Last night's four-hour "hearing" on the Trinity River toll road was one big toothache for most of the 100 or so folks on folding chairs in the very gloomy, Soviet-seeming Dallas Convention Center Arena. I put hearing in quotes because it was clear from the very outset that the event had very little to do with hearing from anybody in the audience. Instead, the bureaucrats and their hired consultants were intent on making sure we heard them.
It was one of those things they are required to do by law so they can say they did it. For the most part, speakers who literally seemed as if they might doze off during their own speeches read from lengthy public documents that have been available online for a year.
I'm not feeling especially sorry for the audience. By now I have covered this story for so long that, even in a crowd of a 100 like the one last night, I know everybody, at least by face. (Update: See for yourself with our slide show from the wingding.) I also know a lot of people by their shoes, but we'll chat about that another time maybe. The usual suspects, in other words.
There are two realities. Inside the globe of Trinity River wonkology, everybody knows everything about all of it, 10 times over by now. Outside that globe, very few people know or care or want to hear a damn thing about it. It's a drainage issue, after all. Nobody's naked or famous.
I am inside the globe but, especially on occasions like last night, I dream, feverishly, of escape. Sometimes I dream of escaping while naked, but perhaps we should hold off on that topic for now. Fear not. I did find a bottom line.
The sponsors of this dismal Evensong did try to dress it up by holding a several-hours-long cocktail party type of deal without cocktails (it was on city property, of course). It's how so much of the Trinity toll toad project has been handled, reflecting its strong sponsorship by the Park City Sillies. Let's just do something really FABULOUS and POSITIVE to get people's spirits up about it.
I skipped the fabulous positive part, because, if the Trinity River levees ever do collapse because of this thing and we have orphanages washed away and so on, I don't want anyone to have party pix of me sipping bottled water and air-kissing the lovely ladies of Trinity Commons. Or Craig Holcomb.
But here's the thing. After the fabulous party part and when the bureaucrats finally began to read from their documents, I detected a distinct note of caution bordering on gloom from the North Texas Tollway Authority. Trinity project manager Dan Chapman told the crowd in no uncertain terms that the recent spate of very bad news about the condition of the Trinity River levees definitely will hold up the approval process for the toll road.
If you are counting, this matter should be added to the list of bold-faced zombie-eyed untruths uttered by our mayor, Tom Leppert, who has been promising the public that a recent Corps of Engineers report on the levees had nothing to do with the toll road. Change that to "everything."
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Chapman made it plain that the report has everything to do with the toll road, none of it good. Mayor Tom: nothing to do. Truth: everything. And the guy smiles like a choir boy, doesn't he?
In fact, for my own two bits worth I would say the NTTA is trying to soften up the FABULOUS crowd for a big let-down. In the not-too-distant future, the NTTA will pull the plug on this sucker, probably right after we learn that the Calatrava bridge cannot achieve erection.
I watched some of the fabs closely during Chapman's speech. I saw pouty faces, as in, "Well that's not very POSITIVE." Hey, ladies. You think that ain't positive? Wait until your bridge makes us an international symbol of municipal E.D.
I may start telling people I live "outside Mesquite."