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June 15, 2011     Hays Free Press
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June 15, 2011
 

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+ Page 4A THEY REALLY SAID THAT?. oould rather be kno on as the 'Grinch" oho took a oayfire oorks than to allo o a neighborhood and community to be destroyed." -- Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley Hays Free Press June 15, 2011 + Another week, another accident on FM 1626 - this one fatal. It's not like the road can't be made safer. It's not like we don't know what to do. Even the money is already set aside. The project's been bogged down in state and federal bureaucracy for years. Neighborhood leader~ church officials, bus drivers, fire chiefs and city council mem- bers have begged for help. Two successive county commissioners have demanded it. County voters approved funding in November, 2006, as part of a bond package. By then the road was already a fixture in the news, a frequent scene of tragic accidents and epic congestion. And still the project lingers. Whether and when to act was the spark for bitter contests on the Com- missioners Court in 2007-2009 between local commissioner Jeff Barton (who, along with commissioners Will Conley and Debbie Ingalsbe, was ready to take extraordinary action to push improve- ments) and County Judge Liz Sumter of Wunberley, and her allies, who favored delay. Barton won the fight at the local level, securing funding, but the wheels of bureaucracy have turned with deathly slowness. With both Sumter and Barton gone, a new Commissioners Court seems united behind addressing the gaping safety and mobility issues in the county, highlighted by FM 1626. New commis- sioner for the area, Mark Jones, is again a strong advocate. And still no dirt is turning, Because FM 1626 is part of the state system and federal highway dollars are involved-- including state and federal reimbursement for part of the work the county is willing to do (since the state. won't) - no construction can start until a maze of federal and state sigu-offs are met. An alphabet soup of agencies and vague, sometimes contradictory laws and regulations are involved. Despite repeated promises, no one in ]XDOT or the Federal Highways Administration or U.S. Fish and Wildlife seems capable of taking hold of the process with any sense of urgency or consistency. Ambitious outsiders- people who don't live here or regularly travel the road-have compounded the delays by trying to use FM 1626 as a tool to lever- age their own narrow agendas. Whether just misinformed and misguided, like some Austin environmental groups, who jump to false conclusions about the area and the terrain; or wholly cyni- cal, like the attention-starved Charles O'DeU and his tiny but loud Wlmberley- Dripping Springs Hays CAN no-growth "good government" group; or just plain inexplicable, like Travis County Com- missioner Karen Huber, whose petulant opposition to safety improvements in a neighboring county smacks of the worst of Austin big-brotherism, these inter- lopers have clogged already unwieldy bureaucracies with their complaints. Eighteen months ago, more than 400 people jammed the tiny cafeteria at Elm Grove Elementary for a TxDOT hearing and shouted "Fix 1626," a call echoed by thousands more via email, letters and pmdamatiorm The vote that night was more than 15-to-one in favor of the project-with most of the "no" votes imported from outside the communi~. Dissent should have a valued place in every democraT But in democracy there's also a time to vote and make deci- sions- and then to move on. These mad improvements have been delayed for years. The reasons seem to have more to do with fear of lawsuits and jnst plain bureaucratic mindless paper shuffling than with any real substantive concerns about engineering, the enviromflent, or even mon~. Gov. Perr~ before you go making plans to redecorate theWhite House and all, how's about first polishing your shoes on the butts of some of your appointees? Conditions on this mad drive up the cost of commerce, endanger children and delay parents getting home each night to their families. The existing two country lanes are long since inadequate. There are no passing lanes, no safe turn lanes, no sidewalks, no shoulders- grav- el u-ucks drift, ambulances get stuck, fire trucks get muted around. Friends die. To the leaders at TxDOT, to Gov. Perry who ultimately controls and enables them, we say this: no more excuses, no more delays. Your job's tough, we un- derstand that. You asked for it. Now do it. Save a buck, save a life: fix 1626. / CAf .EOUI'TOON .COM NO. I ONE OF THE \ One can't paint recent job fig- ures as anything but dismal. However, anyone who says the economy is grim across the board isn't paying attention. "Board" is an apropos word. Boards - as in "chairmen of the" - have been doing spectacularly of late. In the last year, annualized corporate profits rose 42 percent. In the last quarter of 2010 they were a record $1.68 trillion. Yes, profits- the sweet elixir by which all boats are raised. Do you feelit? Except- hold your boat. Ifyou didn't have a job a year ago, those profits have done absolutely noth- ing for you, or anyone else needing employment. Simply put, Nobel Laureate Michael Spence tells lime magazine, "Com- panies are hoarding cash." It be- speaks a "fundamental disconnect," in Time's phrasing, "between the fortunes of America's firms and those of its employees." Though this appears to present the matter as something new or astound- ing about how the American system works. That's the way things have always worked. In the political context, this is "Fool me once. Fool me twice. Fool me as many times as you wish." The Repub: lican Party gets the message, and will fool you as soon as authorized to do so again. It was tree fool's gold for the econ- omy when George W. Bush managed to cut taxes for all, and particularly America's wealthiest, back in 2001. And it was the same brand of pyrite a few months ago when the newly em- powered Republicans in Washington said, "Deficit be damned; keep those tax cuts for America's wealthiest in i place." Then they railed against the deficit. Maybe if those tax cuts really were the way we could mend a broken economy we could justify the $700 billion they cost to continue them. However, we now have 10 years to