The Dernogalizer

January 27, 2009

Column on Stimulus Bill

So I have a column out today criticizing part of the stimulus bill and making a suggestion. Enjoy!

http://media.www.diamondbackonline.com/media/storage/paper873/news/2009/01/27/Opinion/Environmental.Stimulus.Thinking.Like.Its.1999-3598314.shtml

Environmental stimulus: Thinking like it’s 1999

Matt Dernoga

Issue date: 1/27/09 Section: Opinion

Last year was a rough year. Layoffs at the unemployment office, foreclosures extending to our doghouses and a national debt in dollars approaching the distance in miles between the Earth and the nearest galaxy. Good news has been hard to come by. Fortunately, our elected officials are experts at spinning bad news into “good news.”

How else can local and state politicians proclaim with an infallible sense of pride that there are thousands of infrastructure projects backlogged and ready to go? The “good news” is they’re perfect for President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan. Why have we had trillions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure spending waiting for shovels to hit the ground since before I hit kindergarten? Is it because the government isn’t spending enough of your money? Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question.

Or is it because the majority of our land-use policies, transportation policies and infrastructure planning have been based on a flawed 20th century model for growth?

Our cities have been expanding at an unsustainable rate, swallowing up rural land that dares to reside on the edge. The creation of all these suburbs on the edges of cities means people and the new infrastructure they require – especially the roads connecting them back to the city – are spread out like butter on a slice of bread. This expansion took place at a pace so furiously irresponsible that governments could no longer raise the funds to upkeep the new roads, bridges, schools, firehouses or even Vice President Joe Biden’s hair plugs. All that stuff costs a lot of money.

There’s a major environmental negligence with these kinds of growth policies as well. Everyone driving to and from the city for work gets stuck in congestion. We end up with worsening air pollution, water pollution from runoff and increased gas consumption. Then, all of our local and state officials declare that we need to clean up our environment while promoting the same poor growth policies that were causing the pollution in the first place.

The majority of the delayed projects that Obama is planning to resurrect follow our 20th century growth model – that’s when they were designed. To an individual lacking peripheral vision, the stimulus money needs to go into these outdated initiatives where shovels are ready to hit the ground. But the leaders of our local governments, our state governments and our federal government need to stake a step back. Try looking at the whole picture rather than at just a single pixel.

There needs to be a conscious recognition that the way to address the economic, national security and environmental challenges we face is not by building new roads. It’s not by further expanding our cities. Poor land use and transportation decisions have driven each other for far too long. Investments need to be made that will have long-lasting positive ripple effects for decades.

Invest massively in bus transit by replacing and upgrading every single fleet of every region in the nation. The struggling automakers can learn how to make buses, right? Fast-track all of the mass transit projects in the books, and revitalize what we already have. This includes light rail, subways, rapid transit and freight rail. Make everything state of the art. This will take cars and trucks off the roads, reduce our infrastructure upkeep costs, decrease the check amounts we write to foreign countries for fuel and cut carbon emissions at the same time.

These investments should be the priority of the economic stimulus when it comes to transportation. The stakes couldn’t be higher. What do we want for our money? Good news, or “good news?” Change, or more of the same? Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question.

Matt Dernoga is a junior government and politics major. He can be reached at mdernoga@umd.edu

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1 Comment »

  1. I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

    Comment by Bill Cash — January 27, 2009 @ 7:08 pm | Reply


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