Thursday, February 12, 2009

Skate Plaza Stimulation

Some of you may have seen that my son's skate plaza project has been in the news recently. Only this time, for a different reason.

The Setup

Last fall, mayors nationwide were asked by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to submit a list of what was termed "shovel-ready" projects, along with the cost of each project. "Shovel-ready" refers to projects where if funding was available, would be ready to start within 90 days or less.

Upon completion of the lists that were gathered, the conference published a report that showed all the requests from the cities that participated. Here is a summary from the report:

Today The U.S. Conference of Mayors releases the fourth in its series of reports on
infrastructure projects that are “ready to go” in cities across the nation – projects that meet local infrastructure needs and contribute to local economic development goals, that can be funded quickly through existing federal channels and start quickly when funding is received, and that can generate the significant numbers of jobs that are needed to counter the severe economic problems we face today in our metro areas and our nation as a whole.

Today we are reporting that, in 779 cities of all sizes in all regions of the country, a total of 18,750 local infrastructure projects are “ready to go.” These projects represent an infrastructure investment of $149,758,339,126 that would be capable of producing an estimated 1,604,371 jobs in 2009 and 2010. These are the cumulative totals of projects, required funding, and jobs to be created that have been reported in the four surveys of cities conducted by the Conference of Mayors over the past three months. The populations of the 779 cities submitting projects total 77,946,664.
As asked, our mayor supplied this list. In all 32 items were submitted for St. Cloud:

click to enlarge

As you can see, the skate plaza was listed as one of seven Community Development Block Grant improvement items as defined by the Conference of Mayors
Community Development Block Grants – CDBG would be used to create jobs through: the construction of public facilities and improvements, water and sewer facilities, streets, and neighborhood centers; the conversion of school buildings for eligible purposes; activities relating to energy conservation and renewable energy resources; and assistance to profit-motivated businesses to carry out economic development and job creation/retention activities.
The "List"

On January 28, Tom Steward, from the Freedom Foundation of MN, created this list which he calls "10 Worst Economic Stimulus Requests Made By Minnesota Cities." And topping his list as the #1 worst request was... you guessed it - the St. Cloud skate plaza project.

Steward's entire "10 worst" list was nothing more than what he thought were bad ideas for ways to use stimulus money. The items on his list were cherry-picked out of hundreds of MN submissions and were presented completely out of context. Unfortunately, it was an easy target for the media.

The Backlash

Immediately upon release of Steward's list, our local media decided to give it credibility and run with it. In no time at all, the idea that the federal government would be spending all of the stimulus money on skate parks and tennis courts hit a national nerve and got legs.

Suddenly St. Cloud became the poster child for irresponsible funding requests. In only a matter of days Minnesota's Governor Pawlenty, MPR and Fox News were ranting about this issue and adding fuel to the fire - prompting Sean Hannity himself to write an article called Skateboard Parks Will Revitalize the Economy? in which he stated, "Perhaps Speaker Pelosi can explain how skateboard parks will revitalize the economy."

The Reality

The reality is that all of this has nothing to do with irresponsible spending. Our Mayor was only doing as he was asked and had no illusions that the skate plaza was going to receive stimulus package money. Here's how he states it:
“We were asked to submit a list of every possible project we have that could be ready to go in 90 days or less,” [St. Cloud Mayor Dave] Kleis said. “We didn’t prioritize the list. If we had, those items would have been on the bottom.”
In fact if you look, you'll notice that he simply listed the projects alphabetically by Program type.

The good news for Austin and his project is that this media hype does not affect the skate plaza in any way. It is still being funded through private donations and will still use a portion of the 1/2 cent sales tax that St. Cloud voters approved 3 years ago for park improvements, regardless of whether or not it receives federal funding.

But really, if the federal government decides that city improvement projects such as this one, which would employ local construction workers and use tons of area concrete and steel, are good for the economy - should St. Cloud turn the money down?

I can't imagine why.


Caron said...

Oh good grief! "They" complain that folks are out of work, and teenagers are "always" making mischief. Heaven forbid there be a simple solution to both. There might not be anything to complain about....

Kurt Schroeder said...

OF COURSE this was bound to happen to your son Jeff. It was in the cards for him to have a very personal reason to hate Fox News. Please remind Austuin that there is no such thing as bad publicity, Please suggest that he call someone at Thrasher and do an interview or maybe even try to get someone like Tony Hawk to comment on it. Please don't let the publicity die on this. It's ONLY good.

Kurt Schroeder said...

I couldn't wait, Jeff. I sent a note to Thrasher myself.

First ABC News PERSON OF THE WEEK, and now Austin's project is on Fox News! Next thing you know Sarah Palin will invite him for some fresh heli-mooseburger!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kurt. Time to get on the horn. How about a Charles Gibson interview with Austin and the Mayor?

Unknown said...

Reposted. There is far too much knee-jerk gut reaction from everyone these days. We could all take a lesson from this.

Idaho Dad said...

It always amazes me how angry people can become when it comes to tax money and children. And yet that may just be the best investment we can make.

I'm not a skater, but I can clearly understand the importance of recreation, physical development, and giving kids something to focus their energy on.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

caron - Ain't that the truth. :-)

kurt - Thanks for your enthusiasm toward this issue. I hope you're right about the publicity thing ;-)

bill - We were trying to wait for more construction progress before we contacted the press. I guess the press couldn't wait.

gette - Thanks for reposting this story on your blog. Like I said, we'll take all the support we can get!

idaho dad - That's so true. And in tough economic times, parents can't afford to entertain their kids as much which leads to more teenagers wandering around trying to find something to do. A skate park provides exercise at a community gathering spot where kids can stay out of trouble. Especially a free one like ours!

Kathy said...

Oh, Jeff. Sorry the story grew tentacles like that. I guess that's spin for ya.

Elizabeth said...

How ridiculous. What does Austin think about it all?

Heather said...

I hope Austin isn't discouraged at all.

Anonymous said...

Idiots. If the kids are skating, they're not breaking into your house.

Someone needs to torture Sean Hannity by reading one of his own books to him. Douche.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

kathy - Yes, fear does create interesting imaginary monsters.

elizabeth - Austin's not fazed by it a bit. See my answer to Heather here next.

heather - He's fine. He knows very well how the media and political process works on these kinds of matters. He's been on the Park Board for 3 years now so nothing surprises him anymore.

doug - I agree. A skate park is a very valid social solution for kids. Especially in a town like ours where there's absolutely nothing else for them to do.

Anonymous said...

The kids are going to be paying for this stimulus crap long after we're all dead, so they might as well get some fun out of it.

Mom Thumb said...

Everyone has their own agenda. When we were in our capital campaign there were people in the city government who were trying to discourage people from donating, saying that our shelter kids should instead be in jail. We're not talking about kids who are committing crimes, unless it's a crime to live with meth addicted parents or watch your siblings being murdered or to be abused in any number of ways.

Argh, it makes me so angry. I'm glad that Austin is unfazed.

Ed said...

Did the press find your mullet picture too? Be afraid....

Dan said...

The media is an arse.

cathouse teri said...

That was way too much to read. I ain't readin' it. :)

Moderator said...

There's really not enough knee jerk reactions these days. That's what I always say.

Anonymous said...

Caron totally summed it up. This is a GREAT saga - Austin's tenacity serves as an inspiration to young and old(er) alike and should be lauded for his efforts.
Amazing how the press can take a true "only in America" type story, and turn it on its ear.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

kc - Good point. Hopefully they can figure out how to pass it on to their kids.

mom thumb - There's so much need... and so little money.

ve - No, I don't think they're capable of that kind of research.

dan - And you said I had a "fowl" mouth.

teri - Aw come on... it's worth it. Really.

grant - But there are plenty of jerks with knees. So there's that.

jon d - Hey, sensationalism sells. Whether it's true or not.

Avitable said...

It's unbelievable what people do when they're bored and trying to stir up trouble.

Meg said...

I agree with Kurt. Maybe the Hawk can help. It wouldn't take much to send his manager an email.

Roger Miller said...

Good for Austin, figuring out a way to get some publicity for the skatepark. I think when/if he gets interviewed about it, he should mention all the private donations and have a webpage that will collect money for it, and the next thing you know ol' Austin's running for president of the USA. Or the PTA. :)

April said...

Anyone blasted by Fox News is a hero in my book. Now I'm thrilled to know (sorta) two such honorees!

bon bon said...

great googily-moogily.

let's just keep decorating ceo's offices with that money then, if foxnews has no issues with that.

Doozie said...

I can think of a buttload of ways it would improve things. Not in the least, giving kids somewhere to hang out and hone their athletic abilities, exercise, fraternize and STAY OUT OF TROUBLE. Thus, staying out of juvie, staying out of the "system" and cutting way down on taxpayers having to support kids that go into loserdom because of boredom.

It's about the future, it's about our future. When are these idiots going to pull their heads out and start with our kids, which are the future?

Michelle said...

Eesh. Gotta love when stuff like this blows up. Those lists are EVERYwhere. Our school district is preparing similar lists of all the things that might possibly fit the stimulus or could be done quickly, especially on the construction and tech front. They're lots of fun, aren't they?

Ed (zoesdad) said...

This is sweet! I'm glad to hear the hype will not ultimately affect the plaza and that Austin is handling it well. It's all good.