Out of Control Policy Blog

Uncle Ted

Related to this post is more evidence that a little bad press doesn't mean much if you get to keep your job:

    Citizens Against Government Waste has ranked Mr. Stevens No. 1 every year since it began calculating lawmakers' proficiency at bringing home pork in 2000. In 2005, Mr. Stevens brought home more than $645 million, or $984.85 for each Alaskan, the group says.

And yet there's always another story like this:

    Tom Wilson is faced with a problem that many city administrators would envy: How to spend $1.5 million on a bus stop.

    Mr. Wilson, Anchorage's director of public transportation, has all that money for a new and improved bus stop outside the Anchorage Museum of History and Art thanks to Republican Sen. Ted Stevens -- whom Alaskans call "Uncle Ted" for his prodigious ability to secure federal dollars for his home state.

    Mr. Wilson is prepared to think big.

    The bus stop there now is a simple steel-and-glass, three-sided enclosure. Mr. Wilson wants better lighting and seating. He also likes the idea of heated sidewalks that would remain free of snow and ice, and he thinks electronic signs would be nice.

    "It is going to be a showpiece stop," Mr. Wilson said.

    He acknowledges that the money has put him in an awkward position.

    "We have a senator that gave us that money, and I certainly won't want to appear ungrateful," he said.

    At the same time, he does not want the public to think the city is wasting the money. So "if it only takes us $500,000 to do it, that's what we will spend."

    That is still five to 50 times the typical cost of bus stop improvements in Anchorage.

    The money was contained in a $388 billion spending bill passed by Congress in November, when Mr. Stevens was head of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Here's the whole story.

(Thanks to Dan for the tip.)

Ted Balaker is Producer


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