Houston's Infrastructure Wish List Is Half Of Dallas's

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With the holidays approaching, mayors across the country have published their equivalent of letters to Santa, and all they want for Christmas is a total of $73 billion in federal funding for municipal projects they say could kick-start job growth.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors released this week the results of a 427-city survey asking what improvement projects each city had on its plate that could use some government cheese. The stipulation is each of the projects needs to be undertaken immediately if funding is granted and must have a slated completion date no later than the end of 2010. Cities from Anchorage to Miami came up with a total of 11,391 ideas, which the report says could generate about 850,000 jobs. (Here's an online copy.)

When considering the potential effects of this national appeal to use pork to stimulate the economy, we don't blame you if your first thought is: "Yeah, but how do we stack up against Dallas?"

Houston has only 14 requests totaling about $580 million - most are for road repairs, believe it or not. (Museums? We already have some of those.) Dallas laid out 64 requests totaling $1.22 billion; both cities' projects would generate about 12,000 jobs each.

Funny how Dallas wants more than twice the money to generate the same amount of work. Of course, the chances of either city receiving exactly what it's asking for are about as good as the odds Steve Bartman will get appointed to that vacant Senate seat in Illinois.

Austin trumps Dallas and Houston with 160 requests that total about $1.02 billion and would create, you guessed it, roughly 12,000 jobs. (We hope they pay well - spending senior year working for $7 an hour at Quizno's is a bummer.)

Frank Michel, a spokesman for Mayor White, tells Hair Balls that Houston's list was assembled rather hastily thanks to some short notice.

"This all came up about two weeks ago. We're also tweaking the list further...we're adding another list of things, kind of regional projects with the city, TxDOT, Metro," Michel says. "So the list will grow for Houston."

As far as growing the list, maybe the city could follow Dallas' lead and request a few million for "new sidewalks, curbs, etc." Or maybe just a $20 million request for "none of your beeswax.

- Blake Whitaker

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