Bricks, Mortar and People
October 8, 2009 7:32 PM
There's a very well produced You Tube video out there sponsored by a local group of nonprofits.
I like the video because it starts with me in one of my better moments when I announced my capital budget proposals to build a new Central Library and to make the renovation of the Edgewater Hotel a reality. I was surrounded at that moment by dozens of trades union members who liked the 1,000 or so good-paying construction jobs that those proposals would produce.
But as much as I appreciate the attention, the video does need two clarifications. It claims that Dane County and City of Madison spending on human service programs has declined by a third over the last 10 years. Now, I can't speak for the county, but in the six years that I've been mayor, the Council and I have increased spending on community service and community development block grant programs by 42%. If you add the $720,000 we've spent on the Emerging Neighborhoods, Transit for Jobs, and low income rider bus pass programs that we've created then that increase would actually be more like 73%.
That outpaces inflation during that period by 54%. So, at least at the City we have not neglected human service spending, not by a long shot.
But the bigger flaw in the video is that it sets up a false dichotomy between investments we make in capital projects like the library and spending on human service programs. As I mentioned earlier, the library and hotel projects alone will produce more than 1,000 jobs. Even more jobs will be created by the streets that we will rebuild or by the 14 new hybrid busses we're buying for our Metro fleet. And when that library is built people from all walks of life will go there to read, use the computer, attend a lecture or go to a public meeting.
Moreover, the new value created by development on the library block and by the Edgewater will produce about $1.5 million in new tax revenue every year for the school district, the county and the city to help pay for human services spending, among other things.
Even in this tough period, my 2010 budget won't cut any human service spending. Instead, it may lessen the need for it by creating hundreds of jobs in bricks and mortar construction and healthy places for people to go, like the new library, once those projects are completed.