My colleague Bob Poole warned us that “Stimulus Shouldn’t be an Excuse for Pork” in an article which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on December 10, 2008. He reviewed the Conference of Mayors definition of “needed projects” and found a wish list which included 11,391 projects including: – Hercules, Calif., wants $2.5 million in hard-earned taxpayer money for a “Waterfront Duck Pond Park,” and another $200,000 for a dog park. – Euless, Texas, wants $15 million for the Midway Park Family Life Center, which, you’ll be glad to note, includes both a senior center and aquatic facility. – Natchez, Miss., “needs” a new $9.5 million sports complex “which would allow our city to host major regional and national sports tournaments.” – Henderson, Nev., is asking for $20 million to help “develop a 60 acre multi-use sports field complex.” – Brigham City, Utah, wants $15 million for a sports park. – Arlington, Texas, needs $4 million to expand its tennis center. – Miami, Fla., needs $15 million for a “Moore Park Community Center, Tennis Center and Day Care” facility. The city is also desperate for $3.6 million to build a covered basketball court and a new tennis court at Robert King High Park. Then there’s the $94 million Orange Bowl parking garage you are being asked to pay for. – La Porte, Texas, wants $7.6 million for a “Life Style Center.” And Oakland, Calif., needs $1 million for Fruitvale Latino Cultural and Performing Arts Center. As Bob Poole said “The country does indeed need to invest in critical infrastructure. We have a backlog of deferred maintenance on both highways and bridges. According to Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report, 24% of U.S. bridges were reported structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in 2006. At the current rate of repair it will take 62 years for those bridges to be brought up to date. But it won’t take six decades to fix them because the government doesn’t have the money; it will take that long because our political leaders don’t prioritize. Too often they choose ribbon-cutting ceremonies at sports complexes over repairing bridges.” Now comes an article such as the one that appeared in the Buffalo News written by Alan Fram with the Associated Press, and appearing in many papers over the Christmas Weekend. The article cites that the Bikes Belong has $2 Billion (yes that is with a “B”) of bike lane projects “ready to go” in all 50 states and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums with yet another list. As my colleague said: , “And you thought infrastructure investment meant roads, bridges and schools.” INDEED!
Shirley Ybarra is a former senior transportation policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.