Friday, December 26, 2008 - 10:19am
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, this week sent off his list of infrastructure projects that might be made possible by an economic stimulus package being developed by President-Elect Barack Obama's transition team. The mayor's list was sent to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Governor Jim Doyle and the state's congressional delegation.
"In order for this to work as the President-Elect intends it, the investments have to be made quickly, with a minimum amount of bureaucracy and overhead," Cieslewicz said. "That argues for a program that makes dollars available directly to local governments so they can meet pressing needs without going through layers of federal and state bureaucracy."
Cieslewicz said that he had the following priorities:
1. Fix it first. The mayor's list includes the street rebuilding and Water Utility projects that he and the City Council have already made a priority in the 2009 Capital budget. This year, the Mayor launched a five-year effort to step up the pace of rebuilding City streets to avoid the pothole problems that have become all too familiar each spring. He, and the Council also dramatically increased the funding for water main replacements, new wells and water filters. "Our first priority in any stimulus package needs to be the basics," Cieslewicz said.
2. Create green jobs. The list also includes projects to make the City even greener, including a one million dollar program to help homeowners make their houses more energy efficient, which is estimated to create 300 jobs. He would also buy 12 more diesel electric hybrid busses. "Economic development and helping the environment go hand-in-hand," Cieslewicz said. "Every dollar we invest in making ourselves more energy independent makes our economy stronger in the long run because it will be less vulnerable to outside forces."
3. Make ambitious projects a reality. After addressing basic infrastructure needs and economic development, the Mayor would use stimulus money to build some of the City's most ambitious projects, including a new downtown library, the proposed Central Park, train stations for a high speed rail line connecting Madison to Milwaukee and Chicago, a north side swimming pool, a Public Market and a refurbished the Garver Feed Mill arts incubator.
"If the stimulus package is going to work, we need to move beyond projects that would have been done anyway and get to truly visionary projects that likely would not happen but for this once in a generation opportunity," Cieslewicz said.
The mayor emphasized that his wish list - like those created by other states and cities - was only a way of visualizing what a large stimulus package could accomplish. He said he expected the actual program would not be a list of specific projects but rather a block grant style program where communities might get a lump sum they could then budget with community input.
- Rachel Strauch-Nelson