Many people are asking: When's it going to get better, already? "We're only 140 days into this deal. It's supposed to take 18 months," Vice President Biden has been reminding critics of late. So why are we already hearing some pundits tolling the bells of defeat; some even asking for another stimulus infusion?
Impatience for results is not new, although it is a relative thing. During our younger days, perhaps, we learned the art of waiting through cereal boxtops. You'd gather the five or so that the back-of-the-carton offer required, filled out the mail-in form in your best block script, affixed the stamp to the envelope, took it down to the corner mailbox, and sent it off to Battle Creek, Mich. Then, according the the offer, you had five to seven interminable weeks to wait for whatever plastic and cardboard treasure you longed.
Heck, even waiting four hours for the Jello to set seemed way too long.
It's not too surprising, then, that to a lot of us in the general public, the promises ascribed to the $787 billion stimulus package seem a bit slow in fruition; so much so that there are people calling for another round of stimulus-fund commitments; again, separate from the regular budget process. Is this a recipe for uncontrollable pork-barrel spending or—given state and local fiscal woes, unemployment closing on 10 percent nationwide and 30 percent in many hard-hit areas, and a fast-approaching election year—is another stimulus package an inevitability?
Architects are particularly well placed to assuage the fears and put some reality into the public debate. Being used to projects developing over the course of years, with success defined by continuous attention to detail and addressing issues before they become problems, architects know that instant gratification is not a luxury often enjoyed. Moreover, if the pipeline handles a maximum per-hour flow, technically trained professionals understand that it doesn't really matter how much is in the holding tank, the only way to increase the rate of flow is to increase the flow capacity. And that's where public servants should be redirecting the public's attention.
U.S. Representative Donna Edwards (D-Md.) writes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: "In Maryland and other states, we are getting contracts out, and jobs are being created. Only five months in, with the bulk of funding still to be disbursed, it is disingenuous for critics to call the package a failure. This bill has helped pull the economy out of free fall ... Even in the absence of a second stimulus package, the goals of imediate job creation and infrastructure investment could be achieved through the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2009."
In other words, patience is a virtue. And so is getting out there and making things happen.
That's why Rob Robinson, AIA, testified before Congress July 16 ... not asking for more federal funding for transportation projects, but asking for more robust means of getting the money to projects that create jobs by acting now on comprehensive reform of the nation’s transportation laws.