Sunrise, Sunset

A surprisingly little-known part of my resume is my significant thespian experience. 

In high school, among other key dramatic roles, I played the part of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.  That performance, which packed the Boswell High School Little Theater, is the one that all other Tevye’s get judged against.

One of my favorite songs from that musical (and, yes, I sang like a bird) is Sunrise, Sunset, where parents reminisce about children who are all grown up.

Last night at the Erwin Center, Golda Watson (known by most of you as Liz) and I watched our son Preston graduate from Austin High School.  Just writing that sentence is a pretty emotional experience, prompting me to break into song about how I don’t remember growing older . . . when . . . did . . . he.

You can imagine what the week’s been like.

Without getting too far into all that, I do want to say how proud his Mom and I are of him.  He’s a good kid, and it’s been one of the great pleasures of my life to watch him grow into a young man.  It’ll be good – particularly for his parents – to have him just up the road at UT next year.

When I haven’t been dealing with my son’s adulthood and how swiftly fly the years, I’ve been getting ready for the State Democratic Convention – it starts tonight here at the Austin Convention Center.  I’m honored to serve as Chair of the convention this year, and I think it’ll be a great (and unifying) kickoff to the general election season.

Let me pause here to congratulate both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton on running their historic campaigns.  It’s been reassuring and reaffirming to see such inspiring, transformative candidates.  I endorsed Senator Obama, but either of them would make a strong, compassionate President.  We were fortunate – perhaps more than some realize – to have this remarkable opportunity to choose between them.

And now that the primaries are over, I’m very happy for the American people, who will witness what I hope will be a substantive, passionate conversation about where we’re headed as a nation.  It’s long overdue.

Sunset on TxDOT

Finally this week, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, a state agency with the task of reviewing the performance of other state agencies, released a long-awaited report on the Texas Department of Transportation.  The biggest surprise might have been how accurate the anti-TxDOT sentiment has been in the last few years.

You can read the report here.  The first paragraph alone mentions “a backdrop of distrust and frustration,” the “demand for more transparency, accountability, and responsiveness,” and “concerns that TxDOT was ‘out of control’ ” in pressing its own agenda.  And it goes on from there.

It’s gratifying to hear so many of myownconcerns echoed in the report.  It contains a number of recommendations, including blowing up the Governor-appointed Transportation Commission, replacing the executive director with an appointed agency head who’d be subject to Senate confirmation, creating a Legislative Oversight Committee, and completely revamping the agency’s planning process.

These are dramatic recommendations, obviously, and they need careful study.  But all Texans should be grateful for the work of the Sunset Commission.  Its report represents a clear stand for honesty, accountability, and common sense – exactly what we need as we try to respond to our suffocating congestion and prepare for the future.  TxDOT is a badly damaged agency, and the report is an important first step in restoring its effectiveness and credibility.

For years now, needless battles have overwhelmed efforts to address traffic, and information has too often been used as a weapon to advance an agenda.  Hopefully, the report – and the recommendations that become legislation in the next session – will help reduce the role of politics in transportation issues.

But even beyond the recommendations, I hope we’ll use this opportunity to end the something-for-nothing politics that have come to define the transportation debate, and find innovative, efficient strategies for investing our scarce resources.

If we work hard and work together, we’ll create the comprehensive transportation system that Texans want and need. The Sunset Commission report starts us down that road.