Sunday, December 28, 2008

The A List (and the B list and the Q list)

It was reported this past week that Albuquerque's list of "shovel-ready" projects for Mr. Obama's stimulus package is the fifth largest (dollar for dollar) in the nation. By population (last available figures), Albuquerque is the 32nd largest city, falling way behind others like Memphis that the average person (including Mayor Martin Chavez) would name as smaller on any impromptu list.

What is on the list is even more telling. Green initiative projects are at the top, but they are projects that will not generate any long-term jobs. Once a solar panel is in place, it doesn't need to employ anyone. Yes, a streetcar would generate jobs over the long term, if we could afford the yearly subsidy to pay for it. But our population just isn't large enough. Unlike other cities the size of good old ABQ, there is no surrounding ring of large suburbs to feed it and to feed a massive public transit infrastructure. It will be a long time, longer still in a recessive economy, before this is true.

In many ways, ABQ's list is truly a wish list. We wish we were larger and more prosperous then we are, but we are not. As one city counselor put it, we are confusing economic stimulus with Santa Claus.

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Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege.