"Texans, they are your roads, your tax dollars, and your future."
March 01, 2007
By Gina Parker Ford - Special To The News
The Mexia Daily News
One of the best political appointments this year occurred in the Texas Senate when Lt. Governor David Dewhurst chose Dallas Senator John Carona to lead the Senate on transportation issues.
Carona has never been one to shy away from his convictions, and Dewhurst realized that the rising tide of concern in the public regarding toll roads and the Trans-Texas Corridor needed to be addressed. Once again, Dewhurst chose to put good public policy over politics and selected a Senator known for seeking the truth and fighting to do what is right for Texas. Carona and Dewhurst are working to open the doors of state government and give the public a greater voice in how their transportation dollars will be spent and allocated.
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation & Homeland Security, Carona will hold critical hearings on Thursday, March 1, 2007, in Austin to review state policy regarding toll roads, the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor and public-private partnerships in the area of road and highway construction. These are the first hearings in perhaps a decade that will review state transportation policy with a critical eye and allow the public to voice their concerns.
The hearings could not have come at a better time: The current Chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, former State Representative Ric Williamson, recently snubbed Carona as the Senator attempted simply to get an appointment to discuss transportation issues with Williamson. In full public view, Williamson declined to give the Senator even the courtesy of saying “Yes, I’ll be happy to meet with you.”
Even new State Senator Dan Patrick of Houston expressed wonderment at the public showdown between his colleague, Senator Carona, and Transportation Chairman Williamson. Patrick said he did not understand why the Senate Transportation Chairman could not get a meeting with an agency head that is, in fact, in his job due to Senate confirmation. “Who’s in charge here?” Patrick asked.
Senator Patrick may have good reason to be concerned. Technically, Williamson’s term on the Transportation Commission expired on February 1, 2007, making him, for the moment, a holdover commissioner. He will continue to serve as long as the Governor has failed to appoint a successor.
Rumors sweeping Austin are that Perry will either reappoint Williamson to the Commission following the legislative session or simply choose not to appoint anyone - allowing Williamson to continue serving indefinitely both as a Commissioner and as Chairman, thus bypassing the Senate process to confirm what is likely the most important gubernatorial appointment in Texas.
Williamson apparently has a long history of such behavior; quotes like these, “Lobbyists say that he can be bullying and is too sure of himself” and “Williamson is regarded as arrogant by some and as eccentric by others [not without cause on both counts]” came from write-ups about Williamson’s legislative career. Apparently these same personal characteristics are now following him in his current post at TxDOT.
The public hearings on March 2, 2007, may be the public’s best chance to have their concerns heard. Transportation policy in the Texas House is controlled by State Representative Mike Krusee of Round Rock, an ardent supporter of toll roads.
Krusee appears to be no less strident in his zeal for the double taxation of our roadways even though voters sent him a clear message opposing his policies last November when he won re-election with just 50.4% of the vote, defeating an under-funded Democrat by just 2,300 votes. Only four years earlier Krusee had won re-election in the same district with more than 64% of the vote before he began promoting toll roads and the Trans-Texas Corridor.
Krusee may well be trying to lay the groundwork this session for a job as a lobbyist for transportation interests (given his diminishing political base and the long odds he would face in a re-election campaign), so taxpayers may well be “up the creek” on the House side. Therefore, supporting Senator Carona in these hearings is crucial if our State Legislature is to understand fully the importance of reforming state transportation policy to meet the needs of taxpayers rather than special interests.
By attending the 8:30 A. M. hearing on March 2 in the Extension Auditorium in the Texas Capitol, Texans can voice their concerns regarding these critical issues and the future of Texas transportation policy.
Texans, they are your roads, your tax dollars, and your future. Make sure the voice of “we the people” is heard throughout the Capitol that day.
Thanks to both Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Senator Carona for giving the people a voice in this process.
Gina Parker Ford -CEO of Dental Creations, Ltd., a dental manufacturing company, and a successful attorney - is the National Eagle Forum Chairman for Judicial Reform. Mrs. Ford also served as a Bush and Perry appointee to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. She serves on the American Family Radio Advisory Board (Texas), and she was both the former Republican Party of Texas Treasurer and Associate General Counsel. For more information, please visit www.ginaparker.net.
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