A week ago we wrote Kentucky TV Station Turns Against Hambo’s Ark. The tide of media opinion continues to turn against the Ark Encounter project promoted by Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed for his creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG) and for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum.
In Kentucky’s second-largest newspaper, the Lexington Herald-Leader of Lexington, Kentucky, which is the second-largest city in the state, we read Ark park mess should be wake-up call on economic incentives. It’s a column in their Business section By Tom Eblen, and there’s a comments feature at the end. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
The dispute over tax breaks for a proposed Noah’s Ark theme park is ridiculous on many levels, but it offers a good economic development lesson for Kentucky politicians and taxpayers.
He explains what ol’ Hambo’s creationist empire is all about, and what his proposed Ark project is supposed to be. Then:
This time, though, AIG wanted taxpayer subsidies. And it got a lot. But it wants more, even as the project has been scaled back because of fundraising shortfalls. The city of Williamstown agreed to a 75 percent break on property taxes for 30 years and a $62 million bond issue. The Grant County Industrial Development Authority gave the park $200,000 plus 100 acres of land at a reduced price. The state has promised $11 million in road improvements for the park’s benefit.
That’s a lot of government goodies, but Hambo isn’t satisfied. He wants more! Let’s read on:
The state also agreed to provide $18 million in tourism tax credits, but withdrew the offer after it became clear that Ark Encounter jobs would go only to people who pass the group’s religious litmus test. You would think state officials could have seen that coming. Kentucky politicians should never have agreed to these incentives in the first place. And you have to wonder: Would they have done the same for a Wiccan World theme park? Buddha Land? Six Flags over Islam?
He mentions that Hambo is threatening to sue the state over the tax rebates, and he tells us:
The sad thing is, AIG might have a case. It doesn’t help that in 2013, the General Assembly foolishly passed a conservative feel-good law that protects religious groups from vague “burdens” imposed by state government. So don’t be surprised if AIG — a tax-exempt group with more than $19 million in annual revenue and enough extra cash to rent a billboard in Times Square — argues in court that it is “burdened” by being denied millions more in taxpayer subsidies.
We didn’t know about that 2013 law. It’ll be interesting to watch Hambo argue that he’s being “burdened” if the state doesn’t give him a sales tax kickback. The column then gives some criticism of Kentucky’s economic development strategy in general, after which it says:
Sometimes, such as with the Toyota plant in Georgetown, incentives are good investments. But Kentucky has shelled out money for far more clunkers. The ark park is a great example of a clunker. It would create mostly low-wage service jobs while reinforcing the stereotype of Kentucky as a state of ignorant people hostile to science. Think about it this way: For every low-wage job the ark park would create, how many high-wage jobs would be lost because science and technology companies simply write off Kentucky?
Good column, huh? Here’s one last excerpt:
The ark park fiasco should be a wake-up call for Kentucky politicians to raise their standards.
You know that Hambo’s gotta be furious about stuff like this. How dare they say that his glorious project is anything less than the finest of all conceivable projects? Now the question is: Will Hambo react at his blog? He didn’t react to the TV station’s editorial last week. Come on, Hambo — we want to hear from you!
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