Over the past two weeks the Northern Virginia region has endured yet another weather-related “100 year event.” I do not expect this fact to have any meaningful impact on the climate change deniers, since I now understand that these individuals are numerous, organized and uninterested in evidence that conflicts with their hard-wired ideology. No matter. As a public policy issue at this point in time, climate change is, as they say, “above my pay grade.”
For me, the events of the past couple of weeks have underscored the critical challenges we face in Northern Virginia and across the Commonwealth, in finding resources–both public and private–to be able to make adequate investments in the infrastructure we depend on for our very survival , much less for our reasonable quality of life. The electric grid, telecommunications networks, water and sewer infrastructure, as well as bridge, road and mass transportation infrastructure, will demand many billions of dollars of investment in Virginia over the next 10+ years. I am convinced that government at every level–Federal, state and local–have a fundamental responsibility to assess, evaluate and envision solutions across all of these critical systems.
This does not mean that government can or should work independently of the private sector. Nor does it mean government should fund even the majority of the massive investments that will be required. But, government is the only actor that can adequately represent the needs of the entire community. The government role should consist of regulatory oversight, review and approval, design and engineering and, in some cases even public ownership, depending on the systems involved.
I deeply fear the response of my Republican colleagues in the General Assembly and of the national Republican party to these challenges. The “invisible hand” of the free market alone will not produce the kind of outcomes in addressing these challenges that the vast majority of our citizens desire. I do not think that the public is ready for a world in which the well-to-do depend on their own backup power systems, water purification systems, paying the premium toll rates charged by private beltway lanes and toll bridges, etc. while the rest of us sit in traffic or in the dark after another major storm comes through. But, in the current environment–where government is by definition “the problem” and taxes are an abridgment of freedom–I fear that we will turn our backs to our responsibility to preserve for our children the opportunity to live in a place where life is reasonably safe, secure and comfortable, regardless of the life circumstances into which you are born.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected].