independent evaluators believe it has little to no chance of sustaining its operating costs regardless of what it becomes.

After evaluation the following Iowa cities have turned down the "opportunity" to become its home: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville, Dubuque, Tiffin, and Grinnell. "It" (whatever "it" is at this point) is now in Pella.

These devastating defects have been largely overlooked by the media and public officials who -- to the extent they have been willing to interrupt their cheerleading routines for reality -- look only to construction costs. Raising the construction costs seems a task as daunting as figuring out how to pay for its operation. Townsend started it off ten or 11 years ago with a $10 million pledge of his own money. Aside from that, t
he project has not raised one dime of private money in the past 10 years. Although the promoters now talk of a $155 million project (it was originally $300 million), their own consultants have warned them it needs to be at least 50% more than that.

At this point they have nothing, nada, in the bank (that they have documented). Senator Grassley got them a $50 million earmark, but after they started using it for Oman's salary and other ongoing expenses (unrelated to construction) he pulled the plug, and said they'd get no more of it unless they could come up with $50 million by December 2007.)

Since the Regents' disastrous disbanding of UI Presidential Search Committee I in November 2006 -- which happened to coincide with the rain forest's dropping beneath the media's radar -- State 29 has been doing the Earthpork tracking.

Here are some excerpts from some of his blog entries during the past week or so regarding Earthpork.

The excerpts will typically start with an indented quote from whatever news source he quotes, followed by (back to the margin) his commentary, and ending with a link to the full text of his blog entry.

[All that follows are his words, not mine, unless in [brackets] and beginning with "NJ:".]

# # #

[NJ: Here's his comment on the Des Moines Register story revealing David Oman's efforts to get money from this last legislative session.]

"Backers of Earthpark - a combination rain forest, aquarium and education center to be built near Pella - are trying to build support in the Legislature for a package of financial incentives for that project."
I guarantee that Republican David Oman will not get a single dime from this Democrat-run Iowa Legislature, much less Democratic Governor Chet Culver, especially after this:

As of Monday, Oman only has 223 days (December 1st) to come up with cold hard cash matching funds in order to get the rest of weasel Senator Chuck Grassley's deficit-financed $50 million pork pledge.

One thing that no reporter has bothered to ask is what happens to David Oman if the project completely falls through (again). Remember that $2.9 million of Grassley's $50 million grant has been drawn down to pay for day-to-day things. Seriously, what happens?

Update: There a more expanded story in Monday's Des Moines Register on this scam. "David Oman Thinks Earthpork Can Get Money Out of the Iowa Legislature," April 22, 2007.

# # #

[NJ: The next day State 29 quotes from a statement of Governor Chet Culver:]
"'Throughout the campaign, I said that we had so many other priorities,' ["other" than the Earthpark, that is] Culver says. 'It was not helpful in terms of our federal deficit.' Culver says no one from the Earthpark board has contacted him to plead their case and he's not prepared to provide any state support to the project."

Back on October 26, 2006, this blog predicted that a Culver victory would be The Final Nail In The Rainforest Coffin, so read that post again.

Thank God Jim Ross Nussle lost!

Once this thing is dead and buried, I'd like to know who is responsible for paying back the $2.9 million in Federal deficit dollars that chief con artist David Oman blew through. Maybe through some sick twist of fate David Oman will get Des Moines-area taxpayers on the hook for it! "The Final Final Nail in the Coffin for the Earthpork Rain Forest," April 23, 2007.

# # #

[NJ: And he reproduces comments readers placed on the Des Moines Register site (which I'll just link to, rather than excerpt).] "Anti-Earthpark Comments," April 23, 2007.

Economic Development

[NJ: Investing in infrastructure, things that benefit all Iowans -- roads and bridges, schools and colleges, parks and libraries -- may or may not make sense economically, but many believe it can help attract new business, and the investments at least are in 100% public projects. But State 29 and I believe that transferring taxpayers' money to for-profit ventures virtually never makes sense, for a long list of reasons from economic, to ideological, to political, to practical.

Here's State 29's take on Governor Culver's statement about his new "Iowa Power Fund":]
"Now is the time for Iowa to take the lead in the race to become the energy capital of the world.

"What we need is an exciting, forward-thinking plan and coordinated effort to explore our new energy frontier. We can create the jobs of the future in Iowa that will keep your kids and my kids at home where they belong.

"Simply put, what we need is the Iowa Power Fund."

What Chet Culver is doing here is basically saying "Fuck You" to Norman Borlaug by taking all that food Iowa is growing and burning it in our cars and trucks.

So much for the rest of the world's moral right.

And what is this bullshit about Iowa becoming the energy capital of the world? Iowa imports nearly 97% of the fuel necessary to create electricity, power your home computer, or drive a car. When is some non-ass-kissing Iowa reporter going call the Big Lug on his misinformation? Oh, that's right. NEVER.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of turning NW Iowa is a giant windfarm and upgrading the grid in order to export electricity to nearby metropolitan areas, but it costs a pretty penny to do so. The Iowa Pork Power Fund will likely be about doling out taxpayer-financed checks to politically-connected ethanol producers and Big Agriculture rather than doing anything substantive to make Iowa energy independent.
"Chet Culver on the Iowa Power Fund," April 23, 2007.
# # #

[NJ: As you might suspect, the prospect of Iowa's taxpayers subsidizing the multi-billion-dollar Google didn't get State 29's suppport:]
"That web portal bill is potentially huge," [Iowa Department of Economic Development Mike] Tramontina says. On Friday, the House voted 95 to one to provide a tax exemption on equipment and electricity for web portal firms. Tramontina is hoping for quick action in the Iowa Senate. He says targeting computer companies for state incentives makes sense because they're "huge, non-polluting industries" that offer high wages."
Well, Mr Mike Tramontina, Mr Taxpayer-Financed Corporate Welfare, who the hell is going to pay the taxes if a wildly profitable company like Google gets a tax break for the next 30 years? "Is Google Going to Get Iowa Taxpayer Corporate Welfare?" April 24, 2007.

# # #

It appears that Google's butt-licking boy in Iowa was Waterloo Democrat Bill Dotzler, the corrupt idiot who still thinks giving away shitloads of taxpayer money to con man David Oman is a good idea.

Want to know why your property taxes are going through the roof, Iowa? It's because of the pro-corporate welfare, bought-and-paid-for, and crooked politicians in the Iowa Legislature. They exist on BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE.

Related: I'm Shocked SHOCKED To Find That Many Out Of State Corporations Don't Have To Pay Property Taxes In Iowa

Update: I got an email from a clearly Democrat-siding reader asking about whether any members of the Iowa GOP are working on rights legislation or campaign finance reform. Like I would know. All I know about the Iowa GOP is that they're a bunch of spineless corporate welfare enthusiasts or bank robbers who take money from mob-affiliated companies that prey upon the stupid poor. As far as I'm concerned, the only somewhat sane fiscal conservative in the Iowa Legislature in recent years was Ed Fallon, but he no longer holds a seat. Don't go off on me about Fallon's socialized medicine desires. You already have the State (and Feds) paying the medical bills of the poor/poor children. Regifting socialized medicine into a neat little marketing package is a far different astral plane than letting big companies opt out of paying their fair share of property and other taxes or giving away tax break packages left and right to finance risky schemes that the private sector won't smell. The only positive thing I can say about the GOP (and this is while holding my nose and wallet simultaneously) is that they occasionally are interested, when in power, in lowering income tax rates for all. Democrats can't even handle that. When was the last time in recent history the Democrats ever proposed lower tax rates? Never, that's when. And Project Destiny doesn't count because it's a tax increase on everybody, especially the poor. "Iowa Senate Approves Google Corporate Welfare," April 26, 2007.

