In December, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released the third installment of its Ready-to-Go Jobs Report that inventories infrastructure projects from cities around the country that could be started and completed in two calendar years to create more than 1 million jobs with help from federal dollars. The mayors reported that in 641 cities of all sizes in all regions of the country, a total of 15,221 local infrastructure projects are "ready to go." These projects represent an infrastructure investment of more than $96.6 billion that would be capable of producing an estimated 1.2 million jobs in calendar years 2009 and 2010. These are the cumulative totals of projects, required funding, and jobs to be created that have been reported in the three surveys of cities conducted by the Conference of Mayors.
"This report contains examples of the kinds of projects that, if funded through existing channels, would contribute significantly to the President-elect’s stated goals for infrastructure revitalization and job creation," said U.S. Conference of Mayors President and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. "However, mayors recognize that this list must go through a review process through which Congress and the new administration will identify projects eligible for funding."
Declaring a "Pork Alert," Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released a preliminary analysis of the Conference of Mayors’ list of ready-to-go projects. According to CAGW, "the mayors’ wish-list is loaded to the brim with more than 31,000 earmarks totaling $73.2 billion, four times the total amount of federal pork contained in the appropriations bills for the entire fiscal year 2008."
Following are some of the projects CAGW considers "outrageous examples" of pork:
- $1.1 billion for 41 projects to improve Amtrak infrastructure;
- $718.5 million for 54 projects directed to museums;
- $192.6 million for 12 projects directed to stadiums, including $150 million for the Metromover Extension to Marlins Stadium in Miami;
- $87 million for 56 projects for bicycle paths;
- $6 million for a reclamation/improvement project at Surfers Point beach in Ventura, Calif.;
- $1.5 million for an initiative to reduce prostitution in Dayton, Ohio;
- $700,000 to plant 1,600 trees along the sidewalks in Providence, R.I.; and
- $500,000 for environmentally friendly golf courses in Dayton, Ohio.
"It is outrageous that the mayors would use this economic crisis as an opportunity to obtain federal funding for these wasteful, low-priority projects, which apparently offer excellent photo opportunities for them, but will do nothing to stimulate the economy in the long term," said CAGW President Tom Schatz.
According to the Conference of Mayors, as an organization that represents mayors and their cities—which have their own local process for determining which projects are needed for jobs and economic development—the organization accepted each city’s project submittal and each mayor and city is responsible for its justification for putting the projects forward.
The entire Conference of Mayors’ report and individual city results are available at www.usmayors.org.