Troy, Michigan — Beware feds bearing gifts. A Detroit suburb scored a national victory for fiscal sanity and handed President Obama’s Big Green Government scheme — and its establishment cheerleaders — a black eye Monday night when Troy’s city council rejected a multi-million-dollar, federally funded rail boondoggle as a waste of tax dollars. The decision sent a message to Washington where billions have been thrown at green zealots’ outdated mass-transit solutions: Enough.
The liberal Detroit Free Press could barely contain its scorn that local peasants would question Washington’s wisdom. “Leaders across the region considered (it) an important piece to boost mass-transit opportunities in metro Detroit,” the paper huffed. “Opponents called the $8.5-million, 2,500-square-foot center a waste of tax dollars, even though Troy City Hall would not have footed the bill.”
But Troy opponents knew that was a false promise.
From Denver to Portland to Detroit’s People Mover, as Randal O’Toole has thoroughly documented, rail systems have inevitably become fiscal black holes as local communities were left holding the bag for glitzy federal projects that never brought the ridership — and operating revenue — that initial studies promised.
Troy’s opposition was led by its new tea-party mayor, Janice Daniels, who had made defeat of the transit center the cornerstone of her election campaign. “The council was turned over to new council members and a new mayor because we campaigned on a pledge to stop this transit center,” she said Monday.
Desperate to feed at Obama’s stimulus trough, Michigan’s establishment had put its eggs in the Troy basket. But history shows pols have a bad case of Edifice Complex: They are all about ribbon cuttings — and clueless about long-term costs. Even the state’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder – who earlier this year had joined the state’s Democratic Washington delegation in grabbing millions more in stimulus dollars for a preposterous Chicago-Detroit high-speed rail project – had urged Troy to open the gates to Obama’s “gift.”
With Washington in the red and history as a guide, the rail Trojan Horse would have robbed Troy’s treasury as the feds cut spending, ridership failed, and maintenance costs soared. From Amtrak to Solyndra to Detroit’s People Mover, the landscape is littered with the failed green dreams of Washington bureaucrats.
The pols come and go — but the monuments to their egos rot on. Troy sends a message that America has had enough.