Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

April 6, 2012

In the House of Wood

Not Going to Happen

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville —  


It is not my area of expertise to look into the future and make predictions. Look at the political endorsements I have made in the past. Almost all of them have been wrong. Nevertheless, I am quite confident that this prediction will come true. 


As we've reported, there will be an effort this summer from the Knoxville Public Library Board and other interested parties, to raise over $132,000 by Aug. 31 to purchase the former home of Dixie Cornell Gebhardt, designer of the Iowa State Flag. 


That just is not going to happen. 


Here's what IS going to happen. There will be success in fund raising, but not nearly enough to cover the $132,000 offer made. I'd say they could probably raise $50,000 if they're lucky, but even that is a stretch. 


Upon their failure, as the deadline approaches, the fund raisers will turn to the Knoxville City Council for the rest of the money. The Knoxville City Council will most likely fold and give them the money, even if it's $100,000 or more. 


After all, this can't fail. This is a piece of Knoxville history and falls into the council's plan to expand the library. 


I hope I'm wrong. I would like to see the fund raisers succeed in earning enough money, given willingly by entities who can afford it, to purchase the home. It's just not going to happen. 


I say this because, while every fundraiser in Knoxville has seen a modicum of success, there have also been many failures. Very few have met or exceeded expectations and that's nobody's fault. I'm not saying at all that Knoxville is not generous. I know very well the good people of this town are quite thoughtful and willing to help when they can. 


The question is, how much more can they give? So many other worthy projects are also in need of financial support. The library is attempting to raise funds at the same time the Kiwanis are trying to build a playground, when the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum is trying to expand – not to mention the numerous other nonprofit, charitable organizations whose very survival depends upon donations. 


All of these projects have their hands out at a time when Marion County's unemployment rate is at 6.6 percent, which is not bad for the area, but still high for this county, known for its prosperity. People are out of work. Gas prices are high and unpredictable. Those are just things happening here at home, let alone the lunacy in Des Moines and Washington that trickles down to add on to local complications. 


There is only so much money businesses and individuals have to give. It's wrong for the library to even reach out their hands, trying to get more from them at a time like this. 


Our most successful fundraiser, Coaches vs. Cancer, raised $41,000. That's outstanding. But do you know much work went into it? How much planning, how many pieces, different fund raising endeavors, etc., added in to that total? 


Cancer is something that touches everyone's lives and Coaches vs. Cancer has become one of Knoxville's favorite causes. I just don't see that kind of connection to, or passion for, Dixie's home to inspire that level of giving. 


If there is success in “fundraising,” it will likely come from grants. State and federal grants that come from – you guessed it – taxpayer money. Even if the last chunk, regardless of how significant, comes from the City of Knoxville, there will already be heavy taxpayer investment into this and what for? So the library can expand? 


I realize library use has been up, but why has it? Because the economy's been bad and people can't AFFORD to buy reading materials or they have to go to the library to look for a job. Does it even remotely make an OUNCE of sense for the library to find a way to spend more money instead of seeking ways to cut back, and, I realize this sounds crazy, but perhaps lower individual and business tax burdens? 


In closing, I'd just like to say to the fund raisers, “prove me wrong.” Raise the money and try to do it without public funds. Rub it into my face if you're successful. 


It's just not going to happen. 


Take care of yourself and thank you for reading.