February 7, 2008
On Wednesday night, I was at a fundraiser for my friend Scott Ozmun, who is running for Travis County District Judge. I was having fun talking with folks, shaking hands, and generally pontificating.
Then a woman asked me who I was supporting for President. Suffice it to say, she had a pretty strong suggestion.
I smiled at her. And, in my most sincere voice, I told her that, without a doubt, her chosen candidate was on my short list. Shockingly, she seemed OK with that answer.
It had to be the smile. Or maybe the wine.
The truth is, some of us have a pretty big decision to make over the next three and a half weeks. Perhaps for the first time since I started voting, Texas’ presidential primary on March 4 will actually play a significant role in choosing the Democratic nominee.
In the past, the nominees were usually long decided by the time the Texas primary election got here. And since so many primaries were “front loaded” to January and February this year, most sensible folks figured the R’s and the D’s would have settled on a nominee by March.
But they haven’t, so we’re getting ready to have a fun month – particularly on the Democratic side. Senator John McCain looks like he’s pretty close to wrapping things up. But Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are about even in the other race.
If you’re a political junkie, March 4th is the new Christmas. If you’re just one of those people who cares about the country and wants responsible, responsive government, it’s also a pretty important day.
It was already important, of course, with big races up and down the ballot. But it just got a lot more exciting.
On Tuesday, there was a rare meeting of two Senate Committees – the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, of which I’m vice-chair.
The joint hearing was our first chance to get better information about a so-called financial crisis that’s so severe, so sudden, and so massive that the Texas Department of Transportation seems to think it has to get out of the transportation business.
I and many others have criticized the agency for being unresponsive and unaccountable to me and most other Texans. Over the last couple of months, TxDOT leaders have been citing factors they’ve known about for a year or more as the culprits for a cash crunch that’s forcing the agency to make draconian cuts in its road-building plans.
This is the same agency, of course, that’s aggressively pursued privatized, corporate-controlled toll ways, even when the Legislature has pretty clearly opposed such an agenda. Now, coincidentally or otherwise, there’s a crisis that lends itself to privatized toll roads. You can understand why we’re all a little suspicious, particularly when we can’t seem to get any questions answered.
I will say, however, that people absolutely must be able to trust what they hear and see coming from their leaders. I’ve said before that the legislative leadership needs to be far more accountable and transparent with the people of Texas. Nowhere is that more true than with TxDOT.
Fortunately, legislators from both parties, every region, and all backgrounds are equally fed up with TxDOT. Not only will there be some major reforms on tap for the next legislative session, but the Sunset Commission is reviewing the agency from top to bottom.
As difficult as the process is right now, I hope and believe we’ll end up with a much more open, honest, and accountable agency when all of this is over.
That said, I sure don’t know why it’s this tough.
It’s been two weeks, so I must be about to run 13.1 miles.
Next up is the AT&T Austin Half Marathon in nine days (some call it the AT&T Austin Marathon, but that’s just crazy). I ran the 3M Half Marathon on January 27th. Some would argue that was enough for a while, and some would be right.
Actually, I’m supporting a very good cause, running on the Hill Country Conservancy team. I’m proud to say that I played a role in the creation of HCC almost 10 years ago, and I’ll be running to raise money for the group’s vital mission of conserving the beautiful hills and ranch-land just outside of Austin.
The Hill Country Conservancy works with businesses, community groups, and landowners to protect the economy and environment that have made Central Texas one of the world’s most attractive regions. It’s also working with a number of partners (including me, I’m proud to say) to create a trail system stretching from Lady Bird Lake all the way to Onion Creek in Hays County – about 35 miles as the crow flies.
This is a great project by a great group. I hope you’ll support them.