Daily Dirt

Symbols of American Recovery

Like the earlier National Recovery Administration (NRA), the signature program of the early days of FDR’s New Deal, President Obama and Vice President Biden introduced two new emblems last Tuesday to identify recovery projects, describing them as reminders of how the government is putting tax dollars to work. “These emblems are symbols of our commitment to you, the American people – a commitment to investing your tax dollars wisely, to put Americans to work doing the work that needs to be done,” Obama said.

“We’re going to make it easier for Americans to see what projects are being funded with their money as part of our recovery. Throughout the country, wherever recovery funds are spent to restore or update a building or to move other projects forward, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) emblem will be displayed. So in the weeks to come, the signs denoting these projects are going to bear the new emblem of the ARRA,” said President Obama.

The White House guidelines for each logo were very clear. “It was explicitly stated that the ARRA logo not look ‘governmental,’ ” Steve Juras, the creative director of the Chicago firm Mode Project, said. “We were asked to create a ‘visible sign of progress’ in a contemporary way while referencing energy, education and health care. Like the NRA’s Blue Eagle, the ARRA logo prominently features red, white and blue with green added to the mix.

The goals for the second logo, TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) were even simpler: Use a tiger motif to speak to the Department of Transportation’s new initiative, and be sure to include ‘USDOT’ somewhere in the mark.”

This logo will identify projects of the USDOT’s “TIGER” team. Expect to see this one on highways and bridges.

Let’s hope that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act represented by the ARRA and TIGER logos works out better than the NRA and National Industry Recovery Act did.

Let us know what you think about the new logos.

American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Implementation Conference

Vice President Joe Biden opened the White House Recovery and Reinvestment Act Implementation Conference, yesterday, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus in Washington, D.C.

About 125 people from 49 states, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other officials including Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board attended the day-long conference to share ideas on how best to implement the $787 billion economic Stimulus Package signed into law last month by President Barack Obama. Idaho was unable to send a representative. Biden was introduced by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, (photo by Gerald Herbert/AP)who called him “both the watchdog and the bulldog.”

In his opening remarks, Biden said, “We have an awesome responsibility here. We have never attempted to, as transparently and as accountably, get as much money out into the states as quickly in order to help you with counter cyclical help, in terms of your budgets, in terms of your employees, whether it’s cops or teachers. Nor have we ever invested this much money since Eisenhower in the – invested in the Interstate Highway System and the infrastructure of this country. This is a first.”

Vice President Biden continued, saying, “This is a big deal – this is a big deal. It’s also being closely watched not just by me, but by the President, and by Mr. Devaney, who is one of the most respected IG’s we have in the federal government, and is known by many of you. And it’s also being watched by the taxpayers and it’s being watched by the media.

“This is not just an opportunity to help us get out of this mess we’re in, but it’s an opportunity to begin to lay the foundation for a competitive America in the 21st century. That’s something we can never lose sight of. Everyone in this room is has a huge responsibility. We all have the responsibility to make sure this legislation is implemented with maximum efficiency. And we have the responsibility to make sure there’s unprecedented transparency for the America people.

“Second, the purpose is to create jobs in the near term, and that’s why we – not just now, but in the near term, over the next 18 months. That’s why we’ve dedicated so much money to rebuilding America’s schools, roads, highways, and bridges.”

Officials came to the conference armed with questions on the requirements they have to meet to receive stimulus funding, as details have come out piecemeal since the recovery bill was passed.

So far, the administration has released money to states for roads and bridges, criminal justice, education and public transportation in the hope those areas will quickly create jobs.

Officials said some of their questions were answered at Thursday’s conference, but they expect to have to return to the administration for more information.

Wayne Turnage, the chief of staff to Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, said although he had learned about the workings of the plan, he still expected to work with the Obama administration for “weeks, months and years.”

“We have questions around some of the timing issues,” he said. “There is a huge requirement that these dollars be obligated and spent in a certain time period and we want to make sure that federal processes… are consistent.”

Obama has stressed the importance of overseeing the funds’ distribution.

“Taxpayers need
to know how these entities are spending stimulus funds at the project level,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a letter to Gene L. Dodaro, the U.S. Acting Comptroller General.

In the letter released on Thursday, McConnell asked the GAO to report on governors who are using stimulus funds to “supplant state spending,” to describe measures of how many jobs the plan has created and to identify federal regulations “that may delay project starts.”

The Kentucky senator also wants to know if the contracts for the infrastructure projects in the plan – which total $40 billion – are being competitively bid and if requirements that workers on those projects be paid the prevailing local wage are increasing the projects’ costs.

The President, who dropped by before noon, strongly emphasized the importance of how states will be using their share of the stimulus in his brief remarks.

“All of you are at the front lines of what is probably the most important task that we have in this country over the next couple of years, and that’s getting the economy started again,” Obama said.

“What you do in the coming weeks and coming months, over the next couple of years is going to make a huge difference in whether or not the trust that the American people have placed in us is justified. We’re going to need to work really hard and we’re going to have to make sure that every single dollar is well spent,” he added.

The Vice President said he would make himself directly available to governors who are having problems in dealing with the money. “Tell your governors – literally – if they have a problem, if they’re confused, if you’re confused about what needs to be done – literally – pick up the phone and call me,” he said. “Call me.” “I’m used to being accessible,” he added. “I really mean it. Have your governors call me and we’ll get it straightened out – ‘cause we got to get it right.”

Greg Sitek

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