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David Gaul
Shelby County Democratic Party Co-Chair


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David Gaul
Donna Clothier
Kathleen Cue

MITT ROMNEY AND THE HILLSBOROUGH STONING

Last week Mitt Romney made a visit to New Hampshire.  He made a speech in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, in front of one of the town's historic stone bridges.  The town has five stone bridges left.  It used to have twelve.  The bridges are registered as historic structures by the National Park Service.   Collectively, the bridges are also recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.  The town of Hillsborough is very proud of its bridges.  The town's website makes that quite clear.   The video of Romney's visit received a lot of air-play because Romney was there to rip President Obama's stimulus plan.  The bridge--the Sawyer bridge--that Romney stood before while delivering his speech  benefited from a $150,000 stimulus expenditure.  Romney ridiculed it with his characteristic, breathless HA-HA-HA.

Personally, I have been an ardent supporter of the stimulus bill since it passed.  My only criticism of the stimulus bill is that it wasn't large enough to handle what was a much bigger contraction of the economy than thought at the time when the stimulus bill was enacted.  Last year I wrote a letter to the local paper, outlining the local impact the stimulus had for Shelby County, Iowa.  I was able to do this because there's a website set up to track stimulus spending which can be viewed here. Anyone can go to this site and view stimulus projects from all over the country, right down to the specific zip code.

Knowing this, I decided to do a search in regard to the Sawyer Bridge project.  It didn't take long.  I found the entry here.  I also found the name and email address of the contact person on the project, Mr. Alex Vogt.  I emailed him some questions about the project.  His reply came the next day.

As it turns out, there's more to the story than Mitt Romney wants us to know.  First of all, according to Mr. Vogt, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation selected the project because it was ready to go.  The Obama Administration did not make the selection.  Again, according to Mr. Vogt, "The Town of Hillsborough supported this project and provided the match."  That's a detail Romney left out.  The town of Hillsborough put up matching funds to help restore the bridge to the tune of $133,000.  The town fathers voted in favor of the project because they have plans to incorporate the bridge into a future public park.  The first step was to make the bridge amenable to pedestrians and bicyclists, as specified in the project description:  "In Hillsborough, on route US 202/NH 9, a historic stone arch bridge will be preserved and resurfaced to better accommodate pedestrians and bicycles."  In his email to me, Mr. Vogt concluded, "The project was successful as it did what the Town wanted.  It was a relatively small project so the number of jobs created directly was small. The jobs reported are only the workers on site and does not include suppliers, truck drivers delivering product, or manufacturers."

The project was indeed small, receiving only $150,000 in federal stimulus money.  Now, don't get me wrong, that is a lot of money... if it's in my checking account, but in the grand scheme of things, it's a spit in the ocean.   It's betting cash for Mitt Romney.  The point is, the project kept people working at a time when the economy was shedding jobs by the thousands.  It was a project the town wanted, and when the park around the bridge is eventually completed the folks of Hillsborough will have a fine place to take their families to.  Ultimately, it's a project that enhances the town of Hillsborough and makes the lives of people there better.  Why is that a waste of public money?  Why is public money for a public park a waste of money?  If Romney really believes that, than he should be calling for the closure of our National Parks, too.  Right?  After all, we don't really need Yellowstone and Yosemite, do we?  Those places are run by the National Park Service, the same agency that has designated the stone bridges as historic structures.  Of course, Mr. Romney probably wouldn't be caught dead in a quaint public park in Hillsborough, New Hampshire--where ordinary folks go--especially since he has a $10 million mansion on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, less than forty-eight miles away.

It's easy to criticize projects like the Sawyer Bridge restoration from a zip code hundreds or thousands of miles away.  But when it's in your back yard, it's a different story.  Here in Shelby County, Iowa, and in the adjacent counties around Shelby County, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act pumped $93,757,473 into the economy in 2009 and 2010.  It kept teachers working in our schools and kept folks working on our highways.  It stabilized the economy at a time when it was in freefall.  Likewise, the Hillsborough project also played a role in that stabilization. 

Finally, the city of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire--zip code 03894--where Mitt has his $10 million lakeside mansion on an 11-acre spread, received a grant for $706,000 to upgrade a sewage treatment plant.  I notice Mitt Romney didn't go there to ridicule the stimulus plan.  Now that's a video I would like to see--Mitt Romney making a speech in front of a sewage treatment plant!  Not nearly as picturesque as a stone bridge, but how fitting would that be? 




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