Mayors' stimulus list includes surprises — to their cities

As Congress scrambles to pass a federal stimulus package, government leaders across the United States are keeping a watchful eye -- after all, billions of dollars in local infrastructure projects are at stake.

Yet beyond the question of which projects win funding, another looms: Do the communities affected really need some of the projects being pushed by mayors? Do they even want them all?

Nationally, Las Vegas has been ridiculed for wanting stimulus money to help fund a mob museum, while Providence went on the defensive for a proposal to spend $4.8 million for a polar bear exhibit at the local zoo. South Florida projects being pitched include swimming pools, new city halls and a $2.3 million ''fortified bunker.''

All of those potential stimulus projects were included in a list assembled by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Though appearing on the list does not guarantee funding &mdash: -- the formal application process will come after the stimulus bill is passed — the list's 18,750 projects represent the fullest blueprint of what cities and counties are seeking.

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, president of the mayors' conference, has been a leader on the stimulus issue, traveling to Washington this week to head a delegation of mayors in meetings with White House advisors and members of Congress. Diaz said any package approved by Congress must invest in America's cities.

But in Diaz's own city, two park-improvement projects described as ''ready to go'' on the list came as a surprise to community leaders.

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