BSL to receive $475,000 in stimulus funds

An article in the Commercial Appeal announced that U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen secured $475,000 in federal stimulus funding for Beale Street Landing (BSL) - the $29.4M boat dock project underway at the foot of Beale Street.

Although "shovel ready", it seems a strange project to receive funding designed to support economic recovery. The overnight boats it was intended to serve have gone out of business.

Previous public funding for the project includes approximately $10M from the state and federal government and $19M from the City.

Click below for links to the article on stimulus funds for Memphis and for additional information on BSL.

Rep. Cohen serves up pork for Memphis; suburbs not so lucky
Garage Gate, Part Two?
Away All Boats
Shovel Ready
Beale Street Landing - What, where, why, do we need it, can we afford it?
Update on BSL

Rep. Cohen serves up pork for Memphis; suburbs not so lucky
The Commercial Appeal
Friday, February 27, 2009
Reporters Clay Bailey, Jody Callahan, Kevin McKenzie and Bartholomew Sullivan contributed to this article.

The massive $410 billion spending bill that passed the House this week contains at least $2 million for Memphis and Shelby County, thanks to requests from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis.

And U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss., earmarked another $8 million for his district-- though DeSoto County wasn't included in the plan.

But Shelby County's suburban governments came up empty-handed in this round of spending.

The omnibus budget bill, passed on top of the $787 billion stimulus package, pays for government operations for the balance of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Representatives from both parties tagged their pet projects onto the legislation after avoiding the add-ons to the recently passed stimulus package promoted by President Barack Obama.

The omnibus bill, which passed the House, 245-178, still must be approved by the Senate and signed by the president.

Among Mid-South congressmen, only Cohen voted for it. Childers, John Tanner, D-Tenn., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., voted against it.

"If you think the country needs to move forward and make progress, it's going to cost money," Cohen said, explaining his vote. "They're just programs that you support."

Cohen sponsored or co-sponsored more than $100 million in earmarks, including $14.8 million for the national Teach for America program and $24.8 million for Reading is Fundamental.

"I know that some congressmen don't get earmarks, so their districts don't get $7 (million) or $8 million in federal funding," Cohen said Thursday night.

Local earmarks by Cohen include $1 million to be split between Memphis, Shelby County, the University of Memphis and the District Attorney General's Office for efforts to fight gangs and violence. Cohen allocated another $475,000 for a Beale Street Landing docking facility and $475,000 for improvements to Elvis Presley Boulevard.

Tanner, whose district includes Millington, did not have any earmarks in Shelby County. And though Childers made earmarks for a host of projects throughout his Mississippi district, none went to DeSoto County. Childers said through a spokesman Thursday that he didn't receive any funding requests from DeSoto County.

Blackburn, whose district stretches to the suburban outskirts of Shelby County, has taken a pledge not to seek earmarks until she is satisfied the process has been reformed.

Claude Chafin, Blackburn's spokesman, said Blackburn was "appalled at how egregious the earmarking system has become, in the House specifically.

"It was no longer a process that she could be involved in in good conscience because it contributed so much wasteful federal spending."

Chafin said Blackburn is looking to the House leadership for "serious earmark reform, so that members of Congress can transparently tend to the needs of their districts."

Cohen shrugged off Blackburn's objections.

"I don't know that Congresswoman Blackburn considered them (pork-barrel spending) until the Democrats came in," he said. "I know she got some things for Memphis in the past."

Most suburban leaders were not upset Thursday about Blackburn's stance against the earmarks because the potential money wasn't even on their radar.

"We didn't ask for any, so it's not a big deal," Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald said.

Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy said she was pretty sure no funds were involved for her city.

"We're just not accustomed to getting checks from Washington," Goldsworthy said.

In Collierville's local political campaigns last fall, candidates routinely pledged to seek more dollars from Washington and Nashville to help support the town. Mayor Stan Joyner, who took office in November, said he wasn't prepared to make a statement about the earmarks, but "it does concern me."


U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis:
Justice Dept. grant to deal with gang violence and violent crime -- $1 million
Beale Street Landing Docking Facility -- $475,000
U.S. 51 -- Elvis Presley Blvd. Improvements -- $475,000
Regional Medical Center, facilities and equipment -- $238,000
Rhodes College NASA Stars training curriculum -- $200,000
Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, facilities and equipment -- $190,000
Memphis Youth Services, summer and after-school employment -- $190,000

Additional projects not listed with a House sponsor, but supported by Cohen, include $4.5 million for a terminal air traffic control facility replacement at Memphis and $760,000 for the Bioworks Foundation for construction at the UT-Baptist Research Park.

U.S. Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn.: $3.76 million in total earmarks, but none in Shelby County.

U.S. Rep. Travis W. Childers, D-Miss.:$8 million in total earmarks, but none in DeSoto County.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.: Did not seek earmarks.