It's Been Truly Inspiring to Watch D Apologize for Rah-Rah'ing Trinity Toll Road. Oh, Wait.

I'm sure at some moment in history, all of the people who had insisted the earth was flat went very quiet. After some centuries of debate, burnings at the stake and loud dinner-table arguments, the jury was in.

Everybody knew it was round. The exponents of flat were suddenly extremely reticent on the subject and probably quite grouchy. Before dinner parties at their homes, some family member had to warn new guests, "Please don't bring up the flat you-know-what thing."

We're almost there with the 13-year-old very bad idea of building a superhighway in the flood zone between the Trinity River levees. On June 8 The Dallas Morning News, long the plan's most fanatical proponent, published an editorial admitting that maybe the glug-glug-glug design for the new highway hadn't been such a great idea after all.

They said it wasn't their fault they had spent 14 years espousing the plan to readers and ridiculing critics. They said they "took leaders at their word when they proclaimed that the highway could be built in the floodway."

I'm sure at my theoretical flat-earth moment, a lot of people said the same. "Hey, the church said it was round. What do you want from me? Blood?"

Of course, my answer would have been: Yes. Maybe that's why my radar is so closely tuned these days to the silence emanating from D.

I'm not thinking about all the nasty personal things D editor Tim Rogers has written about me over the years concerning the Trinity. I have written nasty personal things about him too. I'm sure Tim believes in the same rule I do: Live by the wedgie, die by the wedgie.

No, I'm thinking specifically about the unabashed cheerleading that our city magazine has done over the years for the insanely dumb idea of building a highway inside the flood control system where it floods instead of outside the flood control system where it doesn't flood.

Now that the idea is finally collapsing, newcomers to the city probably have trouble comprehending how there could ever have been a debate, sort of like, "Which is the better means of self-defense: shoot your victim or shoot yourself?"

But D did debate it and did espouse the shoot-yourself side. In the August 2009 edition, publisher Wick Allison urged readers to ignore growing concerns of government engineers that the inside-the-levees route might be hugely expensive and also dangerous because of its effect on flood safety.

Allison told readers how to overcome their doubts: "Don't believe a word the engineers tell you. Don't accept any of their assumptions."

That's one way.

But in arguing that people should plug their ears against the engineers, Allison was only keeping faith with a long tradition at D of urging people to distance themselves from reality. Two years earlier on October 18, 2007, Rogers wrote: "If you refuse to be scared, if you think about it clearly, the entire project makes sense.

"To my mind," Rogers said, "an enormous urban park -- already crisscrossed with bridges, set on the edge of a bustling downtown business district -- won't be ruined by a toll road. It's a mammoth undertaking. I expect its cost will grow. But to steal a reference from a recent Chicago transplant who compared this project to Millennium Park, the great architect Daniel Burnham said: 'Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized.'"

A stirring sentiment, perhaps, even if it begged the question a bit. What if we had asked Mr. Burnham to address specifically the idea of building a superhighway inside a flood zone? I think we all know now what he might have said.

"What, are you stupid?"

See, that's the problem, because the answer to that question is yes. The fatal flaw of the inside-the-levees route idea has always been that it's a fundamentally stupid idea. And that's a really hard thing for people to admit.

Mistaken? Sure. Misguided? Mm, O.K. Stupid? Hey, screw you.

But what if stupid is the only correct answer?

The News hasn't admitted it fully, but they have a little bit, even if they tried to blame "leaders" for leading them astray. D, meanwhile, hasn't peeped a peep.

So back to my thing about the flat earth society, I'm sure I'm expecting too much. About the best I should look for will be the inevitable day when the little ones are brought to the nursing wing of the old folks home to bid adieu to Grandpa Tim, and there will be a magic marker sign on the door: "PLEASE do NOT use word 'Trinity' with Mr. Rogers."

As for Wick? Oh, he'll just be in there cackling.

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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