Potts’ Criticism of Kilgore Transportation Plan Betrays His Own Ignorance

State Sen. Russell Potts, the renegade Republican running for governor, made an interesting–and alarming–observation in criticizing Jerry Kilgore’s transportation plan. As quoted by Chris Graham in the August Free Press today, he said: “The idea of regional transportation authorities is ludicrous. We are one commonwealth, not a collection of regions. The fact of the matter is, you either need to lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.”

Got that? We are one commonwealth, not a collection of regions. God save us all if Potts actually were elected governor and presided over state transportation policy. Yes, we are one commonwealth. But we also happen to be a collection of regions. Indeed, regions, metropolitan statistical areas, city states–call them what you will–are fast surpassing state and national governments as the critical organizing entities of the globally competitive economy.

To quote economic development professor Richard Florida in his latest book, “The Flight of the Creative Class”: “Cities are the key economic and social organizing units of the creative age. They promote economies of scale, incubate new technology and match human capital to opportunities, ideas to places, and innovations to investment.” Companies choose cities/regions to do business in, not states. Talented individuals choose cities/regions to live in, not states. Yes, states still play a governance role, but they are not paramount, as Potts suggests.

In the transportation realm, cities/regions (or as Ed Risse calls them, New Urban Regions) are the prime organizing unit. Traditional city/county boundaries are meaningless when it comes to peoples’ driving patterns. People live, work, shop and seek amenities within a regional context. That’s why Kilgore’s idea to establish regional transportation authorities does make sense. Kilgore’s plan is vulnerable to criticism because it envisions giving taxing and spending powers to authorities without also giving them any means to influence land use–the main factor that shapes demand for transportation amenities. But that point eludes Potts entirely.

With his one quote, Potts has revealed a very deep ignorance of the social and economic dynamics underlying Virginia’s transportation challenges. His comments on the topic cannot be taken seriously.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m sure somewhere Potts is on record praising the 2002 regional referendum bills, so it is likely he is only seeking publicity with his outburst, not expressing deep principle. The regional and local approach does need to be part of the debate on transportation because (1) most Virginians flat out refuse to look beyond their local needs and problems and (2) they clearly have an unlimited capacity to absorb real estate tax increases. Forgotten in the debate is that there already is a large regional component in transportation planning with the role of the metropolitican planning organizations (MPO’s) in developing long-term priorities. Their focus should be expanded beyond roads to other modes, and yes they should have a more forceful say in local zoning decisions. Taxing authority will be more problematic. Does anybody else remember the debate on the whole “pledge bond” issue? That was about regionalism, and it died a brutal death at the hands of the same Republicans Kilgore now leads. HMMMM. Maybe Potts isn’t the only one with a touch of expediency in his blood.

  2. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Apparently, Potts actually opposed the referenda. That may make him consistent or it may just be another sign of his convoluted conversion now to massive tax increases to fund “investment.”

    Back in ’02, the referenda was the only game in town for getting more money into regional transportation. They failed not just because people didn’t want to be taxed, but also because the plans they would finance seemed slap-dash. Presumably a duly constituted regional organization would study and prioritize projects with extensive input from the public and not submit a slap-dash plan, if Kilgore’s proposal came to pass.

    Potts appears to want to direct regional transportation projects from Richmond, using the huge pot of money he’ll collect in new taxes. Regions will love that.

  3. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    I’m no fan of Apostate Potts, but Jerry Kilgore’s plan is unbelievably poor. Virgnians defeated unelected regional taxing authorities twice at the polls. Putting every bad plan (like the 02 plan to pave Hampton Roads) up for a vote just means we have to mobilize and beat the power and money annually. Not good. Shows the governor-to-be has no confidence that he and the GA can handle transportation.

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    If cities promote economies of scale, how come the closer you go the more everything costs, the higher the taxes, and the more dysfunctional the services?

    Could it be that the very centricity of the current MPO is part of the problem? An MPO will be driven to increase power and wealth in the city, not the region.

    A more even assessment of regional problems and distribution of resources would result if the regional boundaries were drawn with adjoining city centers as the vertices. Instead, we have a regional boundary that is constantly in flux, a vague smudge that for various purposes extends from the federal triangle to the Blue ridge and beyond. The “Clear Edge” EMR postulates does not exist and would be a disaster if it did.

    If the regions were drawn in such a way that the vertices of the boundaries were in adjacent cities, then the true relationship between the countryside and the city would be made clear. The economic development competition between adjacent areas would be examined with a different focus.

    People live, work, shop, and seek amenities in a regional context. The only transport method that can meet that need is the automobile. Alternative methods of transport are just that: alternatives, not substitutes. They meet limited, specialized needs on a subregional scale. While they have been given short shrift in many respects, their utility on a regional scale is different if examined in this context. The money we admittedly need to spend on them should be considered in the light of their utility/cost and not on the basis of ideology.

    It is exactly because people live, work, shop, and seek amenities on a regional basis that I question the idea that controlling land use is an effective way of controlling transportation demand. It’s a circular argument: does building roads control land use or does land use create demand for roads? Does wealth create demand for roads or do roads create wealth? On a regional basis it makes no difference: land use and road demand will increase. People will strive to avoid the costs imposed by any planning regimen, so the locus of demand will shift. Life will continue to happen to us while we are making plans.

    We cannot meet all the demand, and won’t. What is important is to ensure that the costs and benefits are evenly distributed. Any plan based on land dis-use every where except where we say, will fail. It will fail faster, as Anonymous points out, if Virginians percieve that the plan is not meeting their local needs. Vehrs is correct in saying that the ’02 effort failed because citizens felt it was another raid on NOVA pockets, that it would not meet their local needs, because of slapdash plans.

    A regional plan defined as Wash,Hagers,Harrison,Richmond or as Wash,Frederick,Warrenton,Fredericksburgh, will result in a different spread of wealth and benefits than one defined as a forty mile circle around the monument.

    In Fauquier County the local papers are filled with opposition to joining the regional transit association because they don’t want to pay for the wealthy elite who commute to town and bring all that money back to spend on bucolic farmland. Yet Stafford just joined, and apparently Fauquier will, also. I don’t think that means they are willing to give up on local authority.

    Look what happened in Oregon after thirty years of regional planning: the people said – enough already. When Harry Atherton, a supervisor, complains in the paper that plans imposed by a regional environmental plan will destroy his farm operations, the seeds of dissent are already sown.

    Don’t think for a minute that regional planning will solve your problems: it will just make the solutions more remote, slower, more expensive, and less responsive.

    At the very least let’s consider that cities are already more expensive, less functional, have higher taxes, and exhorbitant infrastructure. Why base regional planning on that model?

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Ein Volk, Ein Commonwealth, Ein Transportation Furher?

    Does Potts have a new slogan?

  6. Salt Lick Avatar
    Salt Lick

    Another Pott hole in the bridge to the 21st century.

  7. Laszlo Avatar

    Senator Potts has served almost four terms in the Virginia Senate, I suppose he knows as much about the transportation issue as some of you posting to this site.

  8. gruppe kommendant Avatar
    gruppe kommendant

    It is gut to keep in mind, Herr Anonymous of 11:55 AM, zat zis verk to unite all function under ein autorität vas zuerst begun unter der leadership of our wunderbar George Allen.
    Herr Gilmore III zen increased der scope of bürokratie by some 50%.
    Ze entire schule syztem has come unter direct control of der Staat mit der testing.. Sieg Hiel!!! Ve haf schtandarized der method to schtandardize minds!

    Mr. Potts vill not get in zee way mine freund, undt vee vill elect Herr Kilgore in zee ultimate victory! Sieg Hiel! Ve vill smash Herr Pott’s pitiful forces on zee battlefield. Do not vorry mien Herr, ve haf veys…

  9. El Equipo Progresivo Avatar
    El Equipo Progresivo

    lazlo makes a very good and often overlooked point. Senator Potts has been there and has been getting it done. And quite well.

  10. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Please describe something Sen. Potts has done for transportation. “Being there” isn’t much; so were 39 others.

  11. Hm… I would suppose that we could begin by examining what highway projects have been done in the past 16 years. Then we could look at what plans have been developed over that time for future projects. Then we should examine all statements and positions by Sen. Potts regarding transportation. We should also then look at other stands and positions projects he has taken and worked on for the past 16 years.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Nah… Too much work… Let’s just join in with the professional wrestling mindset and condemn him as a “bad” guy for not falling into line like a good elephant should. How dare he or anyone else think for themselves when there is a Republican machine to do the thinking for everyone!

