Delegate Al Pollard: “Dear Delegate Gilbert”

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    Nice job by Del. Al Pollard (D-Northern Neck), pushing back against Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah) for “rhetoric [that] might be great for the campaign trail, [but that] does nothing to solve the problem of a Chesapeake Bay so polluted it is literally killing those who merely want to make a living and carry on their family tradition.” {Note: also see Sen. Donald McEachin’s comments on Gilbert’s “utter nonsense.”}

    The View from Downstream

    By Delegate Albert C. Pollard, Jr.

    August 23, 2010

    Dear Delegate Gilbert:

    I am writing concerning the article I read on August 2 in which you blame the crowd at “wine and cheese parties” for shoving the Chesapeake Bay cleanup down the throats of the agricultural community.

    As rural legislators, your district and my district share many similar characteristics, however, our districts have a major distinction and that is my district is down river of yours.  This is particularly important because your area of the state is a nutrient hotspot — meaning you import corn, export chicken and keep the manure, sending the nitrogen and phosphorous downstream through your surface and groundwater.

    Indeed, two days before I read your article I was at Northern Neck Community Days.  It was there that I saw some old friends, including a waterman in his 60’s who had not worked in over a month.  The reason he hadn’t worked was because in mid-June he had caught what we refer to locally as “watermen’s disease” (vibrio vulnificus).   Watermen’s disease is caused when bacteria which thrive in polluted waters of the Chesapeake Bay infect a nick or cut.

    “I’m walking around pretty good right now,” he told me. “But I was laid up in the hospital for about a week.  And the worst part of it is, we just had our best day and we’re starting to make money for the season.”  The gentleman’s deckhand was also nearby and was going to bush hog a field (for pay) because, obviously, he had been out of work since his boss had been hospitalized.

    Also that day I met a young waterman who also goes to the local community college, studying to become a paramedic.

    “I love to work on the water,” he said. “But without water quality, there is no future. I just have to find something else.”

    The saddest part is that we have no paid EMT locally. So in order for this young man to find a job he will either have to move or make a five day commute to Northern Virginia.

    You’re quoted as saying, “It’s totally unwarranted.  They stand around at wine-and-cheese parties and complain about all these things and restoring the [B]ay…without any regard that agriculture produced the wine and cheese they are sipping on and nibbling on.”

    Please know that all three of these men drive pickup trucks and have a tan line around the edge of their ball cap – this is not the wine and cheese crowd.  They have every bit as much of a right to their heritage as our farmers do to theirs.

    Here in the Northern Neck we know that our food comes from the land – and the water.  And while there is great concern about an overly bureaucratic solution, we also understand that something must be done to clean the Bay.

    The Chesapeake Bay has a land to water volume ratio that is 15 times greater than any other estuary in the world.  This means that what happens on the land disproportionately affects the families and jobs that depend upon clean water.

    While your rhetoric might be great for the campaign trail, it does nothing to solve the problem of a Chesapeake Bay so polluted it is literally killing those who merely want to make a living and carry on their family tradition.  I share your concerns about an overly bureaucratic solution written and implemented by the federal government.  However, what worries me more is that your remarks belittle the scope of the problem. And only by agreeing on the problem can we craft a reasonable and effective solution for all concerned.

    • Va Breeze

      so he has to “educate” his fellow delegates