Tuesday, February 17, 2009

STIMULATE THIS

STIMULATE THIS: It doesn’t take a comedian to come up with “shovel-ready” punchlines.

And it doesn’t take an especially sharp type of farm implement to uncover the bovine byproduct we’re being spoon-fed in the steam-shovel load of money being dished out to the state and local governments across the county to supposedly “create jobs”.

Because although you haven’t really heard it said much by anyone in D.C. and won’t hear it from all the county’s governors and mayors, the whole “public works project” aspect of the “stimulus” bill- being ceremonially signed as we write- won’t produce one “job” that wasn’t there already.

Thanks to the new Stimulus Watch web site there’s an actual statewide list of the local Hawai`i projects and if Kauai County is any example the registry is simply an inventory of already funded projects, leaving the money to go to wish-list, nice-to-have but don’t need-to-have local undertakings.

The shell game is the same as the one being played by the “winning” banks that used the money they got in the $700 billion TARP bailout to buy up the “losing” banks that didn’t get bailout money- like when Wells Fargo that purchased Wachovia- all so they could still pay huge executive bonuses and keep their shareholders’ pockets “shovel ready”.

The line that “we didn’t use THAT money” to buy the other bank and for all the other stuff they shouldn’t be doing is about as credible as the old joke about the guy in Las Vegas who asks a stranger for twenty bucks for food.

“No” says the stranger “you’ll just gamble it away”,

“No I won’t” says the beggar, ”I got gamblin’ money”.

According to stimulus watch, Kaua`i is asking for $102,384,000 for projects on a list of 27 undertakings, all of which have either been funded in previous years’ operating and capital improvement budgets or are on the list of projects that are to be paid for by money from the recent and upcoming bond floats..

Although the stimulus watch’s FAQ section doesn’t say anything about why the order of projects listed are presented that way, topping the Kaua`i list is, absurdly enough, $3,800,000 for the “Lydgate-Kapaa Bike Path and Associated Facility (Kamalani Pavilion) Repair”.(the links go to a page where you can “vote” on whether you think it’s a “critical” project and comment).

gw? and local newspaper readers won’t have to ask what the problems are with this one. The “bike path” -or should we say “dog path”- boondoggle has run out of the “free money” (read federal transportation money that put us at the bottom of the list for future highway funding at the time and so delaying a fix for Kapa`a traffic gridlock), as the funding was claimed to be at the time.

But here we have money for “repairs” to the path and “linear park” that was just completed a couple of years ago.

The next is a real emergency- $2,500,000 for the Aliomanu Emergency Road Repair- the place on the road to Anini where the road is about to be, and already is in places, falling into the ocean due to natural erosion

But of course it is still a controversial fix because it is a “shoreline hardening” project and although the county can claim it’s an “emergency repair” and get around Army Corps of Engineers' permitting requirements it’s not as clear how that would apply if federal funds are involved.

Also the project is being done instead of moving the road inland- a much more permanent “fix” that has been discussed but would be much more costly.

Then there’s one that has really peaked the interest of council watchdog Glenn Mickens- $2.5 million for Islandwide County Road Resurfacing Projects. Though it’s not clear what this refers to it is apparently not more money to repave the roads the right way or more often but rather represents the regular yearly road resurfacing budget.

The way we do it on Kauai`- as opposed to the right way the rest of the country uses- is a prime example of our penny-wise, pound-foolish county budgeting. We repave our roads in a substandard way so that they last half as long and require exponentially more money to maintain down the road (pun intended) as we reported on last March

Sometime in the near future we’ll run Mickens' response to this after he spent the last 15 years trying to convince the council it’s being not just stupid in it’s paving methodology or corrupt in repaving the road the mayor lives on every single year, but blind to- or perhaps complicit in- a scam where it’s apparently being shorted by the contractors who delivers the asphalt.

But this is a perfect example of what we’re talking about. All this does is free up $2.5 million dollars in the county budget so that the council can go behind the semi-closed doors of the non-televised budget process to potentially spend it on pet projects.

Skipping around there’s an already funded:
-$660,000 for an Emergency Reinforcement of Opaekaa Bridge and Puuopae Bridge,
-$12 million for the Waimea Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion,
-$9 million for the Kekaha Landfill Lateral Expansion,
-$5 million for the New Kealia Fire Station,
-$3 million for Bus Fleet Expansion and
-1 million for Bus Fleet Replacements- and a bunch of others,
all of which have been funded already in either the recent or an upcoming bond float or in recent or this year’s capital improvement budgets.

And of course there’s one that if the council has a say will probably be tops on their list-$5 million for the Historic County Building Restoration and Renovation, the subject of the apparently illegal executive session we reported on yesterday..

There’s actually not much wrong with most of these and the rest of the county projects- they are all, with a couple of notable exceptions, things the county should and needs to provide its people.

And most likely, in the context of the plummeting property values a’comin’, the money to do them will simply not be there unless the real property tax rate is jacked up to maintain the actual revenue the county has been used to receiving and taken advantage of during the land speculation boom.

The scam here is that it’s all being sold as a quasi project-specific money bill from congress to “create jobs” through some kind of massive public works project.

Rather than look at each individual project and have the local jurisdictions decide on specific projects that might not otherwise be funded (as the bill was originally intended) the sheeple in their typical media-fed fish-hook-in-the-side-of-the-mouth way rebelled against what we were told was “pork-pork-pork-pork-pork” in the form of “earmarks-earmarks-earmarks-earmarks-earmarks” every time we clicked from news channel to news channel.

That made for a “no pork- no earmarks” bill where the projects couldn’t be designated in the bill specifically and given only for needed but potentially unfunded – and dare we say it “green”- infrastructural ventures, but in lump sums for the local pols to divvy up for whatever they chose by robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Because of course, we got gamblin’ money.

If Kaua`i is any example the lack of a positive-integer to indicate the number of jobs actually created- in that they wouldn’t be there without the “stimulus bill”- then once again, everyone of us should be asking ourselves “what am I- a freakin’ idiot?”.

3 comments:

Nonyer Biz said...

Freakin Idiot? probably not. Half assed in your analysis -- most of the time.

The gross errors

Aliomanu Road doesn't go to Anini -- the 2 are separated by easily 8-10 miles. If you actually go look, there isn't an obvious inland route.

"read federal transportation money that put us at the bottom of the list for future highway funding at the time and so delaying a fix for Kapa`a traffic gridlock),"

blatant falsehood. Transportation funds for pedestrian/bike/recreational projects are from separate funds that could not be diverted. Which you well know. Reminds me of Bushian scare tactics.

Wachovia's sale was engineered by the Fed and FDIC to protect the depositor's funds. The sale pre-dated TARP. Wells didn't just get a wild hair to buy a busted bank. Your understanding of econs is no better than your geography.

The silly:

The bike path you and Mickens bleat on and on and on about is very popular and widely used. If you want to save parks money, stop maintaining dozens of ball fields that get used no more than 30 days a year for a few hours. Sell the land and use the money for something useful.

"n either the recent or an upcoming bond float or in recent or this year’s capital improvement budgets."

wonder how well those bonds would sell with tax revs cratering? Accelerating the projects doesn't mean later funds can't be used for other worthwhile projects. Give 'em the old razzle dazzle Andy. Works like a charm.

nunya said...

"stop maintaining dozens of ball fields that get used no more than 30 days a year for a few hours. Sell the land and use the money for something useful."

Sell the land? Is it private? Do the owners know? Or is it public trust land? Thatʻs right, NB, why not take the last outlets left for kids so the idiots in this state can put up some more timeshares and complain about the county taxes.

Nonyer Biz seems to have ALL the answers, Andy, and directs things personally at people who are not responsible.

Since NB is so knowledgeable about ALL things maybe he should just get a website or run for office...or oops maybe he is already in office. The half cocked analysis is an indicator.

As far as the bleating bike path, thatʻs exactly what it is. A stupid, unplanned waste of everything. Designed for people who need a concrete slab to guide them on their journeys to nowhere.

Nonyer Biz said...

lets see

ballfields rarely used - good
bike path heavily used (and by kids as well as adults) -- bad
Golf Course sucking up $1 million a year -- good for old geezers paying 1/10th the going rate, tough rocks for the rest of us.

Glad I'm so twisted in my thinking.

I fully support ballfields. It just amuses me no end that the mighty "coach" wets his pants over a heavily used asset but would defend to the death the little used baseball fields. The kids seem to much prefer the skateboard park. Must be a mote in my eye....