Bringing Light to a World in Darkness

The July 16, 2007, edition of Bacon’s Rebellion is now online, once again inflicting reason upon the irrational, logic upon the illogical, and facts upon the uninformed. To view the edition, click here. To make get a free subscription and ensure you never miss a future issue, click here.

This week’s commentary includes:

The Next Transportation Crisis
The federal highway trust fund has blown through its cash balance, and gasoline tax receipts are down. In the years ahead Virginia will be hard pressed to make up the difference.
by James A. Bacon

All in a Night’s Work
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority is gaining respect with its business-like approach.
by Doug Koelemay

How About Sustainable Logic?
In the community of people who think seriously about economic development and the natural environment, “sustainable” has a specific meaning. In Virginia, that meaning has been corrupted by loose usage.
by EM Risse

Recreo Lectio!
The Harry Potter books have done what a nation of parents backed by an army of educators could not do: Inspire a revival of reading among young children.
by Chris Braunlich

A String of Fish
An assortment of political observations as varied as catfish and trout, bass and shad…
by James Atticus Bowden

The Politician Surplus
George Allen, Mark Warner and possibly even Jim Gilmore could be eyeing a race for governor in 2009. Virginians would be better off with fresh faces and fresh ideas.
By Norman Leahy

FOIA Fiddle-Faddle
Not all publicly funded organizations are public bodies. Student governments should not be subject to the Freedom of Information Act — but they should practice good government.
by Becky Dale

The Tax Increase That Dares Not Speak Its Name
Abuser fees are needlessly harsh and will be applied inequitably — all because the General Assembly wanted to raise revenue without calling it a tax increase.
by Publius II

The Commonwealth is Flat
Northern Virginia has more work than it can handle, and it makes sense to “outsource” jobs to downstate communities. But someone has to build the broadband connections first.
by Groveton

The Unfair Service Fund
Proposed changes to the federal Universal Service Fund would limit wireless investment in rural Virginia, slowing the deployment of critical broadband access.
by John E. Rooney

Halfway to Healthy
The condition of the James River has improved in recent years, but polluted runoff from farms and asphalt threaten the historic waterway’s continued recovery.
by Bill Street

Nice & Curious Questions
Crossing State Lines: Virginia’s Neighbors
by Edwin S. Clay III and Patricia Bangs

Road to Ruin: Coming to an Interstate Near You
Congestion pricing is coming to Northern Virginia, promising to help with otherwise intractable traffic problems.
by Lyle Solla-Yates

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7 responses to “Bringing Light to a World in Darkness”

  1. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “No one suggests that private-vehicle systems or airlines pay for themselves. Canals and railroads could not have started without vast government “contributions.” Again, Mobility and Access is a function of government. One part of it cannot be separated out and required to pay for itself any more than the police, fire and public safety or education can “pay for itself.””

    I think this is the single smertest thing EMR ever said.

    We could say the same thing about shared vehicle systms known as transit. But the difference between airlines and railroads (and pernal vehicles) is that we sometimes allow them to fail and go bankrupt when their costs exceed their value.

    In a single paragraph he points out that some services deserve to be supported by shared costs. Shared costs and distributed resources always mean that some people will get more value for their money. Life isn’t fair.

    But, it also points out that there are limits to the user pays philosophy, because we cannot infinitely allocate every cost to every action. Especially if we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of preventing others from opportunity or gain on the argument that it might cost us something.

    If all of these services don’t pay for themselves, they are still getting peid for somehow. And the money that does pay the bills comes from opportunity. When we shut that down, we may as well crawl in our hole and pull the dirt in after.

    Are there cases of egregious usurpation of services? Sure. But that doesn’t mean that we can send a bill to everyone that does something that is an affront to us. When people are willing to spend $225,000 for a parking space, then it is just a little silly to advocate raising the cost of parking, just be cause we happen to prefer to limit the use of automobiles.

  2. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    In All in a Night’s Work Doug Koelemay discussed the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s business-like approach.

    He included two contradictory paragraphs, which may represent confused voting.

    “NVTA voted to … use strict criteria to establish and prioritize projects, such as suggested in its TransAction 2030 plan.”

    “Most importantly to many regional residents, NVTA pulled $102 million worth of projects together for an initial bond issuance. NVTA weighed projects “ready to go,” that were priorities of local jurisdictions, that provided some balance across mode of transportation and could improve congestion, safety or transit capacity in its first list.”

