Tuesday, May 01, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 465 - May Day, May Day

May 1, 2007, 10:00 a.m., 11:40 a.m., 3:20 p.m.

"The Regents are Coming, The Regents Are Coming; May Day! May Day!"; "Keeping Both Hands on the Road;" "Cream Pies in the Eye and a 'Hats Off;'" and "Iowa Boys Can't Jump"

The Regents are Coming, The Regents Are Coming; May Day! May Day!

The Regents are meeting in Iowa City today (May 1). This is May Day.

See, Brian Morelli, "Regents Hold Off on Security Discussion," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 1, 2007, updated 10:08 a.m.; Brian Morelli, "UI Wants to Build New Hospital," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 1, 2007, updated 10:32 a.m.; Diane Heldt, "Regents Want UI Future Plan," Gazette Online, May 1, 2007, 12:04 p.m. ("Members of the state Board of Regents want more details about the University of Iowa's long-term vision for expanding University Hospitals at sites other than its main campus"); Diane Heldt, "Regents OK UI Hospital Rate Hike," Gazette Online, May 1, 2007, 12:42 p.m. (6% hike in rates; $840 million annual budget, up from $805.2 million);
Erin Jordan, "Regents Begin Campus Security Study," Des Moines Register, May1, 2007, 1:19 p.m.; Diane Heldt, "Regents select president pro tem," Gazette Online, May 1, 2007, 2:09 p.m. (David Miles; West Des Moines; CFO Countryside Renewable Energy, Inc.).

Meanwhile, the costs of UI Presidential Search I are still going up on this, Day 465 of the "UI Held Hostage." Erin Jordan, "Failed U of I hunt for new president cost $233,000," Des Moines Register, April 30, 2007

Keeping Both Hands on the Road

And speaking of the Regents, and an earlier concern of mine, the Press-Citizen has come out swinging on the issue of free speech for faculty. Editorial, "Don't Infringe Upon Freedom of Speech for UI," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 1, 2007.

It involves some language before the Regents today, for possible inclusion as a Regents' policy. The language comes from a 1940 policy statement of the American Association of University professors, and provides that statements by faculty members in their independent capacity as citizens, "should at all times be accurate, exercise appropriate restraint, [and] show respect for the opinions of others."

As the Press-Citizen editorializes,
It's all well and good if a group like the American Association of University Professors offers a vaguely written policy for defining proper academic behavior. In fact, as a statement of general principles, the proposed policy provides a good model for academics to strive for. But there's a big difference between a professional group offering advice and the regents hard-wiring such advice into a policy that could be used punitively against faculty and staff.
That was essentially the conclusion I came to in Nicholas Johnson, "King Michael and Sedition" in "UI Held Hostage Day 459 - King Michael & Sedition," April 25, 2007.

(As an example of the kinds of self-censorship that can occur under such vague but intimidating standards, see, Diane Heldt, "Obama photo taken off UI Web site," The Gazette, May 1, 2007, p. 5B. ("The picture on the Communication Studies department Web site showed Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, during a recent campaign visit to the UI campus. He was holding the infant son of a graduate student in the department."))

The remainder of that AAUP sentence I have no trouble with: "make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution." In fact, every entry in this blog carries the notice:
Personal View
This blog is neither affiliated with the University of Iowa nor hosted by it. It is maintained by me in my individual capacity. Nothing posted here should be construed as anything other than the personal views of the author.
The only part of the Press-Citizen's editorial that gave me any pause at all was its analogy.
When you teach a child to drive, you often suggest that she keep both hands on the road. That's good advice, but no one would want such advice to be enforceable as law because then no one could change a radio station or even shift gears when necessary.
Actually, I once knew someone who occasionally had to keep one hand on the road.

I mentioned Kathleen Nolan in a blog entry recently in connection with the death of Jack Valenti and the power of celebrity in Washington. One of the shows she was in was a "Charlie's Angels" two-hour special filmed in Vail, Colorado. In addition to providing me a couple weeks of free ski instruction and skiing, and visits with the Angels, it was also an opportunity for visiting with one of Hollywood's only woman stunt coordinators who I'll call "Julie." Whenever I've been with stunt people I've never been able to resist asking them about their experiences, and "How do you do that?" Julie described a number of hair-raising (for me, apparently not for her) "gags" in which she'd participated. One involved being pushed out of a fast moving car onto the pavement. "What happens?" I asked. "You lose the skin on the palms of your hands," she replied.

