2nd Most Expensive Commute in America

We need to solve the problems we have. Not problems made up by lobbyists who don’t live in rural Virginia.

Too Much, Too Little

That describes our transportation situation in District 18.

Problems going OUT to work and problems going IN to town.

In a recent Bloomberg report, Fauquier County was identified as having the second most expensive commute in America. This is a HUGE deal for 20,000 Fauquier citizens that drive on 29 and 66 every day. It’s close to 30% of the population of the entire county. This is echoed all over District 18. This is a wonderful place to live but why should we pay almost 20% of our hard-earned income and 352 hours a year just to get to work?  

Our Republican legislators may think Route 66 should be a one-way road to Northern Virginia, but that is totally out-of-step with the reality of work in Culpeper, Fauquier, Rappahannock and Warren counties. Unlike many of his constituents, our current Delegate, Michael Webert, doesn’t have to commute. Maybe that’s why, for the past 8 years, he has done nothing to address this quality of life issue impacting so many in his district. If he was awake and conscious of this situation, he would have advocated for VRE expansion to Haymarket in 2017 instead of letting Prince William kill it. He would be pushing for rural broadband so more people could work from home. What he’s done on this issue? Nothing.

Now, let’s look inward. Many of our senior citizens and others who can’t drive are literally stranded in their retirement communities and their homes within District 18. While in-town transportation services are available through a state and town partnership with VRT, many people in the counties are left on their own. The irony is the majority of people who work in the towns (Warrenton, Culpeper, Front Royal) can’t afford to live in town. While the people who can afford to live in town are commuters who don’t need the service. This gap is most visible with our elderly. At a recent gathering of seniors in Bealeton, many shared that they have no way to shop in Warrenton or Culpeper because they have no transportation. Again, if our current Delegate, Michael Webert, wasn’t again asleep at the wheel, this problem would have been addressed a long time ago.

The truth is we need to solve the problems we have. We have a transportation problem. We can’t ignore them and hope they go away. If we want to maintain our rural way of life we need leaders who prioritize innovation and conservation at the same time. As a small business owner in Rixeyville, with family commuting every day, I know we need to tackle transportation now and stop kicking it down the road.

It happened to Prince. It happened to Tom Petty. Accidental death due to fentanyl overdose. Two musical icons I sorely miss. But nothing compares to the heartbreak I see on people’s faces when they share their personal stories of a loved one’s accidental death due to fentanyl, heroin and prescription opioid overdoses.

We are minuscule compared to our Northern Virginia neighbors on just about everything EXCEPT overdose deaths. Our overdose mortality rates for fentanyl, heroin and prescription opioids are some of the highest in Virginia. Warren County alone has the 3rd highest mortality rate of any county or city in the Commonwealth. It’s time we make this a political priority.

It’s hard to talk about …

Revive – Narcan & Overdose Training in Warrenton, VA

What’s up with this not being a top priority for our rural state leaders? On the one hand, it’s hard to talk about. The stigma of shame and guilt can be overwhelming. It seems only to be discussed with hushed tones. However, after speaking with many, many people in our community, I can tell you this issue spans income, race, gender and any other dividing line you may want to overlay. Everybody is impacted.

Stop the Tail Wagging the Dog

Now, on the other hand, there is a political reason why it’s not a higher priority. Our rural political leaders, specifically Delegate Webert, have a “tail wagging the dog” political mentality which distracts from confronting these deep and difficult issues. The time Del. Webert did mention this issue on the floor of the House, it was only to use it as a political football to vote against Medicaid expansion.

Our local and county officials are trying to deal with this huge problem. Sheriff Mosier, Fauquier County Sheriff, often says we can’t arrest our way out of this. An interesting note, Fauquier County Sheriff deputies no longer wear ties to minimize the risk of their exposure to fentanyl. They also always carry two packs of Narcan, one for the person overdosing and one for themselves. While Narcan is saving lives, overdoses remain the same. In other words, Narcan is a stop gap.

We have to solve this problem. There is no 6-degrees of separation here. We are all impacted by this scourge. A Culpeper business woman is now raising her granddaughter, a mom who lost a son at a motel in Warrenton is now teaching classes on how to use Narcan (Virginia state sponsored training), you can watch a documentary, Dr. Feelgood: Dealer or Healer, which tells how a doctor and a pharmacy in The Plains catapulted opioids into the black market and saturated rural Virginia. As of 2016, Virginia has been under a Public Health Emergency for our opioid epidemic.

Our politicians have to stop the “tail wagging the dog” policies, stop the partisan rhetoric and start working for our rural communities.  We have to solve the problems we have, not ones made up by lobbyists who don’t live in rural Virginia.