The Iraq war wasn't the main topic of conversation when U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer spoke to the East Metro Economic Alliance in Fairview last week. But Blumenauer did have 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, a Democrat whose district includes the Sandy area, was correct to point out this 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 transportation networks and other necessary systems are wearing out at a rate that far outpaces our current financial ability to replace them. And the federal government is no longer in a position to shoulder the majority of the expense of these systems, as it was in the past.
Blumenauer believes citizens will rally in a non-partisan way around a call to 'rebuild and renew America.' We hope that he is correct but also 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.