August 21, 2006
Behind the Universities lines

The West U Examiner has a look at how the Southwest Freeway elevated plan came into being. According to Mayor White, it all comes back to you-know-who, John Culberson.

In an Aug. 4 memo to Metro officials, the mayor first related a 35-minute conversation with Culberson on Aug. 2.

"He was clear that he would try to fight about the portion west of (the University of) St. Thomas in any way. He was specific," the mayor indicated.

"He asked me to repeat my commitment that I would defer to his ultimate preference in routing.

"I told him that I was disappointed in his action on opposing a viable routing without advocating a viable alternative. I told him that it would be unfair to other members of Congress and the public with destinations to be served along the line if there was a 'hole' in the middle of the line because he did not support any routing and was given veto power."

Finally, White indicated, he got a commitment from Culberson: "He said he would support a routing within the IH59. He said Metro should study that."

Based on that conversation, White said Metro "should seriously consider both the cost and the viability on ridership of some structure, presumably elevate in some portion, from St. Thomas to a point where it can cross IH59," although the mayor indicated he did not think such a study "should significantly delay" its route selection.

Late that day, Metro announced that a plan "on behalf of" Culberson and a similar recommendation by Clutterbuck, a former Culberson aide, had forced its staff to delay a recommendation to the Metro board that was expected to come Aug. 7 or 8.

I presume "IH59" is someone's mistranscription of "US59". All I can say here is that I'm glad to see Mayor White pushing Culberson to do something constructive, even if it's likely to be useless. Now he needs to keep pushing him until we get something that might actually work.

And you have to admire the footwork here:

"Neither Congressman Culberson nor anyone from his staff has submitted any kind of alternate route proposal to Metro," wrote Nick Swyka, the congressman's district director in an e-mail to the Examiner.

Swyka also figured in the Metro correspondence, asking Metro to credit Culberson for certain points in the new route study along U.S. 59 while simultaneously distancing the congressman from making a specific proposal.

"Please just make sure that it's understood we're not directing y'all where to build, but urging y'all to look at various alternatives," Swyka wrote to Thomas Jasien of Metro on Aug. 4.

Mm hmm. Let's be clear about something: When the options are limited, directing where to build and directing where not to build are functionally equivalent. For all of the backseat driving that Culberson is doing here, he can at least own up to that.

Link via Banjo. I saw this story myself in a print version of the Examiner a week or so ago, but it wasn't online when I looked for it, and then I forgot about it. I'm glad to be reminded of it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 21, 2006 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

I believe Mayor White is squandering some of his political capital.

He is reticent to challenge Cabana Boy Culberson on Richmond's needed light rail, and so far he refuses to agree with many others, including Republicans like James Baker, that our voting machines might be corruptible.

We need stronger stands on both these issues from the alleged "most powerful Democrat in Texas". If that was true previously, it's in danger of being proved untrue by White's own inaction.

Posted by: PDiddie on August 21, 2006 9:06 AM

He's not squandering it, he's throwing it away like toilet paper. I am so sick about the bad rail line choices that I wish I could go back and vote against it. I just saw video this weekend of White on a maglev train in Shanghai. Whatever happened to wanting Houston to be "world class"? It's not enough to be a good manager, Mayor White: if you want to be worthy of the governor's mansion, you must be a Leader. We're still waiting for leadership. Until I get some of that, I am voting against all of your initiatives.

Posted by: Dale on August 21, 2006 10:17 AM


Are you serious? Bill White not being a leader? Keep smoke'n the good stuff. . .


I understand your frustration on this one. I think you have seen the paper trail moving more and more up in to the public's eye. I believe the Mayor's style of building coalitions will get this done soon. I always remember that I would rather get something done than in just talking about it (take the City of Houston leading in air quality reforms vs. the city not on board with the Kyoto Treaty). Actually getting things done vs just talking about it is tough for elected leaders looking to make change. And change is really what we want.

Thanks to folks like yourself, the issue is bringing brought up.

Keep it up!!


Posted by: Bill on August 21, 2006 6:43 PM