Skip to comments.CA: Critics call Simi project a prime example of pork (What would Reagan say?)
Posted on 08/11/2005 6:01:09 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
President Ronald Reagan loved to rail against Congress' pork-barrel spending.
But critics say that didn't stop Congress from earmarking $2.3 million for landscaping on the freeway that bears his name, one item among the $24 billion worth of special projects tacked onto the transportation bill signed Wednesday by President Bush.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who opposed the bill with four other senators, said the amount directed to special projects was "egregious." And he singled out Simi Valley's long-awaited landscaping project along Highway 118.
"I wonder what Ronald Reagan would say?" McCain asked about the fiscally conservative president.
In the city that's home to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, those are fighting words.
"I was a supporter of McCain, but shame on him," Councilwoman Barbra Williamson said. "If you want to look at pork barrel, look at Alaska."
Alaska, the country's third-least-populated state, received the third-highest amount of funding from the bill.
"I guess Sen. McCain looks at the barren freeways across Arizona that he's used to and doesn't recognize the value inherent in California," City Manager Mike Sedell said. "You don't just build infrastructure without the amenities that go along with it."
The $2.3 million will fund landscaping at four interchanges along the freeway -- Yosemite Avenue, Sycamore Drive, Erringer Road and First Street.
Over the years, the city has scrounged up money from the state and its own piggy bank to fund landscaping on off- and onramps.
"It's not about planting flowers," Councilman Steve Sojka said. "It's about image. ... It just adds value to your city."
City officials turned to Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, to secure the funding. Along with the interchange project, Gallegly also snagged $1.68 million to widen Olsen Road between Presidential Drive and the Thousand Oaks city limits and build retaining walls.
Local officials said they are grateful to Gallegly for getting the funding, and the congressman's spokesman said the projects are important.
"The Ronald Reagan Freeway coming into Simi Valley is the gateway to Ventura County," Tom Pfeifer said. "It's very important from an economic standpoint that people have a good first impression and people don't see tumbleweeds rolling across the freeway."
Critics called that argument hogwash, saying beautification projects should be the financial responsibility of local agencies.
"What an awful way to honor the man (Reagan), with $2.3 million for landscaping improvements," said David Williams, vice president for policy for Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. "It doesn't help the transportation needs of people. This is not a federal transportation need. This is something the locals should pay for."
Keith Ashdown, vice president of policy for Taxpayers for Common Sense, a national watchdog group, also chalked the project up to a case of bringing home the bacon.
"I don't think there's any correlation between a few tulips and daisies and tourists coming to the area,"Ashdown said.
Williamson, however, scoffed at the criticism coming from people in the nation's capital.
"How can you make an opinion of something you haven't seen?" she asked. "A think tank. Give me a break."
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
With the gas prices going the way they are, no one will be able to enjoy these wonderful new highways of lard.
What would Reagan say? "There they go again..."
Regan would say..."McLAME..RETIRE YOU LEFT WING NUT CASE!"
I remember the days when we had a Republican president who fought against pork, and a handful of Republican Senators would support him. The Republicans are just the party of pork prostitutes now...
President Reagan had vetoed the bill on March 27, citing a variety of problems, including funding levels that exceeded his request by $10 billion. He was especially concerned about the 121 "demonstration projects" in the bill. Members of Congress who wanted funds for a project in their State had adopted the practice of inventing a concept it would "demonstrate" as if it were part of an important research initiative. (Under this idea, for example, funding for two parking lots became a demonstration of "methods of facilitating the transfer of passengers between different modes of transportation.") To Reagan, they were wasteful. He told the press, "I haven't seen this much lard since I handed out blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair."
The House voted decisively to overturn his veto, but it was close in the Senate. Very close. The President needed one-third of the Senators plus one to vote to sustain his veto.
On April 1, he prevailed in an initial roll call ballot by one vote. It was cast by Terry Sanford (D-NC), a 69-year old freshman in the United States Senate. Sanford had promised State officials he would oppose STURAA because he agreed with their assessment that North Carolina did not receive enough funds under its formulas. As a result, he had been the only Democratic Senator to vote against the bill when it initially passed the Senate. After 99 Senators had cast their vote, his would decide the issue. Sanford was surrounded by Democratic Senators urging him to vote with them to overturn the veto, and one Republican, Senator Alan K. Simpson (WY), who urged him to vote to sustain the veto as a measure of support for the President. Confused by Senate rules, Sanford initially voted "present," thinking he could in this way sustain the veto without voting against his party. Under Senate rules, the reverse was true. Quickly realizing his mistake, Sanford changed his response to "nay" a few minutes later. The veto was sustained, theoretically killing STURAA.
Deft parliamentary maneuvering by Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) forced a second vote on April 2. Under pressure from Senate Democrats and his State's Representatives who had voted to override, Senator Sanford announced he would vote with them to overturn the veto. He was, he said, "doing my duty as I see it." With all 54 Senate Democrats and 13 Republicans in favor of overturning the veto, the President needed just one of the 13 Republicans to switch for the veto to be sustained. He took the unprecedented step of going to the Capitol to lobby the Republicans personally. As Time magazine said of his meeting with the 46 Republican Senators: "Reagan uttered six words that Presidents use sparingly at best: 'I beg you for your vote.' The 13 Republicans felt the pressure."
They wanted to support their President, but not on a bill that was popular back home-bringing with it not only needed highway and transit funding but a provision that would allow the States to increase speeds to 65 mph on rural Interstate highways. Referring to the 13 Republican Senators who had voted to override the veto, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said, "You could almost see them squirming."
Although the Republican Senators desperately wanted to support President Reagan, they simply could not do so on this vote. In the end, all 13 Republicans and Senator Sanford voted to override the President's veto in a 67-33 vote that made the STURAA the law of the land by one vote on April 2.
The first -and only -veto of a "highway" bill in the 20th century. Widespread media exposed alleged "pork" in the bill. This was a surface transportation bill at the center of a political firestorm. A President begged for votes from his own party. Such high stakes were not usually associated with transportation bills.