An open letter to concerned Floridians:
The debate over high speed rail has yet to focus on the merits of advanced transit systems and how in combination with other public and private modes of transportation it can be the catalyst for the next transformative period in American history. Transit, be it rail or bus, offers mobility options which a reliance on a car or road alone does not afford. This is not to suggest that the hundred of billions of public dollars used to subsidize our amazing network of roads was wrong. Roads have transformed America’s economy.
The question is, how do we prepare for continued growth and the limitation imposed on governments by the cost of sprawl. It also means engaging in a vital bottom up / top down review of our long and short term transportation plan for America that puts an end to piece meal efforts which often appear to make no logical sense.
Of equal or perhaps greater importance is the question of debt and deficit spending. I for one believe that we must take immediate action to get our fiscal house in order and have called repeatedly for immediate entitlement reform that begins to put Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on a sound course. It means we must spend less. I have also called for a major reevaluation of our defense spending, with a ten percent reduction in new weapon acquisitions beyond what we need to serve our troops now deployed across the globe. We must also take a very hard look at Afghanistan and ask if spending nearly $2 billion a week in a country immune from foreign tinkering is worth the massive investment in life, limb and treasury. I think not.
This brings me back to rail, transportation and the future of the American economy. I am bullish on America’s future and frankly tire of the growing cottage industry from both left and right that seeks to put the worst face on our future. America is stronger than many now profess and is fully capable of carrying off large public-private projects, from power plants and new dams, road projects and even rail. Rail successfully moves goods across long distances, and when well planned and managed, can move people as well. To argue differently is to join the cult of doom and gloomers who seem to enjoy disparaging all efforts to improve our quality of life or simply believe that we are incapable of doing things on time, on budget and of high quality. America is the most powerful nation on earth because we have figured out how to succeed and get right what others fail to do. Our government, while far from perfect is far better than most others, and our industry is still the envy the world. If someone frets about risks, give him or her their due, and tell them to move aside, it’s time to put the American spirit to action getting the job done right!
My letter to Florida is simple. America is still the last bastion of hope for a world seeking freedom and leadership. Time to quit lamenting about what can’t do and get right what we can. Leaders willing to make things work need to step up, especially in the new age of declining budgets. So America must reform her entitlement system, get defense spending in line with our long-term strategic interests and then go on about the serious business of building a foundation of infrastructure systems, from water treatment facilities, new air & sea ports, to roads, bridges and rail, that will carry our nation forward. Hand wringers need not apply.
Mark Sharpe (R) is one of Hillsborough County’s at-large county commissioners. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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