Leader Blues

Saturday, December 22, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Feds give us holiday gifts

Everybody complains about pork-barrel projects — or “earmarks” as they’re sometimes called — but they’re bad only when they’re for the other guys. It’s hard to complain, though, when the money comes our way. In fact, it’s pretty nice.

Most of our congressional delegation worked all year to secure some $39 million for local projects in the $555 billion ombnibus bill — which Congress passed this week — including $10.7 million for the Joint Education Center at Little Rock Air Force Base. Jacksonville voters had approved a $5 million sales tax to pay for the college campus that the city and LRAFB will operate in front of the base near the freeway.

The center will provide better educational opportunites for students from all around the area and will be a tremendous boost to Jacksonville’s economy.

Cabot, too, will benefit from the omnibus bill, which includes $840,000 for a new National Guard armory. That’s an impressive addition to a rapidly growing suburb with a large military population similar to Jacksonville’s.

Other military-related appropriations include $9.8 million for runway repairs at the air base, as well as lighting and communications improvements there. Current and former base commanders, particularly Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, who is in charge of the 314th Airlift Wing, and his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Kip Self, worked hard to get funding for the aging runways, which will be like-new when the repairs are completed.

The base will also get funds to modernize its aerospace and ground equipment and engine facilities.

There were other military-related goodies in the ombnibus bills, including $18.4 million for a General Equivalency Diploma complex at Camp Robinson for students needing a second chance, as well as a $1.9 million assault course.

Water projects include $9.8 million for Grand Prairie irrigation and $2.7 million for Bayou Meto, which should bring holiday cheer to all.