Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Capital Punishment

Wayne Barrett has an interesting post on the mayor's living large expenditures on capital projects-and wouldn't you know it, he's been spending like a drunken stockbroker: "So you would think someone in the New York media would pay attention when CBC issues a "mixed" report on Bloomberg's eight-year expenditure of $63 billion on capital construction projects. It's the biggest price tag on any single government expenditure in the Bloomberg years, and the $8 billion a year towers over what any prior administration spent. Yet no one wrote a word."

This, unfortunately, is par for the course with our media watch.., oops, lapdogs. And, as Barrett points out, there has been no oversight over the value of these outlays: "CBC answers the question of what we got for this huge capital outlay -- and since it's borrowed money that has to be repaid, one giant bit at a time, out of the expense budget that covers day to day operations, we should all care."

So, according to the CBC, we've gotten some good value for our bridge and tunnel repairs; but as far as economic development is concerned, "quien sabe?" Here's Barrett: "Without really commenting on the city's capital funded housing program, CBC assessed the biggest new growth area in the capital budget -- economic development, noting that Bloomberg spent $2 billion on these projects. Another $2 billion is slated to be spent in the next four years -- on controversial development projects like Willets Point and Coney Island. CBC's Maria Doulis tells the Voice that this is twice the city's economic development expenditures in the prior eight years, and that "even indexed for construction cost increases, it's still higher by 55 percent."

And the return on investment is? "The rationale for making such investments is that they will generate new economic activity," says the mayor's favorite budget group, "however, little or no analytic evidence of such benefits is publicly available." Which, as far as Willets Point goes, is what we have been crying out for-an accurate cost benefit analysis in these troubled economic times.  

As we said in the NY Daily News about Willets Point: "With the prospect of tax hikes and service cuts hanging over the heads of New Yorkers, now is not the time for the kind of risky investment that cost our Connecticut cousins millions of dollars. The city needs to take a step back on Willets Point, fully examine the costs as well as the benefits, and ask the simple question: Can we afford this kind of publicly subsidized real estate speculation in the current economic climate? In the aftermath of New London, the answer should be a resounding "no."

So, in our view, it's time to take a step back-and Comptroller Liu should step up his auditing of the murky business over at EDC. The mayor has every right to over spend his own money when running for office; he shouldn't be given the same carte blanche when it comes to the tax payers' hard earned dough.