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What?! Small Cities are Selling Their Federal Stimulus Dollars

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Photo by tobo via Flickr

Photo by tobo via Flickr
Some cities say they don't have shovel ready transit projects and would rather "replenish their general funds," Alfred Lee at the Pasadena Star News has found. But in order to get the money, they have to sell $500,000 allocated to them by Metro to another city. Here's what's happening:

  • Metro has been given $215 million for (and could be $315 pending a state legislature approval) to dole out to cities for transit projects. That equals out to $500,000 for each city and to unincorporated areas.
  • But they are giving the cities a "cash giveaway out the back door" if cities don't have projects that need a half million dollars. If they want, they can trade that earmarked money for cash, giving them the freedom to do whatever they want.
This could be a problem, especially for watchdog Republicans. The stimulus wasn't meant to fix city budget problems, the money was for shovel ready project to help infrastructure and create jobs. Here are a few examples from the story:
The city of Bradbury, with a population of roughly 1,000, is working on a deal to sell its $500,000 share of federal funding doled out by the MTA to the city of Torrance for $315,000 in cash for its general fund, according to Torrance officials. Torrance, which was allocated $2.9 million by the MTA, plans to use the extra funds for a variety of street improvement projects, including a major reconstruction and expansion of Crenshaw Boulevard, one of the city's main thoroughfares, said city manager LeRoy Jackson.

Sierra Madre was courted by Pasadena, Arcadia and El Monte, but rather than take general fund money, has tentatively agreed to swap its $500,000 in stimulus funds for an equal $500,000 in future Measure R funds with nearby La Canada Flintridge.

Apparently these cities are pristine examples of transportation, full of bikeways, riverscapes and good smooth roads... or they couldn't get their act together. As LA City Council Eric Garcetti said in a telephone press conference a few weeks ago, cities must be held accountable or a next round of funding will be heavily challenged and likely not to pass through congress.
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Metro said they allocated money evenly throughout the county because they didn't to punish small cities if they weren't going to use the money for transit projects. "Our board wanted to give every city at least a chance to benefit from the stimulus package," Carol Inge of the transit agency told the paper.

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