U.S. Gives Anchorage $1.5M for Bus Stop
The city of Anchorage, Alaska is faced with an unusual problem: How to spend $1.5 million in federal money for a bus stop.
Tom Wilson is faced with a problem many city administrators would envy: How to spend $1.5 million on a bus stop. Wilson, Anchorage’s director of public transportation, has all that money for a new and improved bus stop outside the Anchorage Museum of History and Art thanks to Republican Sen. Ted Stevens Ã¢€” fondly referred to by Alaskans as “Uncle Ted” for his prodigious ability to secure federal dollars for his home state.
We have a senator that gave us that money and I certainly won’t want to appear ungrateful,” he said. At the same time, he does not want the public to think the city is wasting the money. So “if it only takes us $500,000 to do it, that’s what we will spend.” That is still five to 50 times the typical cost of bus stop improvements in Anchorage.
The money was contained in a $388 billion spending bill passed by Congress last November, when Stevens was head of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Citizens Against Government Waste has ranked Stevens No. 1 every year since it began calculating lawmakers’ proficiency at bringing home pork in 2000. In 2005, Stevens brought home more than $645 million, or $984.85 for each Alaskan, the group says.
Robert Byrd would have won that title more than a dozen times in his day. Indeed, the outrage isn’t so much that we’re paying 150 times the going rate for a bus stop–although that’s admittedly a bad thing–but that we’re paying for a bus stop at all. How in the world is that related to even a loose interpretation of the responsibility of the federal government?
Further, even if one thinks the Feds should be in the business of handing out largess, one would think Anchorage would have better uses for $1.5 million. Surely, it has bridges that need rebuilding, roads that need building or refurbishing, schools that need roofing, and so forth. Some of those things even involve interstate commerce.