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Gene Hart, Greg Marrow and John Lesinski | A(n)other failure of leadership for the Valley

As veterans in our country’s military service, we each learned about leadership and how to get things done. But rarely, if ever, have we witnessed such a profound failure of leadership as that shown by the Shenandoah Valley’s current delegates at last week’s special session of the General Assembly.

In a much-publicized effort to remedy a problem they helped create, these legislators vowed to force consideration of re-opening the rest stops on Interstate 81 and other highways in the Commonwealth. Surely, if such consideration was necessary and good, then these leaders would make that clear to their colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Surely, the rest stops could be re-opened if these leaders could demonstrate why safety, good governance and quality of life required it.

But our bloc of Valley Delegates could not convince a majority of their own party, much less a majority of the House of Delegates, to even consider the issue. We are sure they did their best. But their best was a total of seven votes for their position. Five of those votes came from the Valley bloc. But Steve Landes, R-25th, Todd Gilbert, R-15th, Matt Lohr, R-26th, Chris Saxman, R-20th, and Ben Cline, R-24th, could only convince two other delegates to go along.

If these five delegates can only bring two other delegates to the table, we can hardly expect them to address other Valley concerns. That is why voters in the Cities of Harrisonburg and Waynesboro, and Rockingham, Augusta, Shenandoah, Page, and Rappahannock Counties are looking for new voices and new leadership to replace these ineffective multi-term politicians. Unfortunately, this disappointment is only the most recent reflection of the continuing failure of leadership in the House of Delegates. This failure is most dramatically and repeatedly seen in their failure to work towards a solution to the Commonwealth’s transportation crisis.

Faced with a multi-billion dollar need to meet acknowledged transportation problems, they have given us false solutions that satisfied the needs of their ideological accomplices but wholly failed to meet the transportation needs of Virginia. In 2006, Landes, Lohr, Gilbert and the House gave us the much-hated abusive driver fees and promised $65 million a year to meet transportation needs. The fees outraged citizens and gridlocked traffic courts. Our local rest stops would be open today if those delegates had come up with real funding solutions then. In 2007, Landes, Lohr, Gilbert and the House created boondoggle regional taxing authorities that many leaders knew the Virginia Constitution did not allow. The Supreme Court of Virginia agreed, and the taxing power of these authorities went the way of the abusive driver fees. And, again, our local legislators failed to deliver on the promised funding to meet our transportation needs.

So, while the transportation funding needs remained unanswered and our roads became more clogged and less safe, our delegates and their cohorts followed up in 2008 and 2009 by doing nothing. This failure to lead, to act, and to govern cannot be allowed to continue. There are transportation funding solutions that can take into account the needs and interests of rural, suburban and urban areas of the Commonwealth if we have delegates who will make good faith efforts to find them. There are solutions from the broad center of political thought that can overcome the ideological obstructionism of the current delegates. But last week’s failure by Landes, Lohr and Gilbert demonstrates that they are not willing to seek those

solutions or politically able to lead their own party towards those solutions.

This latest failure demonstrates that it is time for the Valley to send new voices to Richmond. We have the experience to be those voices. Now, we offer our districts the same leadership previously given in service to our nation and to our communities in the Valley.


Gene Hart is the Democratic nominee in the 26th House District. Greg Marrow is the Democratic nominee in the 25th House District. John Lesinski is the Democratic nominee in the 15th House District.

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