Lost in the shuffle last week was the official death (for this session, anyway) of any plans to name a highway for Willie Nelson.
Facing opposition in his bid to name a Travis County chunk of Texas 130 for legendary crooner Willie Nelson, Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos today dropped the proposal from further consideration.
Bottom line: Sens. Florence Shapiro and Jeff Wentworth pulled Senate Bill 802 from the Senate’s Local and Uncontested Calendar, and Barrientos decided against facing a fight to get it passed on the Senate’s regular calendar.
Earlier, Wentworth, R-San Antonio, and Sen. Steve Ogden, R-College Station, had opposed the bill and forced Barrientos to remove all but the portion of the highway in Barrientos’ district from bearing Nelson’s name.
Ogden’s district includes the northernmost 17 miles of the new highway, and Wentworth’s covers the southernmost 1.5 miles.
Their problem: Nelson’s dope-smoking past, history with tax troubles and liberal politics.
“I never expected naming the road after Willie Nelson, a man with so many accomplishments and such broad-based appeal, a man who has been responsibe for so much good music and so many good works, to be at all controversial,” Barrientos said.
At one point, Barrientos had 23 of the 31 senators listed as co-authors.
“It’s frustrating and sad, in a way, but at this point there is no reason to make this an unpleasant experience for anyone, especially Willie, so I’ll take no further action on the bill.”
The highway, part of the Central Texas Turnpike Project, is slated to open in late 2007.
For his part, Wentworth said it was Barrientos’ decision to drop the bill. But he said he offered to drop his opposition if Barrientos changed it to honor someone who had something to do with the road — like former congressman Jake Pickle, a Democrat.
“This is not a R or D issue, never has been,” Wentworth said. “Naming highways for someone who didn’t have anything to do with them is not right.”
Look, as I said before, I don't care about what roads are named after whom. But if we're going to give names to perfectly-functional numbered roads, then like Sen. Barrientos, I just don't see what the problem is with Willie Nelson. Who in their right minds thinks of him as anything but a great musician and iconic Texan? What else would come to mind as you drove down the Willie Nelson Highway? Willie, you deserved better than this. Maybe next time.
UPDATE: In case you want to know what highways are officially named for whom in Texas, here you go. If anyone wants to explain to me what Nolan Ryan and Tom Landry had to do with the thoroughfares that bear their names, by all means please do. Thanks to John for the tip.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 02, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack