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America Needs a New Infrastructure Boom

'Great nations build big things, and we need to start building big things again in America,' state Rep. Jesse White writes.

In the Chinese city of Changsha, a businessman is constructing a skyscraper 2,750 feet tall using new mass manufacturing techniques. American infrastructure was ranked 23rd in the world in 2011 by The World Economic Forum, coming in behind Hong Kong, Singapore, Portugal, Taiwan, Belgium, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, just to name a few.

My point is simple. Great nations build big things, and we need to start building big things again in America.

One of the biggest problems with the stimulus program a few years ago was it lacked any real sense of a grand plan for our national infrastructure, which meant many regular Americans still have a hard time seeing any tangible return on the $825 billion recovery plan.

Whether the stimulus actually worked or not is a debate for the economists, but it could have been better by defining a singular vision for what we want America to look like in the twenty-first century.

The key is infrastructure, and there is no shortage of areas to choose from. Our roads and bridges and crumbling to the ground. We have a very inefficient power grid that needs massive updates to meet the challenges ahead. Large portions of the nation still lack broadband internet, which is an absolute necessity for small businesses to build and grow in new markets.

So why aren’t we tackling any of these issues on the scale necessary to do anything more than patchwork repairs? From my perspective as an elected official, it boils down to lacking the political will to have a real debate with the public about making these investments. But I think the American people are actually much smarter and well-reasoned when it comes to infrastructure than the political establishment is willing to give them credit for.

People get that real infrastructure improvements cost money. Most major roads and bridges are designed to last about 30 years; most of the infrastructure built during the Eisenhower era is nearly double that expected lifespan. We need to just acknowledge it isn’t anyone’s fault this stuff needs to be rebuilt—it just needs rebuilt.

The good news is we can use new technologies and techniques to really build the roads, bridges, mass transit, smart electrical grids, water and sewage systems and broadband internet networks that will carry us all the way into the next century.

A major infrastructure push is the single-best thing we could do to kick start the economy. We would create real jobs that cannot be outsourced. We can create true public-private partnerships and reward companies for investing here in America. Perhaps more importantly, people would see a true return on investment in both a physical and psychological sense.

In this toxic political climate where points are scored and talking points crafted around the premise of finding ways to say ‘no’ to big ideas, a sense of working toward improving America in a tangible way could just be the shot in the arm we need right now.

No plan will be perfect, but we need to not give into the temptation to criticize a big idea because we may not like a couple of the small details. We have to put aside who gets the credit and who gets the blame and just get the job done.

We won’t always agree on much as a community, as a state or as a nation, but if we can’t get together on the concept of literally rebuilding America through a new and much-needed infrastructure boom, you have to start to wonder if we’ve divided ourselves to the point of permanent paralysis.

In order to get there, elected leaders are going to have to trust the public, and the public is going to have to trust their elected leaders. And the building of that mutual trust may be the most important cornerstone to be laid if we want America to build great things again.

Anna Coen November 30, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Jason, you are incorrect "Proud American" got it right.I have no personal agenda against anyone. I came to the April Supervisors meeting asking for information about the Cool Valley Project. because an" Article appeared in a local paper(I have the article and will share with you} about the project area I have tried to keep up with this project since around 2009 or before. especially since I and my neighbors are impacted..There was a:'Blight Resolution", the Supervisors and Planning Commission recinded.To get aTIF an area has to be "Blighted'. Could we lose our property?. I don't think you or any resident would want that to happen to anyone. .Anything is possible! if I understood you correctly the meeting you referred to, the developer did not participate (I not even sure they attended)the presentation was made by the Redevelopment Authority.I will be happy to share my information with you or anyone that is interested. I will be at the Monday BOS meeting. Everyone needs to understand TIF, Blight and how it affects all of us. And Jason the troubling part that most don't know about with TIF, the most money is lost by the school district for the period. of the TIF bond. Our schools have had to cut more than i think they shoud. and yes I'm sure you have read about our schools falling behind other countries. I have no children in scool but i am concerned. In my opinion children are gong to be the losers "Our Children are our future"
Amanda Gillooly November 30, 2012 at 03:54 AM
What rules would those be? If you'd like me to include a link to our terms of service, I would be happy to provide one. Just let me know how I can help!
Amanda Gillooly November 30, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Anna - thank you, as always, for your comments! If you'd ever like to talk, just give me a call at 724-510-5659. Otherwise, I will see you at the meeting Monday!
Jason Krut November 30, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Yes, Anna. The Planning Commission did vote to approve the Redevelopment Authority's blight designation; however, there is a still unanswered question of whether or not they had the authority to do so or even understood that they were making the designation or simply a recommendation to the BOS as they normally do. The BOS did not designate Cool Valley as blighted. As soon as the residents brought the situation to the BOS, they immediately became concerned and took action to educate the residents and rectify the situation. I am well aware of TIF, both its pros and cons. You are correct that only the redevelopment authority was at that meeting, but the developer was invited. The BOS responded to the residents and did their job. That is why I replied to the previous posts, despite the ugly mudslinging that the conversation devolved into from both sides. The mudslinging is bad enough, but most people can clearly see that for what it is. I replied because incorrect statements that paint a negative picture of anybody can only be fought by the truth. Our supervisors and our residents deserve at least that much.
Me December 01, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Jason you state you know the pro and cons of TIF Explain why are the school districts loosing under the TIF and what has the BOS done to stop the TIF

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