Friday, September 15, 2006

The Hypocrisy of Pork-Busting Pork-Barrelers

The Hypocrisy of Pork-Busting Pork-Barrelers is reviewed in a recent Hill article. One of the Republicans mentioned is our own Steve Chabot, who publicly declares he is a Pork-Buster, but at the same time puts his name on anything Congress brings to the First District.


At 9:02 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last Updated: 7:23 pm | Monday, November 15, 2004
Projects in limbo
WASHINGTON - Congress returns this week to decide whether a Forest Park dance club for young people should get $150,000.

And whether Butler County residents get $150,000 for a new water line to help lower their water bills.

And whether Northern Kentucky students should get about $1 million worth of help with astronomy.

Those items may not generate national headlines. But those tidbits for Greater Cincinnati - and about a dozen more - are included in spending bills that Congress is supposed to pass before going home for the year.

More than $60 million in local funding is in limbo because most of the fiscal 2005 federal budget, which actually was due Oct. 1, has not been passed. Congress' goal is to pass nine spending bills and get out of town before Thanksgiving. They may be rolled into one giant spending bill known as an "omnibus."

Included in those spending bills are "earmarks," or lines added by local Congress members for pet projects back home.

Critics call them pork.

But to Dick Hammersmith, who is helping raise money for The Underground club in Forest Park, the $150,000 is "a great investment."

"From what we can tell, there is no facility like this in Southwest Ohio or Northern Kentucky. It's an alcohol-free, tobacco-free safe haven for kids," said Hammersmith.

The club, which is open Friday and Saturday nights, is run by Victory Videos Ministries. It's home to "The Zone," a dance show broadcast on local TV, "a kind of Christian MTV," Hammersmith said. It has also hosted Christian rock bands such as Pillar, Bleach and Jeremy Camp.

Rep. Steve Chabot requested $250,000 for the project; he got $150,000 in the Housing and Urban Development budget. It still must pass the House and make it into a final House-Senate compromise bill.

Though the line in the bill identifies the $150,000 for construction of a youth center, the money will mostly go to help train students to use the TV cameras and sound equipment in an upstairs studio, Hammersmith said.

It's not pork, said Gary Lindgren, spokesman for Chabot, a fiscal conservative and backer of a balanced budget. "Where there are locally important projects, it's a way to get a return on some of those tax dollars sent to Washington." Lindgren said.

In fact - as he has in the past - there's a good chance Chabot will vote against any overall spending bill, whether it contains his projects or not.

In Butler County, the Department of Environmental Services hopes to get $6 million for a four-mile-long water line that would link that growing county's water system to Cincinnati's.

So determined is the county to get the money that a delegation may fly to Washington to lobby for the money, said Bob Leventry, deputy director of the Butler County Department of Environmental Services.

Almost all of Butler County's water comes from the city of Hamilton.

"We want to develop an alternative and larger supply from the city of Cincinnati to protect against any kind of loss of service, or heaven forbid, any kind of terror thing," Leventry said.

The congressman who represents most of Butler County, Rep. John Boehner, refuses to seek earmarks because he opposes all pork. So it fell to Chabot, who represents the southwest corner of Butler County, to seek the money. But so far he's only been able to get $150,000.

Across the river, Northern Kentucky University is slated to get $1 million from NASA for a "Taking Astronomy to the Schools'' project, courtesy of Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell.

High-powered telescopes would be set up at 10 to 15 schools, allowing students to do "deep sky observation," checking out distant galaxies and star clusters, according to Chuck Hawkins, chair of NKU's Department of Physics and Geology.

"I see astronomy as a way to get kids interested in science," said Hawkins. "We would have them doing some actual data collection and some real science."

If the money makes it into the final budget, it probably will be fall 2005 at the earliest before the telescopes are available.

One major project in limbo for Cincinnati is a $38 million renovation of the Potter Stewart federal courthouse. The 1938 building would get new windows, a new roof, and a renovation of its lobby, and handicapped-accessible bathrooms, among other things.

Dave Wilkinson, a spokesman for the General Services Administration, said the project would begin next year and take two years.

"A lot depends on what actually emerges from the signed budget," he said.

That project was not an earmark requested by a local member. It was sought by the Bush administration itself.

The Greater Cincinnati delegation is somewhat restrained in seeking pork compared with other members. The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, earmarked more than $178 million for his home state, and that was in only two particular bills. Among the earmarks: $950,000 for a speed-skating rink in Anchorage.

Anti-pork groups such as Citizens Against Government Waste complain that politicians make speeches denouncing government deficits and wasteful spending - then brag about the pork they bring home.

"We object to these projects," said Tom Schatz, president of the group.

Schatz said he wishes more people took Boehner's no-pork approach.

With a $413 billion deficit and a war in Iraq, he said, "You'd hope that someone would say 'No.' "



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