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Seems like a few of you are a little perturbed that I would take the wish list sent to the federal government from San Diego officials so literally.

Reader sdsouthcoast responded to my last post with this:

I for one am quite tired of the local “gotcha media”. The problem here is that you clearly don’t have an inkling of an understanding of how this stimulus package works and what will ultimately be funded and how. It is fully expected that Congress will push funds out to states and locals under existing programs. They are not going to “earmark” or delineate specific projects in the bill, but yet members of Congress have asked for project lists so they can see the types of local projects. This will assist in their decision as to which existing programs to fund, but not how much to appropriate. As Mr. Pudgil indicated, local agencies submitted their previously approved CIP lists, as requested by Congress, in a compressed timeframe to serve as examples only. Grant requirements from the respective federal agencies will ultimately dictate what projects can be funded, not these lists.

Reader Another View had a similar take:

Has anyone considered that this was an effort to make the Obama administration aware of everything that was ready to go and COULD be done in the region — and the value of having a higher number so that when you get a fraction, it’s a larger number? That’s how you lobby for federal money so that you aren’t overlooked when the doling out begins. This list isn’t a “fund everything on my list” one by one like a grant application, it’s “look at all these items that are ready to go.” Kelly Bennett‘s story actually puts it in the proper perspective, whereas Lewis just ridicules aimlessly without thinking of the actual objective of the list — then ridicules the explanation given.

The basic theme of these dissents is the same: Like the Mayor’s Office says, this is a list of projects that could be built with outside stimulus funds. The feds are supposed to look at it and get an idea of what we would spend a large investment of public dollars on.

We are not supposed to take it literally, then.

I don’t agree with that, obviously. What’s the point of a list if you’re not supposed to look at what’s listed? But let’s go with the dissenters’ definition of what’s going on for a minute. Let’s assume this is just a list we’re supposed to read like a work of fiction — representative of a greater truth not a literal account.

OK, it’s a list of what could be — not what is. But is it even that? Look at the case of the Ocean Beach library listed as one of the projects that could be built with federal help. The city’s top elected official, the mayor, believes many branch libraries are unsustainable and that they should be closed — top on the list is the OB library. What kind of city simultaneously believes that the Ocean Beach library is both ready to be expanded and ready to be closed? Obviously its expansion is a project far from being “ready to go” as reader Another View claimed.

I didn’t even mention the other library on the list. The city claims it could spend more than $10 million of new federal funds on the Balboa Branch Library construction and that work could begin within 12 months. This would be a new 15,000 square foot facility.

Again, are you kidding me? How is the construction of this building representative of what “could” happen in the city of San Diego in the next year?

A couple of weeks ago, the Union-Tribune did an interesting story about the bizarre contradiction inherent in the city’s plans to keep building new libraries at the same time it proposes closing others.

The fact is the City Council will have to do something miraculous to save the libraries we have open now. How in the world can the city say, in any context, for any purpose, that it has the capacity to deal with a new building like this? Yet, these projects are listed in the “ready to go” report the U.S. Conference of Mayors is touting.

This is embarrassing.

The potential federal investment in local capital projects provides us with an historic opportunity to not only create jobs to build them now but also increase the capacity and resources needed to stimulate our own local economy. We could draw up a plan that understands this and takes into considerations the limitations in local funding we will face for many years into the future. If this list sent to the government is indeed just some kind of work of fiction to show the feds that we know how to spend money, then I would hope our leaders are planning to get together and draw something up very soon with a little more vision and a little more understanding of reality.

SCOTT LEWIS

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