September 6, 2007
This has been a tough week for me. Liz broke her arm just before last weekend and will be in a cast for five weeks. So you can just imagine the burden this puts on me. I suppose it’s tough on her, too.The story is that while running to make a play on the tennis court, she went down hard. Banged her head pretty good, too. Even Serena has an off-moment every now and then. Liz has always been a very good athlete. I quit playing her in tennis when I was about 15. Too much humiliation for a young boy trying to struggle into manhood. We started dating before either of us could drive. So playing tennis at the high school, riding bikes, shooting baskets, and playing “HORSE” or “PIG” at the church near our two homes was our way of dating in those early days. I have a personally humiliating memory of my Dad asking me who won after we’d been playing basketball. He already knew about her beating me at tennis. I told him that she’d won most of the games. He slowly shook his head and said, “Oh, my. Son, please don’ t challenge that girl to a foot race.”For the record, I flat own her in a bowling alley.In any event, after more than a couple of decades of unbroken bones, Liz now has a lime green cast on her right arm. It may keep her from writing and make it hard to eat, button clothes, drive, or swing a tennis racket, but it looks really, really great.
I had a great day yesterday serving food at the Caritas Community Kitchen in downtown Austin. Caritas is a wonderful organization that will assist more than 20,000 men, women and children this year. The organization provides rent, utilities, food, and support to people in need.
I’m hosting a Diez y Seis celebration at the Capitol this coming Monday, September 10th. I know, I know. That’s just “Diez.” But this was the best time to schedule this fun event and kick off the week of celebration. We’ll be in the Capitol Rotunda from noon until 1:00 with music and dancing. For more information, click here.
There’s less than a week until the big concert fundraiser at Zilker Park. Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison and Robert Earl Keen will play under the stars. It’ll be a blast.
On Monday, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization – Central Texas’ primary transportation planning agency, which I chair – will hold a public hearing on improvements to five major highways in the region. All five would provide a whole lot of traffic relief for a place that desperately needs it – Austin is the most congested city of its size in the country. And unlike past road-building plans, no one is even contemplating the possibility of slapping toll booths on roads that have been built, paid for and opened to traffic, or hocking these public highways to private corporations. The new proposal would pay for these improvements – and only the improvements – with tolls, because there’s no money to build them otherwise. Seriously, there’s really no money. The proposal has already been scaled way, way back just to balance the budget.And with Congress rescinding highway money left and right, the Legislature diverting transportation funds for non-transportation purposes, the Texas legislative leadership refusing to increase the gas tax, and the costs of building roads skyrocketing, Central Texas – like pretty much every region – is more and more on its own.I’ve written about transportation in the Watson Wire for more than a year. I’ve also been sending emails to folks who’ve written my office about transportation issues, lately to talk about these projects. I call these dispatches Mile Markers, and you can read them on www.kirkwatson.com.I’ve written several Mile Markers recently about these improvements, and I encourage you to check them out. Here’s an excerpt from one I sent out last week
While the proposal reflects the challenges we face, it also represents a clean break with past proposals that have focused more on what commuters would pay than what they truly need. There are no proposals like we saw before I was Chair to fully toll portions of roads, built with non-toll revenue, that are already open to the public. No longer would any existing highway improvements be tolled simply for the money they might harvest from commuters. And we would avoid the radical approach of privatization that could allow public infrastructure to fall into corporate hands.We cannot, however, balance the budget and address our challenges without some funds coming from tolls. Likewise, we can’t simply toll our way out of this problem – to make substantial improvements, we need options besides tolls. Some unfairly dismiss our region’s predicament as so-called “double taxation.” That’s like saying that when my son goes to college next year, and I pay his tuition by tapping my savings, selling an asset, and borrowing some money, I’m being “double-billed.”In the end, there’s only one college bill, just like there’s only one price tag on these improvements. If we do nothing but pretend we have money to pay for them or wish we had more from another source, then we will end up with no road improvements – only traffic.
If you want to learn more about what we’re looking at, read this Mile Marker or some of the others. You can also go to www.campotexas.org. Or you can come on down to the public hearing on Monday. It’ll be in the Capitol Auditorium, room E1.004, and it starts at 6 p.m.I figure that if I walk out of there in as good shape as Liz is in right now, it’ll be a pretty good night.