Lattatudes

Better Roads Staff | August 1, 2010

Time to Kick Ass

by John Latta, Editor-in-Chief, jlatta@rrpub.com

If the President can do it on national television, I can do it here.

He said of the oil mess in the Gulf of Mexico that he wanted to know “whose ass to kick.” Our industry has its own mess. And the kicking needs to be aimed at politicians. They know we need a six-year highway bill, and they know it costs money. But they won’t act to fund it because they’ll look bad. In fairness, some (not many) have argued for higher fuel taxes and other funding solutions.

I believe a key opportunity lies in the coming mid-term election. It is there that members of Congress running for reelection (and their party) are most vulnerable and where challengers are most likely to seize on issues the public can get to grips with.

So as November nears, turn up the heat in your district. Throw hardballs, high and tight.

Get local news media to come see some crumbling roads and bridges, show them what jobs are waiting to be created and where dangers and future costs lurk in bad roads. Maybe we can help convince unaware voters (and there are enough of them to make a difference) of the need for road work funds and show them that fuel taxes they pay at the pump come back to roads that they, and their families, must use. Remind news media that this is a non-partisan issue. It wouldn’t hurt to also remind them that politicians know the situation and are simply dodging it. News media that feel they have an ‘issue’ may just enjoy making the most of it. I’m not suggesting you chain yourself to a pothole to attract attention, but time is running out.

It’s something to be brought up at town hall meetings, rallies and fund raisers. Maybe a billboard or two. Talk to both major political parties. They often need an issue where they are diametrically opposed to the other side’s position, and those topics start to be prominent in campaigns.

If self-interest keeps politicians from doing what they know should be done, then we need to throw one mean cat among their self-interest pigeons. Elections can make a politician’s safety zone very, very thin. They are not as much in control of their images and statements, they can do less choreographing and dodging, they have less room to maneuver. Let’s take advantage of that.

Ask candidates and challengers if they will commit to stand, proudly, front and center, on their road funding record at the next election when roads have fallen further into disrepair, commutes and delivery times are longer, and travelling on so many of our roads is even less safe.v

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