May 27, 2009
Would-be Metro killer outs himself

I had wondered who was behind that anti-Metro amendment from the weekend. Now I know.

A local light rail opponent claimed credit Tuesday for working with an El Paso legislator to try to block Metro's ability to build the University Line along Richmond Avenue.

Don Hooper, who owns property along the thoroughfare, said he persuaded Democratic state Rep. Joe Pickett to amend a bill involving Austin's transit agency last week.

The amendment would prevent Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority from using condemnation powers to acquire land needed for the proposed line running from the University of Houston through downtown to near Westpark and U.S. 59.

Pickett, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, did not return calls for comment Tuesday. But other legislators and Metro officials confirmed that the amendment -- which now looks unlikely to pass -- would have posed a big threat to Metro's plans for four new lines.


Houston-area lawmakers and Metro lobbyists worked over the weekend to block the amendment.

State Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, said Tuesday that Pickett had agreed to pull his amendment, which had been attached to a bill allowing Austin's transit agency to hire officers to catch fare evaders.

By late Tuesday, the bill still contained Pickett's amendment, but it hadn't been placed on the local and consent calendar -- a crucial step in getting the bill to a floor vote. As a backup, the part affecting Austin was added to a separate Texas Department of Transportation measure, so if the bill fails Austin's agency can still hire fare enforcement officers.

I reported that on Monday. SB1263 is on the Local, Consent, and Resolutions calendar for today. The bill text still has the offending amendment in it, but that likely doesn't mean anything at this point. Still, vigilance is called for, so keep making those phone calls.

So what we had here was one dude laying a bunch of baloney on a legislator from outside Houston who didn't know any better, and in the process nearly sinking a huge project that had been approved by the voters. I suppose the fact that it won't happen should be a sign that the system works, but that's pretty cold comfort. And in the irony department, a Metro Solutions News Flash that touted the Saturday days of wine and roses editorial hit my inbox yesterday afternoon, with nary a mention of Hooper's assassination attempt. Way to communicate, guys! Though I suppose there are days when the head-in-the-sand approach has its merits. The idea is that if you do that, whatever's bothering you will go away, right? Maybe they're onto something after all.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 27, 2009 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

So what we had here was one dude laying a bunch of baloney on a legislator from outside Houston who didn't know any better, and in the process nearly sinking a huge project that had been approved by the voters.

Quite a few would dispute that "approved by the voters" and as for the lone voice, well, more power to him. It's a shame our local representatives do not listen to the people unless the people have some "cash in hand" as they talk.

As for the element of eminent domain, it raises a curious question with regard to Ellen Cohen and Company. Why were they so gung ho to stop Texas Medical Center from using eminent domain to condemn residential property in Central City across Almeda from the De Baker/VA Center and yet not so gung ho about the same issue involved with allowing Metro to use that same power of eminent domain to condemn residential property anywhere they want?

Do they believe mass transit is somehow more important than health care?

In both cases the voice of developers, and their "cash in hand," spoke louder than the public interest.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on May 27, 2009 9:00 AM

Baby Snooks - simple answer to your question: Texas Medical Center is a private entity.

METRO is a public agency, operated with public funds, governed by a board appointed by elected officials under state law.

And maybe our local elected officials did listen - which is why the transit lines are under construction.

Posted by: Dennis on May 27, 2009 11:24 AM

BS: Let's see. Metro is not a non-profit. TMC is. I know, let's give ALL non-profits the right to claim immiment domain. Won't that be fun. You are waaaay too cynical. Go away.

Posted by: marky on May 27, 2009 11:25 AM

TMC was allowed, as I recall, the right to condemn under eminent domain because of its inclusion of educational entities. HISD is an educational entity. Not a public agency. There was and is more to it than just "private entity" versus "public agency."

HISD condemned land on Taft for a new HSPVA. Despite the fact it didn't have the funds to build a new HSPVA.

Which raised some eyebrows at the Attorney General's Office given the ongoing problems in Fourth Ward.

Bottom line of Metro is some don't support it. Most who don't are the very voters everyone claims voted for the University line. They did not. They voted for the Westpark line. You can call it anything you want. Quite a few call it "bait and switch."

And again, how many people who always praise Metro actually use it?

Posted by: Baby Snooks on May 27, 2009 12:20 PM
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)