Home Current Events The Complicated Politics of Vital Infrastructure Repairs
The Complicated Politics of Vital Infrastructure Repairs

The Complicated Politics of Vital Infrastructure Repairs


For more than two decades, I have heard politicians calling for a national project to repair our infrastructure. Many of our nation’s bridges are beyond their original projected lifespan and will require billions of dollars to repair or replace. But achieving this goal will take years.

Similarly, water and sewer systems in some of our oldest cities may be more than a century old, and some may include materials like lead pipes that are hazardous to the health of the local population. Our electrical transmission grids date back to the era of Thomas Edison.

Who can forget the collapse of the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis in 2007? More recently, the Flint, Michigan, water crisis drew the nation’s attention for multiple reasons, including a city’s decision to switch its water supply to a cheaper alternative without considering the consequences.

In addition, sewage system overflows in Baltimore’s antiquated system continue to pollute the Chesapeake Bay, and improvements are long overdue, given that the city signed a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2002 to fix the system by 2016. Lastly, the Texas power grid outages this week may result in repairs of $50 billion or greater to municipal facilities and residential homes and apartments.

Each of these infrastructure situations (and many more) could have been prevented if proper maintenance and repairs were regularly scheduled and performed. The FERC reviewed a similar power outage in Texas during a 2011 cold snap and made recommendations for “winterizing” many components of the system. Evidently, very few of the recommendations were implemented, and it’s clear that there was little follow-up.

Living in Austin, I am a victim of this week’s power outage. However, many experienced consequences far worse than mine. As soon as our power was restored and Internet access regained, it was heartwarming to see through social media feeds and other apps how many people pitched in to help their neighbors with water, food, clothing, blankets, and places to stay.

Texas’ governor and the state legislature have issued calls for an examination of ERCOT, the Texas grid regulator. It’s likely that the federal government will investigate as well.

This weekend, a policy analyst interviewed by Austin television station KXAN stated, “Most politicians think short-term. When this issue occurred in 2011, there was a call to fix the system, so it didn’t happen again. When it became clear that gas bills and utility bills would increase in order to pay for those fixes, the politicians knew that voters would go to the polls with memories of paying more for fuel and energy bills and not with the memory of the grid failure.”

Will we reach a consensus on the need to rebuild our infrastructure at the national, state, and local level? We urgently need these repairs, and the agreements need to transcend party partisanship.

There’s no excuse for failing to repair bridges, highways, water and sewer systems, and the electrical grid. All of them are vital to our safety and survival. If our politicians can reach agreement on infrastructure, something we see and use daily, maybe they can cross the aisle to cooperate on thornier topics like Social Security, healthcare, and education.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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