"What do you do after that if they need to film another take?" I asked. "You get back in the car and do it all over again," she answered.

(It kind of reminded me of Gordon Liddy's explanation for how he could hold his hand in a candle flame. "What's the trick?" he was asked. "The trick," he replied, "is not to care.")

Anyhow, that's what I know about driving with one hand on the road.

I once had a car with the floor so rusted out that the mechanic refused to work on it any more, pointing out to me that I was risking another part of my anatomy being on the road.

But I've never driven with both hands on the road. And the one thing I can agree with the editorial about is that "no one would want such advice to be enforceable as law because then no one could change a radio station or even shift gears when necessary."

I would guess that, with both hands on the road, one would need to steer with both knees on the steering wheel.

You know, when I was a kid I wouldn't have wanted to even try to ride a tricycle with both hands on the road. Anyhow, I agree that I'm sure glad we don't have a law that requires us to drive with both hands on the road.

Economic Development: Cream Pies in the Eye, and a "Hats Off"

There seems to be no limit to the willingness of public officials -- federal, state and local -- to fund corporate welfare with taxpayers' money to for-profit ventures. Sadly, few journalists are given the time and support to track down the relationship of these gifts of our money and the "campaign contributions" the grateful welfare beneficiaries return to those officials. There's little space given to the follow-up stories: What did the taxpayers actually receive for their gift -- not what was promised, but what really happened? The dissenting voices of economists who report that much of this public money is either wasted or unnecessary (the development could and would have happened without it -- and, if not, probably didn't represent a good investment for public money) gets lost in the cacophony of the cheerleaders and boosters. At best, corporate welfare is a distortion of market forces and unfair to those businesses that must complete without taxpayer support.

Yesterday I wrote about Earthpark (or "Earthpork" as State29 calls it) in this context. (And see his highlighting, today, "The Best Lake Red Rock Earthpork Letter Yet," May 1, 2007.)

Here are a couple more examples from this morning's papers, along with a "hats off" to a project that demonstrates how it ought to be done.
The Iowa Department of Economic Development gave NGI $655,000 in direct state assistance and grants and $1.1 million in state community college job training assistance. Coralville pledged $800,000 in tax increment financing. State economic development funds also will help build the Bioventures Center.

* * *

In October, the Iowa City Council approved $1.2 million in tax increment financing for the project.
There's no mention of whether this operation will be paying property taxes (since it's on what may be UI land) and how much additional subsidy that provides, nor is it made clear why -- if the State wants to put money into such a private venture -- it needs to drag the UI into the operation as a landlord for future for-profit ventures in the building. Kathryn Fiegen, "Construction begins on $20M research facility," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 1, 2007.

Meanwhile, after for-profit businesses get this kind of support, those that still need to pay something in property taxes bring their law firms and other resources to bear in beating down the taxes they owe. Dick Hogan, "Collins' tax bill cut by $488,474; Compromise reduces assessed valuation by $13.6 million," The Gazette, May 1, 2007, p. 1A.

Coralville's Coral Ridge Mall, which was generously treated by the City, is now playing the same game.
One county official said that while he has no problem with businesses appealing assessments, he finds this particular situation frustrating because, as he put it, "all that public money went into the mall."

Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan said on Wednesday that General Growth has benefited from tax-increment financing and the creation of public roads so shoppers can access the complex.

"Everything has been provided for it … and it turns around, and it decides it's not going to pay the taxes it owes," Sullivan said.

He believes that the tax revenue could aid Coralville, saying in his weekly constituent e-mail that it could fund the annual salaries of nearly 20 police officers.

"A million dollars could do a lot," Sullivan said.
Colin Burke, "County, Coral Ridge in tax tiff," The Daily Iowan, April 26, 2007.

Now we're all out of cream pies, and it's time for our "hats off" -- to Kathie and the late David Belgum, the Johnson County Heritage Trust, and the "group of Johnson County residents [that] is raising money to renovate 40 acres of prairie land near Hills" -- the 40 acres known as "Belgum Grove." The plans include a restoration of the Grove's prairie grass, the development of a wetland habitat and savannah environment, trails, and an educational area -- an "outdoor classroom." Dirty Face Creek (which runs through the property), the apple orchard, oak, hickory, and white pine groves will also be enhanced.

