Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The roads look fine to me

Salt Lick says, "No stumps and wide enough for a wagon. What's the problem?"  Posted by Hello

Last weekend, City Slicker read an article by Roanoke Times' reporter Michael Sluss addressing campaign issues in Southwest Virginia and, in apparent amazement, asked, "Are god, guns, and twang all rural voters care about? Don't 'y'all' have education, transportation, and environmental concerns? You wouldn't know you did from this article."

Well now, that does elicit the old tale of the country mouse and city mouse.

FWIW, City Slicker, as if to answer you, the Roanoke Times editorialized on your questions yesterday. The editorial is worth reading, though not for its predictable support of raising taxes as a panacea ("Nothing will happen without the money"), but for this howler:

On matters related to God, guns and executions, the values of rural Virginia will win out this fall no matter who becomes governor. Tim Kaine and Jerry Kilgore have effectively staked out the same conservative turf.

Dang, I bet those folks at Virginia's Conservative Victory PAC just can't make up their minds on this one!

But for serious thoughts:

City Slicker, I am going to take your questions at face value and assume you are as mystified by "rural issues" as I am by the traffic lanes in D.C. that change directions in the middle of the day. I am no Karl Rove or Michael Sluss, and I can't speak for the majority of Southwest Virginians, but my guess is that while the issues you mention are important, they are nowhere as pressing for us as they are to "your kind." If a dozen Southwest Virginians conferenced with a dozen "average folks" living in the urban areas around Washington, DC and east of Richmond, the two groups would feel like apples and oranges.

Transportation, for example. I've only recently realized how important this is to developed areas. Your post about your "parking lot" on Route 66 raised a situation I never encounter out here in the sticks. Sitting "mashed butt to butt with...fellow sweaty commuters" is a foreign notion. I did feel your pain, however, and it made me receptive last weekend when I was driving along a country road outside another growing metropolis and saw anti-development placards. "Walton Hill Means 48,000 New Cars on our Roads!" "Want Congestion? Bring on Walton Hill!" "Say No to the Walton Hill Bullies!"

Clearly, those are not John Boy's Waltons.

48,000 cars? Heck, I'm not sure there's 48,000 PEOPLE in my county!

Our differing takes on this makes Kilgore's proposal of regional transportation authorities sound pretty good. And explains why some of our local politicians are floating the idea that we send too much money away from here to pay for roads elsewhere.

Education, environment -- yes, we want these to be good, but I doubt the majority of folks down here feel these are in urgent, pressing need of improvement. At least not to the point that talk of an "impending crisis" will resonate. As for environment, we have so much beautiful "environment" compared with so little industry that we're not too concerned with the latter destroying the former at this point. Schools -- by and large, we don't have those mega-schools with mega-problems and poor teacher to student ratios. The kids are getting educated pretty well; we don't obsess as much as city folks about whether they will get into "top" schools and colleges. A state college is good enough. Really, anything that results in a decent job is good enough.

And in that regard, I'll actually have to agree with the Roanoke Times editorial that down here the number one "non-values" issue is jobs. We've never had plentiful job opportunities, so we are "tender" to that problem. Our 9th District Congressional Representative Rick Boucher knows the importance of the jobs issue. That's why he regularly appears at plant openings or grant announcements and why, despite supporting much of the Democratic Party's social agenda, he has represented the district for over 20 years. (Oh yeah, we're a lot more tolerant of political liberalism than the stereotypes believed by the MoveOn moonbats.) Right now, however, no matter how the Roanoke Times tries to downplay the healthy economy created by the Bush tax cuts and create a sense of panic, jobs are as plentiful in Southwest Virginia as they've ever been. So the values/social issues can get more play.

That's my take on it, Slicker. I think it applies across most of rural Virginia, but I could be wrong. I'll get Jethro to studyin' on it.