Minnesota Cities’ Wish List for Stimulus Money Raises Questions

Golf Clubhouse, Skateboard Park, and Tennis Courts Among 10 Worst Requests

St. Paul, MN—As the federal stimulus package continues to balloon closer to $1 trillion on the fast track to passage, the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota released a top ten list of the worst funding requests submitted by Minnesota cities as part of the process.

The list includes a $1.5 million clubhouse and maintenance facility for a Roseville golf course, $300,000 to upgrade tennis courts in suburban Shorewood, and $750,000 for a state-of-the-art skateboarding park in St. Cloud.

“We were surprised to find that some communities evidently consider golf, skateboarding and tennis facilities to be critical infrastructure needs,” said Tom Steward, Investigative Director for the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota. “It begs the question: Are these public works, or public play, projects?”

Proposals from 26 Minnesota cities are among 18,750 so-called “ready-to-go” infrastructure projects totaling $149.8 billion in the MainStreet Economic Recovery Plan, released at the January 17, 2009 Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The plan pitches projects from 779 cities across the country, billed as “lasting infrastructure improvements for Main Street America.” All senators and congressmen have received the report and the mayors group has met with President Obama and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.

While many requests focus on basic infrastructure projects like bridges, roads, schools, and government buildings, a FFM analysis also revealed proposals for taxpayer-supported “traffic calming” elements and public art in St. Paul, a greenhouse gas tracking program in Burnsville, and nearly 13,000 new water meters for St. Louis Park residents.

“This only scratches the surface when it comes to all the proposals pouring in from cities, counties, and states for stimulus funding,” Steward said. “There’s a frenzy to submit so-called ‘ready-to-go’ projects for stimulus funding. Unfortunately, some projects on this list are ready to go no further than back to the drawing board, if not the recycle bin. These dubious requests underscore the urgent need for greater scrutiny and absolute transparency in this process across the board.”

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