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Monday, November 22, 2010

Stimulus Buys Madison Trail Signs

Hey, Kristi! Here's more federal money for you to send back to Washington. That nasty, dirty stimulus package just spent $14,213 on trailhead signs for 13 South Dakota towns, including Madison.

I'll admit, this tiny sliver of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act looks pretty nickel-and-dimey. Spending several thousands dollars on signs seems to be about as good for the economy and the general welfare as spending thousands of dollars on banners to hang on Madison's lightpoles to remind everyone to keep looking for the Unexpected™. It certainly doesn't put anyone else to work in Madison: Ted LaFleur and his crew will just add those signs to their long work list.

The intent of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work Initiative includes increasing physical activity and decreasing obesity. These signs address these goals only indirectly. The trails are already there; in Madison, people won't see these signs until they've already made the decision to go walk or bike on these trails. Maybe the signs vaguely increase the enjoyment trail users experience and thus induce folks to come back for more walks... but I'd have a hard time floating that line in a debate with Rep.-Elect Noem and others determined to criticize the stimulus that they accepted to save the state budget.

Now surely some wood shop somewhere in America got a really nice order for couple thousand big signs that kept their machines turning and workers ratcheting and staining for a few more days. In return, we get an innocuous, durable product that makes our trails a little more attractive and useful. Back in the 1930s, the CCC and WPA also put up signs alongside all of their useful public works. The signs don't seem like the best possible investment of stimulus dollars, but I guess they're jsut part of the total program.

Bonus Sign Snark: If we have to spend stimulus money on signs, maybe the Madison Chamber could apply for a grant to get a sign out in front of the Depot that motorists could actually read.

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