| Schutze |

The Reason for DART's Sudden Billion-Dollar Shortfall? "Bad People."

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I attended some of today’s meeting of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board during which they tried, once again, to explain why they are suddenly a billion dollars short on the cost of the proposed new rail lines to suburban Irving and Rowlett. It was supposed to cost $1 billion. But, oops, it’s gonna cost $2 billion.

The one thing they say they absolutely do not need over at the DART board is an outside audit. Outside audit for what? Hey, we thought it was going to be one billion. So it’s two. Two is the next number up from one. What do we need with an audit? Nobody’s perfect.

At today’s meeting, Mark Enoch, the DART board member who represents Farmers Branch, gave yet another in a now very long list of excuses to some visitors from Irving, including the mayor of Irving. See if you can parse this out.

First Enoch told them DART had faced “some difficulties, most of which are not our fault.”

Then he said, “In 2001, some bad people did some bad things in the country that caused basically the world and particularly our country to go into recession and near depression. In 2001, 2002, 2003, I don’t think I’m speaking just for DART, Irving found -- everybody did -- that there was a tremendous lack of revenues. We had to cut $10 billion out of our long-term financial plan because of the hit that we took in our revenues in 2001, 2002 and early 2003. By 2005, this board thought that we might be able to crawl out of that.

“In 2000, when we went out for the bond election, we told folks, I think it was, 2009 we would be in Irving and Rowlett. 2001 hit, and we delayed that four years. Many of you will recall that. That was a painful time in many ways for us.

“In 2005 this board took it upon itself, because we know how important this is to you and every other city, to bring things back up a year, from a four-year to a three year-delay to year 2011 -- this case, 2012 for Rowlett. And I just want to commend the staff, because it looks like we will be able to make that commitment. Even after that.”

Uh, yeah. Sure.

But tell me this, willya? How come you thought the Irving-Rowlett line was gonna cost $1 billion, and a month ago you said you just figured out it’s going to cost $2 billion? Can we really blame that on Osama bin Laden? Granted, Al Qaeda's bad. I don’t want to be on record looking like I’m lightening up on Al Qaeda one bit. But one month you thought the Irving-Rowlett line was gonna cost $1 billion. A month later, you said $2 billion.

How do we know you didn’t just piss away the missing billion? Now, that would not be Al Qaeda’s fault, would it? You couldn’t say, “Yes, I pissed away the billion, but Al Qaeda made me do it.” See, that’s why it would be nice to have a real good outside audit. That, and your speech today.

Not reassuring, sir. Not reassuring at all. --Jim Schutze

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