Opinion

Local Editorial: Moving on down the road

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Opinion,Local Editorial

Coverage of local news, a major focus of The Washington Examiner since it first began publication eight years ago, ends today. As Bob Hope used to sing, "Thanks for the memories." We've had a good run. The Examiner was the first to quote a top Federal Transit Administration official's warning that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration was billions of dollars short of needed maintenance funds. That warning went unheeded until 2009 when a Red Line crash killed nine people and injured dozens more.

The worst accident in Metro's history was followed by a scathing report by the National Transportation Safety Board. It took a fatal accident to finally force the WMATA Board to address Metro's serious safety issues, which it should have been doing all along, but didn't, because the independent authority is not accountable to the public.

Neither is the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board, now in charge of the financially untenable Silver Line Phase 2 project. Intrepid Examiner reporters chronicled outrageous abuses by MWAA board members, including extravagant expense accounts, rampant nepotism and contract cronyism. Public outrage and an investigator general's audit finally forced MWAA officials to rein in their behavior. But, as long as MWAA, WMATA and a proliferating number of regional boards and authorities have no direct accountability to the public, the potential for future chicanery remains.

Like their federal counterparts, state and local officials in the Washington region have greatly expanded their power and influence over the citizenry they are supposed to serve rather than rule. Even as tax bills spiral ever higher, we've pointed out, there never seems to be enough to pay for basic public services. Meanwhile, bloated public union payrolls have become a major burden on taxpayers who struggle to pay for medical and retirement benefits for "public servants" that are far more lavish than their own. Public service used to be a calling. Now it's a ticket on the gravy train.

We've also pointed out that the Washington region has a major transportation crisis because too much money is being spent on mass transit, even though the vast majority of D.C. area commuters drive to and from work. Most will continue to do so for the foreseeable future no matter how much is spent on transit because it doesn't go where they need to go when they need to go there. The current misallocation of resources, so typical of government, means continued gridlock in the years ahead.

Finally, to the legions of stalwart Examiner readers who have inspired and motivated our local coverage and commentary, it's been a pleasure and an honor to serve you.

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