Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mesa and the Stimulus Plan

Apparently, Mesa has a big stake in the stimulus plan. It looks like the details have been decided and the final price tag is going to be $789 billion, but no update yet on how it impacts the list from this morning's article.

However, the list from this morning is more than enough to go on to see how the stimulus would help Mesa. Overall, I maintain that the plan is far too big, but there are a couple of things that I do see as the appropriate role of the Feds. Here are the areas where Mesa could benefit from the stimulus along with my comments in red:

• Highway funding, including possible federal help for the Gateway freeway. Money for that project, which Mesa had hoped to use to accelerate construction, vanished last week amid the state budget meltdown. (We mentioned Monday that Gateway would be a good place to spend stimulus money)

• Improvements for Mesa's two airports, Falcon Field and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway. (Another decent idea that would help Mesa's long term growth)

• Continued support for the Valley's light rail system. Included in that is hoped-for federal help with $8.5 million in engineering costs for extending light rail into Mesa's downtown. (Light rail is not proven, but not adverse to this if it means that Mesa could spend their transportation sales tax dollars elsewhere.)

• Money for buses, including the rapid-bus links to the light-rail line. (I can see how public transit would appeal, but the problem is that even after the stimulus is gone, this would require operations money. Probably welcomed in East Mesa, but we still see a lot of empty buses out there.)

• Immigration-law training for Mesa police officers, and numerous law-enforcement grants. (Would be heralded by many, especially those folks in the comments section who blame all of Mesa's woes on the illegals. This would also show a strong commitment to solving the immigration problem.)

• Money for the Va Shly'ay Akime project, which would restore about 14 miles of Salt River habitat along Mesa's northern border. (This is where the priorities get a little wonky. While this is a noble project, I don't think is important while hundreds of people are losing their jobs and Mesa cut their police and fire by 10%. I would rather have more police on the road over a restored habitat.)

• A Salt River trail system between McClintock Drive in Tempe and Alma School Road in Mesa. (Again, trails are nice, but this is a luxury item that we don't need right now, nor do I think it would create a lot of jobs from people constructing the path.)

• Federal environmental rules. Mesa is worried that the Obama administration may impose tougher air- and water-quality standards, some of which Jones said are already "outrageously unreasonable," creating more expense for the city. (Already cost too much and would create even more burden in a time where cities are facing bankruptcy as it is.)

• Community Development Block Grants, which Mesa uses to fund neighborhood improvement projects. (If we don't find ways to help people pay their mortgages, there isn't going to be enough neighborhood improvement projects in the world to cover up all the forclosed and for sale signs.)

• More money for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which Congress passed last year to combat blight in areas hard-hit by foreclosures. Mesa got nearly $10 million from the program's first installment. (See point above, this one seems like a better fit although I am not quite sure what they do.)

• Development of the Mesa Grande Cultural Park, which will open an ancient Hohokam settlement to the public. (The ruins have been here for hundreds of years, there is no reason that they can't wait a few more.)

• Support for Boeing Co.'s Apache helicopter program, one of Mesa's largest industries. (Goes back to jobs and sustaining one of Mesa's largest industries. If this can help them to achieve long term stability, that would be good for Mesa.)

Mesa should stick to the programs that help create jobs and sustain our long-term assetts, or have an impact that stretches beyond the year or two that the stimulus will be in effect. Part of our problem in the first place is that we have grown the government at such a large pace that it became impossible to sustain. However, once you offer something, its downright impossible to take it back.

We are seeing this issue at ASU right now, where now the citizens think its their God given right to have a university with 4 campuses. Same will go for any expanded bus service offered or neighborhood grants. Once they start, they tend to perpetuate. Anyway, it looks like the deal is done and so we will have to wait and see what is in store for Mesa.

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