2010-12-17 / Editorial/Opinion

Not All Earmarks Are Equal

For years, our lawmakers have doled out millions of dollars to friends, favored institutions and local organizations in need. The federal government calls the money “earmarks.” The state and city government call them “member items.” A rose by any other name … Most recently, there has been a move on all levels of government to do away with lawmakers’ ability to dole out the money. The Tea Party made earmarks a top target during the recent midterm elections. The New York Times recently called the legislative system for giving the money away “a terrible system.” Many locals will tell you that not all earmarks (or member items) are equal. Alaska’s infamous “bridge to nowhere” became the poster boy for all unnecessary earmarks, but how about one closer to home – a new firehouse for the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department. That earmark was written into the Omnibus Transportation Act several years ago by Senator Hillary Clinton and Congressman Anthony Weiner. While others call it an earmark and would do away with the funding as with all earmarks, we call it a necessary community amenity. There is no doubt that the BCVFD needs a new home to replace its old one on Noel Road – a crumbling wooden facility that is now more than 110 years old. The funding is a boon to both the volies and the community it serves. Do away with that earmark and you damage the community. On a more local level, the member item money from many of our legislators funds such worthy causes as Little League, Rockaway Theatre Company, Rockaway Artists Alliance, RMAC and many local civic organizations. On the other hand, some of it goes to organizations run by political cronies, such as the New Directions Community Development Corporation and Trinity Seniors. Despite the state’s fiscal crisis, Governor David Paterson gave $5 million to the Super Bowl committee to fund its outreach campaign. There is no doubt that more oversight is needed when it comes to earmarks or member items, but that does not mean they should be ended because some “good government” groups see them as evil.

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