Obama stimulus plan sparks questions over short-term impact

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, The Phoenix Business Journal] — As Congress moves on President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, critics are voicing concerns about where the money is being spent and whether it will have a quick payoff.  The $825 billion package could swell to $1 trillion and looks to pump up the economy via federal spending on public works construction, energy research, aid to state governments with budget deficits, expanded welfare and safety net programs.

One estimate by the Congressional Budget Office said only $26 billion would be allocated this year on infrastructure and public works spending as states and cities, including Scottsdale, Goodyear, Tucson, Phoenix and Mesa, line up projects for possible funding.  Meanwhile, local officials say federal requirements to have construction and infrastructure projects “shovel-ready” is limiting such requests.  Gay Garesche, an economics professor at Glendale Community College, said the U.S. economy may be rebounding by the time the federal stimulus money gets to construction projects and starts to work its way into economic benefits.  “That stimulus isn’t going to hit until the economy has almost recovered,” said Garesche. Instead, she suggests continued help for banks to free up credit and loans and avoiding any actions that hurt the U.S. auto market.  [Note: to read the full article, click here.]

Legislature to cut park construction funding

[Source: Michael K. Rich, 85239.com] – – Passed as a voter initiative in 1990, the Heritage Fund was designed to act as a steward of good relations between man and the environment: promoting parks, conserving habitats and protecting wildlife.  However, as the state faces a more than $1.4 billion dollar budget shortfall, the fund, which generates money through the sales of several Arizona Lottery games, could be one of the first casualties.

“It is important to protect during this difficult time core Arizona resources, our true capital: parks and wildlife, prehistoric and historic sites, trails and other cultural and outdoors amenities which will serve the citizens of Arizona during this bleak period,” said Janice Miano, director of administration for the Arizona Heritage Alliance, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created in 1992 to protect Arizona’s Heritage Fund and its objectives. [Note: to read the full article click here.]

Collaboration may put Papago Park in Phoenix on par with Central Park

[Source: Dianna M. Nanez, The Arizona Republic] – – A collaboration involving three Valley cities and a Native American community could put Papago Park on a par with New York City’s Central Park or San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  While some public projects, especially those needing the blessing of multiple government agencies, often run out of steam before they ever reach fruition, the stars seem to have aligned behind plans to revamp the Papago area.

A $576,897 bill for a consultant to assess the more than 1,500 acres of central desert land bordering Scottsdale and sprawling over Phoenix and Tempe would be a lofty goal, even in brighter economic times. But Tempe, Phoenix and Scottsdale, the cities leading the Papago Park effort, can thank Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community for covering more than half of the consultant fee. The Native American community awarded Tempe a $100,000 grant in 2007 and Phoenix two grants totaling $284,000 to develop a Papago Park master plan. That plan would involve developing a Web site for public input, looking at the area’s natural resources and facilities, studying the culture and historical ties dating to ancient times when the Hohokam Indians cultivated the land and balancing the area’s future development with preservation and educational efforts. The remainder of the funding is coming from $100,000 in Tempe bond funds and Phoenix is assessing a $100,000 contribution. [Note: to read this full article click here.]

Comment sought on nature park plan in Yuma

[Source: YumaSun.com] — The public is invited to review and comment on the preliminary plans for a new park proposed for the Yuma East Wetlands on Friday.  An open house for the Yuma Nature Park, as it is now being called, will be held 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the room formerly used as the council chambers at 180 W. 1st St.

The park is one of two envisioned in the master plan for the East Wetlands and permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The proposed location is within Yuma city limits, just inside the levee at the alignment of Pacific Avenue.  The plan calls for picnic shelters or ramadas, hiking trails and access to bird-watching, canoeing and kayaking.

“For the past five years, our focus has been, by necessity, the clearing of non-native vegetation and planting of native trees and grasses,” Charles Flynn, director of the Heritage Area, said in a news release.  “But we always planned on making the area more accessible with a limited number of parks and trails.” [Note: to read the full article click here.]