Focus on rural Virginia
Published 12:38 pm Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) announced that she was going to tour southern and southwest Virginia this summer in order to better understand the issues that are important to our region. I am delighted to have her come to our area to learn about our part of Virginia. Janet is a very nice lady who has served in the Senate since 1992. My only problem is this is the first time in her 26 years in the Senate that she has chosen to make this effort. Yet it is somewhat the norm for many legislators to not fully understand the challenges that face other parts of the Commonwealth. It is hard, but I try to get to different parts of the state at least once every year and some times more often. It helps me to better understand and work for the betterment of Virginia.
I do, however, believe that rural Virginia currently has tougher challenges, and, therefore, I welcome anyone that is interested in better understanding this region. The issues that we face are the same as the more affluent parts of the state, only with different perspectives. Our families want quality education for our young people just as families in other parts of the state. Our area faces a shortage of affordable housing. Many lack the most basic of communication services that connects us to the rest of the world. The Center for Rural Virginia was created to help the rest of Virginia understand our challenges while at the same time developing stronger relationships between the various rural parts of the state. Rural counties and legislators find it is extremely hard to have the same clout as the more populated part of state that may have many legislators as well as lobbyists to attract attention to the problems they face.
During the legislative session this year, we were successful in speaking with a unified voice in the realm of school funding. We were able to secure extra funding for school systems that are losing population as well as more funding for at-risk students.
This summer, the Rural Center is focused on other issues. One is rural housing. Larger cities receive housing funds just because they meet a certain population level. Rural communities must compete against other smaller communities for funding of projects; projects that may well serve communities better than those that receive the noncompetitive urban funds. Earlier this month we met in Farmville to hear success stories around the state. Our goal is for those interested to share success paths for others to follow.
In August, the Rural Center will focus on the issue of broadband services. While we have had some success extending broadband beyond the current areas, some other areas will be benefited by the efforts of the Tobacco Commission. However, we must do more for all Virginians that want service. Hopefully, working together we can accomplish more broadband connections faster.
Success on these issues will be well fought, but our success will depend on our ability to work together and to better communicate with those in the other parts of Virginia. Luckily, we have a very competent Executive Director who is not only with the Rural Center in which I am the vice chairman. As well, she assists the Rural Caucus which is made up of legislators from both parties and both the Senate and House. I am proud to currently serve as chairman of the caucus.
Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen. Ruff@verizon.net.