Post Iowa City Press-Citizen Rain Forest Forum:
Letters to the Editor

March 26, 2004


Tim Shriver, Priorities Ring Wrong for State

Mike Jenn, Details Need to be Finalized

Clara Oleson, Opponents Should Have Been Invited

Priorities ring wrong for state

Many thanks to the Press-Citizen for arranging Monday night's town meeting on the Iowa Environmental/Education Project ("Rain forest spells $85M," March 23).

The project's supporters certainly offered a polished presentation. Complete with slides, graphs and artist renderings, the "experts" saw the future more clearly than we ordinary Iowans who, as former Gov. Robert Ray implied, are so "down-home" that we must be dragged by the hair into the gleaming fu-ture so evident in more "happening" places on the globe. If you aren't convinced by this project, obviously you just don't get it.

The actual history of projects like this, as outlined in the Sunday Press Citizen, suggests the answer is a less ringing "sometimes" or "it depends." In actuality, the project is an $180 million gamble. The "facts" that the IEEP board is selling - all the attendance numbers, projections, graphs and budgets - require a set of assumptions that quickly become circular and self referential. The audience pressed the issue: Does this project have sustainability?

Monday night's discussion ranged from construction details, the local financial impact and the ever-vexing question: "If you build it, will they come?" The project's promoters assure us the answer is a resounding "yes."

Casinos, riverboats and dog parks - every state is competing for the same tourist dollar. Will Iowa compete with Minnesota or North Carolina for a more thrilling entertainment venue or a more effective school system? Will more quality jobs be created by selling hot dogs to tourists at an artificially-created rain forest or by attracting real scientists to real research facilities solving desperate world problems?

Tim Shriver

Details need to be finalized

I attended Monday night's town hall meeting on the rain forest project and learned about the potential upsides to the project. I still have my doubts about the project, however, mainly because there were a lot of unresolved details. My concern is that this project will be given the go-ahead before key feasibility issues are resolved.

I hope the people behind this project are aware of some local history. We have a building on campus formerly called the Laser Center. I'm sure the people who planned this building had grand ideas; I believe it now holds the boats (among other things) for the rowing team.

My greatest fear is that the rain forest project will become (metaphorically) our next boathouse.

Mike Jenn

Opponents should have been invited

As a critic of the rain forest project for several years, I am really disappointed that the Press-Citizen's "town meeting" only had proponents of the project and no opponents.

Nor did any of the three-part series contain commentary from the organized opposition. This is functioning like a public relations company and not a news organization.

Clara Oleson