Has anyone noticed an upswing in dogs and cats cohabitating lately? Rivers running upstream? I'm at a loss for how else to explain this.
Houston leaders responded with enthusiasm Friday to an apparent warming of relations between U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
"I consider this to be a real positive, and perhaps a turning point, for improved mass transit in our region," Mayor Bill White said. "Metro has established a good relationship with Mr. DeLay, which is critical to getting the mass-transit funding we need."
DeLay, who has opposed Metro rail plans for more than a decade and blocked federal funds for the Main Street light rail line that opened in January, told the Texas Transportation Summit here that he's impressed with the agency's commitment to explore possible alternatives for future lines.
"Metro's new leadership, it's becoming clearer by the day, has a vision for a mobile Houston region, and the kind of open minds and flexible management style it will take to realize that vision," DeLay, R-Sugar Land, told attendees Friday morning.
Harris County Judge Robert Eckels called DeLay's comments a welcome development: "It is good for the city to see a Metro board and a mayor that are interested in working with Tom to really get the solutions for transit in our community."
"The majority leader is challenging us to work together as a region," said Garrett Dolan, vice president of the Greater Houston Partnership."He's painting a picture for us to look at innovative rail solutions, and we are 100 percent behind the idea."
Previously, DeLay has suggested that Metro needs a more advanced system than light rail.
After his speech, DeLay said he was pleased "they are finally doing something that Metro has never done: They are holding a forum to look at all forms of technology and how those technologies fit into the mobility in Houston, and how it will benefit the taxpayers in getting the biggest bang for the buck."
Not everyone is on board with this New Attitude.
While the transit authority's relationship with DeLay appears to be warming, another of Metro's congressional critics offered his strongest comments yet against rail.
Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, suggested during a Thursday discussion with other Texas representatives at the Irving summit that the quickest way to reduce the highway funding shortfall would be to abolish federal assistance for mass-transit projects. One of the major themes of this year's Texas Transportation Summit is what to do about road needs that are far outpacing the government's ability to pay for them.
Culberson said revenues from the federal gasoline tax should be limited to the Highway Trust Fund. A portion of the tax drivers pay at the pump now goes to the Federal Transit Administration.
"Transit is taking 11 percent of the money but they don't contribute a nickel," Culberson said. "It's carrying less than 1 percent of the traffic. I'm afraid rail in Houston is going to be a white elephant and a boat anchor around the neck of taxpayers."
Though Culberson spoke out vigorously last year against Metro's rail referendum, his comments about ending federal subsidies for mass transit appeared to surprise other panelists and many in the audience.
"If Houston wants to give us a little more of that transit money for Dallas, we'd be glad to take it," said Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, who earlier had alluded to the fact that Dallas got ahead in building light rail because of Houston's failed past plans.