Taking economic development advice from an asbestos lawyer is akin to Tony LaRussa asking Cubs management how to build a World Series champion.
But John Simmons, whose infamous East Alton lawsuit machine deserves so much of the credit for Southern Illinois' anti-business reputation and resulting lack of job growth, has emerged as consigliere to Governor Rod Blagojevich on local job issues. His solution to our economic woe: bread and circuses... er... baseball.
"It's a good idea," said Blagojevich, gloating at a press conference last week, announcing there will finally be a minor league team in 17,000-strong Marion.
It's also a "good idea" for an ambitious politician like our governor-- he truly thinks he'll be president, someday-- to cozy up to a guy with pockets as deep as Simmons, no matter how he filled them. So at a time when money's tight, Blagojevich decided to shove $4 million in scarce state dollars at a 4,000-seat ballpark.
That's John Simmons' 4,000-seat ballpark. No doubt, he'll someday return the favor-- the state hand-out represents a 400% return on the $1 million he has donated to Democrats in recent years. In total, it's a cool $1,000 per-seat.
Imagine that-- when schools are pleading and we cannot pay our nursing homes on time, the state somehow finds millions for a wealthy lawyer's self-aggrandizing pet project.
Maybe Simmons knows more about business than we think?
Either way, now we can all pay homage to the goateed 38 year-old, so proud of the career that made him filthy rich that he devotes but two short sentences to it in his nine-paragraph "Team Owner" biography.
As for the governor, he can brag about the economic "impact" of this bush league team, which will do no more than pull local dollars from the local bowling alley, movie theatres, and that competitor in Sauget, which now draws fans who might find Simmons Stadium a shorter drive.
This dynamic duo think they have a winner. That's for them. For the rest of us, we'll keep waiting for actual pro-business policies that reap the real thing.