Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT


Bear with me a minute. This takes some background.

From our little burg-in-the-Oregon woods going South on I-5 to the California border, it’s about 125 miles. Within the last half dozen years, four multi-lane bridges along the way have been replaced/rebuilt and smaller ones in the communities on both sides of I-5 improved.

Now, North on I-5 to Corvallis, it’s about 100 miles. From here to there in that same time period, there have been four new multi-lane I-5 bridges built and another half dozen overhauled or strengthened. Bridges and two-lanes in smaller communities on both sides of I-5 have had similar attention.

Between the Pacific and Eugene, there’s a rail line used by commercial shippers. Several years ago, a major tunnel was declared unsafe and traffic stopped. Those shippers – mainly regional timber guys – hollered. Loudly. Sending things the long way around by truck was prohibitively expensive. In short order, the feds, state and some shippers came up with the big bucks and things were put in first class order.

Hold onto all that as we introduce you to our representative in Congress from the Fifth District – Pete DeFazio. He’s one of the older heads – a Democrat in a heavily Republican District. He relies on the more liberal Lane County voters to hold off Republicans in all the other counties that vote against him every two years. All of ‘em.

Would it surprise you to know Pete’s the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit? Or that he’s been on the Subcommittee on Railroads for many years?

Now, tie all that together. Highways, bridges and railroads. If you didn’t live in the Fifth Congressional District, you’d call all that “pork.” Strictly speaking, you’d be right. Good old federal bacon brought home by a ranking member of Congress. Taxpayer largess. Yep, pork.

But, also strictly speaking, all that federal help in our little corner of the Oregon forest is exactly what the federal government of this nation has been charged to do since 1776. Help us do the big jobs that need doing that we can’t do for ourselves. National defense. National monetary system. National transportation systems. Yes, highways, bridges and tunnels, too.

When the folks on the right loudly complain about “pork,” what they’re really saying is government dollars spent in their backyards are wise expenditures on badly needed projects. But, when it’s someone else’s backyard getting the attention – well, now – that’s “PORK.”

This sequestration business that’s strangling our economy – and deliberately hurting millions of people – is really mostly a lot about “pork. That’s really the bottom line with most of the naysayers. They want to bring government spending to a halt. Then slash and burn their way backwards. While they’re wrapping themselves in the Constitution and Bill of Rights few have likely read, they’re ignoring one of the prime reasons for having a government in the first place – to help us do for ourselves together those things we can’t accomplish alone. Says so. Right in those documents.

Imagine taking federal spending out of safe water systems, airline safety, food safety, public education, higher education, law enforcement, national defense, disaster relief, communications, electrical power creation and transmission, space projects, medical research, wilderness preservation, public lands management and more. Oh, yes. Those highways, bridges and tunnels all over the country. Like the ones we were talking about.

There are proper and necessary roles for government. The balance point most likely comes down in the middle – between the “government-is-the-answer-to-all-problems” utopia of the far left and the “get-government-the-hell-out-of-my-life” rants of the far right. That’s where the answers to most of our problems are usually found.

But, for now, this nation is being held hostage by a minority of mindless ideologues with their collective minority fingers around the throat of government. We are being slowly strangled. Baby, bath water and the nanny are all being thrown out the window.

A little interstate bridge over the Skagit river should remind us all we have urgent, life-threatening problems. Problems in the billions of dollars that endanger us everyday as we move about our nation. Two undeclared wars of choice and a financial system run amok for lack of proper government oversight have diverted our attention – and hundreds of billions of dollars – from more direct threats to our national security. Direct threats to our lives.

We need – we must have – a redirection of national priorities to the reasons we create governments in the first place. We need the resources of all – together – to do what we individually can’t do for ourselves.

After all, not everyone can have a little fella in Congress on the Subcommittee for Highways and Transit or the Subcommittee on Railroads.

Share on Facebook



QUIET WATCHDOG Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission has had a fairly good reputation, at least in some quarters, for watchdogging reporting and ethics issues in state government. But is that reputation inflated? The Associated Press has a powerful piece out about the agency’s deficiencies. Oddities in reports by lobbyists and campaigns, oddities that go unchallenged, are becoming increasingly commonplace, the article suggests. And “The Associated Press found cases in which lobbyists failed to properly complete basic forms, failed to disclose details of their expenses or regularly filed reports past their deadlines. Some lobbyists indicated they didn’t know the rules until reporters started asking questions.” Not to say, though it should be, that the population of reporters doing the asking is shrinking, rapidly.

Share on Facebook

First Take Washington

bridge conference
Press confernce at the Skagit bridge. (photo/Washington Department of Transportation)

Collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River near Mount Vernon was the hot topic last week and into this one – even occurring as it did near the end of the week. I-5 is the major throughway for most people in Washington and not only that, the major west coast throughway. A break in its run anywhere is a critical matter.

And it matters not only for that but also for the proposed Columbia Crossing project to the south, over the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver. Its fate hangs in the balance as the special session of the legislature hits its heart and decision time approaches.

Share on Facebook