So there's a hubbub over naming a stretch of highway after Willie Nelson.
Legislation to name the Texas 130 turnpike from Georgetown to Creedmoor after the man who put Austin music on the map cleared its first committee Wednesday. But it lost more than 18 miles in the process, and there were signs that some Republicans might not be so comfortable honoring the well-known Democrat.
Even with a toll road.
Texas 130, under construction now and scheduled to open in 2007, will be 49 miles long. And state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos' bill as filed would have named the entire length for Nelson.
But when Barrientos, an Austin Democrat, unveiled Senate Bill 802 to the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, he said that Republican Sens. Steve Ogden and Jeff Wentworth told him they didn't want the parts of the road in their districts to carry Nelson's name.
That trimmed about 17 miles off the north end in Williamson County, represented by Ogden who hails from Bryan-College Station, and the southerly mile-and-a-half in the small piece of Travis County in San Antonian Wentworth's bailiwick.
Asked about their reservations about Nelson, Ogden said he doesn't favor naming roads after people who are still alive and declined further comment. Wentworth, meanwhile, made it clear he has several concerns.
"Let's be candid: This is a political deal," Wentworth said, Nelson "was out there having fund-raisers, raising money for (Democratic presidential hopeful) Dennis Kucinich against President Bush, and that was just last year."
Wentworth said he has a general leaning as well against naming roads for living people. He was in the Senate and Ogden in the House when the Legislature in 1995 and 1997 named roads for the first President Bush and former U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, both very much alive.
"To compare a former president of the United States with a country singer, surely that's self-explanatory," Wentworth said.
The Legislature, in that same 1995 bill honoring Bentsen, named a road in Brazoria County after Nolan Ryan, at that point only just retired from his baseball career.
Wentworth and Ogden both voted for that bill. Ryan, a Republican, has never served as president of the United States.
That said, spare me the crap about country singer versus President. If Willie Nelson hasn't done enough as a Texan to earn this kind of honor, then who has? You don't want to name a road after a guy who votes for the other team, fine. Just admit that's your problem and don't try to hide behind reasons that don't apply to those who do vote for your guys.
But Ryan, unlike Nelson, also hasn't had any trouble with the Internal Revenue Service or brushes with the law over marijuana. To Wentworth, at least, Nelson's past matters.
"All of that figures into it, from my standpoint," Wentworth said. "He's not exactly a role model."
UPDATE: A Lasso reader thinks Sens. Ogden and Wentworth are missing a marketing opportunity here.Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 11, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack