Photo by sean dreilinger on Flickr.

The Examiner ran an article Monday about the shocking news that a small share of a family’s gift budget will go to gifts for some family members other than the kids:

Of the $11,200 the Thompson family plans to spend on holiday gifts over the next six years, $2,300 will be used for purchases other than video games, the chief concern of Thompson children.

Thompson children listed 587 video games and electronic devices in their draft Christmas list that would cost about $8,000. The rest of the money, however, is for items like clothes, ties, jewelry, spa treatments — and holiday cards.

Proponents of non-toy gift purchases argue that those gifts do play a role in improving the family’s happiness.

"Daddy deserves a present from Santa too,” said mommy Mary Thompson. Others, though, want some of that money redirected to pay for actual toys.

8-year-old Jimmy Thompson proposed shifting some of money set aside for Daddy’s ties to presents he argues would do more to reduce boredom, such as getting a new XBox Live and installing a new giant flat screen television set.



Doesn’t that seem like a ridiculous article? Fortunately, it’s not real, but it almost is. The real article, by the Examiner’s David Sherfinski, sounded almost the same, but about transportation.

Sherfinski reports the shocking news that a small portion of Virginia’s transportation money will go to bicycle and pedestrian improvements, but phrases it a way that sounds like he’s actually shocked. Why? Well, roads are “the chief concern of Northern Virginia drivers,” as if nothing and nobody else matters.

He quotes Mary Hynes of Arlington and Jeff McKay of Fairfax saying that road building alone isn’t the answer for Virginia, and there needs to be some transit and some bike/ped as well as roads. Sherfinski writes: “Others, though, want some of that money redirected to pay for actual roads.” Actual roads, because anything that’s not roads isn’t “actual” transportation?

The real news is how much of the state’s budget Governor Bob McDonnell and Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton are putting toward new road construction and expansion ($7 billion of $8 billion in road spending) even though more than half of the state’s roads need repair and the state should be spending $3.6 billion a year just to rehabilitate aging roads and bridges.

But instead of highlighting the growing backlog, Sherfinski’s article parrots talking points from Rep. Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax), who has jumped on the national bandwagon about cutting all funding for bicycle and pedestrian transportation projects.

LeMunyon and Sherfinski also play up the fact that wildflowers is a line item in the transportation budget. But when you juxtapose that item ($258,000) against the road spending ($7,100,000,000), it doesn’t look like so much. If you’re a demagoguing state delegate, though, why talk about real priorities when you can complain about something that constitutes 0.0023% of the total transportation budget?

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle.