We live in a world awash in comparative rankings for just about every conceivable human activity, including governance.
Many ranking lists are not particularly relevant to our quality of life or revealing of our values; but some are very revealing. Here are few of Virginia’s numbers in newly published national state rankings:
#7 in per capita personal income;
#4 in most state corruption (State Integrity Investigation); overall grade of “F” in (state government) integrity;
#1 in best state to earn a living (MoneyRates.com)–this is up from #4 last year;
#2 in most toxic chemicals dumped into our waterways (Environment America);
#45 in state revenue as % of personal income.
I am certain that the income and state revenue numbers are self-explanatory; however the other rankings do deserve some explanation.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued its 2,600 page draft annual report online on March 26.
Public comment is invited through April 27th. I encourage comments to DEQ on the self-reported (and astonishing) annual totals of 13,140 miles of polluted rivers and streams, 94,000 acres of polluted lakes, and 2,130 square miles of polluted estuaries (tidal waters) that foul our state. Environment America’s (EA) report adds these numbers: 377,000 pounds of toxic chemicals dumped into the Shenandoah River and 400,000 pounds of toxic chemicals dumped into the Potomac River in the past year. EA’s figures would appear to strongly support Virginia’s own DEQ’s report.
That Virginia is #4 in state corruption is based upon indicators such as: state ethics commission reports (VA has no state ethics commission); campaign finance limits (VA has no campaign finance limits); and strictness of finance oversight regulations (compared to other states, VA is ‘lax’). The State Integrity Investigation is a project of the Center for Public Integrity, the Global Transparency & Accountability Project and Public Radio International. Many Virginia news outlets (WTOP, Richmond Times-Dispatch) have published the project’s results in detail. Virginia receives an “F” in Lobbying Disclosure,”F” in State Budget Process, “F” in Judicial Accountability, “F” in State Pension Fund Management, “F” in Legislative Accountability, “F” in Public Access to Information, “F” in Political Financing, “F” in Ethics Enforcement Agencies and “F” in Executive Accountability. But, Virginia receives a “D-” in State Insurance Commissions, a “C+” in Civil Service Management, an “A” in Internal Auditing and an “A” in Procurement.
When I combine the above rankings with the fact that our unemployment is 5.8% (lowest in past 3 years), I am forced to proudly conclude that Virginia has the capability to rank well in any category that is important to its citizens and therefore, important to its elected officials. Employment and personal income would seem to be the indicators most valued by Virginians. I firmly believe that we must add the health of our environment to personal income in our rankings of Most Important Virginia Values and start raising our national ranking numbers now.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected].