Saturday, November 13, 2010

Honey Creek blues

So I’m sitting here, now that the elections are over and done with, waiting for the other shoe to drop in regard to southern Iowa’s Honey Creek Resort --- a $58 million extravaganza built with public funds by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (and administered by same) just down the road southeast of here alongside the Army Corps of Engineers’ Rathbun Lake (or reservoir if you’re a purist).

The first shoe dropped early this year when it became evident that Honey Creek had lost roughly $900,000 during its first operating year, plagued by weather-related construction delays and of course the economy. It’ll be interesting to see what the bottom line will be at the end of the year now winding down. Construction is for the most part complete, but the summer weather wasn’t especially cooperative --- nor was the economy. And places of this scale, no matter who builds them, take a while to get off the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of Honey Creek. It’s beautiful. It was and remains a social and economic engineering project that poured a rare infusion of public funds into south central Iowa, a part of the state I care about, and is intended make the region a long-term destination for more people (and their credit cards). We need both.

But if the goal had been instant financial viability, the resort would have been built nearer major population centers --- say at the Red Rock or Saylorville reservoirs --- and probably would have included a casino license no matter where it was built.

There are those who argue it shouldn’t have been built with state funds at all. I could go along with that --- if it hadn’t been built down here. I’m nothing if not a regionalist.

On the other hand, politicians tend to differ not on the advisability of welfare programs just on to whom they’re directed. Republicans, including some damn fool ones who are poor as dirt, favor making the rich richer on the theory benefits will trickle down. Democrats tend to favor infusing resources farther down the food chain and hoping the benefits will inch up. Honey Creek falls into the latter category and I don’t see why, if money’s going to be pouring out, we shouldn’t get our share.

When last year’s financial report came out, there were screeches from partisans on both ends of the spectrum: Sell that sucker or lease it out. Privatize, privatize, privatize. But who in the world, given current economic conditions, would want it --- other than the state.

So I hope we keep it (actually I don’t think there will be much of a choice about that), bite the bullet and keep working it until it flies --- and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t in the long term, perhaps very long term.


But whatever happens, southern Iowans will have very little to say about the matter. The political clout rests in Iowa’s urban centers, not down here. We have few people, few jobs and most of our creative young people who aspire to get rich, enter fulfilling professions or just live more culturally fulfilling or liberal lives, high-tail it out of here once high school’s done. The scenery, friendly (albeit aging) people and more relaxed approaches to life seem to appeal more to people of my age.

That was fairly evident in the last election --- and forget about economic matters guaranteed when things are not going well to skewer the party in power, especially when its leaders give the impression of being inept.

Look instead at the vote to oust three of the Supreme Court justices who opened Iowa to same-sex marriage. The vote tipped the other way or was exceedingly close in our urban centers, but the rural Iowans who remain behind pulled together on this one with perhaps one or two narrow exceptions. Young people, finding little to inspire them in either party, apparently stayed home in droves. Out the justices went.

So rural Iowa still can pull together, in this instance negatively, when a hot-button issue is involved, pair up with urban residents similarly inclined and win. But most issues involving rural Iowa --- rural jobs creation, rural roads, small-town and rural viability and quality of life, etc. --- are not hot-button issues for the urban majority and likely to be of marginal interest to city folks of all political persuasions. That includes the relatively modest issue of Honey Creek Resort. And even in rural Iowa, who in Winnebago County, for example, is going to give a darn about ensuring the future of a pricey piece of economic and social engineering in Appanoose County? So that’s why I’ve got a case of the Honey Creek blues.

1 comment:

Ed said...

I think the worst outcome for Honey Creek is that they would decide to sell it to a private company to wash taxpayers' hands of it. Of course it would be sold for pennies on the dollar and we would pay for the rest. That is always the way it seems to shake down with government involved.

I guess I'm like you. I wasn't in favor of Honey Creek but had it been built a little further east, I might have considered it.