As far as I'm concerned, getting the "privilege" of hosting Earthpark, the $155-million albatross that federal taxpayers are on the hook for $50 million for (courtesy of Chuck Grassley) is kind of like getting herpes -- nobody wanted it, now the sleepy little town of Pella, Iowa where up until very recently, blue laws prohibited stores like Wal Mart from being open on Sunday, is pretending like they are happy to have it.
They've been shopping this albatross around for ten years now. It began as eccentric nut Ted Townsend's Center for Health in a Loving Democracy -- CHILD to use the cute acronym. If you don't believe someone could come up with such an idiotic name, check out the URL. Recognizing the idiocy of this name, the promoters of this behemoth renamed it the Iowa Environmental Project. Now they've named it Earthpark. Given the fact that this thing is a recipe for taxpayer rape, Earthpork is a more appropriate name.
Coralville, Iowa was the first finalist for this massive bubble of pork and they choked on the demands of the promoters, the majority of whom are a bunch of rich folks who would rather spend the taxpayer’s money on their wasteful pet project than their own. Since they were demanding $25 million and a bunch of land from Coralville but were unable to prove they could raise the private money to make the thing work, Coralville basically told them to shove it. Now they've given the Pork Forest to Pella: Lucky Pella, it's theirs for only $25 million in Marion County money. Bend over Marion County residents...
...If you think a significant portion of this boondoggle is coming from the "private" part of "public/private" you are truly a fool. Add the $20 million from Townsend and the "in-kind partnership" and you still come up $60 million short of the $155 million "projected cost". As we know from recent bloated projects in Iowa, this "projection" is probably more pull-it-out-of-our-ass than accurate. (Remember the $168 million Iowa Events Center that ended up costing $217 million?) If we're realistic about it and say $200 million, they are $105 million short. Where's this going to come from?
...This would be the plum "eastern Iowa location" in Coralville a thriving bedroom community of the University of Iowa with a population of 17,000 right on Interstate 80 -- one of the busiest East/West roadways in the United States of America. The pork dome would have sat on a plot of land right on I-80 and readily accessible to the tens of thousands of people who fly by every day.
Where did this glistening mound of pork actually land? In a sleepy town of 10,000, 25 miles south of one of the busiest East/West roadways in the U.S. -- and there are no major thoroughfares leading from the busy roadway to the sleepy town.
Oops! Cut that attendance estimate in half at least.
Am I the only one who can envision what pork project comes next? A several-hundred million dollar project to build a 4-lane controlled access roadway from the busy interstate to the Pork Forest where none was needed before. We could call it the Great Iowa Porkway.
That's a great column!