Why Should You Pay for Park Cities Dowagers' Trinity Baubles?

Check me on this. In an atmosphere of federal, state, county and city funding crises, where we may even see the defunding of federal health care reform, the gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency, an absolute decimation of support for public schools and impoverished children, drastic cuts in Medicaid and resulting mass closings of nursing homes, do you see anything wrong with the following quote?

Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm showed up yesterday on The Dallas Morning News City Hall blog explaining why she's glad the Dallas congressional caucus has weaseled more then 90 million bucks out of the federal government in earmarks to pay for extra decoration of a Dallas freeway bridge.

"Now you can say," Suhm said, "'Well, I would rather my federal dollars not be spent on a fancy bridge either,' but our delegation has gotten us money to spend on this bridge, and if that money were not in the city of Dallas ... it would go to some other city."

Yeah. It might go to some other city. Or it might possibly go to restore $92 million in cuts to clean air enforcement or $92 million in cuts to Medicaid support for severely disabled children. You never know: It might put wheelchairs under a hell of lot of diabetes amputees, especially if we just bought them the roll-your-own kind.

Her point was that the $92 million -- the amount extra it will cost to build a decorated bridge instead of a plain one -- is federal earmark money, not local tax money, so we should look it at basically as a windfall.

You know, I bet we don't hear one damn word about this from all our fine conservative commenters who are hell on earmarks when they think the money is being wasted on keeping poor people alive. But when you want to waste $92 million converting a plain vanilla freeway bridge into a faux suspension bridge, then it's a hell of a good deal.

Driving this whole "signature bridge" deal -- the building of fake suspension bridges over the Trinity River ditch in Dallas -- are half a dozen or so Park Cities dowagers. They think it's a terrific idea to bring in Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and have him decorate the bridges over the Trinity River -- designs that will solve no engineering or transportation problem and that offer no structural improvement whatsoever.

It's just silly rich people high jinks, but $92 million of it comes out of the hides of the taxpayers. If you put the same dowagers in a plane and showed them the Canadian wilderness, they'd be all a-bubble about bringing in an interior designer from Dallas to improve it and then sending the bill to Washington.

I can hear them bubbling now: "Maybe we can get rid of that dreadful green color everywhere."

At this time and under these circumstances, spending $92 million in public treasure to decorate a freeway bridge in Dallas is an unspeakable obscenity. If they succeed in doing it, we should go out there a couple years from now and decorate it some more with all the abandoned crutches of the old people who got cut off from Medicaid and died.

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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