It’s raining money!

Nothing gets a politician more excited than the smell of money.

Despite predictions of doom and gloom for the nation's 2009 economy, city and state bureaucrats across the country are practically salivating for the new president to take office. These politicians know that the incoming president has promised billions in federal money to pay for a wide variety of what he calls "shovel ready" projects.

To ensure they are first on Obama's grant list, the U.S. Conference of Mayors issued on Dec. 19, a report titled, "Main Street Economic Recovery: ‘Ready to go' Jobs and Infrastructure Projects." This mammoth, 1494-page wish list contains 15,221 projects for 641 U.S. cities. The mayors claim the projects would create more than 1.2 million jobs over a two-year period. The cost for these ready-to-go and imperative projects? Almost $100 billion!

If approved, taxpayer money will be used to build solar-heated swimming pools in Hawaii, solar-heated roads in Alabama, a $600 million radio for L.A. cops and a $1.5 million waterslide in Florida. These are among what amounts to a virtual grab bag of requests from U.S. mayors.

An interesting side note is that the Dec. 19 report is actually the most recent version of their wish list. Just 11 days earlier, the same mayor's group issued another report by the same name, but that one listed only 427 cities with 11,391 projects, costing a mere $73 billion and generating only 847,641 jobs.

I suspect the first list was quickly met with wailings of "You left me out!" from the missing 114 cities. It wasn't hard to expand the demand list from 600 pages to 1500 pages, equaling $100 billion. Eleven days, another $27 billion, but who's counting?

The current mayors' wish list (subject to expansion at any time) is divided into 10 categories: block grants for infrastructure, energy and green jobs, transit equipment, streets/roads, airports, Amtrak, water/wastewater, schools, public housing and public safety. Don't kid yourself though; this isn't about jobs at all. It's all about a bunch of politicians getting their names on a bronze plaque at the base of new building (or solar-heated swimming pool).

I spent a couple hours reading through the report. Although it's organized by state and city, it quickly became apparent that some cities are more clever in describing their wants than others. Using Adobe's find function, it's easy to identify some, shall we say, unique projects. One of the most egregious demands has to be $6 million to install solar heating in a Maui, HI, swimming pool. That's just for the solar heating the pool already exists!

It's impossible to list all of those I found objectionable. If you'd like to develop your own pork list, you can download the entire report here.

Here is Brad's short list of mayoral pork:

  • $94 million for an Orange Bowl parking garage. It's not like it's going to snow. Let 'em build their own garage.
  • $4.5 million to enable Gretna, FL, (population 1,700) to bottle water in "recyclable bottles."
  • $1 million for Wi-Fi in Gretna, FL, employing three people. We could buy each household Blackberrys for much less!
  • $35 million for a music hall of fame in Florissant, MO, a town of 51,000 people.
  • $6 million for Surfer's Point in Ventura, CA, to protect the beach with natural buried cobblestone and create sand dunes. (That's, for probably six surfer dudes at $1 million each.)
  • $6.1 million to build corporate jet hangers at the Fayetteville, AK, airport. With a population of 72,000, what does Fayetteville have that requires federally funded jet hangers?
  • $600 million to Los Angeles for a "new emergency response communications system." Someone call Motorola! The LAPD wants a new radio. This may be the largest single request in the entire report. But then, it's classified "public safety," and what politician will say no to that?
  • $386 million for a Dallas hotel. Note, a few cities are going to be upset when they see Dallas getting almost $400 million for one hotel when other cities only asked for $5 million to build a hotel. Bricks and concrete must cost more in Texas.
  • $1 billion for Irving, TX. This is an interesting request. The project would allow Irving to build an entertainment complex with an office tower, a hotel and a retail complex. The overall $1 billion total cost has been cleverly hidden by breaking it down into three smaller $350 million projects assuming you think $350 million is a small project. One could assume the city will derive rental revenue from all three of these projects. We pay for it; they profit.
  • $6 million to Boulder, CO, so they can modify 60 (currently owned electric) cars to plug-in electric. That's $100,000 per car just to modify it! The city could buy 300 cars for the same money, but then, they wouldn't be "green."
  • $50 million for 24 miles of solar heating for roads in Edwardsville, AL. Sun-powered roads in Alabama?
  • $37 million for an "electric solar enhanced scenic railroad" to support local vineyards and tourism in Edwardsville, AL. Edwardsville has a population 194. So, fewer than 200 people could get almost $40 million!
  • $85 million for a "solar powered parking structure" in Long Beach, CA. Could you please tell me what constitutes a "solar-powered garage?"
  • $50 million to put "solar panels on the Orange Reservoir" in Orange, NJ. I'm not kidding; that's the request solar panels for a pond.
  • $532 million to build "Double Eagle Concentrated Solar Plant,100 MW" in Albuquerque NM.
  • $40 million to Long Beach, CA, to collect used cooking grease from local restaurants for use in developing biodiesel fuels. Man, that's a lot of French fries. This project stinks all the way to Kansas.

Who was it who said, "A billion here, a billion there; pretty soon you're talking real money."

Folks, you, me and our children are going to be paying for this boondoggle spending for decades. Something has to be done before it's too late ...

Call your representative. Plead with them ... Beg them ... Tell them ...

Broadcasters need a bailout too!