    He did not say how the authority was handling this paragraph from the Virginia code.
    15.2-4838.1. Use of certain revenues by the Authority.
    B. Forty percent of the revenues shall be distributed on a pro rata basis, with each locality’s share being the total of such fees and taxes assessed or imposed by the Authority and received by the Authority that are generated or attributable to the locality divided by the total of such fees and taxes assessed or imposed by the Authority and received by the Authority. Of the revenues distributed pursuant to this subsection (i) in the Cities of Falls Church and Alexandria and the County of Arlington the first 50 percent shall be used solely for urban or secondary road construction and improvements and for public transportation purposes, and (ii) in the remaining localities, the first 50 percent shall be used solely for urban or secondary road construction and improvements. The remainder, as determined solely by the applicable locality, shall be used either for additional urban or secondary road construction; for other transportation capital improvements which have been approved by the most recent long range transportation plan adopted by the Authority; or for public transportation purposes. Solely for purposes of calculating the forty percent of revenues to be distributed pursuant to this subsection, the revenue generated pursuant to § 58.1-3221.2 and Article 8 (§ 15.2-2317 et seq.) of Chapter 22 of this title by the counties and cities embraced by the Authority shall be considered revenue of the Authority. None of the revenue distributed by this subsection may be used to repay debt issued before July 1, 2007. Each locality shall provide annually to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority sufficient documentation as required by the Authority showing that the funds distributed under this subsection were used as required by this subsection

    When I looked at the first project list I failed to see the balance across mode of transportation and improved congestion, safety or transit capacity that Mr. Koelemay discussed.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “just a little silly to advocate raising the cost of parking, just be cause we happen to prefer to limit the use of automobiles.”

    how about we raise the cost of parking because we wish to limit the use of transit?

    or how about we charge pedestrians evertime they want to cross a street?

    or how about we charge folks who choose to not buy a house 50 miles away and has a 1/4 of lawn to cut?

    or how about we charge folks who live within 5 miles of where they work “extra” for living so close?

    see.. then that would make up for charging folks for using autos..

    then with the extra money – we could build more roads and then raise the penalities for using transit or walking or living close to work.

    sound good?

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The “our rivers and the bay is dying.. please help now before they go belly up” articles drive be banannas….

    We’re told.. the farmers are messing up the rivers (despite the fact that most farms no longer farm).. and then we throw in some cursory “oh yeah we have urban runoff problems also” followed by more “sky is falling” verbiage.

    then..they finish up with “give us more money so we can fix it”..

    As yourself – if you wanted to help.. what exactly would you advocate for at your local level?

    What are the problems where you live – where you can have a direct impact with your elected?

    Do you know how your locality compares with respect to other localities on the James.. on the Rappahannock, on the Shennandoah?

    Do we know how much excess nitogren (other pollutants) is in the water near where we live – and where it is coming from – and who you should be talking to to address the issues?

    I’m just a tad testy with the “sky is falling – give us more money crowd” because they are woefully short on specifics and I feel like I’m buying “Support a Trooper” stickers just so the Trooper can see the sticker… nothing more…

    We hammer Dominon for not providing simple tools that would help consumers understand their useage and what options and steps that are available to them to get directly involved in conservation.

    Now compare the message we hear from our enviornmental groups with regard to the Rivers and the Bay.

    Why bother to tell us that the James is 52% if we have no clue what the specifics are in Lynchburg or Richmond?

    Is the River healthier in some places than others?

    What are the priority areas that need urgent attention?

    Zip. Nada. The message is “give us Mo Money” and we’ll continue our “do gooder” role.

    If you wanted to diss the public – this is how I would do it…

  5. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    I must strongly disagree with John Rooney’s argument against capping Universal Service Payments for wireless carriers in rural markets. The Federal USF program is out of control. Customer surcharges have become excessive. There must be limits placed on the size of the USF and caps placed on wireless carriers’ access to those funds.

    Wireless carriers simply do not bear the carrier of last resort obligation that rural wireline carriers have. Wireless carriers can refuse to serve customers. Witness Sprint’s disconnection of some thousand or so troublesome customers who keep calling Sprint for customer assistance. A wireless carrier can simply refuse to serve large rural areas so long as they otherwise meet their FCC build-out requirements.

    Rural wireline carriers cannot do that. They must build and maintain networks to serve everyone. Real universal service requires support for those bearing the carrier of last resort burden.

    It’s time to cap USF payments to wireless carriers unless they are willing to take over the same obligations as rural wireline carriers.

  6. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    “Recreo Lectio!

    The Harry Potter books have done what a nation of parents backed by an army of educators could not do: Inspire a revival of reading among young children.

    by Chris Braunlich”

    I am just getting caught up on some reading — not Harry Potter by the way — and wonder how Mr. Braunlich would respond to Ron Charles (Sr Editor of WaPo’s Book World) front hook of Outlook essay on 15 July: “Harry Potter and the Death of Reading”?

    Charles who should be in a position to know seems to have the opposite take on the state of reading.


  7. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    More on Harry:

    Bob Thompson has a story on the front page of WaPo Syle today. There is a conflict over the impact of Harry Potter book.

    I thought Braunlich’s item was a little to idologically pat.

    Turns out this is yet another culture wars issue.


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