Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Can't win for losing

Arizona Congressman John Shadegg (R) is taking heat from local government officials and even a few constituents over a decision he made not to earmark Federal Highway funds for work on the Interstate-17/Happy Valley Rd Interchange in the North Valley. Phoenix officials have made a point of making it known to members of the state's congressional delegation that this particular project was a high priority.

When we were looking for a home 3 years ago, we considered a couple of listings in this general area. Happy Valley Road, especially at that time, was about as far north as you could go and still be in town. This interchange existed then, but the plan was for more development to the north and east (see Tramonto off AZ-74, 1 mile north). One of the reasons we didn't pursue a home in the area was my wife's almost instant aversion to the traffic circle at I-17/Happy Valley. She's not alone: Marilyn Kalandek, who lives about 1.5 miles from the roundabout, says she goes out of her way to avoid it and said it is plagued by "fender-benders.""I cringe every time I hear a firetruck going by," Kalandek said. "It's really dangerous, and it especially frightens me at night."

Shadegg and fellow Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake, refused to earmark Federal funds for this because they felt it was a typical pork project:

He and Flake argue that this money is too often allocated for questionable projects based on political influence rather than the needs of the country as a whole. Shadegg has called the bill a "pork-stuffed budget-buster that shortchanges Arizona."

Meanwhile, city officials were under the impression that Shadegg had agreed to fight for money and funnel any he 'won' to this project. The result is a couple of angry City Council members and some aggravated area-residents who want to see the project completed sooner and not later.

This appears to be a textbook example of Pork politics. The state and city haven't and or can't find a way to complete all the proposed construction of this interchange and so have, not surprisingly, run to the Federal coffers for extra cash. They've been turned down on this go around and have got themselves in a snit over it.

I agree with Keith Ashdown of the D.C.-based Taxpayers for Common Sense, whose quote ends the Republic piece:

"It's an interesting case. In a sense, Shadegg is among the first to unilaterally disarm from this (earmarking) process, and there's collateral damage to his local communities," Ashdown said. "But you've got to respect him for taking a stand that this appropriation funding has to go through a better process."

Indeed. Sometimes irony is so...ironic. When we live in a time when people are screaming about the way money gets tossed around by the Federal Government like candy, it strikes me as odd that people will condemn an effort, however small, to trim a piece of pork.

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