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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Pointless to Ask Again For Whom the Road Tolls

We really need to study this? A state agency is using our tax dollars to try to convince us we’re wrong about the Trans Texas Corridor and lawmakers need a year to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down? Seems like the ultimate no-brainer but, alas, this is Texas.

House Speaker Tom Craddick has actually asked lawmakers to review the Texas Department of Transportation’s multimillion-dollar ad campaign promoting toll roads and the Trans Texas Corridor. It’s one of several topics the House State Affairs Committee will study before the legislature convenes again in 2009.

What is there to review? We’re not talking about a harmless public service announcement designed to provide information. This is a mass media campaign to sway public opinion on a highly controversial issue.

If the European contractor that stands to gain the most by building the Trans Texas Corridor wanted to spend money out of its own pocket on the ad campaign, that would be just fine. But using public money in this fashion is clearly wrong and it boggles the mind how that could be lost on anyone.

Transportation officials defend the “Keep Texas Moving” campaign by saying it’s a response to lawmakers’ demands to improve communication with the public. Please!

Communities all across Texas were infuriated by TxDOT’s high-handed attitude that led to a multi-billion dollar boondoggle being shoved down their throats. They hated the idea that transportation would be turned in to yet another battle between the haves and have-nots, whereby the haves could afford to drive on nice new toll roads while the have-nots would be relegated to old neglected free roads.

The department’s arrogant chairman, Ric Williamson, cared nothing about what the public thought regarding toll roads and the TTC. He didn’t really even care what our elected officials thought. So of course they were going to demand better communication — as in going out in communities and listening to people, not putting some glossy ad campaign together to sway the debate.

It should have never gotten to this point. Everyone agrees that Texas faces huge challenges when it comes to transportation. With an ever-increasing population, declining infrastructure and limited dollars, some outside-the-box thinking was going to be necessary to find solutions.

But everyone should have been invited to the table. There’s no reason for transportation to be a divisive, partisan issue, but with their my-way-or-the-toll-way approach, Gov. Rick Perry and his appointee, Williamson, succeeded in making it just that.

Using millions of tax dollars for an ad campaign only throws gasoline on a hot burning fire. State Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) sits on the State Affairs Committee that will be looking at the issue and she agrees there’s not much to study.

However, she explains why some on the other side might see it differently. “You know Republicans,” she says, “They think government is there to help them make money.”

Hopefully, the committee will send a clear message that this time: It’s not going to work that way.

(Originally published by Examiner Newspaper Group)

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