Saturday, February 14, 2009

Shoveling Federal Money Into Allston-Brighton

Congress yesterday passed the $790 billion economic recovery ("stimulus") bill -- readying it for President Barack Obama's signature -- which includes many billions of dollars for "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects around the country.

What infrastructure work in Brighton is at the top of the list of projects to be funded?

A $5.5 million renovation of the Brighton Branch of the Boston Public Library is the ninth-most-expensive project requested by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, as tracked by the wiki. The city estimates the work would create 45 jobs, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The library building, located at 40 Academy Hill Road in Brighton Center, has long been criticized not just for its brutalist facade, but also for inefficient interior design. A renovation design plan has been developed over the last couple of years and is already starting up (the library already closed on January 16, 2009, to remain closed until 2010), which makes it one of those "shovel-ready" projects. Modifications include updated wiring, heating, and ventilation, reconfiguring the children's area, better access (including an elevator), and LEED certified energy-efficient design standards.

Other city-wide improvements that would likely include Brighton, although details are not yet fully available, include $30 million for making 10,000 sidewalk curb cuts compliant with current code (240 jobs), $3.2 for expansion of bicycle lanes (24 jobs), $5 million for middle school renovation (possibly including the Edison School, which is merging with Hamilton and Garfield Elementary Schools this fall and whose renovations may be already initiated; 40 jobs), and $0.5 million for masonry repairs at Allston's Engine 41 station (which is already in the fire department's FY09 budget; 4 jobs). It's unclear if another $2.5 million for renovations at two community centers (20 jobs) would include the Veronica Smith Senior Center, where work is already underway.

What this list appears to demonstrate is that some of the individual projects, requested by Mayor Menino for funding from the federal stimulus bill, are projects already under way. This shouldn't be much of a surprise for "shovel-ready" construction projects. The city has already announced a large deficit that needs to be bridged, so federal funding appears to be saving projects already underway from getting axed.

If that's the case, then a significant portion of the federal stimulus infrastructure funding at the city-level would be saving existing jobs, not so much in creating new jobs. Federal stimulus funding then frees up city funding to plug gaps in other areas of the city budget -- like not laying off school teachers (or at least as many).

Via David Bernstein's Talking Politics blog.

Monday, February 02, 2009

When Will A-B Liquor Stores Get a Clue?

Last fall, the Boston Police Department's D-14 station announced to area business owners and residents that they were about to conduct a sting operation to catch liquor sales to underage purchasers.

Despite warning after warning that the sting operation was on its way, can you guess what happened? The sting operation still nailed a bunch of liquor stores -- and a couple of college students -- with underage purchase of alcohol.

The Allston-Brighton TAB reported that six Allston liquor stores in November 2008 sold alcohol to an undercover officer ("cadet") without requesting ID, and two Boston College students were issued criminal complaints for underage purchasing of alcohol on the same day as the sting operation.

Boston Police just issued a warning about a new sting operation that they will be carrying out in Allston-Brighton soon. Will local stores -- and underage college students -- heed the warning this time? Don't hold your breath.

Image of trunk full of beer by DrPantzo provided through a Creative Commons license.