Author: J.H. Snider

Is it Time for an E-Congress?

[Delivered to a Congressional caucus meeting concerned with responding to 9/11] Good afternoon. I’d like to take my time with you this afternoon to outline some of the pros and cons of creating an e-Congress as a security measure in the face of a credible threat to the U.S. Capitol. I’m going to divide these pros and cons into three categories: security considerations, democratic accountability considerations and political considerations. Finally, I want to consider your duty to ensure that not just Congress, but the other 80,000 state and local legislative bodies, can operate in the face of a credible terrorist threat to their face-to-face place of business. But before we start with these pros and cons, I want to note that there are two types of e-Congress proposals on the table: a back office e-Congress, and a front office e-Congress. By a back office e-Congress I mean the ability to take your work home at night and have full access to the resources you’d have if you were on Capitol Hill. Even before September 11, this type of e-Congress, a telecommuting Congress, if you will, was well under development. Accordingly, I will not dwell on it here. By a front office e-Congress I mean the exercise of its formal legislative powers. This is the part of Congress that, unlike the back office, the law dictates must be displayed publicly....

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Time for policy to end gridlock on the streets

WASHINGTON – The National Governors Association reported recently that the annual cost to society of traffic gridlock is $72 billion in wasted time and fuel as well as 4.3 billion hours stuck in traffic. And gridlock is getting worse. Politicians know that traffic gridlock is unpopular and that the public expects them to alleviate it. They also know that people only want traffic efficiency – like garbage dumps, power plants, and cell-phone towers – in someone else’s back yard. The National Governors Association report, subtitled “Delivering More Transportation Choices to Break Gridlock,” reflects this political calculus. The report offers many fine ideas for prioritizing new public expenditures on transportation. Nowhere, however, does it acknowledge, let alone remedy, the transportation Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) politics that explain why one-hundredth of 1 percent of our roads in many parts of the country serve 99.99 percent of the traffic. Gov. Parris N. Glendening, chair of the National Governors Association and a big booster of the report’s recommendations, vividly illustrates the discrepancy between the report’s lofty rhetoric about efficiency and the sordid reality of local transportation politics. In Mr. Glendening’s own backyard, local politics make a mockery of efficient road use. The lack of through roads – not to mention the speed bumps, stop signs and other devices local residents have lobbied for – all ensure that traffic is confined to a few main arteries....

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J.H. Snider

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