I noticed a piece in the News & Observer today lauding the completion of a “strategic link” in the Raleigh greenway system.  The new link means that the system, which was previously two separate trails, is now all connected, so runners and cyclists can access the whole of the greenway without having to leave it at any point.  It allows for running and cycling longer distances, and it’s another step toward completing what will eventually be a full loop within the system.

And all of that is fine.  The greenway’s improved.  OK.  I don’t doubt any of that.

But here’s my problem.  Nowhere in the report is there any mention of how much this section of greenway cost.  How expensive was this improvement?  What’s the cost of the whole greenway, for that matter?  Nowhere is cost or funding even briefly addressed.

This is symptomatic of how many people tend to think about a whole host of public projects.  There’s a lot of discussion of the benefits, but very little of the costs, as if people don’t realize that all of this public spending – including for the Raleigh greenway – has to come from money collected through taxes.  It’s my money and your money, which the government has said we must pay, and which they have now chosen to spend building a trail.

That may or may not be a good use of taxpayer money, and readers may or may not support it.  That’s not really my issue, though.  My point is that we can’t possibly make a judgement about whether our money is being wisely spent when we don’t even think about it as our money, and when we don’t have any idea how much things cost.  We as taxpayers should be asking those questions about how our dollars are allocated.  And the media would do well to ask those questions, too.