By Bill Barnes
The debate concerning a possible Cedar Rapids casino has become very passionate. To debate this issue in a public forum is productive and creates much needed dialogue. Negative campaigning and disingenuous personal attacks, though, are inappropriate.
The negative characterizations of Steve Gray and his team are an
unnecessary element of this debate. I have known Steve for 20 years and can say with conviction that the plan to bring a casino to Cedar Rapids is driven by Steve’s desire for the betterment of Cedar Rapids through increased employment opportunities and revenue. Steve has given greatly to his community over the years. He is always a willing supporter of charitable endeavors and his support for these charities is always meaningful.
I strongly believe that a casino could create 600 jobs in Cedar Rapids, including 130 short-term construction jobs. On an annual basis, $2.4 million for charitable causes and $5 million in tax revenue could be created. I believe these numbers because TMG Consulting, which completed the market assessment, has tremendous experience in these projects. Where else can our county generate those kinds of dollars, and why should our surrounding counties enjoy those dollars that we also desperately need?
I understand the opposing side to this debate and their opposition to gambling. I personally do not find gambling appealing. I do, however, enjoy visiting casinos and taking part in the other offerings they provide. Entertainment, live music and new restaurants within a riverfront venue are needed here, not only to be enjoyed by those calling Cedar Rapids home, but by those considering a move to Cedar Rapids as well.
I ask those voting “no” to consider the positive changes a casino would bring to our city. Change, while often difficult and imperfect, can be good. A casino in Cedar Rapids would be no exception.
I appreciate Steve Gray taking a leadership role in making this happen. I urge all voters to focus on the merits of a casino venue and not the personal attacks from opposing casinos.
When you focus on the facts, I believe you will join me in supporting a new venue for us all.
Bill Barnes is a principal with LimoLink International (a company that employs 160 people in Cedar Rapids), Moss Enterprises of Des Moines and Linn County and Ovenly LLC of New York City. He serves as a trustee to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org