Racine's mermaid mosaic in Uptown is getting national attention - but that's not a good thing.
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn included the $6,000 project in a report of what he considers the worst use of federal dollars in the past year. The mural was paid for with federal Community Development Block Grant dollars, which are distributed to local governments for use on community projects.
Muralist Isaiah Zagar responds.
Coburn didn't comment on the Racine project in the report titled, "2008: Worst Waste of the Year." The 49-page report simply recounted the story of the mural using a photo and story from RacinePost (left: Pete's photo in Coburn's report), and stories from The Journal Times.
Coburn documented $1.3 billion in wasteful government spending this year. Noticeably absent was any mention of the $700 billion bailout for banks (Coburn supported it) or the billions spent this year on the Iraq War Coburn supported, but later described as "probably a mistake."
Coburn did find some odd uses of government money in the past year. Some include:
- $188,000 for the Lobster Institute of Maine to promote the lobster industry
- $367,000 spent by a school board in Texas on such things as an inflatable alligator and an under-the-sea waterslide.
- $300,000 disbursed by the Agriculture Department to a potato farm in Idaho to help the farm advertise specialty potatoes it sells to restaurants such as Russian banana fingerlings, red thumbs and ruby crescents.
- $9.4 million spent by federal agencies to search for aliens from outer space
- $784,000 doled out for training classes for casino workers
- $32 million in small business loans to liquor stores.
- $1 million for bike paths on Louisiana levees that are still awaiting basic repairs
- $2.4 million for a retractable shade canopy at a park in West Virginia
- $3.2 million on a blimp that the Pentagon does not want
- $5 million for a bridge to a zoo parking lot in St. Louis.
- $24.6 million to celebrate the National Park Service's 100th birthday in 2016.
"It's a good thing we don't have Oklahoma senators figure out what projects Minnesota needs to do," John Schadl, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, told the Star-Tribune.
Coburn seems to have a thing against bikes. A "bike library" in Fort Collins, Colo. made the list even though the program was popular in the city. Coburn's own report noted the $66,000 program was so successful there often weren't enough bikes to lend.