Sunday, June 19, 2016

A New Deal Firehouse in Honolulu

Above: The Central Fire Station at 104 Beretania Street, in Honolulu, Hawaii. This firehouse was built with the assistance of funds from the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA), 1934-1935. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: This 2009 photograph of the firehouse is provided courtesy of Joel Bradshaw and Wikipedia. According to the Fort Street Mall, "The central three bays feature impressive sets of aluminum doors, supplied by the California Artistic Metal and Wire Company in San Francisco.

Vital public services experienced a renaissance during the New Deal. For example, in addition to PWA funding, laborers in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built 325 new firehouses and participated in nearly 2,400 other projects to repair or improve firehouses. All this New Deal funding & labor came at a time when state & local budgets had been smashed by the Great Depression. Today, we have a different policy approach. If state & local needs can't be met with state & local funding, then those needs simply won't be addressed in an adequate manner.  

This changed policy approach is why the residents of Flint, Michigan, for example, were recently told by the EPA that they face "multiple long-term threats" to their water supply. Instead of supplying more funding & labor to replace old water mains, pipes, and fixtures--as was done during the New Deal--the federal government has been reduced to the role of messenger-of-bad-news, i.e., "Your water supply is dangerous, you can't afford to fix it, we're not going to help you, and so you'll just have drink water, take showers, and bathe your infants at your own risk from here on out. Sorry." (See "Flint, Michigan Water Risks Will Be Long Term, EPA Warns," Huffington Post, June 17, 2016.)

Which policy approach do you like best? The one that lifts up our national infrastructure, or the one that says, "Tough luck, you're on your own"?

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