Virginia’s previous governor was a Republican. Accordingly, one of his core beliefs, as illustrated through his actions, was that there is no such thing as the public good.
When he looked at a big pile of public good, he saw dollar signs, something to be monetized, not something to be husbanded with stewardship. He saw the bridges and tunnels which for years had been free to cross and heard the ring of cash registers (remember cash registers?). He imposed tolls and sold the tolling rights to a private firm for 70 years because God forbid that government should provide services to citizens, when instead it can bleed them dry.
In a long report in today’s issue, my local rag documents the toll of the tolls. Here’s a snippet from the story of one the persons interviewed for the report (emphasis added).
She bought an E-ZPass transponder three years ago, when Elizabeth River Crossings began tolling the underwater tubes that link her home in Portsmouth to work in Norfolk. But she wasn’t making enough money to fund the account. A few months later, she faced a choice: tame the flurry of tolls, or pay for groceries, gas and rent.
The ERC invoices piled up fast. What started as a stack of small bills – $10, $20, $30 – became an impossible debt.
“It was already hard for me without tolls to pay for regular bills. Then you put this on me and tell me I have to pay this or I can’t go to work,” Reynolds said as she sifted through a drawer stuffed with statements. “I’m just stuck.”
Words fail me.