- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mapping the stimulus

The officials behind Recovery.gov, the Obama administration’s online clearinghouse for stimulus spending information, closed on Sunday a weeklong online dialogue session to solicit ideas for increasing government transparency using information technology.

The next day, the administration released an announcement touting that 476 ideas were submitted by 2,639 registered users who voted 1,925 times and posted 1,120 comments during the dialogue session.

Several of the top ideas suggested Recovery.gov provide a virtual map of where the stimulus money is going and what it is funding.

A popular idea was to use Google Earth, an online mapping system that allows users to zoom in on specific geographic locations. The user said this would allow taxpayers to track progress on a “project specific web camera; meet the project manager and get updates; watch people working; find out if jobs are available; get links to job training programs, etc.”

Park pork

The National Park Service (NPS) has released a list of the projects that it intends to spend stimulus money on that includes endangered species protections, museums, monuments and solar panel systems.

The bill allocated $750 million to the Park Service to spend on nearly 800 different projects across the country. The rationale provided by President Obama for spending so much money on rehabilitating parks was largely based on the deteriorating national Mall and restoring other recognizable landmarks.

An additional $55.8 million will be spent on national capital parks repairing the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and restoring the Jefferson Memorial Plaza and the District of Columbia War Memorial. An additional $200 million will be spent maintaining “landscape features” on the national Mall.

The rest of the stimulus park funding will pay for a variety of upgrades ranging from visitor center upgrades, trail repairs and increased energy efficiency.

Funding for “photovoltaic systems” - otherwise known as solar panels - were mentioned many times in the 27-page list of projects released by the NPS. The Santa Monica Mountains Park will receive $10.5 million toward installing these systems and creating a new visitor center at the Historic Gillette Ranch.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate parks will spent a portion of their $16.1 million to protect endangered species by realigning existing nature trails.

Other smaller projects are aimed at improving exhibits in museums. Pennsylvania’s Steamtown National Historic Site will spend most of its $2.15 million protecting museum artifacts, rehabilitating a historic railways coach and preserving four historic operational locomotives and passenger cars.

About $46,000 will be spent to “stabilize a historic brick oven” in Texas’s Fort Davis park.

Paterson drops

New York Gov. David A. Paterson’s approval ratings are so low that New Yorkers would prefer to have their adulterous Gov. Elliot Spitzer back in office.

A majority of New York registered voters, 51 percent, said they’d rather have Mr. Spitzer back in office despite his trysts with prostitute Ashley Dupre, according to a new Marist Poll.

Fewer than one in five voters say Mr. Paterson is dong an “excellent” or “good job” in office. The poll found that most voters, 68 percent, disapprove of how he is handling the state’s economy.

No apology tour

“In speeches myself, I have said that at times we have acted too arrogantly. And I didn’t feel that I was being apologetic for America, I was just saying that that’s the way we are in terms of being willing to recognize our own limitations, and when we make a mistake to correct it. Because I think the next line that I always use is, no other country in the world is so self-critical, and is so willing to change course when we feel that we’ve strayed from our values, or when we feel like we’ve been too arrogant. So, I think - I have not seen it as an apology tour at all, but rather a change of tone, a more humble America. But everybody knows we still have the big stick.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates defending President Obama’s foreign policy strategy on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” Mr. Gates is the only Cabinet member from the Bush administration whom Mr. Obama chose to keep.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washington times.com.

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