This morning I am getting ready to go on the air for my weekly segment on KAXE (I am their Republican commentator on the "Making Sausage" segment Thursday AM) when I stumble across this bit of news regarding Minnesota's Michelle Bachmann, Republican from our 6th Congressional District, regarding her support of the $668 million bridge over the St. Croix. A quick Google search and I confirmed, from Bachmann's own website, that she is backing the project.
"The time for the Bridge to be built has come. Special interest groups have been invited to participate in discussions and instead chose to stop progress at any cost. I’m here to let you know that I will be sending a letter to Interior Secretary Salazar and Director of the NPS Jonathan Jarvis calling on them to immediately appeal this court decision. Also, I will be introducing legislation later this week that would permit the construction of the Bridge. If passed, this would render Thursday’s ruling irrelevant.
Bachmann is a lightening rod for controversy. We are not writing about her to get a cheap jolt of energy but to illustrates just how deep our national problem is here.
This past Monday we detailed just how financially wasteful this project is. At $668 million, it generates no financial return to the taxpayer. It is another mindless DOT project oblivious to the cost and benefit but proceeding under the assumption that curing congestion - at any cost - is a good thing. At over $6 per crossing, the project is tremendous mis-allocation of resources.
The day after we wrote about the bridge, Bachmann, champion of the Tea Party movement protesting government spending, posts her own blog entry titled "Stop the Spending". In it she laments that the cost for servicing the national debt is rising and we need to quit borrowing so much money. She concludes by indicating:
For the sake of our country's economy, we must get our fiscal house in order and stop the reckless spending.
Here is what is remarkable, and it is both frustrating and hopeful. The St. Croix bridge project is the epitome of wasteful spending. Yet, an outspoken, fiscally-conservative member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing a fiscally-conservative part of the state can support it wholeheartedly.
The frustration is that we are so oblivious to the waste - the perceived benefit of fighting congestion is so pervasive - that even those that preach fiscal prudence believe this to be a sound project.
The reason I am hopeful is that, time and again, when people grow to understand the financial implications of this wasteful pattern of development, they stop supporting it. Strong Towns is truly the way out of the mess we are in. The St. Croix bridge project is a key opportunity to unite fiscal conservatives opposed to wasteful spending with environmentalists opposed to degradation of the landscape.
We build on that, and we can not only dramatically cut spending, we can make our towns financially stronger, make our neighborhoods more livable and improve all of our lives in the process.
That is what Strong Towns is all about.
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