Monday, June 22, 2009

Sham eminent domain signing ceremony is nothing for Perry to tweet about

Governor feeds a Twitter, and other interesting facts

land gobbler


Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2009

AUSTIN — When Gov. Rick Perry broke his collarbone in a mountain-biking accident, some may have been surprised to hear he takes to the trail near his rented home.

Some other things you may not know about the GOP governor: He’s a dog fan who documented on Twitter the birth of nine Lab puppies born to his son’s dog, Belle.

He maintains what’s billed as a personal Twitter feed that includes everything from those precious pups to a snapshot of GOP Sen. Dan Patrick (taken when Perry chatted on the Houston lawmaker’s KSEV radio show) to touts of bill signings.

Oh, and there’s this item, recently shoved into the spotlight: Perry enjoys signing measures he doesn’t legally have a reason to sign. Notably, he recently signed a proposal to allow voters to decide whether to enshrine property rights protections in the constitution.

Perry’s signature means nothing, legally, on a proposed constitutional amendment. It heads to voters if approved by two-thirds of the House and Senate.

But Perry put out a media notice saying he was going to sign the proposal, signaling nothing of its purely ceremonial nature to those who didn’t know. He visited the Alamo to do it.

A number of news accounts (including one in the San Antonio Express-News, duly corrected) reported it as though it mattered.

And it did matter — just not in the way it was portrayed.

It mattered to Perry because he wants to keep his job, some say, while Perry’s staff suggested it highlighted an issue he sees as important.

Bitter over Twitter

Critics have questioned Perry’s dedication to property rights because he pushed the Trans-Texas Corridor, portrayed as a land gobbler, and because he vetoed a bill in 2007 that backers said would have strengthened property rights protection.

Facing what’s expected to be a tough primary challenge from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Perry put himself in the spotlight as a property rights defender with the extraneous signing ceremony.

Hutchison’s campaign was quick to label the signing hypocritical and meaningless.

Perry’s office not only defended the ceremony but put out a list of a half-dozen other times he’s had ceremonial signings for proposed constitutional amendments.

“Every one of these issues has been a legislative priority for the governor,” Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said.

True enough, but a tough campaign puts a spotlight on the intersection of policy and politics, allowing voters to decide whether an event is spreading the property rights message or something else.

The campaign trail is a tough road that can be treacherous for candidates and those covering them alike. As Perry told Patrick about his fall from the bike: “It was a very good ride until the end.”

Look for the latest news in Texas politics each Monday from Austin Bureau Chief Peggy Fikac.

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