Kay Bailey Hutchison as Transportation Secretary? First, Let's Look at Her Trinity Deal.
Ahem. All that I offer is food for thought, food for thought. Something to think about. That's all.
A blog published by The Hill, a Washington newspaper, has floated the name of former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, whom we here in Texas don't even have to say is a Republican, as a candidate for President Obama's Secretary of Transportation to replace Ray LaHood. Hutchison is one of three women whose names The Hill says are on the list: one theory is that the women should have some advantage over the several men on the list because Obama has appointed too many men. Whatever.
As one of Hutchison's selling points, The Hill says, "She pushed successfully for the passage of more stringent bus safety regulations, including requiring seat belts and stronger windows, after a string of deadly crashes."
Yup. That was good. Fewer seniors flying out the window. Can't argue with that. Hutchison has done a lot of good work over the years, and the one really great thing about her, no matter what else anybody says, she's not Rick Perry.
But. Along and along somewhere in the vetting process, somebody needs to have a serious chat with her about the Trinity River project in Dallas. And if you happen to be the lady or the guy who does it, don't let her get away with doing a nudge-nudge, wink-wink deal about how it was a local log-rolling earmark thing like everybody in the Congress has to do at some time or another.
What Hutchison did for the Trinity River project backers went way beyond nudge-nudge, wink-wink. In 2010 at the urging of former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Hutchison effectively exempted the project from a broad reach of federal law by sticking two so-called "riders" on an unrelated defense appropriations bill. You could look at it like this: she messed around with the national defense in order to slip the Dallas project out from under the reach of national law.
David Conrad, senior water resources specialist for the National Wildlife Federation, called Hutchison's suspension of law and regulation "sweeping" as it affected not just the river in Dallas but a 70-mile stretch of it above and below the city.
And why did that happen? Well, of course lots of phony-baloney justifications were offered at the time, but the real reason was that the entire project, especially the crazy underwater toll road Dallas wants to build out between the levees where it floods, probably couldn't have survived if it had been obligated to meet the law the way everybody else's project does in America.
And why is that such a big deal? It's a big deal because both of the major investigations of the 2005 Katrina catastrophe in New Orleans blamed it on exactly this same kind of winkledink by politicians and bureaucrats: By cobbling together a flood protection system for New Orleans based on piecemeal design and special exceptions, they came up with exactly what Hutchison's handiwork will give Dallas if that road is ever built. We will wind up with a jerry-rigged system that contains none of the overall design principles federal law is supposed to require.
It's federal law. They don't pass it for a joke.
But Hutchison's sleight of hand with those riders made a joke of national law, and now as a result a significant threat to the safety of Dallas lurks in the offing if the project ever is completed. Does Obama really need to buy that? Hey. Just saying. Something to ponder.
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