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    Saturday, November 26, 2005

    My Rain Forest Position

    The leaders of the Iowa Rain Forest project sent the Coralville city council a letter with several demands that they wanted met or else they would seek a new location. (Read about it here. Or not. I really don't care either way.) The demands include a larger piece of land, a site farther away from I-80, and a letter of support signed by each member of the city council. But these weren't the only demands. Oh no. The project also wants the city council of Coralville to agree to:

    * Build a dome over the stretch of I-80 that runs by the project to keep noise down
    * Sign a letter stating that Carrot Top is a misunderstood genius
    * Agree that Wednesday's in the Rain Forest will be "Carnivale Day" where all female staff and visitors go topless
    * Sign a letter stating that the works of Pauly Shore, particularly Bio-Dome, are among the Best.Movies.Ever
    * Reroute the Iowa River further east so that there is less chance of flooding
    * Sign a letter stating that people who oppose the project are doodyheads

    No word yet on whether or not the council will agree to these demands.

    Now here's the thing. I actually am not opposed to the project. It's a cool idea - no, it's a great idea. It's a bold, unique vision, and if it ever opened, I know we would go. I could see us going about as frequently as we attend the Children's Museum, which is 4-5 times a year. Indeed, I think that, all things being equal, if it opened, it would be a rousing success.

    The arguments against the project seem to be based primarily on the inital visceral reaction some folks have to the concept. I have seen more virulent fact-challenged rants related to this project than to any other Iowa issue. Innocuous letters to the editor that dare to suggest the project might not be a bad idea spark lengthy diatribes criticizing the letter writer's intelligence and motives.

    But visceral reaction aside, the arguments against fall into two main categories. First, that the place wouldn't be successful. They argue that there wouldn't be enough traffic to keep the Rain Forest open. People who think this obviously never worked a summer shift in a restaurant on First Avenue. It's one of the busiest stretches of one of the busiest highways in the world. The people would come. Oh yes Ray, the people would come.

    The other argument is that it is a waste of taxpayer money. The flip argument against that is that if you support Bush, or you support the war in Iraq, you have permanently forfeited your right to ever complain about wasteful federal spending.

    Screw that. It's not a flip answer. If you support Bush, or if you support the war in Iraq, you have permanently forfeited your right to ever complain about wasteful federal spending. Hell, the CPA lost $8 billion in U.S. cash and you don't hear a peep about that from the anti-Rain Forest folks. The Iraq war costs over $9 million dollars an hour. The total project cost is currently slated at $180 million. In other words, the total cost of the project could be funded with what we spend in less than a day in Iraq. So if the money is the thing, and you support Bush and the war, complain about that for awhile and maybe you'll get your right to gripe about wasteful federal spending back. Otherwise, shut the fuck up.

    And for those of you who didn't vote for Bush, and don't support the war, and still worry about wasteful spending, think about this. This is a project designed to appeal to a wide base. It is both educational, scientific, and cultural in nature. Funding this project would create a unique resource available to many, many people. Isn't this exactly the sort of project that should have federal funding? Hell, isn't this exactly the sort of project that should be more or less completely funded by the feds? If this isn't, what would be?

    And despite having said all that, I now find that I can't support the project as it currently stands.

    Do you see that wiggle room I put up there, that thing about all things being equal? It's there for a reason.

    See, all things are not equal. The leadership of this project couldn't sell ice water in hell. I have no faith in the management team of this project to do things right. It has been completely mismanged from the get go, and not only has it not gotten better as time has gone on, it has gotten worse. Take that demand letter they sent to the Coralville city council. If I was a member of the Coralville city council, even being generally in favor of the project as I am, I would tell them to go to hell. (Where, as I mentioned, they would fail in their endeavor to sell ice water.) It is a childish, amatuerish stunt, and it is not the first, though it is definitely the biggest to date. Had they passed the project on to people capable enough to see the thing through, I would still be with them. But they haven't, and I'm not.

    So if you want to rant about project leadership, I'll join you. If you want to rant about the other stuff, well, count me out.

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