The Gromer Jeffers story in The Dallas Morning News Saturday reporting that Tom Leppert now opposes federal earmark money for the Trinity River project put me in mind of an old newspaper friend.
He had struggled mightily with temptation during his younger married years. I should say, he struggled mightily and lost. Always. I hadn't seen him in a long time.
Now, much older, he told 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 told me. "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 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 Jeffers he now opposes the use of congressional earmarks to fund Dallas' massive multibillion-dollar public works boondoggle and thinks it should be paid for instead as part of a "responsible budget."
I guess he's got his virginity back too. And it sounds like it wasn't even very painful.
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 -- well, I suppose we should call it 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.
And I don't mean to single Leppert out for loose behavior. After all, everybody who was anybody in Dallas was up there strutting their stuff, trying to raise a wolf whistle from the capitol building. The Dallas Morning News regularly published editorials entreating Congress in ways I always thought were a tad blue.
There was a particular letter-to-the-editor that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison sent to The News that I wish I could share with you properly, by linking to it, but I cannot for the life of me penetrate The News's new paywall, even though I am a paying subscriber and should be able to get in. Talk about a chastity belt!
But I did manage to scare up a copy off the Internet somehow, and I have simply reproduced it for you below. Hutchison sent the letter to The News after she had decided she would not run for office. She may have been experiencing a sudden rush of virtue and honestly herself as a result.
The letter was in answer to a story in The News about how on earth the Trinity project was going to survive now that Hutchison had joined the Tea Party in coming out against earmarks.
Here it is. Read it, and see if it doesn't put Maid Leppert, the Morning News and the rest of the Dallas Citizens Council crowd in a certain light:
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It ran January 19:
Re: "Bridge task gets tougher -- Earmark ban wipes out a major funding source for Dallas' 2nd Calatrava span," Saturday news story.
I was troubled by this article, which inaccurately reported that a moratorium on federal earmarks is the cause of bridge funding problems in Dallas.
As someone who has long worked to address Dallas' infrastructure challenges, I am disappointed that my office was not contacted for comment or information that might have painted a clearer picture of the situation. The reality is the second Trinity bridge could be completed with the local match from the city of Dallas.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the second Trinity bridge will cost a total of $350 million. At this time, the city of Dallas has not committed any funding to the project.
This is not a criticism of Dallas -- the city is in a position to determine its transportation infrastructure priorities and to allocate funding as it deems appropriate.
The Texas congressional delegation has provided $93 million, or 26.5 percent, of the necessary funding, and TxDOT and other local contributions have committed to 49 percent of the total cost. If Dallas provides 24.5 percent -- a local match consistent with bridge projects of this nature -- the second bridge would be fully funded, and construction could begin.
I look forward to continued efforts with local officials and the Texas delegation to support the Trinity flood control and bridge project.
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Washington, D.C.
I love that letter. To me, it says: "Wash your faces, get some clothes on, go get some honest jobs and stop coming up here begging me for money all the time."
To which I would only add: "Don't forget to do behind your ears."