Monday, July 30, 2007

"Goliath isn't down, and this story isn't done yet."

A force to be reckoned with

July 30, 2007

James Ragland
The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

The stakes were high, so I reckon that's why City Hall took its sweet time.

Our poor city secretary, Deborah Watkins, had 30 days to certify petitions aimed at forcing a vote on the Trinity River toll road proposal, and she exhausted nearly every hour of that time.

She almost exhausted my patience, too.

C'mon, can't the city figure out a better way to deal with such politically sensitive dynamite without going down to the wire?

Maybe the last-minute wrangling will help foster public confidence in the signature-counting process.

Or it just might undermine it.

We'll come back to that issue later, when we've all had a chance to catch our breath and absorb what took place late last night.

Here's what happened: City Council member Angela Hunt shook up the establishment and proved herself a force to be reckoned with.

Thirty days after turning in more than 80,000 signatures calling for a referendum on whether to scrap a proposed billion-dollar toll road inside the Trinity levees, the city secretary said Ms. Hunt had enough valid signatures (at least 48,000) to force a November election.

Now the city is at another major fork in the road: It must wait three more months to see whether voters, who approved the Trinity River project in 1998, will stick with the original plan or side with Ms. Hunt.

Mayor Tom Leppert, who had spoken out against Ms. Hunt's petition drive, said it is now time for the plan's supporters to roll up their sleeves and save the project.

"I think people are eager to get at it," Mr. Leppert said late Sunday night.

Ms. Hunt led a small army of supporters called TrinityVote, and she went toe-to-toe with Save the Trinity, a well-heeled group that fought to keep the project intact and on track.

Pardon my cliché, but it really was akin to David using a slingshot to go after Goliath. But keep this in mind: Goliath isn't down, and this story isn't done yet.

The next three months are key for Save the Trinity, and Mr. Leppert knows that. He said supporters of the project now must get out and sell its recreational and environmental virtues to the ultimate decision-makers – the voters.

"I'm real optimistic that come November, this will be voted in, but at the same time, we've got to be ready to go out and tell the story of the Trinity River project," Mr. Leppert said.

One thing's for sure: If backers of the Trinity project underestimated Ms. Hunt the first go-round, they better not do so again.

Mr. Leppert said he's up to the challenge, and I believe him.

"Part of life is always adjusting when things don't go your way," he said.

"This won't be the first time that we've had to overcome an obstacle."

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE