In the “Tower of Invincibility,” Republicans think they have found an exploitable weakness in Gov. Chet Culver’s big bonding plan.Instead, they’re showing emptyheaded, inchdeep partisan politics.
The tower is a 12-story office building planned by folks in Vedic City, the southern Iowa town built on the principles of transcendental mediation.The governor’s office told communities to submit any and all ideas for using a potential $750 million pot of infrastructure money. Vedic City sent in its tower.
Once the list became public, Republicans eager to shoot down the Democratic governor’s signature legislative proposal swiftly wielded the “Tower of Invincibility” as a weapon. Right-leaning Web sites carried snide banner headlines. The words “exposed” and “scheme” were tossed around. It’s just like Congress, they said, greedy, unpopular Congress.
But is it fair to scream “pork” in this crowded political theater? Nope.
For one thing, the tower and a handful of other projects Republicans latched on to were among nearly 4,000 projects taking up 227 spreadsheet pages. Along with a handful of items that make you go, hmmm, there are scores of road projects, wastewater system upgrades, school repairs, etc.
It paints a pretty good picture of why Culver’s bonding idea is largely a good one – because this state’s infrastructure is badly in need of repairs. Culver deserves credit for trying to do something about it.
But not in the scorched earth world of 2009 GOP politics, where everything that government touches is bad, wasteful, silly and open to sound-bite scorn. Everything is pork. Monitoring volcanoes, important genetic research using fruit flies – it’s all a punch line.
I’m certainly not saying that the government doesn’t waste money on stupid stuff. And vigilance is a good thing. I have no problem with Republicans making principled arguments about bonded debt and its future consequences.
But when you start using tactics that assume we’re vapid and stupid, that we’re not interested in the details, only in clever spin, that’s where I draw the line.
Because once you drive past the “Tower of Invicibility,” you’ll find the Anamosa School District trying to make its high school accessible to the disabled and replace a 102-year-old middle school. You’ll see efforts to upgrade aging pieces of the rural power grid, to establish passenger rail service to Chicago and make badly needed storm sewer upgrades in Cedar Rapids.
You’ll read that tiny Blanchard “is without an adequate sewer system.” Yeah, pork. Ha ha.
All this GOP angst is just noise. They don’t have the votes to stop it. Really, only Culver can screw this up.
An 11-member board is planned to decide how this money is spent. I hope it runs like the first few years of the Vision Iowa Program, which I think is one of the most successful state programs in history. We need tough, independent-minded people to put applicants through their paces. A team of rivals, perhaps.
But if the governor packs it with cronies and political patsies, it could be a boondoggle yet. He may win a great victory, but in politics, nobody’s invincible.