  13. Laszlo Avatar


    Just go to the VDOT web site and follow their Six Year Plan both past and future. It’s updated yearly. They have numerous public hearings around the state. I’m sure your comments would be welcome and also they would be a part of the public record. I’ve been to many for various reasons. It will make you a better informed “transportation expert”.

    You can see from the plan what Potts and the “39 others” have been doing.”

  14. El Equipo Progresivo Avatar
    El Equipo Progresivo

    Too many people today have grown up with this societal infrastructure in place. They don’t know any difference. It’s always been there for them.
    If the attitude that exists now on the far right-and the far left- were the prevailing attitude after WWII we would have no interstate highway system, no state universities, no decent system of hospitals, public schools would still be one room school houses, there would be no space exploration, schools would still be segregated,
    and on and on and on.

    Whether anyone on the right OR the left care to admit it or not, there has been much good progress made on all societal levels in my almost 50 years of life, and certainly in my parent’s lifetime. And it was done by members of BOTH parties…

    doing what boys and girls?

    By working together! By recognizing that you pay your bills. By understanding you don’t spend more than you have. By knowing that the foundation of conservative is “conserve.” By understanding that the way to improve, is to improve-not ignore…
    And by understanding that all of us working together can accomplish ever so much more than all of us can do by ourselves.

  15. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Russ Potts blasts someone else’s transportation plan and several readers line up to praise his past work, work they can’t exactly quantify.

    Russ Potts’ transportation plan, to the extent I understand it (and I am no expert on transportation and have never identified myself as such), is to reveal a plan 120 days after he is elected, then call the General Assembly into special session until either they a)implement his plan/fix the problem or b)the cows come home.

    Now if the Potts plan is attractive to you, by all means get out and vote for him. I have a funny feeling that if Jerry Kilgore said he’d come up with a plan 120 days after he was elected, you same Potts fans would laugh him out of the blogosphere.

  16. Dave Burgess Avatar
    Dave Burgess

    Laszlo, el jefe, Tom, 3:23 pm Anonymous, might want to laud praises for Potts work on transportation, but I’m not convinced based on records, transcripts and speeches by Potts that show he has made any memorable impact on transportation. Seriously, I could not find a shred of evidence that shows Potts made any notable contribution. I think it is safe to say I doubt that a road will be named after him

    Having said that, just the fact that the bloggers praise such an appalling liar I could not take anything they offered as worth more than a grain of sand. Their ideal of a political hero who has no concept of honor or integrity tells me a lot about their values.

  17. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Good comment, Chief.

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    You’ve looked it up? Please enlighten everyone with what you’ve discovered!

  19. Dave Burgess Avatar
    Dave Burgess

    Who you asking? Looked up what? Potts transportation record or lack of?

    I told you what I found. Virtually nothing for his fourteen years in office. Oh yeah, there’s an occasional meetings and conferences here and there. Do a search of the General Assembly site and /or Google/ or a host of other search engines and you’ll find far more references of Potts pushing for taxes and trumping pro-life issues. Transportation is not even a distant third. Funny thing is it’s only been recent, I mean very recent, that transportation activity at all shows up with Potts name. But my first post says it all. Potts has done absolutely nothing stellar regarding transportation. Nothing that makes him anymore experience than a lot of other Virginians in public office.

    Maybe you know something we don’t know. But then again, any one who goes by”Anonymous” would probably not know much.

  20. Dave Burgess Avatar
    Dave Burgess

    Yes. I see your site. I have it listed in my favorites, though it been ages since I have visited the site. But thanks for bringing it back to my attention. I added it to my research footnotes showing Potts has done virtually nothing for his fourteen years in office other than attend an occasional meeting or conferences here and there.

  21. Laszlo Avatar

    If Potts voted for the state budget during his fourteen years, he voted to fund VDOT projects.

  22. Dave Burgess Avatar
    Dave Burgess

    Get real. Is that the best you can do to support your little buddy. Does merely voting for the state budget make Potts more qualified than Kilgore, Kaine or Fitch to handle our transportation needs? I think not. You’ll have to come up with a lot more than that to convince me to lay down my arms against this liar and deceitful scoundrel.

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