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The sweet smell of money
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The river of green flowing from Washington D.C. has finally reached Western shores. Ever since the House of Representatives and Senate approved the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the glitter of free gold has been a glint in the eyes of cash-strapped agencies nationwide and especially in the Golden State.

The California State Water Board was awarded $15.6 million to clean abandoned, contaminated underground storage tank sites and over $100 million for clean water projects.

Three California school districts will be receiving part of $26.5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education to give children better access to physical education programs and instruction on healthy eating and good nutrition. And students in 16 California school districts will be better prepared for emergencies after the U.S. Department of Education gives out more than $26 million in grants to improve local school districts’ readiness and emergency management.

Eight organizations across California, including our local air pollution control district, were awarded over $26 million for diesel emission reduction projects.

And the City of Turlock was awarded $1.5 million to build a transportation hub.

Those long awaited or infamous (depending on your political views) stimulus dollars are now flowing into California. Prepare the marching band and bring out the confetti; unemployment rates will soon be on the decline.

That last line might be a little premature, but I am sick to death of reports of how bad our economy is and how the worst may be yet to come. I am ready for a little good news.

But I’ve got to admit, instead of breathing a sigh of relief, the previous reports on the millions of dollars being given to state organizations gives me an uneasy feeling.

Our state doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to fiscal responsibility. Giving millions to California governmental agencies is like giving $100 to a crack addict and telling them to “use it wisely.”

The rush to get a hold of Recovery Act funds is also pushing some projects ahead that may not be completely thought out. For example, the State of California is seeking stimulus funds for the 800 mile High-Speed Train system that has been a point of controversy for the past several years. Now, with the whiff of free money in the air, legislators are willing to bypass due diligence on the project’s viability and plunge head first into the grant application process.

I know the need for job-creating projects is great here locally and statewide, but I hope that the funds available are going to the places where it will make the most difference, not just the agencies that are better at grant writing.

Although, I am tempted to try my hand at the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act application process. My backyard is definitely in need of recovery and I know the job will employ at least a hundred landscapers and exterior designers.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.