Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gov. Kaine responds to Obama's plan, and so do I

From Blue Commonwealth on Saturday--Gov. Kaine says we have a list of projects ready to roll as soon as the cash starts flowing. It will certainly be interesting to see whether the GOP has the same conniption over federal transportation funds as they had in last summer's special session.

Here are two major areas where Southside's leaders should be pushing for funds in Richmond:

-Educational fairness: When my high school friends and I scattered across the Commonwealth for college, it didn't take us long to figure out that we were at an instant disadvantage to our peers from wealthier parts of the state. This is not an attack on our former teachers or even on our school division--they did the best job they could with the resources they had. But it is undeniable that an economically battered area like Martinsville simply does not have the tax base to compete with school districts in Fairfax and Tidewater. Not only is this unfair to the college-bound, it limits the vocational training that workers in this area need to survive in a transitional economy. That also has ramifications for where businesses choose to locate. An investment in technological upgrades, pay raises for the best teachers, and hiring new teachers could go a long way toward leveling the playing field. Patrick Henry Community College and the New College Institute should also regain the funding they lost because of recent budget cuts.

-Road and rail projects: There's been discussion for years about the need for a completed Interstate 73, which would cut through eastern Henry County on its way from Myrtle Beach, SC to Sault Ste. Marie, MI--anyone who has driven on U.S. 220 through Henry or Franklin County has doubtlessly seen the "Future I-73 Corridor" signs peppered along the route. Now, it is easy to fall for silver-bullet solutions in a place like Martinsville, and that's how I-73 is often portrayed. The new interstate will not arrive on a cloud and rapture us into prosperity, but it will provide an invaluable opportunity to improve the area's economic prospects if local leaders play their cards right. Our leaders should also fight for Martinsville, Danville and other Southside stops along the TransDominion Express passenger rail project. There is plenty of leftover rail infrastructure throughout Southside, and easy passenger transportation would be indispensable to those who must commute out of town. After the jobs left Martinsville, many were forced to commute to Roanoke, Danville, or other cities to find work. A dependable train would eliminate gas and car repair costs for struggling families, as well as provide a greener alternative to constant commuting.

The list could go on and on. If I've forgotten anything terribly egregious, feel free to leave a comment :)

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