Clinton on crime; Obama and Clinton on Transit; Daily News on both!

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Since I spend so much time on this blog complaining about the quality of reporting on the presidential race – focused on poll numbers, vote bloc demographics, fund raising totals, etc. – it’s only fair that I point out when a news organization does it right.

This morning’s Daily News does it right.

In a piece previewing a West Philly speech by Senator Clinton today, Catherine Lucey provides a nice summary of the major points of Clinton’s plan to fight crime in major cities. The plan seems to be a healthy mix of funding for enforcement – more cops – and prevention – programs for repeat offenders and at-risk children.

Here’s quick and easy version:

Clinton’s plan has specific funding targets. She promises:

* To update the COPS program, established in President Bill Clinton’s administration, by providing funding for 100,000 community cops. The program also would provide technology grants and $250 million per year for community prosecutors.

* To set up a $1 billion grant program to support local efforts to reduce the number of repeat offenders. Grants could help reform a probation system or set up a job-training service for ex-offenders.

* To renew the ban on assault weapons and repeal the Tiahrt amendment, which restricts federal authorities from sharing gun-trace information with local law enforcement.

* To help at-risk children by doubling their number in after-school programs and expanding the number of early-intervention mentoring programs.

In another piece, Lucey details both Clinton’s and Obama’s ideas for improving infrastructure, specifically transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, if transportation is your number one issue, it seems that both candidates may be a little too similar to help you make a decision between the two:

Clinton and Obama have infrastructure plans that outline more funding for roads, bridges and Amtrak trains. [Samuel I. Schwartz, of Sam Schwartz PLLC,] said that he was glad to see pledges for Amtrak but that, overall, the candidates’ proposals are very similar.

“There’s nothing that separates either of them terrifically,” he said. But, he did note, “their advisers are very good.”

The consensus among the transit experts spoken to by Lucey is that neither candidate really grasps the magnitude of this issue (do they ever “grasp the magnitude?”), preferring simply to throw a lot of money at the issue rather than think about it strategically:

Allison L. C. de Cerreno, director of the Wagner Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, at New York University, said she’s been disappointed in the discussion so far.

Although more infrastructure money is badly needed, C. de Cerreno said just throwing money at the existing systems isn’t enough.

“What we need from the federal level is not just the same-old, same-old,” she said. “Really, the vision of this is what we need.”

In January, the Wagner Rudin Center at NYU held a presidential forum on transportation issues, hosted by Schwartz. Both candidates sent surrogates.

Experts said that the candidates should be talking more about the nation’s overall transportation system – roads, trains, air and water – and pondering how best to invest in the future. They stressed a need for more high-speed rail, which is the most energy efficient way to move people and goods.

“We need a recognition that America is in a transportation crisis,” said RePass. “We are losing our ability to compete in world markets as we allow our infrastructure to deteriorate.”

RePass and C. de Cerreno pointed to Asia and Europe as areas investing in infrastructure.

“In Europe, they’re actually planning high-speed rail on a scale that’s continental,” said C. de Cerreno.

Towards the end of the piece, we’re given a glimpse at some of the details of each candidate’s transportation infrastructure policy. For your convenience, here it is.

Obama:

Will create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to receive $6 billion annually to finance transportation projects around the country.

LOCAL TRANSIT: Will double the Jobs Access and Reverse Commute program, which provides federal money to help low-income people get to work. Will increase resources for local public transportation, but doesn’t provide a dollar amount.

AMTRAK AND HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Will continue to fight for more funding. Supported a bill to provide $11 billion over six years. Supports development of high-speed freight and passenger rail, but does not indicate how much money he would provide.

AIR AND SEA: Wants to modernize air-traffic-control system to reduce delays. Will develop an accurate terrorist watch list to improve safety of air travel.

Clinton:

Will establish a $10 billion emergency fund for repairs to roads, bridges and seaports. Another $250 million will fund “Emergency Assessment Grants” to help states inspect infrastructure.

LOCAL TRANSIT: Will provide $1.5 billion in additional funding annually for public transit.

AMTRAK AND HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Will increase funding for “inter-city” rail systems by $1 billion over five years. Also plans to invest more in Amtrak.

AIR AND SEA: Would devise a national policy to expand port capacity.

To put these funding numbers in perspective, consider that the monthly cost of the war in Iraq seems to be about $8 to $9 billion. One week’s worth of spending on the war could probably fund a brand new light rail line in Philadelphia (my oft-dreamed about 7th Street subway for example) or the elusive Schuylkill Valley Metro that will make it so that I never have to drive on the Expressway again.

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