The Selfish Generation?


By. Neil Williamson

In looking across the multitude of issues facing local government, none is more pressing than infrastructure investment.  Such investment, especially repairing existing infrastructure is neither sexy nor vote generating.  Our generation seems more concerned with the here and now rather than the implications of no decision on our future. 

Those who survived the Great Depression, fought in WWII and served on the home front made up “The Greatest Generation”.  As history looks back on this time, I fear I may be a member of “The Selfish Generation”. 


Virginia Department of Transportation is currently holding hearings on how big a pothole can get on a rural road before they must repair it.  The localities surrounding Charlottesville have a majority of rural roads that, if the current plan passes, will rarely see maintenance.  A failure to maintain the rural roads will, in time, result in failing rural roads.  What is the plan then?

Nate Delesline III of The Culpeper Star Exponent has the story:

Facing an approximately $2.5 billion funding shortfall over several years, VDOT leaders say they’re left with few options to balance their budget. About 100 people gathered Thursday night at Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center to hear what residents, business owners and legislators had to say to VDOT leaders about the problem….

Under consideration are closing rest stops and welcome centers, reducing motorist assistance patrols and ferry services and delaying or scaling back roadside mowing and maintenance. If all the changes are fully implemented, the annual savings could total about $50 million.

Also on the table are consolidations or closings of VDOT residency offices statewide, including Culpeper’s residency office. About 500 people work in VDOT’s Culpeper district, which covers nine counties. Not implementing any cuts is not an option, Ekern said.

Butch Davies, our Commonwealth Transportation Board member, has said in a previous meeting that no new construction funds will be available for the next five budget cycles.  Therefore any project that does not have funding already (or has an alternate funding source) will not start before 1015.    

Where would we be without the transportation investments of the 1950s? 

How would our nation be different without the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System?


From Charlottesville to Zion Crossroads, water is being bandied about like a political pinata.  Citizen groups (on all sides) independently meet with neighborhood associations and disperse information shaded to favor one or another position. 

Fluvanna Board of Supervisors has been presented a petitionsupporting a referendum for the Joint Water Authority between Fluvanna and Louisa counties. 

As the plan details come forward some policy makers, half of whom will face the voters in 24 months or less, become fence sitters hoping to appease both sides of the equation until the next trip to the ballot box. 

Meanwhile, cost estimates continue to be sharpened and do not seem to be going down.  Ratepayers become alarmed that their bills may increase and threaten revolt.

Where would we be if Charlottesville said in “no” to building the original Ragged Mountain Dam? 

What if previous generations said “No” to the South Fork Rivanna Dam in the late 1960s?

How do we get there from here?

On February 22, The Daily Progress ran a story by Brandon Shulleeta and Rachana Dixit that asked “Can we afford our future?”.  I prefer to reframe the question, It’s not how affordable you make it,  it’s how you make if affordable.  This community does not have a lack of big thinking.  A quick review of my posts regarding the Places29 Boondoggle shows that the community, when not encumbered by fiscal reality, is able to think big. 

If citizens agree VDOT should not effectively abandon the secondary road system throughout the state and we recognize the economic need to increase roadway capacity, perhaps now is the time to look at an adjustment in the state’s gasoline tax (dedicated to transportation).  

If citizens agree that existing water and sewer infrastructure is in need of repair and we don’t have such money already put aside, perhaps water has been too cheap for too long. 

If citizens agree planning for future water supply needs is an important function of government, perhaps its time to support the most practicable and least environmentally harmful solution to meet the needs of the community.

Today, there are a relatively small number of people in the community who continue to fan the flames of dissension and distraction in the hopes of delay and non action.  Do not be misled — deciding not to decide is a decision. 

The quiet majority of citizens need to get involved in these discussions that are currently being dominated by the vocal few.  Complacency is not an option.  The stakes are too high.  Reach out to your representatives on City Council, Board of Supervisors, and the General Assembly.  Let your elected representatives know your thoughts on these critical infrastructure issues.        

Each generation stands on the shoulders of those that came before us, what will be the legacy our generation? 

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


3 responses

  1. Neal,
    Well written. I think our generation will be know as the NIMBY generation. The Not In My Back Yard mentality has caused political systems to buckle from doing what is right and instead, doing what is easy. This is not a republican vs democrat issue, or liberal vs conservative. This is an issue of the people. We caused this problem and we are the only fix for it. Unfortunately, we will also have to suffer a great deal before the pain of the change is less than the pain of the problem. Only then will we be motivated to put aside our selfish, myopic ways and realize the damage we have done to ourselves, our communities and our economy.

    God help our children because certainly they will be the ones who suffer from our mistakes.

    Here is a recent post from the CAARBlog that talks about this issue –

  2. As a long-time Fluvanna resident, I have been appalled at the way our citizens have reacted to issues related to infrastructure improvements. We needed the pipeline years ago, and had it been built when the idea was originally purposed, we would be in a much better situation now, both in infrastructure and fiscal terms. It seems to me that residents here have such a paralyzing and irrational fear of “development” that it impedes the progress that must be made in order for Fluvanna to remain an attractive community for generations to come. d

  3. John Bradley | Reply

    “As a long time Fluvanna resident”. Which actually isn’t all that long Dan. “We needed the pipeline years ago”. We who? Not I. You talk like a realtor who doesn’t care how many houses get crammed together or how much land gets confiscated (stolen). Have you seen the powers that Moss and company would like to have given to them? That seems okay with you?
    Tenaska’s depradations are emphatically not infrastrucure improvements and were never intended by them to be. Read the water withdrawal permits and the USGS study on the portion of the James involved, instead of that cartoon plan that has been presented and then we’ll talk about the hidden costs.

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