When the community of South Colton came together last weekend it wasn’t just a celebration of the final phase of an important transportation project, it was an example of what government can do well. The 9th Street Celebration commemorated the removal of the last section of remaining railroad tracks that once separated a community and jeopardized the safety of some of its most vulnerable residents, especially the Grant Elementary and Colton Middle School students who had to travel across six railroad tracks each way to get to and from school.
“The event celebrated a series of projects that will make a big difference in the quality of life for the next generation of Colton residents,” Tim Watkins, Chief, Office of Legislative and Public Affairs for the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) said of the event. “Whether it means safer access to local schools through a project like the Laurel Street Grade Separation or just eliminating the rail line down the middle of a residential street, we are proud to be part of the effort that will make a difference for the people in our community.”
How all transportation decisions — like the Colton grade separation projects, quiet zones, and realignment project celebrated that day — affect our quality of life was also a topic of conversation earlier that week at a special forum held at Cal State San Bernardino’s Leonard Transportation Center with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. “Transportation projects can cut off entire communities,” it was noted during the forum. These decisions can cause a community to prosper and flourish or wither away in isolation. This is something I was well aware of during my childhood days on San Bernardino’s Westside, a community that was cut-off from the rest of the city’s amenities and resources by miles of railroad tracks and freeway lanes.
The forum and the celebration both serve as a reminder that while we spend so much time during our election seasons talking about what is wrong with our government, we have to remember that there are some folks getting it right. We also have to remember what’s at stake when we exercise our right to vote. Our elected officials are our policy makers. They represent us in their respective positions at either the federal, state, or local level. They have some serious decisions to make on our behalf that will affect not only our lives now, but also our communities in the future.
Unlike Henry David Thoreau’s pronouncement that “government is best which governs least…” I would argue that government is best when it solves the problems of the people and improves the quality of life of those it governs. The celebration in South Colton is just one example of how well it can work.