VIRGINIA GOV. Gerald Baliles is taking his executive office on the road to various regions of the state, and so far his tour has been effective. The first of his "workweeks" away from Richmond was in the Roanoke Valley, and -- stand by -- Northern Virginia is next. What seems to make a difference is that Gov. Baliles isn't simply making the rounds with speeches but is taking several days at a time to listen to people and their pols and to look at everything from the traditional chicken and peas dinners to schools, roads, farms and local issues. And if the Roanoke roadshow was any indication, Mr. Baliles is going at these trips with gusto and a serious interest.
Virginia is a large and diverse state, with more than 100 counties, cities and other jurisdictions that have not always had much in common -- or at least haven't known it when they did. And over the years it has been widely assumed that anything of importance in Virginia revolves around Richmond, where the money flows and the laws are determined. You don't have to go back many years, for example, to hear a governor or a legislative leader speak of Northern Virginia as if it were a foreign (and, of course, phenomenally rich) country.
But Gov. Robb and Gov. Baliles -- and their Republican opponents, for that matter -- recognized not just the political and economic importance of this region but also its common interests with other urban/suburban areas of the state. Now Mr. Baliles is building on this kind of recognition by getting out of the capitol. This practice is proving popular not only with constituents, but also with the legislators of both parties, who note that the executive attention to them and their districts should pay off during the legislative sessions in Richmond.
Given the agenda for the next such meeting -- a special session on transportation and how to pay for it and where to help -- the governor's local "immersion" courses could prove to be particularly constructive when the time comes for the toughest decisions.