Casino proponents offer false hope

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March 28, 2014 | 11:43 am

By Gregory Stokesberry

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As I ponder the ramifications of a casino in Linn County, I’ve been thinking about the latest commercials by the “yes” people talking about the influx of new jobs that will come with same. And I think there’s something to that claim.

If we accept the accuracy of studies indicating we should expect a 9 percent to 10 percent increase in the crime rate related directly to the arrival of the casino (research by professors Earl L. Grinols, University of Illinois, and David B. Mustard, University of Georgia, published in MIT Press Journals’ Review of Economics and Statistics), and we assume that the leaders of the county’s three major law enforcement agencies are telling us the truth when they say that their current staffs don’t have a lot of spare time to take on new responsibilities, it would seem they will need to hire new officers and support personnel.

Logic would tell us that a 10 percent increase in crime would demand a 10 percent increase in police staffing. For the Cedar Rapids and Marion police departments and Linn County Sheriff’s Office, that would mean nearly 50 new jobs at a cost of approximately $2.5 million in salaries alone. With the addition of new equipment necessary, benefits, and education costs that number, could easily top $3 million. Unfortunately, none of the agency heads indicated that they had any money in their budgets for such an increase.

We certainly don’t want to forget the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Marshals, and the local, state and federal prosecutors and judges of our court system. I doubt that these agencies are particularly flush for new hires either.

And given all the social problems inherent with a casino (addiction, family breakdown, at-risk children, financial mismanagement, suicide, etc.) the need for new hires in social services would be substantial. Unfortunately, many agency heads told me they were already fighting for their economic lives and had no capabilities of bringing on any new people into their operations.

The above are just some of the sectors of a many-faceted economy for which the arrival of a casino would certainly create the need for a large number of well-paying jobs.

But who’s going to pay for them? Are we willing to throw the dice with Linn County’s future in hopes that something will come along to finance these areas of need?

Or is this just another example of false hope being offered by the casino proponents in order to hoodwink the voting populace of Linn County?

Gregory Stokesberry of Cedar Rapids is president of the South West Area Neighborhoods, vice president of the New Bohemia Group Inc., and project manager for the organization and construction of KNBO New Bo Neighborhood Radio, as well as a past president of the Cedar Rapids Neighborhood Association and member of the Neighborhood Planning Process Steering Committee. Comments: srmoore@machlink.com

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