For those not in the know, a con artist by the name of Ken Ham applied to Kentucky's Tourism Board for tax incentives to build a $155 million dollar theme park based upon the Old Testament account of the Biblical Flood and Noah. It is simply called the Noah's Ark Theme Park, and the site selected for construction of this theme park is in Grant County, which is about 40 miles south of Cincinnati, OH.
Grant County is rural, so it is not exactly off of a major highway or interstate. This is where the state government is needed. Ham claims that he will raise around $100 million dollars from private sources to build the Noah's Ark Theme Park, but he needs $43 million dollars in tax incentives and another $11 million for road and sewer improvements provided by the state for the proposed site. Ham promises that 900 permanent jobs will created when the Noah's Ark Theme Park opens.
Pseudo-Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, who was up for reelection last year, leaped at the chance to provide jobs, jobs, jobs during this Great Recession. Beshear figured that he could get a twofer with embracing the Ark Park. He could be known as the governor who brought some jobs to the state, and he would pander to all the fundamentalists in Kentucky with a state sponsored extravaganza of Biblical proportions.
The Tourism Board approved the tax incentives for Ham's project. Big surprise there. Beshear won reelection, but not because there was a flood of approval for the Noah's Ark Theme Park. No, it seems that even Kentucky Republicans couldn't stand the Republican nominee for Governor, David Williams.
If Republicans don't even like you, how are you going to get Democrats to vote for you?
Anyway, fast forward to the present. It seems that Ken Ham can't raise the necessary funding for the Ark Park. However, this has not stopped the state's interest in spending $2 million dollars in road improvements on Ham's project.
I had a chance to ask one of Louisville's State Representatives, Democrat Jim Wayne, about this issue at a recent Metro Democratic Club meeting. Rep. Wayne was discussing the state budget with the members, and he had said that we were no longer cutting to the bone. The state was now into the bone marrow of the budget. I asked how the state could still fund road and sewer improvements to the Ark Park when the damn thing may never be built.
My question seemed to have hit a nerve with a number of the Democratic members.
Rep. Wayne was against the Noahs' Ark Theme Park, and he encouraged me to write an email to Larry Bond, one of Beshear's staffers. This is when Jeff Noble, a state Democratic Party member at large, informed me that at a recent state party meeting the Ark Park was brought up. Seems half of the state members were against the Ark Park, while the other half thought it was fine and dandy.
The Democrats against the Ark Park are from the more urban areas of the state (e.g., Louisville and Lexington). They see the most obvious problem with the Ark Park: it's unconstitutional. The state has no business giving tax payer funding to a particular religious view.
The rural Democrats, unfortunately, are, like Beshear, being extremely cynical, or they are ignorant, intolerant yahoos. Yes, I know. The two are not mutually exclusive. Take State Rep. Royce Adams, D-Dry Ridge:
“This project will do two things for our community: It will add 900 permanent jobs at a time when they are extremely hard to come by, and it will become a worldwide beacon for those who share our faith,” he said.
Or you can be like one of the Grant County Commissioners:
Say, "Amen!" Brothers and Sisters!
Anyway, I wrote my email to Larry Bond. I was strongly advised by the Vice President of the Metro Dems, Bruce Maples, to stress ECONOMIC arguments against the Ark Park in my email to Larry Bond. So I did a little online research comparing the proposed Ark Park to an amusement park that already exists in Cincinnati, OH - Kings Island.
Kings Island is 40 miles north of the proposed Ark Park site. It has been in operation for 40 years, and it is one of the biggest amusement parks in the Midwest. On average, Kings Island gets over 3 million visitors a year. From what little I can gleam, the average yearly pay for a Kings Island employee is about $22,000 dollars.
I've been there several times, and I have always enjoyed the visits. There are rides galore, including lots of roller coasters. Oh, they have added a dinosaur exhibit to boot.
As for Noah's Ark Theme Park, it will have no rides. There will be Noah's Ark and a Tower of Babel structure. The Ark will have modern day animals going into it two by two, along with dinosaurs and maybe a couple of dragons.
The costs to the Kentucky taxpayers for lions, tiger, and dinosaurs oh my is $54 million dollars (tax incentives plus road improvements combined). Dividing 54 million by 900 permanent jobs is $60,000 dollars invested per job.
Yeah, 60 K per job. Does anybody here think that the Ark Park will generate jobs worth 60 K per year when Kings Island pays 22 K per year? Even Ken Ham thinks that he will only get about half the number of visitors to the Ark Park (1.6 million in its first year of operation). So the Ark Park will supposedly do half the business of Kings Island.
With no rides for the kids. Uh huh. Remember, Kings Island already has dinosaurs too. People are going to drive a distance just to see a replica of Noah's Ark when they can take their kids to an amusement park with rides and dinosaurs? I don't think so.
Also, the 1.6 million visitors figure for the Ark Park is complete bullshit. The Creation Museum here in Kentucky gets, on average, 330,000 visitors a year. Somehow Noah and his Ark will be a bigger draw than the Creation Museum.
I stated all of the above to Larry Bond. Frankly, I didn't think that Larry Bond would reply anytime soon, but he did. I don't know if he already had planned to do this, but Mr. Bond is coming to the next meeting of the Metro Democratic Club. Seems that he is coming to "dispel several misconceptions of the state's role" in the Noah's Ark Theme Park.
I sense that someone is about to piss down my back and call it rain.
In the end, I suspect that Kentucky taxpayers are going to get crushed when the Great Recession, fundamentalist Christian culture, and political pandering collide.