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Thread: Stimulus package and planning jobs

  1. #1
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    Stimulus package and planning jobs

    Does anyone know how to track what's going to be in Obama's stimulus package? Similarly, does anyone know where and what kinds of jobs they are talking about creating.

    I'm not above working on a road crew, but I was hoping that a small number of planning jobs would accompany the spending. I live outside of DC so knowledge of any fed money left here, such as boosting the size of the Transportation Dept (and knowing which areas there) would be very helpful. There could be a silver lining amid all of the job cuts in planning if the federal spending goes right. Any info in the area would be greatly appreciated. (I will be out of a job soon and am applying for anything at this point.)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    From what I have been told it seems doubtful that any planning positions will be created. Basically the stimulus money is going towards projects that have already been planned and are shovel ready. It seems contractors, laborers, and their material suppliers will be the ones getting the majority of this funding. Of course, it all trickles down from there (in theory).

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    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    I have heard some rumors about significant increases in CDBG allocations- that can produce some planning jobs.

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    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    If this stimulus package passes as it currently is proposed transportation planners, airport planners, and other infrastructure planners will see an increase in work. Civil Engineers will be picking up the bulk of the work with road, sewer, and airport projects. Planners who are in project management will also see an increase in work. What I would love to see is a national group that oversees the projects and approves where the money goes and doesn't rely on small city politics to dictate where federal dollars should be spent.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Most of the details will still need to be worked out. I share a concern that the bulk of the funds, at least initially, will be directed to "off the shelf" projects that will generate limited need for planning, engineering, or other design services. The long run may prove to be more favorable to our profession.

    Obama has proposed to continue funding the CDBG program, which was targeted for substantial cuts by the Bush administration. There has been no word on whether CDBG may see any increases. Personally, I would like to see money distributed to communities outside of CDBG, which has some antiquated and unhelpful rules attached to it.

    Obama has indicated an interest in promting economic development, and has identified industry clusters and business incubators as two approaches that he favors. There will be some planning work involved in these initiatives - but for us economic development types.
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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    One thing I am pointing out to those who ask is that it is difficult to tell what the package is going to look like. For starters, the President who proposed this is not even president yet. He could run into obstacles trying to pass this. It is generally accepted that some form of grant program would be best, but the devil will be in selecting the projects that are ready to go now, and still be able to maintain some sort of stream to fully implement other federal-aid dollars.

    An interesting dicotomy is being set up where we are being told to fund projects that are ready to go in a very tight time-frame, but those funds are to go for projects that create additional jobs. Well the projects that are ready to go are the ones that have been through the planning process otherwise it will take months for federal regulators to allow projects to be selected. If we spend the only on already semi-committed projects, it could free up an opportunity to allow 2010 projects to move forward, but even then they would need to be done in 2009 or money will be lost. If lost, you lose any economic stimulus benefit.

    If someone would ask me about how to use this to get into planning, I would point them towards local engineering consulting firms. Many transportation agencies and DPWs are pretty short-staffed these days so to get these projects through the process they will rely on contracted help.

    You should really be able to speak in federal-ese which is full of fun terms such as committed, obligated, TIP, and shovel-ready. I can see a need most of us whose jobs it is to administer these federal-aid projects are already working under a lot of demands.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian
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    I heard yesterday that MPO programming funds would double, so that may affect hiring decisions.

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    Cyburbian
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    Around the office I'm hearing that the "shovel ready" concept is being changed substantially because of concerns that "shovel ready" projects may not be the best choice for sustainable ("green") next-generation development.

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    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by progmac View post
    Around the office I'm hearing that the "shovel ready" concept is being changed substantially because of concerns that "shovel ready" projects may not be the best choice for sustainable ("green") next-generation development.
    I completely agree, what good does an off the shelf "pipe dream" by-pass road that was conceived 15 years ago and engineered 10 years ago do?

    Each project should undergo a stimulus test possibly administered by the States or MPOs, but that would open up this whole process to local politicking.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CubbieBlue View post
    I heard yesterday that MPO programming funds would double, so that may affect hiring decisions.
    I've not heard that. It would be a mistake because what could happen is a 180 day rush, then lots of planners facing pink slips in several months. BTW you can read a summary of the bill introduced to the house. Interesting stuff.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Package Outline

    Below is a link to the stimulus package outline that he released yesterday. If anyone knows what the line might translate into, maybe they could comment. It's from the agricultural section.

    "Partner with Landowners to Conserve Private Lands: Increase incentives for farmers and private landowners to conduct sustainable agriculture and protect wetlands, grasslands, and forests."

    I guess part of the idea is that he wants to do things right away so planning doesn't fit in too well. It's too bad, because as others have mentioned doing it fast means doing it right (as in using a '50s mentality for road building, etc.).

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/economy/

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    I have been closely involved in our juristictions lobbying, project listing etc...The fact is the story changes every day. The lobbyist says this...then the Congressmans Office says that...

    We are talking hundreds of pages if not thousands of pages of legilsation...The "shovel" ready requirements are a challenge to most local governments as the really important projects may not have engineering and preplannng done at all. So the worst case is that this stimulus bill becomes just a "busy work" bill.

    Who actually handles the money, especially relative to transportation projects is in conflict as well. Will it go directly to the MPO's? To the State DOT offices? to the Governors or directly to the locality. Most of us know what the impacts are under each of those scenerios.

    Finally, yes there appears to be additional money for COPS, CDBG et al, but I see only contractors, engineers reaping benefits. And usually in our systems, it will be the connected ones anyway...(sorry for cynicism).

    I have felt uneasy about this process of local governments standing on the breadline outside the Soviet GUM.

  13. #13
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    This reminds me of the Transportation Bill, SAFETEA-LU when it passed in 2005. There were "donor" and "donee" states that received more or less money (relative to how much their taxpayers paid from gasoline purchases) due to the status of the status of that state's Congressional delegation. West Virginia received more money than California due to Robert Byrd, and the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Don Young, siphoned a lion's share of the gas excise tax to Alaska. Also, transportation funding is used to impose a myriad of federal mandates on states.

    Another concern is that many the items in the stimulus bill sound like either entitlements or items set up to receive continuous annual funding. This would include expansion of Head Start, food stamps, and perhaps medical coverage. It's beginning to appear that Obama is pushing much of his agenda from behind the skirts of a stimulus bill. Infrastructure is just a mere portion of the overall package now.

    I know people who helped change bills based on what they heard in the John the night of a vote, so I'm sure that there will be changes. Mostly that the fat boys with good lobbyists will come out on top, as if this needs to be said considering what the financial industry has been able to pull off (including before the financial crisis).

    Anyhow, that's my cynicism. If you hear any more about jobs for planners, please let us know. I'll stand in line for my sop too.

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