Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Friday, March 20, 2009

The stimulus money starts pouring in

We've been getting notices here in MA about the various stimulus checks that are coming our way. I'm absolutely fascinated as to how the money is being distributed in MA. It appears that the the money goes from Washington straight to Governor Patrick's office, where he decides how to divide it up between the cities and towns in the commonwealth. Now, you would think that there might be some equity there, but this is Massachusetts, and equity isn't ever something we support.

The first splash of money came in the guise of education help. Out of the 351 cities and towns in the commonwealth, only 166 get any money, based on a formula thought up in 1993 when nobody was hurting all that badly. Seems that if your town has been funding your schools at the full level determined by the government, you don't get any money.

That leaves our city with a big fat zero in the first phase of education help, all because we followed the law and funded our school at the required level. I guess that's fair.

Next up is a big giant check for 8.7 billion that was announced today for infrastructure and renewable energy. Now, it is no secret that our state is falling down around us. Shoring up the infrastructure has been so far on the back burner it's a wonder anyone has even recalled that plans exist. Our roads.... filled with potholes and begging for rebuilding, widening, and repaving. Our bridges are falling down as moronic truck drivers continue to plow into them. They need new girders, roadbeds, and paint at the bare minimum. State buildings are a mess of leaky roofs, peeling paint, and dilapidated windows. The first eight road projects have already been announced. I'm getting psyched to see road repair. I just hope that at some point, the road in my city that has driven us all to distraction is either taken over by our city, or fixed and widened by the state.

Our state is tiny in size, but for those unfamiliar with MA, it's really two different states, where anything east of Worcester is acknowledged as part of the state, and anything west of Worcester up to the Berkshires must be part of NY, right? There are people who have lived in the Boston area their entire lives who have never driven the 90 minutes to Springfield, a city that resembles Detroit more than it does Boston.

So I wonder just how equitable the distribution of money will be to those communities out there in the hinterlands. Our first hint looks excellent. Springfield schools got a very large injection of cash for the education budget, which is great news. They really need the cash.

Massachusetts is one of 16 states that will be monitored by Congress' financial watchdog, the Government Accountability Office. The GAO must review and report on the state's use of federal stimulus dollars bimonthly. I'm happy to see this because, while I love this state, I am a realist and I know that pretty much every construction project is mired in graft and misuse of funds. Let's say that state government is less than honest and leave it at that.

Obama promised that the government would be more transparent, and set up recovery.gov as a way to track the stimulus money and how it's spent. Massachusetts has it's own site that will keep the citizens of the commonwealth informed about how our own stimulus money is being spend. Every state has one, so make sure that you check often to see where the money is going and if your pet project is being funded. There is no excuse for not being involved and aware of how the money is being spent. I hope you spend the time and make the effort to watch as the money is spent.

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