FFM Bulletin 8/3/10

Woodbury and Eagan ice rink projects make stimulus waste list

The cities of Woodbury and Eagan are receiving some national attention, but for all the wrong reasons. In a new report from Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn, stimulus-funded ice rink projects in both cities are listed among “100 stimulus projects that give taxpayers the blues.” From the report:
When it comes to keeping the local ice rink up to date, Woodbury, Minnesota does not plan to just skate by. Woodbury has allocated more than $2.3 millionto upgrade its heating systems at a local ice rink, using $503,900 in stimulus funding. Funding was provided by the Department of Energy through the energy efficiency block grant program to help install a geothermal heating and cooling system that would, among other things, “prevent heat from the roof from warming the ice surface,” and “provide heat for the west rink spectators.” The City of Woodbury hired Harris Mechanical Services to study possible avenues for moving forward with the project. Not surprisingly, the company came forward with a recommendation that it be hired to perform a $2.4 million retrofit for the Bielenberg Sports Center. Harris was ultimately hired, but not before City Administrator Clinton Gridley noted that the project carried certain downsides, including that it “does not utilize the competitive bidding process” and “replaces equipment that has not reached its useful life span.” Harris was also able to land a similar deal in Eagan, Minnesota to install a geothermal heat pump for the ice rink in Eagan Civic Arena. For this project, the Department of Energy contributed more than $1.3 million, covering about a third of the project’s overall cost. 

FFM in the news

FFM’s Jonathan Blake wrote a commentary piece for Saturday’sStar Tribune, addressing the controversy over Target’s political contributions. Excerpt: “The criticism of Target isn't about the law. It's about political ideology. Critics have blasted Target for giving money in favor of a candidate that some of the company's shareholders, customers and employees do not support. Some say that corporations have a responsibility to support the same causes and candidates as those they serve. If that's the case, shouldn't the same be true of labor unions? If so, the unions have failed that test miserably.”

FFM’s Tom Steward has a letter to the editor in today’s Star Tribune regarding misguided efforts to create government-run broadband networks. Excerpt: “While it is not difficult to make a case for the economic and social benefits that high-speed Internet access can have for individuals and communities, these benefits can best be provided by the private sector when consumer demand requires it. Virtually every time governments in Minnesota have interfered with the free market by attempting to offer their own broadband service, time and valuable public resources have been wasted.”

Steward also wrote a piece for BigGovernment.com on Build America Bonds. Excerpt: “The Build America Bonds program offers a substantial subsidy by the federal government to help cover interest payments and entice local governments to borrow money, making it the fastest growing portion of the municipal bond market. While most of the 65 bonding projects across Minnesota appear to be public improvement projects for roads and basic infrastructure, concerns have been expressed that Build America Bonds could encourage borrowing for unessential government projects, as well.”

Statehouse News Online ran a story over the weekend regarding public employee salaries in Minnesota, and includes a perspective from the Freedom Foundation. Excerpt: “Cities facing steep budget shortfalls and populist anger over administrative salaries may want to look to Minnesota.The state’s unique transparency law, which requires cities and counties with 15,000 or more people to notify residents of the positions and salaries of its three highest paid employees, can mitigate pay scandals like those in Bell, California experts say, and keep citizens appraised on spending.”


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