To listen to the tenor and tone of debate spewing from Washington of late, it seems clear some elected representatives -- and, by extension, their constituencies -- don't think very highly of government. Any government.

We hear that government is far too big. Far too intrusive. And, most of all, far too incompetent.

They are, of course, entitled to their opinion. But such simple positions ignore the obvious point that, in our system, we are, in fact, the ones ultimately responsible for government.

Candidly, we understand these cynical feelings because, depending on the circumstance, there can be elements of truth in each statement.

A Caltrans sweeper makes its way West on I-80 near the Crystal Springs exit in Placer County on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. The resurfacing of I-80 will make
A Caltrans sweeper makes its way West on I-80 near the Crystal Springs exit in Placer County on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. The resurfacing of I-80 will make for a smoother drive for motorist traveling from Auburn to the state line. (AP Photo/The Sacramento Bee, Hector Amezcua)

It certainly doesn't help government's image to have dueling cable television hucksters selling the opposing notions that government is either the root of all evil or the answer to any question. Neither is true.

As the din about government increases, we think a little perspective is needed and we discovered it this week in, of all places, the Sierra.

As the federal government was being padlocked and national parks closed, drivers in California and state transportation officials celebrated completion of an $820 million massive renovation to Interstate 80 that stretches from the Nevada state line all the way to Auburn.


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It is a massive infrastructure project that was desperately needed for a vital road built more than 50 years ago. We are reminded that this project could only have been done by government and, yes, the taxpayers who collectively fund that government.

Admittedly, it took 15 years to complete. But, again, perspective is in order. This renovation was done while working around existing traffic over challenging terrain and the reconstruction of 423 miles of lanes could only be done about six months each year because of the winter weather in the mountains.

The impact is significant. Caltrans estimates that 170,000 drivers travel on the refurbished road each day and that nearly $5 million worth of truck-driven consumer goods cross Donner Summit each hour. Each hour.

Caltrans also estimates that more than 3,000 workers participated in the rehabilitation.

Of course, this is but one of a legion of projects done by government. The new eastern span of the Bay Bridge and the about-to-open fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel come immediately to mind. Both projects took far too long and were terribly expensive -- obscenely so for the Bay Bridge -- but the fact remains that they are vital infrastructure advancements that in today's world could only have been done by government.

None of this even considers government agencies such as police, fire, courts and the military that keep civil society from devolving into chaos.

So, as we debate government's role in our lives, maybe at the same time we should consider our role in the life of that government and making it what we want it to be.