Corps Values: Tom Leppert and Mary Suhm Aren't In D.C. To Talk About Flood Control

You know what I love? When people live up to their own stereotypes.

My column this week in the paper version of Unfair Park is about signs that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may have grown a backbone in the matter of resisting political pressure on flood safety. I talk about how the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina may have contributed to a new sense within the Corps that they really, really need to not build bad flood-control levees or let people mess up the ones they've got.

And why would anybody want them to do that? Well, the big example would be the Big Easy, New Orleans, where local real estate interests used Washington political pressure to squeeze the Corps into helping them build a dangerous levee system so they could sell mud-lots to suckers.

The other big example? The Big D, as a matter of fact.

In our own fair city, local interests are growing increasingly pissed that the Corps is somehow slowing down progress on the Trinity River toll road, just because the Corps' engineers want to make sure building a major highway inside flood control levees -- a thing never done before anywhere else in the country -- won't subject downtown Dallas to a risk of catastrophic flooding.

Hey, what's a catastrophic flood or two when you're trying to re-develop an old warehouse district? Cost of doin' bidness, right?

Not for the Corps. At least, not lately.

They've been crossing their T's and dotting there I's, and apparently that's why Mayor Tom Leppert and City Manager Mary Suhm are in D.C. right now, pressing our congressional delegation to put some heat on the Corps.

Let me spell this out. The Corps, an organization of engineers, wants to make sure we're not doing anything to weaken the levee system or risk a flooding disaster in downtown. But our mayor and city manager are not in D.C. to talk about engineering or flood safety. They're up there to see if they can turn some political thumb screws and force the Corps to get off this whole flood safety and engineering integrity deal.

Like I say, it's weirdly satisfying for me to see people live up to their stereotypes. It's a chance for us all to see for whom the mayor and city manager are working. Not us.