Monday, September 04, 2006

Congresswoman Schmidt and the Arthur Avenue Retail Market

This post continues looking at the individual spending earmarks Congresswoman Schmidt specifically endorsed when she voted against amendments offered up by Congressman Jeff Flake.

[For a backgrounder see: Congresswoman Schmidt is 0 - 19 on anti-pork amendments and Explaining her votes against the Flake Anti-pork Amendments.]

Ms. Schmidt voted against Jeff Flake's amendment to eliminate $150,000 for Arthur Avenue Retail Market in Bronx, N.Y. (H.AMDT.1126 amending H.R.5672; actual details of the earmark can be found in House Report 109-520.)

What follows is a classic debate from the Congressional Record (H4717 and H4718) which failed to sway the 2nd District's fiscal conservative (emphasis added):

Amendment offered by Mr. Flake: At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:


Sec. 801. None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to fund the Arthur Avenue Retail Market.

The CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to the order of the House of Tuesday, June 27, 2006, the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Flake) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Arizona.

Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, I am a big fan of Italian food. My district is home to a great Italian restaurant, Anzio's Landing. You can order many of your favorite dishes, good Italian bread, and there are many former New Yorkers in my district, and they know it well. But if the owner of this restaurant, whom I know well, if he approached me to get a Federal earmark to modernize his restaurant, I would have to tell him ``fuhgetaboudit.''

Today I am bringing this amendment to learn whether the rest of the House will agree with me on that premise. The bill before us today asks us to spend $150,000 in Federal taxpayer dollars to the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, an Italian grocery market in a neighborhood labeled Bronx's Little Italy. Over a dozen merchants currently reside in the market, including Joe Liberatore's Garden of Plenty, Peter's Meat Market and Mike's Deli, a two-generation family-owned business that sells antipasti, breads, meats, pasta, and imported cheeses. The market is also home to the La Casa Grande Tobacco Company, which offers hand- rolled cigars.

In 2004, the market received $300,000 in earmarked Federal dollars for renovations. The market received another $400,000 in Federal transportation appropriation dollars for a new parking facility in 2005.

We are back. In 1940, Mayor LaGuardia built an indoor Arthur Avenue Market to take street vendors out of the cold. This is where this originated. In the 1980s, the merchants of the market formed a co-op and paid for renovations to that market. Now, there are long lines at the market on weekends to get great Italian bread, cheese and salami.

I would ask the sponsor of this amendment why close to $700,000 has been spent on this Italian grocery market and why another $150,000 in taxpayer funds is needed.

There is a lot of Federal prosciutto to bring back to the District, or that is, a lot of Federal prosciutto to bring back to the District for a private Italian grocery market. I think we need to slice off some of this appropriations bill. If there is a place to slice, this is certainly it.

What possible Federal purpose does this earmark serve? Does the taxpayer even get a free Italian cookie assortment? If we allow our tax money to go to this grocery market, what benefit is there for the Federal taxpayer? There are certainly plenty of private benefits, but what Federal benefit? How do we justify this?

I would argue that this is one cannoli the taxpayer doesn't want to take a bite out of.

I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.

The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Virginia is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. WOLF. I yield to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Serrano).

Mr. SERRANO. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman from Arizona's use of certain ethnic words like ``cannoli'' and ``prosciutto'' indicate that he takes this more lightly than he should. This is a serious thing that he is trying to do here. I know he is on this mission to destroy every bit of dollar that is sent by Members of Congress.

Let me start off by saying that I am a firm believer that Members know the needs of their districts best, and I am proud to be on the floor today to talk about this project so important to the Bronx.

The Arthur Avenue Retail Market is one of the most prominent, well frequented and historic business locations in my district. It represents a little bit of Italy in the midst of the Bronx. This space serves as an incubator for food-related businesses.

It is, however, not a grocery store, but, instead, a building owned by the City of New York. I think that is important to note. These dollars don't go into these businessmen's pockets or businesses for that matter; it goes into a building owned by the City of New York.

