Up north, the issues of the day relate to employers and how the planners up there might be able to stack one on top of another. Smart growth, mass transit, alternative fuels and such are the big topics of discussion.
Down here, our big issues relate to employers and how we might gain a few. To hold on to the few we have. We talk too about improving the quality of a woefully inadequate public education system. About improving the quality of the drinking water. In Southwest Virginia we talk - in 2006 - about putting sewer systems into communities that have never had them.
There is certainly talk in some circles about the needed completion of the Coalfields Expressway and about much-needed improvements being made to U.S. Route 58. Some say I-81 down this way needs to be upgraded. And that's all, in the big scheme of things, probably important. But generally, transportation issues aren't uppermost in the thoughts and discussions of folks around here.
Paychecks are. Food. Clothing. Shelter. The kinds of things taken for granted in the fabulously prosperous north. And there are issues here that people in the D.C. suburbs rarely talk about: Grievous suicide rates; Drinking water unfit for human consumption; Depopulation. Small communities decimated by the loss of thousands of jobs.
With this in mind, I think the recently announced proposal put forth by the Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates to solve northern Virginia's transportation problem is a swell idea:
GOP Plan Would Raise N.Va. Taxes for Area RoadsYou folks up north feel your transportation system is inadequate? Fix it.
By Michael D. Shear and Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post Staff Writers
RICHMOND, June 26 -- People who live or work in Northern Virginia would pay steep new fees and higher taxes under a $578 million transportation plan being circulated by six Republican delegates from the region.
Having voted for months to block statewide tax increases that were pushed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and the Republican-controlled Senate, the House members said their constituents will gladly pay more as long as the money raised is used only for road and rail projects in their area. (link)
It's not that we want to do what our western counties did in 1863 and walk away from our troubles. We here in southern Virginia - particularly those of us in Southwest Virginia - simply need to solve our problems and work to bring our way of life into the 20th century - before we assist you in taking yours into the 22nd.
So. You all go along and take care of yourselves. You certainly have the means. We'll be along directly and will be happy to pitch in and help.
But first we have problems of our own that need fixing. Starting with the turds floating in the drinking water in Callahan Creek.