What do our Shore Drive Community Coalition members want from us in 2014? What should SDCC focus on this year? Discussions indicate that some members want us to remain local in focus (Lesner Bridge, Neighborhood Dredging, Shore Drive Storm Water issues, Lynnhaven Estuary Water quality), while others think we need a wider focus (Light Rail, City Budget, Convention Center, etc.). Obviously, with a limited staff and a time-strapped membership, our resources are tight. Our ability to tackle only a few key issues would allow us better focus if we are going to have any chance at having an impact.
Reading the news, we can see some of the looming financial issues of city, Commonwealth, and Federal government actions. No one should be that naive to think that the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obama Care), Public-Private Ventures with Elizabeth River Crossing, and this city’s Light Rail project will have only a minimal impact on our personal and family financial resources. Many may be sadly awakened if they think that it is only the Portsmouth people and the daily tunnel traffic commuters that will feel the direct effects of the Commonwealth’s approved Public-Private Venture (PPV) with Elizabeth River Crossing. Previous Governor McDonnell bypassed the State Assembly and signed an agreement that guarantees the private company a 13.5 % profit margin from collected toll revenues per year for decades.
In an effort to make a significant change in the state’s funding of transportation projects, outgoing Governor McDonnell has added to our individual future state tax burden. How so? Our state’s Constitution requires a balanced budget and any projected deficits must be paid for with either higher taxes, increased fees, cuts in state programs, or any combination thereof. There is no state or Federal governmental “Free lunch”. Someone with money will pay. Ominously, we may find that this Public-Private Venture business model with guaranteed double digit profits for the owners may be applied to future major state and city projects for more tunnels, bridges, convention centers, hotel renovations, and road projects.
How do we prevent such lopsided projects and outrageous private company’s profits? Who’s voice will be saying “unfair, unjust, and outrageous “? How do we find a voice that our city or state government will listen to? Together, we can be heard and have an impact. Civic actions start locally when neighbors come together, gather the facts, attend civic meetings and attend City Council meetings. Informing ourselves with the facts, passing the information, and taking a stand takes from our time, but not speaking out against egregious state and city actions will only take, and continue to take from our wallets and our EZ Passes.