Thursday, January 15, 2009

On the Ground: "Shovel-Ready" Means Slinging Manure, at Public Expense

Some musings from the Mayor, who is the point of the spear when it comes to Federal spending.

I wonder how Congress will define “shovel ready.” My city has a road project that is at the 60% phase on the engineering study. All the EIS and NEPA work have been done. We can be ready to go to bid in four months. The bid process could take another two months. And this is after 5 years of planning, hearings, environmental studies, etc. It could probably qualify as a shovel ready project, but it already has 93% federal funding. I will probably apply to have the other 7% funded by the Obama money machine. If I am successful, the funding will simply be for a project that would have happened without the funding. In fact, given the long lead time for such projects, I assume that all shovel ready projects will be the same way. There will be an infusion of cash to purchase projects that would have been built without the Obama cash. Of course if Obama cash funds my 7%, I can take the $200k that we would have spent on the project and spend it on something else, like chip and seal for existing roads.

I am sure every state is scrambling to get things on the list. Here is an email I received today from the lobbyist for the [STATE] League of Cities and Towns.

From: A GUY
Sent: Monday, January 12, 2009 1:27 PM
Subject: Federal Stimulus Conference Call and Survey

Hello Everyone,

The [STATE AGENCY] has received a few phone calls regarding the Federal Stimulus Package and efforts that are being made to coordinate “ready to go” projects that can be considered by the incoming Obama administration. As such, we have coordinated efforts with our Congressional Delegation to both collect and disseminate information to the delegation regarding municipal projects in [STATE] that are ripe for consideration.

The new administration is looking for “shovel ready” projects that can be undertaken within 60-180 days of a federal appropriation. While it is still unclear how Congress intends to select projects or divvy up the funds, having your project on a list in front of our congressional delegation will certainly be helpful.

Please fill out the following quick survey if you wish to have your project submitted to the [STATE] congressional delegation as a part of the cumulative efforts of the [STATE AGENCY]. We intend to submit the list within the next week, so time is of the essence

Follow this link to the survey:
Take the Survey
Or copy and paste the url below into your internet browser: [LINK REMOVED]

As an additional resource we have asked Mayor ANOTHER GUY of ANOTHER CITY to help us coordinate

He followed it with another email saying,

Hello Everyone,

In the previous survey we sent out, it only allowed for one project to be entered and does not allow for the reuse of the form. To correct that oversight and allow you to enter multiple projects, please use the following link. You should be able to reuse the link multiple times to fulfill all of the requests you wish to include.


Pretty cool, huh? Multiple projects, shovel ready. And, because of impact studies and engineering studies, ALL of those shovel ready projects, without exception, are going to be projects that were being built already.

Your tax dollars at (not) work.


John Thacker said...

Yeah, there's a handful of projects that might be moved up in time because of this, but the NEPA really makes it impossible for a "shovel-ready" project to be anything other than something that's been studied and planned for five to ten years, depending on complexity.

There are a handful of road projects that have been studied and approved but funding has not been available yet (or were cut in some of the states which actually cut spending recently.)

But in no way can this stimulus reflect real "change." NEPA means that any philosophical change now would take five years, minimum to be reflected in actual projects.

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