Vital Infrastructure = Tennis Courts, Aquatic Centers, and Dog Parks

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America's mayors have $73 billion in "shovel ready" infrastructure projects just waiting to be funded by a new federal government stimulus package. In today's Wall Street Journal, Reason Foundation founder and director of transportation policy Robert Poole takes a look and finds that the mayors spell infrastructure as "P.O.R.K." What vital projects do they seek to fund?

On Monday, the U.S. Conference of Mayors went to Capitol Hill to ask for a handout, or as they put it: "We are reporting that in 427 cities of all sizes in all regions of the country, a total of 11,391 infrastructure projects are 'ready to go.' These projects represent an infrastructure investment of $73,163,299,303 that would be capable of producing an estimated 847,641 jobs in 2009 and 2010."

A wish list that is 11,391 projects strong! What vital infrastructure projects would cash-strapped taxpayers get for their $73 billion? Here's a sampling:

– 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.

And you thought infrastructure investment meant roads, bridges and schools. It is clear that any infrastructure stimulus money given to the country's mayors will lead to thousands of tennis centers to nowhere.

Forget about crumbling bridges, leaky water and sewer systems, and massive traffic congestion. Mayors prefer to cut ribbons in front of shiny new projects rather than fix up potholed highways, rotting bridges, grungy airports, and the like. Our infrastructure needs are great as Poole notes:

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…

…we could eliminate severe congestion in all of the nation's urban areas for $21 billion a year—less than we are spending on transportation today, and $52 billion less than the mayors just asked for. And by investing in the right projects we'd save 7.7 billion hours each year.

Reducing traffic congestion, which costs Americans well over $63 billion a year in wasted time and fuel, should be a primary criterion for any transportation project that is funded. Our economy depends on it.

Whole Poole op/ed here. reason online editor Nick Gillespie decries the mayors' pork barreling here. And true policy geeks can dig into the Reason Foundation's transportation research here

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  1. as someone who is pro-infrastucture spending right now, and totally a shill for building sweet highways and bridges, EWWWWWWWW.

    this is not infrastructure! infrastructure is the boring, mundane shit that you NEED. like water treatment facilities, transportation, and fixing the shit we already have. i swear that the people who control these projects are fucking sponge-heads whose silly entertainment projects will be approved and surely will go overbudget.

    oh, and another bridge will collapse during rush hour.

    dunderheads!

  2. Hey! You didn’t mention Missouri. MODOT intends to to be the first hog at the trough.

  3. An American from the 19th century would ask: Why don’t they just pay for it themselves?

    Today he would be laughed at and called a libertard, or something equally inventive.

  4. I predict that over the next half dozen years at least, the road to DC will be clogged with more lobbyists and special interests than we’ve ever seen in history. Ever.

  5. My infrastructure plan:

    Name everything after some member of the Kennedy clan.

    Recently the wife and I drove from Manhattan to JFK, over the Triborough Bridge. The Triborough Bridge, approximately 300 signs, flags, banners and billboards informed me as I dozed in the passenger seat, is now the Robert Francis Kennedy Bridge. Someone had to make those 300 pieces of infrastructure. Someone had to erect them. Someone had to write the text (“I see things that aren’t and ask why not” doesn’t write itself, after all), and that someone needed an editor and a proofreader. That’s alot of jobs, people, and they are sustainable jobs, because after we name everything after a Kennedy, how long will we be waiting before we want to rename that stuff after an Obama?

  6. I predict a long, bitterly satisfying 4 years of saying “I told you so” for libertarians of all stripes.

  7. James Madison is rolling over in his grave.

    The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified and enumerated in the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers, or that it falls by any just interpretation with the power to make laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution those or other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States.

    “The power to regulate commerce among the several States” can not include a power to construct roads and canals, and to improve the navigation of water courses in order to facilitate, promote, and secure such commerce without a latitude of construction departing from the ordinary import of the terms strengthened by the known inconveniences which doubtless led to the grant of this remedial power to Congress.

  8. Warren,

    I hope that project isn’t anything like MODOK, because I really object to my tax dollars being spent on something like that.

  9. What’s the cure for what ails our auto industry? Flying cars.
    What would render meaningless our poorly maintained roads and bridges? Flying cars.
    What would prove that America was still on top? Flying cars.
    What do we all want? Flying cars.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the flying car. The flying solution to all of our troubles.

  10. ProL,
    I personally prefer teleportation for short-range travel and warp drive for long range.

  11. You libertards are just being all libertarted! I HATE MY LIFE! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!

  12. economist,

    We need solutions today. We can’t do teleportation yet, so flying cars or jetpacks are the best case for now.

    If we could rip stable, safe holes in the space-time continuum, perhaps that would give us teleportation and FTL travel. That’ll be the next goal after flying cars are fully deployed.

  13. Jesus H, I’m a retard. With a small penis.

  14. La Porte, Texas, wants $7.6 million for a “Life Style Center”.

    uh oh, sounds like they want to spread ‘teh ghey’

    needs $1 million for Fruitvale Latino Cultural and Performing Arts Center

    otoh, this neighborhood seems to be already there.

  15. 24% of U.S. bridges were reported structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in 2006.

    Totally misleading. That figure includes bridges in good repair that aren’t as wide as the government codes say they should be, such as ALL the one-lane bridges on the Road to Hana that can’t be built wider because they’re built on a fucking cliff that falls a thousand feet virtually straight down.

    Got real figures on the bridges actually at risk of collapsing or having other structural failure?

  16. It occurs to me that this type of thing is how Sarah Palin made her bones, back in the day.

  17. What’s the cure for what ails our auto industry? Flying cars.
    What would render meaningless our poorly maintained roads and bridges? Flying cars.
    What would prove that America was still on top? Flying cars.
    What do we all want? Flying cars.

    Have you ever noticed all of the autos alongside the highways and byways that just died in the middle of a trip? Won’t life be more interesting when the dumber than average Americans’ cars start plummeting to earth?

    Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the flying car. The flying solution to all of our troubles.

    Including pedestrian complacency.

  18. Why don’t we just over-engineer our roads and bridges like the Romans did? Those lasted for a while.

  19. An American from the 19th century would ask: Why don’t they just pay for it themselves?

    Henry Clay would like a word.

    (just sayin this stuff ain’t new)

  20. J sub D,

    Clearly, we can’t have flying cars without total automation. That goes without saying. Unless we allow each citizen to deploy anti-flying car defenses on their rooftops. That might be an interim solution.

  21. I personally prefer teleportation for short-range travel and warp drive for long range.

    I hope you aren’t referring to that stone-age crap the Federation uses.

    Stepping disks are the wave of the future.

  22. ProL, I shudder to think of the FAA in your flying car world.

    And clearly, the solution is for us all to live in huge enclosed cities (caves of steel, if you will) and take high-speed belts everywhere. And to become severely agoraphobic, of course.

  23. Why do libertarians hate dog parks?
    I bet you aren’t on board National Pet Healthcare Insurance either.

  24. Clearly, we can’t have flying cars without total automation. That goes without saying. Unless we allow each citizen to deploy anti-flying car defenses on their rooftops. That might be an interim solution.

    I like it. Missile launches against falling automobiles would provide thousands of sustainable jobs. Write it up and submit it to the Infrastructure Developemt Agency (IDA). Make sure you assert that they are “green” missiles.

  25. How the hell did you break the name-date-link paragraph, dude? I’m looking at the source and can’t see how it could be done. Server error?

  26. And here I thought “shovel ready” was a mafia euphemism for a dead body.

  27. over the next half dozen years at least, the road to DC will be clogged with more lobbyists and special interests than we’ve ever seen in history.

    AFAIK, that’s an increasing trend and has been since the founding of the country. Easy prediction to make.

    -jcr

  28. I bet you aren’t on board National Pet Healthcare Insurance either.

    We’re also completely against National Lunch Insurance.

    -jcr

  29. Clearly, we can’t have flying cars without total automation.

    Exactly. Flying cars need to be fully robotic, and as easy to use as an elevator. A child or a drunk should be able to tell the car where they want to go, then just sit back and enjoy the ride.

    -jcr

  30. The problem with libertards is that they focus on the Federal Government. What they need to do is focus on these 427 mayors. That’s local politics where we actually have a (small but still finite) chance of changing things. We can even ally with many conservatives (and even some liberals) to stop the pork begging. “Fill potholes not pockets”.

    p.s. Crime capital Oakland is in a major financial crunch, so given the choice between lobbying for a Performing Arts Center and laying off cops, guess which they did?

  31. “oh, and another bridge will collapse during rush hour.”

    But the bridge will collapse somewhere else, and the brand new duck pond/dog run will get you re-elected. Rule of thumb: making your city look like it was built by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is a winner. Making your city look like it was built by an engineering and architectural firm is a loser.

  32. A child or a drunk should be able to tell the car where they want to go, then just sit back and enjoy the ride.

    Kind of like voting.

  33. @Pro

    “Why don’t we just over-engineer our roads and bridges like the Romans did? Those lasted for a while.”

    One word: unions.

  34. …an infrastructure investment of $73,163,299,303…

    That should be $73,163,299,302. The total was actually $73,163,299,302.50, and the bastards rounded up instead of rounding to the even number.

    …that would be capable of producing an estimated 847,641 jobs…

    And that should be 813,423 jobs, as they figured the 50 cent rounding would produce 34,218 jobs.

  35. Kolohe,
    Henry Clay also never got elected president. Though with regards to this, I like his saying concerning whether one should be more interested in being right than being president.

  36. Episiarch,

    Intriguing idea. Yet, somehow, I don’t think it’ll work without colonies on extra-solar worlds and some sort of generalized robot with strong AI.

    Anyway, the FAA will only need to worry about the occasional error in the giant Multivac computer that will run the flying cars from a single location.

  37. “And that should be 813,423 jobs, as they figured the 50 cent rounding would produce 34,218 jobs.”

    While those of us educated in standard mathematics might not understand this, it is generally accepted that the government can change reality by massaging the numbers.

  38. I have one word for the infrastructure we need:

    nukularpowerplants!

  39. “I hope you aren’t referring to that stone-age crap the Federation uses.”

    Well, J sub D, I’m sorry if I’m a little old-fashioned in this respect.

  40. I have three words for the infrastructure we need:

  41. Bottom line: I really need to meet more members of local government, I could be making so much more money.

  42. Henry Clay also never got elected president

    True. But I would argue that Hamilton-Clay ‘American System’ Whiggishness ultimately prevailed over the Jeffersonian-Jacksonian vision. The irony of the whole thing is almost a complete reversal between the ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ camps from the 19th century to today as to whom are the heirs to each respective vision.

  43. Just as an example. Democrats used to be fundementally opposed to central banking. Now, unless you go way out to fringes, the only opposition to central banking comes from the political right.

  44. They even dare to call the American System capitalism. *sigh*

  45. Fill potholes not pockets.

    Brandybuck wins the thread.

    Epi, good call on the mystery post.

    But the bridge will collapse somewhere else, and the brand new duck pond/dog run will get you re-elected. Rule of thumb: making your city look like it was built by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is a winner. Making your city look like it was built by an engineering and architectural firm is a loser.

    The real reason for all these vanity projects is that they fluff constituencies that the pol needs to keep fluffed in order to stay in office. Infrastructure just isn’t sexy, plus there’s all that eminent domain fallout.

  46. They even dare to call the American System capitalism. *sigh*

    Well, that way when the weak-assed, mixed economy system we have fails…you know like it is now… they can blame the failure on capitalism and drive even further from it.

  47. prolefeed: since you are the one who rejects the official statistics on bridges, you should be the one to put forth new numbers. After all, the numbers can’t all be based on bridges on cliffs.

  48. “Unless we allow each citizen to deploy anti-flying car defenses on their rooftops.”

    Like a quad .50 cal anti-aircraft unit?

    Cool.

  49. Gilbert,

    Sure, so long as you understand that you can only shoot them down if they’re about to crash into your house. The FAA will be releasing rules of engagement shortly before the manual flying cars enter the market.

  50. I predict a long, bitterly satisfying 4 years of saying “I told you so” for libertarians of all stripes.

    And I predict a long series of cocker-spaniel-cocked-to-the-side heads on the I-told-you-so recipients, not having one gram of an idea of why things went so wrong and why we’re doing it yet again to fix the last time we did the same thing and borked everything all to hell.

  51. Stepping disks are the wave of the future.

    You trust that Puppeteer crap?

    Never trust anyone with more than one head.

  52. “Sure, so long as you understand that you can only shoot them down if they’re about to crash into your house. The FAA will be releasing rules of engagement shortly before the manual flying cars enter the market.”

    I thought I would just establish a No fly zone” over my property and anything that came inside it would be fair game to blast.

    Kind of like that “no fly zone” we used to have over northern Iraq.

  53. I don’t mind if the feds can pay for a thousand duck ponds if they just kill those fucking behemoths in Detroit.

  54. Yeah, one wrong move, and the Puppeteers will ensure that your next step will be right into the core explosion.

    I’m more of a farcaster guy, myself.

  55. Essential Infrasture=Whatever is advocated by the faction with the most pull.

  56. Well, then, I’d better get to work on developing the flying car lobby.

  57. never trust anything if you cannot see where it keeps its brain

  58. Sorry, that last post should have said “infrastructure”.

  59. Really? I thought the TechnoCore were our friends.

  60. phalkor,
    Don’t worry. If politics or government is involved, it is likely that no brain exists. It is scientifically proven (by the Shannon Love method) that most politicians think with their livers.

  61. It is scientifically proven (by the Shannon Love method) that most politicians think with their livers.

    No, lower dude.

  62. “Gilbert,

    Sure, so long as you understand that you can only shoot them down if they’re about to crash into your house. The FAA will be releasing rules of engagement shortly before the manual flying cars enter the market.”

    And shortly after the FAA publishes said rules, the flying car makers will start offering the laser-guided smart bomb defense option.

  63. Gilbert,

    No system is perfect, but I predict that the deaths attributed to ground-to-air missiles will be fewer than those we see today in ground-car accidents.

    In any case, this is an interim solution until we can automate the process.

  64. I’d better get to work on developing the flying car lobby.

    The one sure way to prevent flying cars from becoming economically feasible is getting the government involved in developing them.

    Space shuttle, anyone?

    -jcr

  65. Well, I was kidding, after all. I just wanted to respond to economist’s “pull” comment.

    Flying cars really won’t even be considered as a mass-market option until they’ve been proven impossibly safe, I’m sure. There’s what regulation gets you–an interminable delay in getting flying cars into the market. Sad, really, because the flying car is the solution to most of our problems. Especially considering that it will be fusion powered.

  66. Sad, really, because the flying car is the solution to most of our problems. Especially considering that it will be fusion powered.

    Will they fold up into briefcases too?

  67. Excuse me for coming in very late here, but declaring this project or that “shovel ready” sets the bar pretty low doesn’t it?
    Even a project planner like joe could game that.

    Forgive me joe.

    Ruthless

  68. J sub D,

    Naturally. And, because carrying cars folded up in briefcases will take prodigious strength, the advent of flying cars will be followed by a dramatic improvement in American health.

  69. “Flying cars really won’t even be considered as a mass-market option until they’ve been proven impossibly safe”

    Well if I can’t have a flying car, then I want one of those cool rocket backpacks – and of course, the bullet shaped helment that goes with it. Just like “The Rocketeer”.

  70. I predict that over the next half dozen years at least, the road to DC will be clogged with more lobbyists and special interests than we’ve ever seen in history. Ever.

    I work for a company in DC that sells products and services to lobbyists and special interests. On the one hand, it conflicts with my conscience. On the other hand, their hiring, not firing.

  71. Personally, the porker I detest the most, because I live in a Dallas suburb perhaps, is the $350 million Dallas convention center hotel.

    There are plenty of hotels here … if we needed another one downtown, there are plenty of private firms that would build one. But one isn’t, and they won’t.

    It’s a real shame on Dallas, which used to be a pretty market-oriented city. Heck, there even used to be a television show about it.

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