Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser, a Democrat who was elected after the Power & Light District project was approved, has assailed the project as a waste, saying it will do nothing to help the city's $87 million budget shortfall.
"These glitzy projects, paid for by tax incentives, do not generate the positive cash flow that would somehow lift up everybody else," Funkhouser told ABC News. "It simply doesn't work. The evidence is clear, over and over.
"It's finally been acknowledged that the thing is going to run probably a permanent subsidy ... but it should not be a surprise to anybody who's paying attention," Funkhouser said. "This thing was done without, in my view, an adequate financial analysis at all. ... In addition to sucking up all the taxes, it also requires $10 to $15 million in general municipal revenue that we could have spent on cops, on teachers, on firefighters or something else."
In the meantime, the city is cutting services across the board. In March, the city decided to shut down 28 of its 61 schools in an attempt to close a $50 million budget gap, and the city council has approved a $15 million cut to the police department, slashing civilian positions and stretching the existing police, Funkhouser said.
Like many cities in the cash-strapped state of California, San Diego faces a looming budget deficit that's expected to climb above $211 million in 2010, according to the city's Office of the Independent Budget Analyst.
The whopping figure has got many residents concerned about the city's new central library, which carries a price tag of $185 million. Late last month, the city council approved construction of the library, for which the city has earmarked $150 million.
Critics say the city is wrong to embark on a project that it may not be able to complete without hefty funding.
City officials say the library is much needed and that it's fully funded through community development funds and private donations. Donors have already pledged to give the additional $30 million the city will need to complete the project.
"We wouldn't have moved forward with this if they [the city council] didn't believe it couldn't be raised," Rachel Laing, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jerry Sanders, told ABC News.
The library is expected to open in July 2013.
In 2009, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl faced wide criticism for using $252,500 in partial state grants to purchase 250 new trash cans for the city -- with his name and title embossed on them.
The 36-gallon, 280-pound metal trash receptacles, purchased as part of Ravenstahl's "Taking Care of Business" campaign to beautify 50 city business districts, cost $1,010 apiece.
Ravenstahl dismissed the backlash at the time.
"You can't simply go to Home Depot to buy a garbage can and put it on the street corner. We're looking for beautification," he told reporters after the purchase.
Critics charged that the spending was too lavish at a time when the city was facing a tight budget and a nearly $600 million pension fund shortfall. The inclusion of the mayor's name on the cans amounted to taxpayer-funded endorsements just before the election, opponents charged.
In recent years, other cities, including Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Cincinnati, have purchased similar trash cans for less, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review investigation found.