to the local governments of Northern Virginia:
You’re taxing the wrong end of the pony. You want
to stem the influx of folks into your neighborhoods?
Lay those shake-downs you call “proffers” on new
jobs, not on new houses. You want less congestion?
Stop recruiting it. Close your economic development
offices, bring your overseas trade missions back
stateside, and send your tourism directors home.
know it’s easy for me to say, but I see things
clearer than you do. Less congestion here, I
suppose. In this part of Virginia, the Chamber of
Commerce still tricks out in full “announcement”
regalia when a new tanning bed opens. There is
usually a ribbon cutting. It usually makes the
weekly paper. Usually, the front page.
this part of Virginia, the local building inspectors
make the Maytag repair man look busy. Several of
them wear more than one hat—assistant dog catcher
seems to be the “double-dip” career choice.
growth is killing you, lack of it is killing us.
this part of Virginia many of our schools were built
as WPA projects under Roosevelt’s New Deal. In
this part of Virginia, our school systems have to
deal with one native language — English — and
have had a pretty good day when they can do that.
must be some happy medium to all of this. Why
don’t we help each other out?
‘bout a “Just Say ‘No’ program? Just say
“No” to those new jobs that show up on your
doorsteps by the thousands. Just say “No” to
those gleaming, glass-walled office parks. Just say
“No” to those high tech, clean-room firms where
all the workers have to wear doctor-looking outfits,
with gloves and masks, and such. Just say “No.”
take them off your hands. Send them out this way,
where the living is still good. We’ll take that
traffic. We’ll build their kids some new schools,
some parks to play in.
know. We’re foolish to make this offer. But, hey,
take advantage of us. We’re rubes.
still have the strange idea that jobs, that economic
well-being, are what draw people We still have this
strange idea that folks who do these jobs need a
place to live. We still have this strange idea that
the best arbiter of this mix, the best determinant
of the trade-offs involved, is the marketplace —
and not just any marketplace, but a free, unfettered
seem to have figured out that houses are what draw
people, not jobs, and that the way to control this
is to punish the builders of these houses, that the
best arbiter of this matter, the best referee of
this punishment, is the guv’ment, not the
smart. Why couldn’t we have thought of that?
We’re not as smart as you.
tell you how backwards we are. We still think that
if you don’t like the neighborhood you’re in,
the congestion, the taxes, your neighbors, the
schools, if you don’t like how long it takes you
to get to that high-paying job some thoughtless
business has provided you—you ought to move.
still got this throw-back notion that if farmers
don’t want their land developed, they ought not
sell it to developers. And the flip side of that: If
you don’t like the way a farm smells, you ought
not build your house next to one. That’s how
simple we are.
slow, too. It is going to be a long, long time
before we catch on to the idea that that the General
Assembly, that anybody else, ought to be responsible
for the cleaning up the messes we make. Our
mamas taught us better than that.