Note the differences between the Earthpark and Belgum Grove projects.
* Doing Earthpark properly would require $200 million (plus an ongoing subsidy for operations). The Grove will cost $65,000.
* Earthpark was rejected by city after city in Iowa. The Grove already has significant local support.
* Earthpark has raised not one private dime beyond founder Ted Townsend's early pledge. The Grove already has $40,000 of the $65,000 it will need.
* Earthpark would offer an artificial re-creation of an alien environment: a tropical rain forest. The Grove will enhance a natural Iowa environment.
* Earthpark plans to barge the tropical trees up the Mississippi River. The Grove's trees and plants are already here.
* Earthpark would have to be cooled in summer and heated in winter. The Grove has contracted out climate control, at no charge, to the forces of nature.
* Visitors to Earthpark would be charged (at least) $15 each. Visitors to Belgum Grove can see it for free (I assume).
And that's why the project gets our "Iowa Attractions and Economic Development" hats off award of the day. Rob Daniel, "Trust hopes to renovate prairie; Refurbishing grove will cost $65,000," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 1, 2007.

Iowa Boys Can't Jump

Unless I'm misreading it, the Iowa basketball team roster for 2006-07 listed only one non-senior player from Iowa of the 12 listed (red-shirted freshman guard Don Bohall). Lickliter's three new "letter of intent" recruits are from Maryland, Missouri and Indiana. Having apparently run out of potential players from the U.S., Lickliter is now going after one from Moscow, Russia. What's the matter? "Iowa Boys Can't Jump"?

It's one thing not to be able to find anyone from western Iowa to serve on the Board of Regents, but it's something else to confess that we can't we find anyone from anywhere in Iowa who can play basketball.

Why don't we just call them "the American Hawkeyes" -- soon to be "the Global Hawkeyes" if we can sign than Russian?

The phenomenon of fan passion and loyalty to such teams has always befuddled me -- especially for the pro teams. They shake down the local taxpayers to build a $100 million or more local stadium for some billionaire who owns a team of millionaires, often none of whom come from the city in question. The team's loyalty to the city only lasts until the billionaire gets a better deal -- someone who will buy and move the team, or some city willing to build an even grander stadium or arena. And yet the fans support the billionaire, and his millionaire players, with their money, passion, and loyalty. They pay outrageous prices for tickets, parking, hot dogs and beer. They go out to the airport to greet them on their return from distant fields and courts. They get drunk and riot in the streets when there are major victories or defeats. They will get in fist fights with the loyal fans of other corporate teams.

Loyalty to college teams is a little easier to understand -- especially if the fan is a student, or graduate, or employee of the school. After all, the players are students at the college -- even if only until they get an NBA bid.

Don't get me wrong. I'll be cheering for the American Hawkeyes myself. I just wish we could find an Iowa boy who could jump.

Pat Harty, "Lickliter looks to bolster roster," Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 1, 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.

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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 FromDC2Iowa.Blogspot.com 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.]

# # #

Media Stories and Commentary

See above.

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Nicholas Johnson's Blog Index

1 comment:

Obadiah Plainman said...

Re: TIF, Economic Development, etc.

I won't attempt to defend the business fighting assessments. All I will say is that many people fight their assessments and the big boys are not the only ones who sometimes win in these cases. Assessors are a separate form of government in Iowa. They file their own budgets, have their own reporting, etc. They are under a board of elected officials from jurisdictions within their counties. Only the bigger cities such as Iowa City have their own assessors.

Public Officials are in a no win situation regarding economic development. Face it; Iowa and it's communities compete in a global marketplace in which it has distinct disadvantage in labor costs. Production has two inputs: Capital (K) and Labor (L). K generally follows lower cost L since L makes up a large % of costs. If we did not develop incentives and work to bring business and jobs, we would get criticism for not doing anything. TIF is not a perfect tool, but when you don't have a lot of tools in your box, you have to make due with what you have.

Unlike the pro stadiums, Kinnick's renovations were paid for by it's fans and Iowa's alums. I believe their will be a tipping point in the public subsidization. Seattle has basically decided it won't do anything for the Supersonics wanting a new arena. If the cities are going to invest that much in these teams, and they appreciate so much (George Steinbrenner bought the NY Yankees in 1973 for $10 million, they are worth more than $1 billion today), they should consider buying the teams. They are quasi-public institutions anyway in some cities. In Green Bay they are owned by the public, and that adds much to their appeal to the people of Wisconsin.