We can breathe a sigh of relief that Hurricane Sandy wasn’t as devastating to our area as it might have been. Residents of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the Mid-Atlantic States are continuing to struggle with nearly unimaginable problems: the aftermath of historic levels of flooding, widespread losses of electrical power, lack of access to transit, and the corresponding loss of work.
Disasters like this one are important reminders of what an interconnected world we now live in—and how much we must rely on public agencies, along with private (but regulated) utilities, private-sector contractors, and each other as neighbors when extraordinary events happen.
Issues of this magnitude require a multi-faceted, coordinated effort to get through. Even as we pitch in as individuals to help others who have been affected, the combined public-private partnership—led by federal, state, and local officials who are trained to deploy resources and set recovery priorities—will be crucial to the East Coast’s recovery.
Events like this storm reinforce my deep belief in the importance of a strong, competent public sector. Government can address problems that otherwise defy the efforts of those trying to achieve the public’s welfare. Coping with storms and natural disasters is one element of government’s importance; so are economic downturns, which trigger important benefits like unemployment insurance and food aid to alleviate suffering until conditions improve.
Government is not all-powerful, nor should it be. Market mechanisms, private-sector economic growth, and individual responsibility are cornerstones of our political and economic system. But anyone who believes that government—at all levels—should not be an important part of our lives is not acknowledging the reality of how much we need its ability to address large challenges and make people’s lives better.
I have nothing but praise for how the response to this mega-storm has been handled by government agencies, from the President and FEMA at the federal level to Governor Patrick and MEMA at the state level and especially to our local communities. There is still a long way to go—and much depends, in the short term, on the ability of utility companies to restore power to communities paralyzed by the storm’s aftermath. Longer-term, federal aid for storm-damaged regions will be a critical part of the recovery from this historic weather event—a recovery which, with the help of government funding, will create jobs to boost our economy even further.
Big problems require help and attention from many sources, including neighbor-to-neighbor assistance and the private sector. But government has a role—an important role—in our lives, whether in times of dire emergency, economic hardship, addressing public health problems, providing public transit, preserving the environment, educating our children, or protecting our streets and our homes. And let’s not forget that government investment—in infrastructure, education, health and wellness, and so many other ways—actually boosts the private sector and increases economic growth in the long run.
As your State Representative, I will continue to advocate for a strong, efficient, and sustainable state government. Our lives, collectively and individually, are positively affected by the services and assistance that government can provide.
We’re all in this together, whether in emergencies or more stable times. Let’s make sure we are spending public dollars as wisely as possible—while investing in the public-sector services and infrastructure that benefit us all.