Tom Leppert Gets Virtuous.

Finding fiscal Jesus: Saturday's Dallas Morning News story reporting that Tom Leppert now opposes federal earmark money for the Trinity River project reminded Buzz of an old newspaper friend.

He had struggled mightily with temptation during his younger married years—and lost. Buzz hadn't seen him in a long time.

Now, much older, he said he thought his morality had improved enormously since he had become impotent.

"You wouldn't believe how good I am now at resisting temptation," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, I haven't just got my virtue back. I think my virginity has been restored."

Well, maybe. All it took for Leppert to overcome a major lust for federal earmark money was leaving his post as mayor of Dallas and becoming instead a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Leppert told the News he now opposes the use of congressional earmarks to fund Dallas' massive multibillion-dollar public works boondoggle called the Trinity project and thinks it should be paid for instead as part of a "responsible budget."

Sounds like he got his virginity back too.

During the years he was our mayor, Leppert led delegations of Dallas officials up to Washington on what we might call the painted lady tour—or to be fair, the painted ladies and painted gentlemen tour—offering gracious knows what sort of favors to the congressional delegation, one blushes to think, in exchange for financial support for the Trinity project.

Of course, Leppert wasn't alone. Everybody who was anybody in Dallas was up there strutting their stuff, trying to raise a wolf whistle from the capitol building. The News itself regularly published "hey, sailor" editorials entreating Congress to buy us a drink of Trinity water.

Apparently, fiscal virtue is spreading like a dose of...well, let's just say it's spreading really fast among the GOP in Washington these days. It's even reached the ladylike Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who sent a letter to the News in February in response to a story about how the Trinity project might not survive now that Hutchison had joined the Tea Party in coming out against earmarks. Hutchison basically said that the feds have kicked in plenty already for the second fancy Trinity bridge—estimated cost $350 million—while the city has yet to offer up its 24.5 percent share.

It's sad, really. The poor Trinity project, living the high life for so long, now finds itself standing unwanted by the curb, without cab fare for the ride home. That's the bitter price of virtue, we suppose, which is why we try never to have any.

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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

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