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Thursday, June 23, 2005 01:57 pm

common sense 6-23-05


Don’t you wish you had a rich and kindly old uncle whose chief mission in life was to give things to you? Well, if you lived in Alaska, bucko, you’d have a generous relative, and you’d call him Uncle Ted, as everyone else does.

This year, Uncle Ted has given $645 million worth of stuff to the good people of Alaska, nearly $600 per person. But that becomes less of a heartwarming story when you realize that Uncle Ted is not using his money for these gifts — he’s using yours.

He’s Ted Stevens, the Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, and he’s the most prodigious producer of political pork in our nation’s capital. Uncle Ted recently set a new gold standard in the world of porkdom by delivering $1.5 million in federal funds to the city of Anchorage for, of all things, a bus stop.

Not for a whole system of bus stops, mind you, but $1.5 million for one solitary space in which to sit and wait for your bus to come. It’s to be built outside of Anchorage’s museum of history and art, and, in all fairness, it will be a doozie. Although it will look like your ordinary, three-sided, glass-and-steel structure, the city’s director of transportation plans a heated sidewalk to keep the space free of snow and ice and also has electronic signs in mind. “It is going to be a showpiece stop,” he says.

The transportation director promises to spend only what it actually takes to build the showpiece, even if it’s less than $1.5 million.

That’s not the proper attitude: I suggest that the city add to the tourist experience by erecting a gold statue of Uncle Ted carrying a pig under each arm.

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