Tuesday, January 27, 2009

They Elect Representatives

More on the Virginia Beach saga. An editorial in the local paper is calling on city leaders to be..well..leaders. Apparently back in 1999 while sister city Norfolk was moving forward with its light rail plan under the guidance of its leaders, the folks in Virginia Beach passed the buck.

Ten years ago, the council abdicated its responsibility, punting the issue to voters with no recommendations and too little information. Eight of 11 members declined even to take a position.

Then-Vice Mayor Will Sessoms and Councilwoman Barbara Henley said they supported light rail but did not actively campaign for it. Not surprisingly, in the absence of information and leadership, voters rejected it. The 1999 referendum became an excuse to delay action on the Norfolk Southern line, a critical corridor for the city's future.

I'm amazed of late how much politicians who were elected to lead want to hide behind voters to make decisions for them or decide that they want things to be bipartisan if only for the reason that they can blame the other side when things go wrong. Take for example the stimulus package. At this very moment I'm sure its getting watered down in hopes of bipartisanship, something one side has made clear they don't believe.

But the Virginian Pilot makes a good point:

Voters don't decide which highways get built, whether the government should mail taxpayers stimulus checks or send troops to the Middle East. They elect representatives to make those decisions.

If Virginia Beach's leaders support moving forward with light rail, they must publicly make the case for it, one strong enough to sway the city's voters.
Why is it that we can build roads and don't have to ask anyone but when we make an investment in transit we have to ask usually not once, but a number of times to do it. Politicos always hide behind the decision when they should be embracing it. In cities where they have rejected rail referendums, they have been feeling it the last year. In cities where leaders and voters have made it happen, they have benefited from the investment, even if its short of what it should really be.

No comments: