There’s a Better Way: Infrastructure Investment Paves the Way for Prosperity

This time last year, the rain fell.  And fell.  And fell.

The floodgates burst, and South Carolina found itself facing an historic 1,000-Year Flood catastrophe—and the consequences of a decade-plus of Infrastructure neglect under Congressman Joe Wilson.

The world watched, as many parts of South Carolina’s Second Congressional District became flood-ravaged lakes following breaches to dam after dam.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control, 17 of 51 statewide dam failures occurred in SC District 2.

17 of 51.  With a .333 batting average, you could win a Major League Baseball batting trophy.

Instead, South Carolina’s Infrastructure should be sent to the minors.  The stark reality is that one-third of these dam failures occurred in Congressman Wilson’s own District backyard—on his watch.  An unchecked watch that has lasted 7 terms and 15 years.

During the past decade of that tenure, Congressman Wilson voted against the Water Resources Development Act, which provided funding for specific South Carolina projects to prevent “flood damage reduction.”  During that time, Congressman Wilson also voted against bill after bill after bill devoted to building and maintaining our transportation Infrastructure.

Consider Joe Wilson’s endless “no” votes the next time your vehicle jolts across our pothole-pocked interstates and highways.  Or the next time your child hops on a school bus—like my third-grade daughter does every day.  Also, bear in mind that South Carolinians spend $3 billion annually on deficient roadway-related expenses.

Back to dams.  Of course, we’ll never know whether Joe Wilson also voted against the Dam Safety Act, as it passed in voice vote form.  Then again, this is the same ‘mis-Representative’ who voted against providing relief to the survivors of Hurricane Sandy.

As I reflect on the one-year anniversary of the 1,000-Year Flood, it appears clear that Joe Wilson just doesn’t give a dam.  Or a bridge or a road.

One year ago, so many homes and businesses were ruined.  So many lives changed forever—nearly 20 South Carolinians perished.  For months after the Flood, my daughter and so many other children, and adults, crossed bridges daily and observed creeks and streams turned into veritable junkyards, strewn with automobiles and refrigerators.  Even today, numerous properties remain destroyed—forced reminders of last year’s horror.

Our Community came together resiliently.  The Richland Library branch where I work distributed truckload after truckload of bottled water in the aftermath of the Flood.  Our branch also hosted one of the busiest FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) in South Carolina.

For six months, I spent my workdays helping Flood victims.  I will never forget the several-day period I spent helping one woman process her relief forms.  Imagine a Congressperson who actually knows what it’s like firsthand to navigate a disaster relief form maze!

I also helped my Community experience relief amidst the suffering.  I was director of the Rosewood Arts Festival in Columbia, which was scheduled for October 3, the day the Flood struck.

Nearly every Midlands festival was forced to cancel.  However, the Rosewood Community truly needed something positive. After logistical blood, sweat and tears, we put on the Festival and did what we do best:  celebrate Beauty and Community!

Where was Congressman Wilson during this time?  I don’t know.  He didn’t drop by the Festival; he never visited our FEMA DRC.  And I never saw him near a Gills Creek Watershed disaster site.

But I do know this:  South Carolina has more than 1,800 deficient bridges—and 7 of the Top 10 most-traveled, deficient bridges are in SC District 2.  I know that one-third of South Carolina’s interstate pavement is classified as “fair or poor.”

Feeling hesitant to hop in your car and pop off to Publix?  What about crossing the river from Lexington to Columbia during your daily commute?

“Status Quo” Joe spends a lot of time blaming President Obama and his own colleagues in the U.S Senate for everything under the sun.  Meanwhile, he votes time and again against investing in our Infrastructure.  He can’t pin pothole tails on Donkeys; he has only the Elephants in the room to blame.

A few weeks ago, I received a midnight call from a Lexington County elected official who said, although conservative, he is sick and tired of prospective businesses rejecting his municipality because of the dilapidated condition of his town’s bridges, roads and waterways—which could be improved by “yes” votes for federally-eligible improvements.

Infrastructure is the backbone of the U.S. economy.  As President Eisenhower proved by creating the Interstate Highway System, investment in Infrastructure has a positive impact on American productivity, GDP, employment, personal income and international competitiveness.  In fact, for every $1 billion invested in Infrastructure, more than 10,000 jobs are created.

What could be better than fixing potholes and creating jobs at the same time?

There’s just one problem:  Joe Wilson.

Joe Wilson represents the “status quo.”  We must replace “Status Quo” Joe in order to make this reality happen.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has made it clear that Congressman Wilson’s “way”—his 15-year, do-nothing voting record—puts us on a trajectory to further disaster via rocky roads and bridges over troubled waters.

Instead:  “There’s a Better Way!”

Joe Wilson hasn’t done his job.  But I will vote to invest in Infrastructure in South Carolina, and by doing so, we can eliminate unemployment and keep our state safe.

Because, the thing is, it wasn’t really a 1,000-Year Flood.  In reality, it could happen again tomorrow.  Meanwhile, our Infrastructure remains in a state of disrepair and decay—and our children and loved ones are left vulnerable.

Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!


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