Iowa’s top elected officials traveled to St. Louis, Missouri this morning to defend the Rock Island Arsenal in a hearing of the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Senator Charles Grassley led the delegation that stated it’s case against the proposal to move 17-hundred jobs from Rock Island to Michigan and Ohio. “The hearing went very, very good. Now when I say that, I don’t say that because there was any indication from the commissioners themselves that they were gonna make any decisions in our direction, because quite frankly, they’ve got to have two months of hearings like we’re going to be having today, and they’re going to be all over the country, and they’re dealing with 30 different bases,” Grassley said. Grassley says he was impressed with the bi-state approach Iowa and Illinois took to the issue. Grassley, a republican, was joined by the rest of the Iowa Congressional delegation and Governor Tom Vilsack. He says the Iowa and Illinois Congressional delegations made a bipartisan presentation to the commission. And he says they were followed by, “Quite a blue ribbon group of people from labor, business, economic development, the political leaderships of several cities, and it’s a real community approach that I think is very impressive upon the commission.”
Grassley says he believes they made a good economic argument for keeping the jobs at Rock Island. He says you have to think in terms of moving a lot of jobs from Rock Island to Detroit to do the same thing they’re already doing. Grassley says, “Detroit’s got a higher cost of living, so the federal employees are going to be paid more than they are in Rock Island. There’s not enough parking, there’s not enough housing, there’s office space that’s gonna have to be built. And this all in light of the fact that we’ve got outstanding facilities already in existence.” Grassley says it’ll be at least two months before they know if their pleas worked.He says he assumes they’ll find out when the final report goes to the President on September 8th. Grassley says history has shown that the commission has changed 15 to 20-percent of the initial recommendations.
The head of a Quad Cities delegation says he feels pretty good about the presentation too. Thom Hart is a former mayor of Davenport and the president of the Quad-City Development Group, which went to argue against the Pentagon’s plan. Hart says the group told the hearing that some of the commission’s recommendations don’t save money, and some of them actually would cost more if the changes were made. He says, “You ought to meet the criteria established here, which is to save the government money, not cost money.” Hart says he listened to some other cities make their case against the cuts, and feels pretty good about his group’s presentation.The development group “argued the business case, and that’s what this is, about reducing costs,” he says. Hart says he’ll be meeting with BRAC staff members in the coming weeks.