An iffy proposition

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Before we all get too excited about an idea to build a Buena Vista University recreation center into Scout Park, let’s consider the realities: no plans have been drawn (to our knowledge), the park is largely composed of silt from dredge infill and doubtless unsuitable for much but a Boy Scout shed and restroom and, most vexing, there is no clear title to the property.

Because it was a spoil site there is confusion as to whether it is state or city property. Part of the property, apparently, was acquired by the city through a tax sale where title was not perfected. You can’t grant an easement to something you do not own. That is the first major hurdle.

There are many others. Neighbors are buzzing about the idea and don’t like it before ink has been set to paper. We can understand. It is a unique little neighborhood along Lighthouse Drive bookended by Buena Vista and Methodist Manor. They want to preserve the neighborhood and its park-like setting.

The park is a popular spot for anglers and dog walkers. The city would like a dog park but has no money to develop one. This is one de facto dog park. It is a popular spot for ice fisherman as well. And, it adds a picturesque touch to the back corner of campus with the lighthouse on the point.

Buena Vista wants to share an expanded recreation center with the community in return for the city contributing some land. The community has tried to organize a rec center but nobody has seemed to want it badly enough. There are other private rec and fitness centers to complicate matters. This is not an offer from Buena Vista to be sniffed at. As Mayor Mike Porsch said, it’s worth looking at.

We also don’t yet know of alternatives to Scout Park that could address Buena Vista’s and the community’s needs. It is terribly hard to reclaim green space along the lakeshore once it is gone. The suggestion and resulting discussion could arrive at a better solution.

Or, Buena Vista might be able to show that it would make just a small incursion into the park that might improve the look of the neighborhood, and enhance pedestrian safety from traffic emerging onto Lighthouse Drive.

Buena Vista deserves to be heard out with a plan that could be fantastic for Storm Lake and the immediate neighbors. The city council promises public meetings where questions may be addressed. No doubt the council will listen carefully to the neighbors and those who are fond of Scout Park the way it is, and seek the best solution. It should appreciate that the university is trying to partner with the community. In the meantime, there are a lot of brambles out there that need to be cleared first.

An agency in orgy

We now understand better why the Iowa Finance Authority has no money to help develop affordable housing in Storm Lake: the employees blew it, according to a state audit revealed this week. The audit said that the IFA misspent more than $500,000 on salaries, perks and credit card use by employees. Former Director Bill Jamison was fired by Gov. Kim Reynolds, before the audit, over claims of sexual harassment. It was alleged that Jamison rented hotel rooms in Des Moines with a credit card — when he lived in the capital metro.

It demonstrates how little fiscal control Reynolds has over these agencies.

The IFA doles out tax credits to housing projects. Storm Lake has acute needs and has developers who apply, but they keep getting rejected. The rules keep changing. More money flows to Ankeny toward big developers and not to smaller projects out in the sticks. It has the feel of a greasy club where friends scratch each other’s backs and live high off the hog while our residents languish in decrepit mobile homes.

We had an election over this in November. Fred Hubbell raised these issues, along with how Medicaid is an abysmal disaster feeding only two insurance companies. Nothing gets fixed after all these audits. It apparently didn’t matter to voters that Reynolds has no hand on the rudder while the Iowa Finance Authority is throwing an orgy on our dime.

And this is the party of fiscal responsibility and moral righteousness.