# # #

"Tuition at Iowa State University went up 91% for state residents between 2001 and 2006 because Tom Vilsack and the Iowa Legislature preferred to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into worthless corporate welfare fraud like a million dollars for Regents head Michael Gartner's ballpark in Des Moines rather than investing in higher education. How ironic is that?" "Ganging Up on the Iowa Student Loan Liquidity Corporation," April 29, 2007.

# # #

[NJ: To what extent are these corporate subsidies the result, in at least some part, of the increasing role of campaign contributions doing to Des Moines what they have long since done to Washngton, D.C.? It appears that its a pretty touchy subject for a citizen to raise with Iowa Senate Majority Leader Gronstal, as the group that did so, and produced the following story, found out:]
"Like a petty tyrant who has finally been called on his bad behavior the Senate Majority Leader lost it. Gronstal squared off with the older gentleman and said, 'That's the lowest blow that anyone's ever dealt me. You can kiss my ass!'

"Visibly shaken, Gronstal stormed off. He walked a short distance away from the group and then lifted his head up to the top of the Capitol and SHOUTED "F*ck You!" A large group of elementary school children were touring the Rotunda while this was happening."
It's not surprising that Iowa's lamestream media missed this one.

Do a Google News search for gronstal fuck or gronstal expletive or gronstal swear and there's nothing. I didn't even see anything about this until I checked Jan Mickelson's feed from this week and discovered mention of it on Wednesday and I guess Gronstal's belated apology yesterday. Oh well, better late than never.

What's amazing is that Gronstal said this to fellow Democrats.

Can't handle a little inter-party debate, Mr 25 Years Experienced Entrenched Fat Assed Nicotine Addicted Corrupt Piece Of Shit Need Your Moustache-Riding Ass Kicked Out Of Office Majority Leader?

Common Iowan had a post recently about the VOICE legislation, along with some links.

As I said before, I'd be in favor of taxpayer-financed campaigns, but only if the campaign season was whittled down from two years to about two weeks. "Mike 'Kiss My Ass!!! Fuck You!!!' Gronstal," April 27, 2007.

Campus Security

[NJ: I've written here about the need to approach campus security as part of policies that have, hopefully, been in place and at least annually routinely reviewed and revised since the Texas Tower shooting in 1966.

State 29 has had some recent entries about the kind of over reactions that can occur when the focus is on after-the-fact knee-jerk reactions to the latest tragedy rather than that kind of governance model policy guidance:]
"The box of 500 condoms that spurred an investigation and partial evacuation at Des Moines Area Community College was intended for a human sexuality class. . . .

"The 'suspicious package' led school officials Thursday to call police and postal investigators, who evacuated several classrooms but determined it was not a bomb.

"Last December, another bomb scare at the college turned out to be a plastic exercise step wrapped in several layers of duct tape."
Looks like officials at DMACC are suffering from premature evacuation. "Life is Like a Box of 500 Condoms," April 27, 2007.

# # #
Upper Iowa University locked down Thursday after a student reported a man with a gun. Officials later determined the person was an off-duty police officer visiting campus as a guest.
Jeez. "Upper Iowa University Contains Weenies," April 27, 2007.

# # #
"'They just grabbed me, pushed my hand behind my back, and then they searched me,' Walker said in an interview with The Daily Iowan, adding that officers didn't tell him why he was being searched until they determined he was not armed.

"Later in the afternoon, UI officials released Walker's name and home address to all faculty, staff, and students, and banned him from campus for five months because he had raised suspicions after wearing a ski mask to his lecture."
This is insane. It's like after Columbine when stupiderintendents were banning trenchcoats. "The University of Iowa is Run by Fashion Nazis," April 27, 2007.


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. Since then there have been two major additions: Nicholas Johnson, "Open Letter to UICCU Board" in "UI Held Hostage Day 423 - March 20 - UICCU," March 20, 2007, and "'Open Letter': Confirmation from World Council of Credit Unions" in "UI Held Hostage Day 424 - March 21 UICCU," March 21, 2007.

# # #

[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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