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December 18, 2008

Polar Bear Pork?

Posted: 09:39 AM ET

When you think of critical infrastructure projects, what do you think of? I would guess, most people think of crumbling roads and bridges, or renovations to schools and water treatment plants. Recently, the U.S. Conference of Mayors created a list of “Ready to Go” jobs and infrastructure projects. It’s more than 800 pages long. The group believes emergency federal money should be used to help start around 11,300 critical projects, and it’s asking Congress for $73 billion.

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But the report seems to read more like a wish list for cities throughout the country. If you read the list carefully, you will find plenty of projects that are raising red flags. We found cities asking for millions of dollars to build skate parks, horse trails, a duck pond, and a dog park. We also found cities asking for a new, $1.5 million ride at a water park, a nearly $5 million polar bear exhibit, and a $20 million minor league baseball museum.

Don’t get me wrong, these projects all sound great if you live in that community, but should the federal government be using emergency money to pay for a $3 million mural in Long Beach, Calif.? My producer and I contacted many of these cities to ask about their projects, and all of them felt they were critical infrastructure projects, though several city officials told us these new projects would not necessarily create new jobs.

We noticed on the list a proposed project in Fayetteville, Ark. Officials there are asking the federal government for $6.1 million to build new hangars for corporate jets. We asked the director if they had any corporate jets using their airport, and he told us not yet. But just like the movie "Field of Dreams," he said, "If you build it, not only will they come, they will fight over it." So, what do you think? Does this smell like pork to you? Let us know your thoughts.

Filed under: Abbie Boudreau • Special Investigations Unit


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December 5, 2008

America's Worst Highways and Bridges

Posted: 03:03 PM ET

Are we a nation of procrastinators?  Why is it that so many of us – even our very own elected officials – seem to wait too long before addressing a problem they may have known about for years? 

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In this case, America's infrastructure is literally falling apart.  It's not a new problem, it's an old one.  And it's one many transportation officials say has been overlooked and ignored for years. 

Fast forward to now.  We have roads and bridges decaying, and because state officials have opted not to spend enough money to rebuild and fix America's eroding infrastructure over the years, we are faced with one big question:  How do we fix the problem without the billions of dollars necessary for the fixes? 

Well, some officials say the answer is to ask the federal government for more money – a bailout of sorts for states to fix their roads.   Many transportation officials say not only would it be a good idea to ask Congress for money to make road repairs, but it would also stimulate the economy by creating millions of new construction jobs.

Critics say that it's a horrible idea.  Pete Sepp from the National Taxpayers Union argues states and localities should not be rewarded for making "careless budget choices."  He believes only the private sector can create lasting jobs that can sustain the economy.

Regardless of who is right or wrong, the one thing for certain is the worsening condition of our roads.  I'm sure I'm not the only one dodging potholes and worse on my way to work.  I'm curious about the roads in your community. 

Please send us pictures and videos of problem roads or bridges in your neighborhood.  We would love to take a look.

iReport.com: Are roads and bridges crumbling near you?

Filed under: Abbie Boudreau • Special Investigations Unit


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