There are a lot of life and death issues facing Arkansans... gun violence, healthcare, living wages... but government has another essential role that is every bit as life and death.
If you don't think Infrastructure can be a life and death issue, I've got a bridge in New Jersey to sell you. Getting to the hospital, having clean drinking water, and knowing you have reliable internet service can be matters of life and death.
Here in Fayetteville, where I’ve been a City Council member for the past seven years, smart management has allowed us to build new roads that get people where they need to be faster, and stimulated economic development that has allowed us to pay off our bills faster than we planned. Compare that to cities where budget deficits and crumbling bridges have put emergency services in jeopardy, and it's easy to see the big impacts infrastructure decisions can have on everyday life. Smart infrastructure development is the key to building a well-connected future for the entire State of Arkansas.
The explosive growth of Northwest Arkansas has shown us that we must start planning for the future, today. As a Fayetteville City Council Member, I helped create a 20-year growth plan for the city, committed us to move to 100% clean energy, expanded our trails and sidewalks, and kept our regional mass transit funded. Our state government needs that same kind of planning.
At the same time, growth must not come at the cost of clean air and clean water. I've also worked hard to make sure we protect our sensitive watersheds and make our development low-impact.
Growing up on a rural farm near Prairie Grove and spending my adult life in more urban Fayetteville make me familiar with the importance of a good transportation network. I understand how critical it is to have good road systems that allow urban commuters to spend less time stuck in traffic and allow the flow of goods and services to and from our state's agricultural centers.
But infrastructure is more than just roads and bridges. It’s how we make sure we avoid situations like the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan, where cost-cutting measures led to tainted drinking water that contained lead and other toxins. It's also how we keep the lights on. And increasingly, it's how we communicate and do business.
Arkansas ranks 48th in the nation when it comes to broadband internet access, and 230,000 people lack wired internet. If we want to attract the jobs of the future, and modernize our healthcare and education systems, we have to fix this! Progressives in Washington, D.C. are working hard to preserve Net Neutrality right now, but it’s equally important that state and local governments are able to make sure you have access to affordable broadband in the first place.
Because of deep-pocketed telecom lobbyists, our legislature passed laws a few years ago preventing cities from providing broadband internet service to you as a public utility. We need to stop this kind of tomfoolery. For-profit companies will always be an essential part of providing internet, cable and phone services, but people in rural areas, where companies are reluctant to invest, or even cities served by only one commercial service provider, shouldn't have to endure second-class service. I'm committed to unlocking the barriers to equitable access to communications. I'll work with companies to create the best system we can here in Arkansas, but I'll also stand up to them when they put profits above the public good.