In 1940, during the time of Mayor LaGuardia, Arthur Avenue Market, the first enclosed retail market in the Bronx, was built to house street vendors who were crowding the sidewalks of the borough's Belmont community. Today, it is a local landmark.

So let me be perfectly clear. This is not a privately owned real estate venture but a public market which gives many new merchants a starting point as they work towards full economic participation in the country. This is a place where merchants running their own small businesses sell specialty products to people from the surrounding areas to visitors from throughout the tristate area and to local restaurants.

As you know, I represent the poorest congressional district in our country, which is located in the middle of the richest city on Earth. However, this market is a bright spot, and it is vital to the economic success of the Bronx. It is a place where vendors and other small business owners can fully participate in our economy. This small
amount of funding that is being highlighted today is for continued facility improvements and maintenance to keep this historic market running.

Specifically, this funding, which will be used for refurbishments of the market, will include electrical and plumbing upgrades. The Arthur Avenue Retail Market owned by the City of New York is responsible for the maintenance.

The purpose of the Small Business Administration is to assist our small businesses. This is exactly what this market does, help small businesses in the Bronx to flourish and grow.

So I would ask my colleague, Mr. Flake, where his outrage was when lending institutions and insurance companies were taking billions of dollars from the borough of the Bronx in the 1970s and early 1980s through redlining and other forms of disinvestment. Where was he when one of the few commercial locations remained viable in spite of that?

I would also like to take the occasion to personally invite the gentleman from Arizona to come to the 16th District. You said you had one Italian restaurant in your district. I feel sorry for you. You should have more than one. I can take you all over the Bronx where you could see people hard at work.

Lastly, on a more serious note, I wish you would be as outraged about other things as you are about this one. You voted to rebuild areas of Iraq with markets, schools and everything else you can think of, and yet you would pick on something like this, which helps a small group of businessmen stay vital in the Bronx.

Mr. FLAKE. I thank the gentleman for the invitation. I likely will take him up on it. Maybe I will learn to say ``prosciutto'' properly. But we simply get back to the point, where does it end? Where do we stop favoring one group, one industry over another? It is mentioned that this is a city-owned facility. Those who are residing there, who have their markets there, already received that kind of subsidy
apparently from the city

Now we are going in addition and giving them further subsidy. $400,000 last year for a parking garage, $300,000 in 2004 for similar upgrades, $150,000 more today. My guess is that there are Italian eateries or restaurants or markets elsewhere in the city that are getting no subsidy at all. How is it fair to them? How is it fair to them to favor one?

And I would say the same if it were in my district. It is not fair to subsidize one and not the other, and that is where we are with this earmarking process.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

The CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Flake).

The question was taken; and the Chairman announced that the noes appeared to have it.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do as I say not as I do.
Most RSC members enjoy pork
By Jonathan Allen

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) is one of the House’s harshest critics of pork-barrel spending. A member of the conservative Republican Study Committee, he was one of 20 lawmakers who voted 19 times in May and June to strike earmarks from appropriations bills. He refers to himself as Tom “Pork Buster” Feeney.

In all, 93 members of the Republican Study Committee would get at least $95 million in Labor-HHS earmarks. Sixteen politically vulnerable members of the RSC did particularly well, hauling in more than $26 million. Among them, Reps. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.) and J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) secured more than $1 million apiece while voting for all 19 of Rep. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) amendments striking projects from other spending measures.

Ohio Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, whose Cincinnati district would get $2.5 million, voted with Flake 18 times.

Rep. Mike Pence, chairman of the RSC, earmarked $500,000 for Indiana’s 6th District — $200,000 apiece for Ball State University and Madison Community College and $100,000 for Ivy Tech Community College. Ivy Tech campuses would get $3 million from the Indiana delegation.

September 12, 2006 at 9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks anonymous!:

Hopefully, you advocate the removal of all earmarks and the reinforcement of a totally transparent budget process -- as opposed to referring to the obvious hypocrisy of the article as a justification for Schmidt's irresponsible spending.

A full post highlighting the Hill's article will follow shortly.

September 12, 2006 at 10:30 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home