President Obama Touts Stimulus Success; East Side Road Project "Perfect Example"
For more than a year an East Side neighborhood has seen millions of dollars go into Children Hospital's expansion. That expansion spawned a nearby road reconstruction backed by federal stimulus dollars. President Barack Obama was at Friday's groundbreaking to hammer home the benefits of the multi-billion dollar stimulus bill.
President Obama was greeted by a small invitation-only crowd at the intersection of Parsons and Livingston Avenues where he and state and local leaders broke ground on a $15 million road project.
Behind the president, a large curved, gleaming building is under construction. It's part of Columbus Children's Hospital's $840 million expansion, and what helped initiate the road work.
Obama told the crowd the stimulus bill is working in Ohio.
"Nearly 2,400 small businesses have gotten loans to keep their doors open and their workers on payroll; 4.5 million families have gotten tax cuts to help pay their bills and put food on the table; some 450 transportation projects are underway or have been completed; and more than 100,000 Ohioans are at work today as a result of these steps," the president said.
Obama called the Parsons and Livingston road project a "perfect example" of what he said the stimulus bill was meant to do. "Economic development that's being sparked today is going to continue into the future. And my understanding, because the hospital is now growing that means they're putting money back into the neighborhood for housing and other facilities so that the entire community starts rebuilding," Obama said.
Pamela Dean, who grew up on the East Side, joined a few others on Parsons to try to get a look at the president. While Dean said she approves of Obama's job performance, she's not as sure about the stimulus package. "I don't see where it's working for a lot of jobs. We could use a lot more jobs, as far as the economy being the way it is," Dean said.
Frank Mitchell lives down from Livingston Avenue. Mitchell said he hopes the stimulus-backed road construction will improve his neighborhood.
"They're trying to get Parsons Avenue built up. But they need some investors and I think they're having a hard time getting investors," Mitchell said. Undoubtedly, the stimulus package is putting people to work. The road project alone is expected to create some 300 construction jobs. But Matt Mayer, president of the Buckeye Institute, said the bill has not done enough for the private sector.
He said Ohio lost 6,600 private sector jobs last month as more than 10,000 government jobs were created during the same time.
"We're doing a great job creating more high paid government jobs, but we're doing very little to effectively stop the bleeding with the private sector and in fact get the jobs growing," Mayer.
And Mayer said the state's job growth has, in his words, "a huge imbalance."
"You just can't have a vibrant government if you don't have a vibrant private sector, and we just don't have that in Ohio today," he said.
Governor Ted Strickland, who was at the ground breaking, said he believes in the economic stimulus package.
"Until the private sector is willing to take greater risks, make more investments, until credit becomes more available for private sector investment and expansion. I think it is critical that these public resources be expended," Strickland said.
The White House said the Livingston and Parson's road project is the nation's 10,000th stimulus-funded road project.