Why is the U.S. Government paying for a parking garage for private S.A. university?

Link to Stinson column.

Another example of why citizens don’t believe transportation bureaucrats…
TXDOT: We don’t have money so we need to toll every FREEway in Texas.
TRUTH: They have plenty of money to give $2 million to a PRIVATE university for a parking garage!
Read on…

Roddy Stinson: Why is U.S. government paying for a parking garage at UIW?
Web Posted: 08/11/2005 12:00 AM CDT
San Antonio Express-News

On the Sleuthing Trail …

CASE: “Roddy, the Express-News published a list of federally funded projects in the transportation bill. On the list was $2 million for a ‘parking facility’ at the University of the Incarnate Word.

“Why is the U.S. government paying for a parking garage at a private university?”

INVESTIGATION: The answer depends on who is doing the explaining.

According to the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the “Transportation Equity Act” is simply the latest example of congressional business-as-usual, loaded with “special interest tax breaks” and “pieces of pork.”

On the council’s Web site are “some of the more than 6,000 egregious projects in the bill.”

Number 32 on the list:

“$2,000,000 — Construction of a parking facility at the University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio, Texas)”

Taking a different view of the project, Incarnate Word officials issued a statement defending the $2 million federal gift.
Salient points:

“The $2 million earmarked for Incarnate Word will help fund a multi-level parking garage for the Feik School of Pharmacy, as well as access roads and pedestrian walkways that have been designed to address the issues of parking, safety and public access.”

The pharmacy school will serve “students of all racial, ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds … relieve the shortage of pharmacists in rural areas … and provide access to Hispanics interested in pursuing pharmacy as a profession.”

“Incarnate Word was able to secure the $2 million because private and public universities are provided with equal access to federal funds.”

The “securing” process was aided by U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, who in a July 30 Express-News story about the transportation bill praised all of the South Texas projects as “important” to the improvement of this area’s “infrastructure.”

Schools are generally considered part of a community’s infrastructure, so the $2 million given to UIW for a parking facility makes some infrastructural sense.

The selection of the private school in question is also understandable given Bonilla’s (1) powerful position as a member of the House Appropriations Committee and (2) longtime association with Incarnate Word.

In May 2002, when the university awarded the congressman a Doctor of Humane Letters, a UIW newsletter noted:

“Mr. Bonilla has played a major role in the growth of Incarnate Word. His efforts on behalf of the university have yielded nearly $2 million in federal funds that are currently being utilized for the Science and Engineering Center.”

Money goes both ways.

A check of Express-News databases found several generous campaign contributions to Bonilla from UIW President Louis J. Agnese.

Somewhere in all of that information is a possible explanation of “why” U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill for the UIW parking facility.

As for the propriety of the $2 million gift …

The never-ending American debate over separation of church and state raises an obvious question: Should the tax money of non-Catholics be used to pay for a Catholic university’s parking garage?

Not that any church/state discussion really matters.

The yes/no decision has already been made by Washington officialdom.

According to a hot-off-the-wire Associated Press report:

“President Bush on Wednesday signed a whopping $286.4 billion transportation bill that lawmakers lined with plenty of cash for some 6,000 pet projects back home.

“Pet” projects.

Cheshire cats come easily to mind.