Friday, May 09, 2008

"We just want to squash any thoughts of unhappiness about the job he's doing."

Leaders come to defense of DFW transportation chief


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2008

We like Michael. That's the message from dozens of Metroplex leaders who made it clear this week that they're happy with the work of Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

The message is a response to rumors that a few Collin County officials are quietly lobbying to have Morris fired. Although the Collin County officials haven't spoken against him publicly, the scuttlebutt is that they're unhappy with recent negotiations over two toll projects under construction: Texas 121 north of Grapevine and Texas 161 in Grand Prairie.

Morris negotiated both deals. He is credited -- or blamed -- with forcing the Plano-based North Texas Tollway Authority to pay top dollar for the projects. The authority agreed to pay $3.2 billion for Texas 121 and is studying whether to pay $548 million for Texas 161. Only a small fraction of that windfall will go to Collin County. The rest will pay for roads across the region.

Morris' supporters say they acted quickly to nip the clandestine anti-Morris campaign in the bud. Three agencies -- the Regional Transportation Council, Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition and Dallas Regional Mobility Coalition -- passed resolutions expressing confidence in him.

"We just want to squash any thoughts of unhappiness about the job he's doing," Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter said.

Collin County Commissioner Joe Jaynes said he knows of no such effort to get Morris fired. Tollway Chairman Paul Wageman of Plano said, "The report I got was that Michael played a constructive role."

GORDON DICKSON, 817-685-3816

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