So my father was hospitalized earlier this week with pneumonia. He’s back home and doing great. But I decided to take Friday off to go home and make sure he’s getting along OK.
He turns 81 on Wednesday. Happy birthday!
But first, I stopped by the office, to wrap up a few things. For instance, I wanted to look over my Sunday column, which was already finished and in the can. Then, I got a curious email from Just Say No Casino spokesman Sam Roecker about a noon press conference with Riverside Casino and Golf Resort CEO Dan Kehl. Sheesh.
I responded, explaining that I was about to leave town, wondering what’s up? Roecker sent me a somewhat cryptic message back, saying the announcement was regarding “an alternative for the site.”
I responded again, before I departed, at 9:43 a.m. My email:
Riverside Water Park? Riverside University? Riverside Zoo? Riverside Raceway? Just spit-balling here. Thanks, Sam.
At 11:32 a.m., while I was on the road, Roecker responded.
Getting warmer – will have more at noon
Turns out I was more warm. I have the mind of a CEO, and didn’t even know it.
Six weeks ago, this would have been an intriguing alternative. A wrinkle to consider further. Five days before the vote, it’s tough to see it as anything more than a ploy. Especially after Kehl already has dropped $600,000 opposing a Cedar Rapids casino.
Two things popped into my head when my boss called me with the goods on what the announcement was all about. One was last year’s sales tax vote on flood protection, when “We Can Do Better CR” vowed to come forward with a new protection plan if the sales tax extension failed. I’m still waiting to see that plan. Any day now.
The second thing was Jim Nussle, down in the polls to Chet Culver in the 2006 gubernatorial race, accusing Culver of harboring a “secret plan” to bring back TouchPlay lottery games.
The sales tax failed for a lot of reasons. I doubt the alternative, fake flood protection plan had much of an effect on the outcome. Nussle lost big anyway, and TouchPlay remains dead.
I’m not sure desperation sells all that well with voters. And I’m not at all sure that Kehl really wants to build a water park in Cedar Rapids. If he did, and thought it was a truly good business bet, he’d have pledged to build it regardless of what happens on Tuesday. He might have bought some voter good will with such a no-conditions promise. But he tied it to a no vote only, so any fair-minded person would have to doubt the seriousness of his plans. And I do, as much as I like a fast ride down a foamy flume.
Perhaps Just Say No is looking at polling numbers that show a very close race, and opponents hope that a last-minute Hail Mary will swing some undecided voters their way. Maybe they’re right. And maybe undecided voters smell an obvious gimmick, and swing the other direction.
I figured Just Say No had the advantage going into Tuesday. Now, I’m not so sure.
But thousands have already voted absentee. Many others have made up their minds. Again, this would have made things interesting weeks ago. I’m not sure it changes much now.
As for my Sunday column, I had my very patient boss add a reference to Kehl’s gambit, but it didn’t change my core arguments or my mind. You can read that here tomorrow.