And while The Extremes of Virginia focused on these three broad areas, very similar problems and lack of opportunities exist in communities scattered all across the state. Clearly, we are two separated and unequal Commonwealths. In the last 50 years, Virginia has become more urban, more diverse and wealthier. Different regions have adapted in different ways, faced with evolving circumstances, growing or shrinking populations, boom-or-bust business conditions. Now, though, Southwest, Southside and the Eastern Shore languish, trailing far behind Virginia in joblessness, education, wealth and health. Moreover, many people in the Extremes don’t see any real hope for change on the horizon. The overwhelming majority in the Extremes is very pessimistic and believes conditions for themselves and their families will worsen in the near and longer term. This, I suggest, is something important for policymakers to know and consider, and I hope will be a focal point for their further consideration. But our legislative system does work, does at least respond to crises. In the 2017 regular General Assembly session, a bipartisan group of delegates and senators paid attention to the differences within our state and listened to the appeals of school superintendents both in The Extremes and scattered throughout other poor, rural areas and reallocated more than $7 million in a very tight budget year to schools with declining enrollments and reduced budgets. And, reacting to the dramatic opioid abuse crisis, state law and Health Department regulations were tightened in an effort to reduce the current rate of three deaths every day from illegal drugs in Virginia, thanks to the efforts of Sen. Ben Chafin, Del. Todd Pillion, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel and others. So, the governmental and political systems reacted in positive ways, for which we should all be grateful. But we must guard against complacency, as there is much more to be done for our poor, rural areas. I think of these helpful government efforts as band-aids: urgently needed now to address severe crises and problems; to stop the bleeding. But, for all their good, we know that such band- aids are temporary fixes, not permanent or long-lasting solutions or improvements. For example, the legislative scheme to distribute education money needs overhauling to account for changed circumstances and demographics. And the efforts to reduce drug overdose deaths, while desperately needed now, don’t directly address the reasons more and more Virginians are abusing narcotics. Even more than before, I am convinced we need what I argued for in The Extremes : long range strategies to address the root causes of high unemployment, drug use, lack of healthcare, poor educational results, hopelessness and despair, all which are pervasive throughout Virginia’s rural and poor areas. We as a Commonwealth need to confront these issues directly in order to revitalize these rural and poor areas, not only for the benefit of the millions of Virginians living there, but also for the wealthier areas of the state that now prop up these areas with financial support. We need to recognize the need for expert help, in the form of concerted investigations into the problems of our rural and poor areas, and it needs to be a priority assignment. Outside, independent, global consultants could study our situations and point the way to betterment. So, too, could the brainpower within our magnificent colleges and universities—some located in rural and poor areas— that could be unleashed to study, probe, investigate, examine and then recommend and test how different public and private, business and civic policies could improve the status quo . We must refuse to believe that the past is prologue, that our poor and rural areas are forever stuck in a rut without the same opportunities as wealthier areas. We should be faithful to the true meaning of Virginia—a Commonwealth, where we all share in the bounty our state has to offer. August Wallmeyer’s recent book The Extremes of Virginia , is available as an ebook on Amazon and in softcover at . V

hen it comes to events no one throws a party like David Napier.

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V irginia C apitol C onnections , S pring 2017


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