guide us as to the efficacy of the Bush tax cuts. To call them a costly failure is something you can only dispute unless you drip with wealth and are that much wealthier because of them. Where do we start? The National Priorities Project points out that the government has spent more than $400 billion over the last decade in higher interest payments to finance the debt deepened by the Bush tax cuts. Meanwhile, economics writer Da- vid Cay Johnston, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Times, asserts "overwhelming evidence" that the Bush tax cuts "did not spur invest- merit." He points out that job growth in the George W. Bush years was one-seventh that of the Clinton years. Wages also fell. Interesting: Republicans have seized on the new job figures to say that President Obama's policies have failed. Actually, Obama's much- reviled stimulus package is theBnly thing we can point to that, in fact, worked. A bipartisan panel of economists in December pointed out the stimu- lus legislation had created 2.7 million jobs and saved millions more. The analysis literally credited the stimu- lus package for averting a second Great Depression. If you recall, the stimulus bill also contained tax breaks. But they were a different kind, a targeted kind that achieved a lot more than the Bush kind. Moody's Analytics chief econo- mist Mark Zandi, who advised John McCain's presidential campaign, estimated that the Bush tax cuts generated only 35 cents in economic activity for every dollar committed. The targeted cuts in the stimulus bill stimulated three times as much. Why? Because they went to people who needed the help. How long, how long, will Ameri- cans swallow the trickie-down fiction that rewarding the wealthy will make us all better off?. Or that cutting taxes, regardless of our deficit situation, is good for us? That last time the economy was doing swimmingly it was on the heels of the Clinton tax increases, a move Republicans said would be disastrous. George H.W Bush was the one who coined "voodoo economics" for what the tax-cut, deficit-by-design party has been doing for three decades. Somewhere along the line we should have learned something. We know America's moneyed class has. Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. jyoungcolumn@gmail.com The daughter of a friend of mine got me booked on girls softball. I was reluctant- until I went to my first game. I have now begun to watch softball on television. In the process, though, I am learning some things about collegiate sports that fans might want to think about. In particular, the emphasis on foot- ball, basketball and baseball has gotten way out of hand in collegiate sports. There is probably no bigger fan of college basketball than me. I don't go to every game, nor do I watch every game on television. I never miss a University of Kansas game ff possible. But there is something disconcerting happening in university level sports. Though not true in football, students turning professional their freshman year is not uncommon in basketball and prevalent for stars in their junior year. Can we really blame a young man for leaving his university when he is offered several million dollars to play professionally? Coaches are paid millions of dollars at the collegiate level, but the people who are doing the work are the play- ers who are restricted from earning money or taking gifts. Collegiate sports demand so much of students' time that they can't really be a stu- dent at all. The Women's College Softball LE'I'I'ERS World Series will be over when you read this article. That's too bad, because you would have seen some true student-athletes. There are cur- rently only four professional women's softball teams in the United States. The young women playing collegiate softball have no illusions of being drafted into the multi-million dollar professional sport. They are playing for fun, the honor of winning and their university. They are on a schol- arship, thanks to Title IX, but they are also truly students. Unlike baseball, softball doesn't have constant arguing with the officials. Occasionally you see a questioning look but not a verbal ha- rangue. Coaches walk out to question the officials, but they don't charge and yell and rant. Meetings at the pitcher's box also bring to mind the movie, "Bull Durham." I wonder if the women are really discussing strategies. They always seem to have a smile on their faces when they return to their posi- tions. It is time that we stop and observe the women in sports. They seem to have a lot more fun. They are cour- teous to one another and give all out support to their fellow players and opponents. Even the fans in the stands seem to be much more cour- teous than what we see and hear at male sporting events. Yes, I know that income from male sporting events helps pay the way for women's sports, especially the minor sports. Women's sports may never draw the attention that men's sports do. But women's sports show us that sports can be fun. It is not a death sen- tence to lose a game. The other players are just playing a game; they do not hold the power of life and death. Perhaps through women's sports we will return to the day when col- lege players were truly student-ath- letes and not athletes who happened to attend a university. Perhaps we will remm to the day when the universi- ties educated the youth of America and not be a"farm team" for profes- sional sports. Maybe women's sports teams are on the path to doing that. Let's help them along. jdlinden@satx.rr.com COMMENTS FROM THE WEBSITE "Thank you for the infor- mation about his helmet. I don't know if R makes any difference to others, but it does to me. Also, Darryl was injured in the ac- cident, and his truck was totalled. He was taken to the hospital for evaluation and treatment but has since been released. Our prayers need to be with him as well as he deals with all of this. Travis was a wonder- ful young man with an incredible smile and ap- proach to life. His happi- ness was infectious, and we are blessed for having had him in our life for as long as we did. May we all make the effort to live lives that will be as fondly remembered. We love you Travis/" -Hays High teacher David Bowe on "Mountain City motorcyclist dies in col- lision" at haysfreeprees. com MANAGEMENT BARTON PUBLICATIONS, INC. 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