Friday, December 19, 2008

Fayetteville in National Spotlight Again

You will remember recent boasts by Dan Coody that he has single-handedly brought national media attention to our fair city. Well, he has done it again. The CNN Special Investigations Unit has singled out Coody's request for $6.1 million in federal funds to build corporate jet hangers at Drake Field as a laugable example of wasteful pork. They lump it in with a $1.5 million program to provide social workers for hookers in Dayton, Ohio, and $4.8 million for a polar bear exhibit at a zoo in Providence, Rhode Island.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors went to Capitol Hill earlier this month with a wish list of 11,391 infrastructure projects proposed by 427 cities, and those mayors claimed the proposal would create 847,641 jobs. When confronted about some of the questionable projects and asked by CNN if he had read the entire report, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz defensively said he had "read through a lot of it. Obviously, I didn't sit there and look at all 11,300 projects that were submitted." Although as president of the mayors' association Diaz was the one who submitted the package to Washington, he explained that he just didn't have the time to read and approve every project.

"I don't want the city of Rogers linked to a list that's as loaded with pork as that," said Rogers Mayor Steve Womack. "It's like a kid's Christmas list and extremely unrealistic." Rogers and Bentonville, which are not members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, are working together to submit requests for infrastructure improvements, and other area towns are submitting earmark requests directly to Congressman John Boozman. Fayetteville also has an $84,000 consulting contract with a nest of Washington lobbyists, so it might be assumed that the firm is also doing something on infrastructure that Coody thinks Boozman can't get done on his own.

Pete Sepp, Vice President of the National Taxpayers Union, did not single out Coody's request for $83,700 for Tasers or $644,000 to paint a water tank, but he called many of the requests just plain pork that would hardly qualify as legitimate infrastructure projects to create jobs. "It's impossible for any normal taxpaying American to read this and not come away scratching their head and saying, 'Wait a minute, this isn't about infrastructure,'" Sepp said. "This is about political power grabs, money grabs."

Mayor Coody said he was shooting the moon with his wish list. The problem is that likelihood of getting funding for the legitimate requests that could create jobs and rebuild our infrastructure is diminished by such inconsiderate mooning.

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