Saturday, February 28, 2009

An Open Letter to Joe Biden and Earl Devaney

Dear Joe and Earl,

I hear that President Barack Obama has named you, Mr. Biden, to oversee stimulus spending, and you, Mr. Devaney, to be the “Stimulus Czar.” To that end he has entrusted the two of you with ensuring that the billions that were voted to stimulate economic recovery across the nation were not wasted by the cities and states.

So I just wanted to call to your attention something that my state’s Department of Transportation is planning, and planning to use about $700 million of federal stimulus funds to accomplish the plan.

It seems that the Texas Department of Transportation has a love affair with toll roads. Our governor, Rick Perry, has similar amorous feelings. They have repeatedly over the years tried to foist on Texans such projects as the Trans Texas Corridor, as well as God knows how many toll road projects (21 at present count). No one, neither Republican nor Democrat, seems to be on their side on this. Apparently the only ones who seem to be in favor of toll roads in Texas are the foreign-owned corporations who will build and maintain the roads . . . and collect the tolls.

The reason that we are given for going the toll road route is that TxDOT has no funds for construction and maintenance of needed roads. That this is largely due to the fact that state government has failed to let gasoline taxes rise with inflation, and has diverted funds that would normally go toward road building and maintenance toward other projects has not escaped anyone’s attention.

So as a result of their poor management, we are now hearing that the Texas Transportation Commission will vote next week to use more than $700 billion of federal stimulus money to build toll roads.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Devaney, this is something I think you should be looking into. In times of economic crisis, the last thing someone thinks of doing is taking the toll road. Since the local toll road authorities raised the toll rates last year, my automobile has not seen a single square yard of toll road. The only beneficiaries in this deal, as I see it, are the toll road corporations that TxDOT and our governor seem to be beholden to.

Really, in general, you have to watch out when you give any money at all to a Texas government agency. Since 2003 or so Texas has been ruled by a new order that I like to call a "Kleptocracy," government by kleptomaniacs. You need to keep a close watch whenever money goes out to Texas. You really do.

President Obama has promised that he would “use the full power of my office and our administration to stop” the waste of billions of federal funds, and I was wondering what he meant by that. I recently hit upon the fact that he is the Commander-in-Chief of all branches of the military. So I was wondering whether you could ask the President to send in the cavalry, or maybe a tank battalion, to surround the commission as they meet next week, and persuade them in the error of their ways.

White phosphorous rounds, I hear, are especially persuasive.

With warm regards,

Hal at Half Empty

1 comment:

geri said...

Kudos to you! Yep, the Grand Parkway Segment E (that piece of proposed toll road North of the only existing stretch of the Grand Parkway from US 90A to I-10) is considered one of those "shovel ready" projects that the State and Harris County are biting at the bit to move forward with. As the Chronicle reports this morning, if Segment E gets built, its tolls are expected to help fund the remaining segments of the tollroad. That means Segment C in Fort Bend is the next one in sight. Misdirecting the stimulus funding to toll roads would create a clear domino effect. There is expected to be an army of folks there to address the Commission. If not with white phosphorous rounds, I hope they are sufficiently armed because this promises to be another classic Texas battle.