Thingish Things

‘Free’ Projects

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Apr• 21•11

New York City is planning to install massive solar panels atop the Fresh Kills landfill that could generate enough energy to power 50,000 homes.  It gets better:  All this would be done for free, at least according the city’s Director of Sustainability, David Bragdon.

“The cost is not a cost to the city,” Bragdon explains to New York Post City Hall Bureau Chief  Dave Seifman. “It is not a taxpayer-funded project.”

Except it is.  At the conclusion of his story Seifman correctly notes that the $40 million  start up cost would come from the federal government.

You cant blame Bragdon for how he sees it: This comes at no cost “to the city,” he said.  So to him, “it is not a taxpayer funded project.” That is, it does not come out of the city budget. It is therefore “free.”

That is, unfortunately, how government officials are trained to think.  As long as it doesn’t come out of their budget, all is okay.  It’s why the federal government passes costs to states; states pass costs to counties, and counties pass costs to municipalities.  All those costs, though, are passed to taxpayers, and that somehow gets papered over in the press release.  It is the kind of thinking that has landed us in this hole.

This solar panel project? Sounds like a grand idea to me.  I’m all for it.  But let’s be honest about its cost.

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