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Security also depends on pavement and pipes

The Iraq war (see above) isn't the main topic of conversation when U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer speaks regionally to citizens and business leaders.

But Blumenauer has a lot to say about the federal government's failure in recent years to invest domestically in roads, bridges, airports, rail lines, water systems and sewer lines.

Describing what he termed 'an infrastructure crisis' in the United States, Blumenauer noted that this country spends less than 1 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure. By comparison, he said China and the European Union are investing at seven to eight times that rate.

Blumenauer is correct to point out that the nation's economic security will be determined by how well it takes care of the essential underpinnings of a society. Today, we are driving on roads and bridges and using water and sewer systems that were funded, in most cases, many decades ago. Those systems are wearing out at a rate that far outpaces our current financial ability to replace them. And the federal government is no longer willing - or able, possibly - to shoulder the majority of the expense of these systems, as it was in the past.

Blumenauer says citizens need to rally in a non-partisan way around a call to 'rebuild and renew America.'

He is correct, but also we would note that it will be difficult to remove politics from the question of how a community, region, state or nation should pay for long-neglected problems.

We agree, however, with Blumenauer's insistence that more money is needed for infrastructure and that the Portland region must have a vision for how to spend those dollars in ways that maximize economic development and improve community livability.

The region also must heed Blumenauer's message that it needs to find ways to use limited infrastructure dollars more efficiently - and that means spending less time and money on 'process' and placing more emphasis on action.