A Hot-Foot for Governor Oops. And Me? I'm a Happy Guy.

Sorry, all you highway fans, but I can't help loving the snit Texas Republicans have gotten themselves into over road money. Governor Oops, posing for the last two years with a Tea Party pitchfork, dropped the act yesterday and blasted the medieval wing of his own party after they shot down his latest highway financing plan.

Yesterday after 31 House Republicans voted to kill his proposed constitutional amendment for new highway money, Oops said: "It is disappointing that some members of the House today needlessly delayed our state's ability to deal with the added strain our increasing population and surging economy are placing on our roads and highways."

Oh, Oopsie! You're not in character on this! Remember: it's not just late-term abortion that you have to oppose to stay right with the 'forkers. You're also required to oppose wheeled transportation. You forgot that part, didn't you? Fit of pique?

I know that killing your proposed constitutional amendment to fund new non-toll highways was a knife in the wallets of all your developer buddies. But see how it goes, Oops? Sooner or later it's always a mess having two girlfriends.

Oops wanted the Legislature to take a ball-peen hammer to the Texas Constitution to let him drain off $840 million a year in reserve funds and give it to his developer pals for spec roads. We here in Dallas know what that's all about. The downtown real estate sharps here have been fighting for 15 years to get a billion dollars in public funding for a road along the Trinity River that will carry so few cars it can't pay its own way as a toll road.

Ah, toll roads. There's the rub. As a true free market troglodyte, Oops is supposed to believe that roads should pay their own way. Let the market decide. If there's a real market for a road, build it, charge tolls and pay for it without public money. That, I believe, is the true pitchfork line.

Given the immense negative impact that new highways have on the physical and cultural environment, I myself am beginning to like the pitchfork approach better and better. Seems like a good test. If it's so badly needed, people will pay to use it. If they won't pay, don't build it.

Otherwise we get stuck with things like the Trinity River not-a-toll-road toll road, a proposed road that will be so unneeded and so inefficient that it will only be able to pay a fraction of its own way with tolls. The land sharps behind it want the rest of the money -- a cool billion last time I looked -- to come from the public sluice. Remember that the North Texas Tollway Authority, ostensible sponsor of this boondoggle, is currently under FBI investigation. Gives you confidence, eh?

Think about the way they peddle this stuff to us. We were told that if we gave them their billion dollars for this highway that cannot pay its own way, they would give us solar-powered water taxis. That's not even a free pair of pants. More like a discount on a thong. Cheap bastards, ain't they?

So do I fault the pitchforks for opposing Oops' proposed violence to the Texas Constitution? Oh, that's a tough one. I don't like the pitchforks because of their war on women, their racist campaign against minority voting rights and their evil persecution of honest hard-working immigrants.

But giving Doctor Professor Oops a hot-foot on his highway deal? Gotta admit. Kind of like it. Couldn't happen to a nicer group of folks.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze